On September 2, 2015, we reported for the first time about the body of a Syrian boy found on a beach near the Turkish resort of Bodrum. The boy, Alan Kurdi, was one of 14 Syrians on a boat that sank in the Mediterranean en route to Europe. A photograph of his lifeless body became the defining image of the refugee crisis spawned by the Syrian civil war.
On Friday, a little more than six months later, a Turkish court convicted two people-smugglers each to four years and two months in prison for the death of Kurdi and four others.
That news comes on the same day as two related developments: First, Eurostat, the European Union’s statistical agency, reported Friday that 1.2 million people claimed asylum in Europe in 2015—double the previous year’s number. Syrians, Afghans, and Iraqis topped the list. Second, the EU announced a $3.3 billion payment, the first of several, to Turkey so it can deal with migrants and refugees on its territory.
The EU is reeling under the influx of migrants and refugees fleeing the civil war in Syria and unrest elsewhere. As individual member states have taken unilateral measures at the border to slow the flow of the newcomers, much of the pressure is being felt by Greece, often the first country to which migrants and refugees using the Mediterranean route arrive. About 2,000 people are arriving in Greece daily, and some 25,000 people are stuck in migrant camps in the country because their geographic path to their favored destinations—Germany and Sweden—has been blocked off or slowed by other countries. Austria, for example, says it will allow 80 people to enter each day. (The U.S., by contrast, has committed to accepting 10,000 refugees this fiscal year; it took in 114 in February—a number Human Rights First, a humanitarian group, called “lackluster.”)