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10 Questions About the Refugee Crisis You Were Too Embarrassed to Ask

refugee crisis refugees budapest train station

Refugees at a train station in Budapest, Hungary. (Rebecca Harms / Flickr)

1. What's the refugee crisis?

People by the thousands are fleeing their homes, hoping to escape war and poverty and reach safety and opportunity.

The crisis is heating up this week because:

  • Photos of a little boy from Syria who drowned off the coast of Turkey broke the world's heart.
  • There are just so many refugees now reaching Europe, traveling by sea and on foot--many of them dying tragically along the way.
  • Governments in Europe are trying to figure out what to do.

2. Where are these refugees from?

They're from all over the Middle East and Africa. People are trying to leave war in Libya, Iraq, South Sudan, and Syria.

They're also fleeing violence, poverty, and oppression in Afghanistan, Nigeria, Somalia and Eritrea.

3. Where are they trying to go?

It's simple: They'll go to any country that will take them in.

In their travel to Europe, many reach Greece, Italy, and Turkey.

Then many aim to get further north. One target country is Germany, which has one of the most progressive and accepting policies for taking in refugees.

4. How many refugees are there?

A lot. More than 350,000 people are estimated to be walking through the countries of Europe this year. 300,000 people have dangerously migrated by boat in the Mediterranean Sea this year alone. It's deadly: 2,500 have died, including little Aylan Kurdi.

(There are 51 million refugees in the world today, the most since WW II.)

5. How long has the refugee crisis been going on?

There's always migration happening--but this current crisis has been going on for a few years now. The Syrian war is nearing its five year mark. And the Mediterranean sea crossings to Europe have spiked last year and this year.

6. Why is this happening?

Various reasons, depending on the country, but basically refugees are coming from countries that are unstable and undergoing war or suffering from high levels of poverty and other serious problems. The people don't feel safe and secure and may not even have a place to live, and are seeking a better life elsewhere.

War and violence have ravaged countries like Afghanistan, Somalia, and Iraq for decades--and things haven't gotten better. And a huge chunk of the refugees are from war-ridden Syria, which has brought the world four million refugees.

Militant groups like ISIS, Boko Haram, al-Shabaab, and al-Qaeda are making areas of the Middle East and Africa unlivable.

And some may say that President Obama's Middle East policies have caused some of these problems.

7. Who's helping the refugees?


Germany said they'll take in 800,000 asylum claims (asylum is protection for someone who has fled their country). Thousands will be accepted in the United Kingdom.

People across the world are starting their own "Refugees Welcome" campaigns, including Iceland citizens saying they can take more people than what their government says, Germany's football team welcoming refugees, and more.

There is now even an AirBNB-style website for hosting refugees.

8. Who wants to just send them back?

Thousands are stuck in Hungary because police won't let them go further north into Germany by way of train. So, there have been refugees sleeping in Budapest's train station and protesting against going to refugee camps. Camps like this one:

The government is also building a fence along its border to fend off migrant flow.

9. Is the U.S. involved?

Not really.

The U.S. is far removed from the crisis, both by distance and with its help. America has only taken in 1,000 refugees from Syria. Why? The asylum process is so intense--but the government is aiming to take in 8,000 refugees next year.

10. What is Europe going to do?

refugee crisis budapest

A plea to open the borders in Europe. (Rebecca Harms / Flickr)

It's still not exactly clear just yet. But the European Union is planning to redistribute the people arriving to their continent, among their 28 countries.

The United Kingdom also announced a new large investment of humanitarian aid for those helping refugees in countries like Syria, Turkey, Lebanon, and Jordan.

Stay tuned--this crisis isn't going away anytime soon. 1,648 people were rescued in the Mediterranean just yesterday and a thousand people are marching to Austria today after Hungary stopped northern or western bound trains for migrants.

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10 Questions About the Refugee Crisis You Were Too Embarrassed to Ask

Patrick deHahn

Patrick deHahn is a freelance international news reporter, having contributed to The Atlantic online and Mic. He's worked at CNNMoney, the New York Daily News, and Voice of America. Patrick loves tweeting, reading, and grabbing coffee in either New York or Washington D.C. Tweet anything on politics or world conflict to him! Follow: @patrickdehahn.

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