As year nears end, migrants continue to die at sea

Posted at 5:47 PM, Dec 19, 2015
and last updated 2015-12-19 17:47:33-05

As Christmas approaches and the end of the year draws near, people trying desperately to reach European shores from war-torn Syria and Iraq continue to die at sea.

Overnight Friday, 18 people drowned when their wooden boat sank near Kiremit island, in the Aegean Sea just off the Turkish coast, Turkey’s semiofficial Anadolu Agency reported.

The Turkish Coast Guard rescued 14 people from the boat, which was attempting to transport 32 Iraqis and Syrians to the Greek island of Kos.

Once on Greek soil — and therefore on European Union soil — asylum seekers have a better chance of staying in Europe.

Nearly 800,000 people have arrived by sea in 2015

Kos and other Greek islands lie just a few kilometers from the Turkish coast, making them attractive destinations for refugees seeking to enter the European Union.

Over the past year, thousands of families, many with young children, have made the short but perilous journey across the Aegean in a bid to reach Western Europe.

Worsening weather conditions currently make the trip more dangerous than usual.

According to the International Organization for Migration, more than 781,000 migrants have arrived in Greece by sea since the start of 2015, most of them coming from Turkey. But 632 people met their deaths in the Aegean up to December 14.

2015 migration

According to UNHCR, the United Nations refugee agency, more than 950,000 people have reached Europe by sea this year.

With only two weeks remaining in the year, it is virtually certain 2015’s total will surpass the 1 million mark — which will be nearly five times 2014’s total.

Not all European countries welcome those who flee the violence of their homelands.

A new bill presented to the Danish Parliament would allow the personal belongings of migrants to be searched and taken from them by authorities.

Those fleeing put “pressure on the Danish society”

The bill proposes “an initiative on seizing valuable assets from migrants” as well as number of different initiatives on asylum policy, according to a statement from the Danish Ministry of Integration.

It says Denmark is tightening refugee policies because “too high number of refugees puts pressure on the Danish society and makes it more difficult to ensure a successful integration of those who come to Denmark.”

The bill, presented on December 10, gives Danish authorities the power to search clothes and luggage of asylum seekers and other migrants without a permit to stay in Denmark, with a view to finding assets which may cover their basic maintenance, health care and accommodation.

Lawmakers will debate the bill in Parliament in January and “the bill is expected to be effective from February 2016.”

If passed, the law will apply to refugees already in Denmark.