The ‘refugee crisis’ is a term used to describe the increase in the numbers of people crossing international borders as a result of persecution, conflict, generalised violence and human rights violations. During the first half of 2015, UNHCR reported that at least 5 million people had been newly displaced.
Europe has seen a huge increase in the number of people entering in order to seek asylum. Most have crossed the Mediterranean Sea on boats, with over 1 million people entering Europe clandestinely by sea in 2015. Another route is by foot through Southeast Europe.
The vast majority of those crossing into Europe come from countries suffering from war, violence and human rights abuses, with between 76 per cent and 84 per cent coming from the 10 largest refugee producing countries. Over half are women and children .
The journey to Europe is extremely dangerous. Journeys are often organised by people smugglers, who charge large sums of money for places on overcrowded, unseaworthy boats. Over 7,000 people are estimated to have drowned making the journey to Europe by sea since 2013, and the number of deaths is growing at an ever accelerating rate. There have been 2,859 deaths in the first 6 months of 2016, with 880 in the last week of May alone.
The UK has seen large rises in the number of asylum claims received, but not at the same levels as other European countries. There were 41,563 asylum applications in the year up to March 2016, 30% higher than during the same period last year. While this is certainly a significant figure, it is not unprecedented. At its peak in 2002, the UK received 103,081 applications for asylum. Currently, the UK is only ninth out of the EU's member states in terms of the number of asylum applications received.
With the refugee crisis showing little sign of abating, all countries need to work together to uphold the rights of refugees. The UK commitment to resettling 20,000 Syrian refugees from camps is a start, but more could and should be done.