On this page you find summaries and links to news published by the UN Refugee Agency, UNHCR. If you find some of the words in the summaries to be difficult you can use our glossary to look them up.

On the eve of Lampedusa one year anniversary, UNHCR warns that Mediterranean crossing are becoming more deadly

Between July 1 and September 30 about 2,200 people are estimated to have drowned in the Mediterranean on their way to seek refuge in Europe. This number is a lot higher than last year and have increased from the 800 that died in the first half of 2014. The risk of drowning when boarding a refugee boat on its way to Europe is estimated to be 2,4%.

In total about 165,000 people have crossed the Mediterranean in 2014 which is an increase from 60,000 in total in 2013. The increase reflects the horrendous situations in some of Europe’s neighbouring countries where many people are forced to flee.

UNHCR calls for Europe to learn its lesson after the large boat catastrophes outside the Italian island Lampedusa in October last year when almost 400 people died and the question of safety for those who are forced to cross the Mediterranean was greatly highlighted in the media. Despite the recognition the question has spiked since then, many more have died in the Mediterranean this year.

The UNHCR wants more people in Europe to take their responsibility to rescue people in distress at sea, a task which Italy has ventured almost solely. Furthermore, UNHCR wants countries to start investigating possibilities for legal ways for people to access asylum in Europe. The way things are now you have to first reach a country in order to apply for asylum. Today it is almost impossible for instance for a Syrian citizen to get a visa and travel to Europe by plane, therefore many are forced to take the dangerous route over the Mediterranean. Legal ways can refer to enabling people to apply for asylum at European embassies or consulates in their near regions, or to apply for a so called humanitarian visa in order to travel safely to another country. Another way to create legal ways is for a country to increase their share of refugee resettlement. A number of refugees which countries agree to take every year and that is granted to asylum seekers that have been recognized by the UNHCR as the most vulnerable refugees.

If you want to read more about the dangerous route over the Mediterranean that refugees are forced to take you can find the UNHCR’s report here:

So Close Yet So Far From Safety 

UNHCR's report about Asylum Trends in Industrialised Countries

Asylum claims from Syria, Iraq and other conflict zones rise in first half of 2014

Every year the UNHCR maps global refugee trends and also published two half year statistical reports on asylum claims in so called industrialised countries. This year’s first report shows an increase of asylum claims by 24% compared to the previous year, the sharpest increase of asylum claims in receiving countries have been in Germany, USA, France, Sweden, Turkey and Italy.

The country that most people have left to apply for asylum in one of the countries in the report is Syria (48,400 applicants), in second place is Iraq (21,300 applicants), followed by Afghanistan (19,300 applicants) and Eritrea (18,900 applicants). It is important to remember that most people that seek refuge from war and other catastrophes either are stuck in their own home countries (so called internally displaced) or seek refuge in a neighbouring country. Therefore many of them never have the chance to apply for asylum. The number of people in the world seeking refuge, that are forcibly displaced, is estimated to be more than 50 million, and is thus extensively greater than the number of people that have made an asylum claim in an industrialised country. In our glossary you can read about the difference between a refugee and an asylum seeker.

If you want to learn more about asylum seekers in the world, read the UNHCR report:

UNHCR – Asylum Trends, First Half 2014 

Crossing the Mediterranean

Many people that are seeking refuge cannot access a visa to go to a safer country and therefore they cannot for example buy a plane ticket to go to Europe. Many are forced to cross the Mediterranean, often in crowded and sea unworthy vessels. Last year in October two boats sank outside of the Italian island Lampedusa and almost 400 people drowned, up to that point it was the largest drowning catastrophe involving refugee in the Mediterranean. Since the catastrophe Italy has been the country that first and foremost have made efforts to prevent more people to drown on their way searching for safety in Europe. Unfortunately drowning incidents have spiked in 2014 since an increasing number of people are in need of protection and are forced to take this route. In September this year an even larger catastrophe took place when about 500 people lost their lives outside of Malta.

Below you can watch video clips about how rescues at sea are carried out and to hear som of the refugees tell their own stories about their journeys. The clips are from UNHCR.

Italy: Desperate Rescue at Sea

Greece: A Syrian Teenager in Exile

Italy: Haunted by a Sinking Ship

If you want to read more about this, click here:

UNHCR Tracks

The Future of Syria

The conflict in the world that currently creates the most refugees is the war in Syria. UNHCR has therefore demanded extra help form the global community to aid the 1,1 million children that are fleeing the violence. Do you want to read more about the challenges facing the children in Syria or in the neighbouring countries refugee camps? Access UNHCR’s site the “Future of Syria” in order to read stories from some of the people that are seeking refuge.

The Future of Syria – Refugee Children in Crisis

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