Shifting Routes in the Mediterranean: This week, Europe saw dramatic changes in the flows of migrants and refugees reaching its shores from the Middle East and North Africa. Over the course of the month, March saw the number of arrivals halve from what they were in February, from 57,000 to 25,000 new arrivals. Yet, the last week in particular has seen contrasting trends, with Italy rescuing 1,482 migrants over two days off the coast of Libya, indicating that arrivals along the North Africa - Italy route are on the rise. Further supporting this observation comes yesterday's tragic sinking of a dinghy carrying about 100 migrants from Libya sinking in the Mediterranean, with the total number dead so far unknown. In Greece, the numbers of arrivals entering from Turkey had drastically reduced as well, with only about 1,000 entering from Turkey per day compared to about 2,000 per day over the past few months.
These shifts are believed to be a result of both the ongoing closure of the Balkan route in Europe, as well as the controversial deal between the European Union and Turkey which took effect on March 20. Under the terms of the deal, migrants and refugees who arrive to Greece from Turkey will be at risk of being sent back to Turkey once their asylum claim is processed. Returns are set to begin on April 4, and for every individual sent back to Turkey, another will be allowed resettlement within Europe. International organizations and some states have spoken out against the deal, citing dubious legality and human rights assurances. Besides this fact, there is widespread acknowledgement that this deal will do little to bring the crisis to an end. As Jane Waterman of the International Rescue Committee commented on Wednesday, "we should be under no illusion that the EU-Turkey deal will bring an end to the refugee crisis", and this week's shifting trends are a testament to the fact that these issues are far from over and that deals like the EU-Turkey agreement do little except re-arrange the crisis spatially.
In anticipation of a large influx of rejected asylum seekers to Turkey, the Turkish Red Crescent has been making preparations by planning the construction of 13 community centers throughout Turkey with funding from the European Union. Besides providing shelter and aid to at-risk migrant and refugees, the centers will offer services such as Turkish language courses and psychological support to ensure that arrivals become better adjusted if they make the decision to permanently settle in Turkey.
Boko Haram: The Lake Chad region of Western Africa is becoming the site of a new humanitarian crisis on the continent as Islamic State's Africa Province Group (ISWAP), or Boko Haram, continues to execute violent attacks and displace millions on civilians. It is estimated that more than 2.7 million are displaced from their homes across Cameroon, Chad, and Niger. Originally stemming from Nigeria, the group is aggravating existing problems of food insecurity, poverty, and widespread disease by making shootings and suicide attacks commonplace. Many of the displaced have settled in host communities, placing strain on limited resources and facilities, as well as disrupting agricultural activity and cross-border trade within these countries.
This week also marked the one-year anniversary of the Damasak attacks by Boko Haram in Borno State in Nigeria last year. This was the largest documented school abduction by the group to date of 300, yet it has received significantly less attention than the abduction of schoolgirls from Chibok in April 2014. It is known that the 300 schoolchildren and an addition 100 women and children from Nigeria were taken with the group from Damasak after neighboring forces from Chad and Niger advanced on it, but their whereabouts since then remain largely unknown, and many have expressed frustration toward the Nigerian government for not making an serious efforts to secure their release.
Yemen: The ongoing conflict in Yemen between government forces and the Houthi rebel group is increasingly targeting children. According to a UNICEF report, six children are killed or injured in Yemen every day, and recruitment of children as young as 10 years old has risen dramatically as the conflict propels the country toward failed state status. As militants continue to make use of schools as bases, more children are being killed at or on their way to school, and UNICEF has verified that atleast 1,560 incidents of grave violations have been made against children, with more than 900 killed and 1,300 injured in 2015 alone--figures that are seven times higher than in 2014. Militants have also been using hospitals for their own purposes and thus have created a dire health services shortage in the country, which has caused an additional 10,000 child deaths from preventable diseases. UNICEF, along with several other international groups, continue to advocate for dialogue between the warring parties to reach a settlement as soon as possible.