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Visualizing Europe’s pathetic support for displaced Syrians

Credit: Gapminder

Some 12 million Syrians are no longer living in their homes due to the ongoing civil war. The majority of displaced people are still in Syria, but 4 million have managed to find refuge in other countries.

Yesterday, Norway announced it would take in a total of 8,000 Syrian refugees by the end of 2017. In total, only 250,000 refugees are in the European Union, a fraction of the number of refugees living in Turkey, Lebanon and Jordan. Plans are discussed to allow 20,000 Syrian refugees to apply for asylum in EU countries. If you find the contribution by the EU shockingly small, you are not alone.

“Today, the European Union does everything it can to stop more than 99 percent of the Syrian refugees to apply for the asylum they are legally entitled to in EU countries,” says Swedish economist Hans Rosling in a video he published this week.

Rosling, best known for his data visualizations, describes the size of the humanitarian crisis and the lack of support from the EU. The gist of the problem is that refugees must travel to European countries in order to apply for asylum – an act that requires entering illegally.

Syria’s neighboring countries are struggling to support the nearly 4 million refugees living within their borders. Turkey announced today it is taking steps to slow down the flow of refugees. With 1.8 million people leaving Syria for Turkey, the country’s “open-door” policy is coming under strain.

The country spent $5.5 billion as of April to support Syrian refugees. With more fleeing Syria and people remaining, the cost will keep rising. Allowing fewer people to enter will ease the pressure.

“Turkey will not accept entries onto its territory from Syria except in case of a humanitarian tragedy,” said deputy Prime Minister Numan Kurtulmus to Turkish Press.

With options for asylum limited, some people are taking to more dangerous routes over land and across the Mediterranean to reach Europe. Each weekend, reports document the thousands of migrants rescued trying to cross to Italy. More than 5,000 people were rescued on the last weekend of May alone.

Changes to existing policies in Europe could help with the immediate problems countries face as more people flee ongoing fighting.


About Author

Tom Murphy

Tom Murphy is a New Hampshire-based reporter for Humanosphere. Before joining Humanosphere, Tom founded and edited the aid blog A View From the Cave. His work has appeared in Foreign Policy, the Huffington Post, the Guardian, GlobalPost and Christian Science Monitor. He tweets at @viewfromthecave. Contact him at tmurphy[at]