Overall, 216 asylum seekers and migrants have died attempting to cross the Mediterranean Sea to Europe since January.
While countries in the European Union (EU) have laudably opened their doors to welcome Ukrainian refugees, people from the Middle East, Africa, and South Asia attempting to seek refuge in Europe continue to suffer the consequences of policies designed to keep them out.
In the Aegean Sea, the bodies of six asylum seekers washed ashore on the Greek island of Lesvos on 1 March. Rights groups and journalists have documented thousands of instances of Greek authorities pushing asylum seekers and migrants back from the country’s land and sea borders.
In the central Mediterranean, nearly 2,500 people have already been intercepted this year by the EU-backed Libyan Coast Guard and returned to a cycle of detention and abuse in Libya. Overall, 216 asylum seekers and migrants have died attempting to cross the Mediterranean Sea to Europe since January. Most of the deaths have occurred off the coasts of Libya and Tunisia, where European countries have withdrawn their naval and coast guard assets from search-and-rescue activities in recent years and obstructed the work of NGOs that stepped in to fill the gap.
And just a couple hundred kilometers north from where Ukrainian refugees are moving freely across the border, Poland is building a $400 million wall along its border with Belarus, where politics created a humanitarian crisis for asylum seekers and migrants late last year. The stark difference in treatment is a sad and powerful reminder of how the response to those seeking refuge is shaped by racism.
One week of war in Ukraine
Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is taking a brutal humanitarian toll. In one week, more than one million people have fled the country. “I have worked in refugee emergencies for almost 40 years, and rarely have I seen an exodus as rapid as this one,” the UN’s High Commissioner for Refugees, Filippo Grandi, said in a statement. It’s difficult to track how many people have been displaced inside the country, and the number of civilians injured and killed is similarly unclear.
As of 3 March, the UN recorded 802 civilian casualties, including 249 deaths, but said the total was likely much higher. After encountering stiff Ukrainian resistance, Russian forces have shifted tactics to accelerate their bombardment of civilian areas and are attempting to lay siege to major cities – cutting off water, food, electricity, and heat in some areas – which will almost certainly lead to higher casualties and spiraling humanitarian needs.
Towns in the east of Ukraine, where conflict had been simmering since 2014, have been “all but completely devastated”, according to a UN update. In a small bright spot, however, Russia and Ukraine agreed on the need to set up humanitarian corridors to evacuate civilians trapped in cities under constant attack and deliver medical supplies and food to people living on the front lines.
Courtesy: The New Humanitarian (Received through email)