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The Syrian refugee crisis in photos

Istvan Csak /

Over 250,000 Syrians have lost their lives since the civil war began four and a half years ago. Over 7.6 million people have been internally displaced within the country by fighting between too many forces. 

And more than 4 million have left the country. 

This massive exodus, one of the largest in recent history, has elicited extremely varying responses from the different European countries involved. 

Earlier this year, Jean-Claude Junker, the President of the European Union Commission, announced a plan to implement mandatory refugee quotas. This was met warmly by some and angrily by others. Some countries branded it unacceptable, whereas others opened their arms to the massive influx of refugees. 

The quota has yet to be implemented.

As this crisis involves more countries, the need for an international conversation becomes more and more urgent. Here’s a brief look at how some of the countries in Europe are dealing with the Syrian migrant crisis. 


Poland Aktron : Wikimedia Commons..jpgA demonstration supporting the refugees and immigrants during the European migrant crisis in fall 2015. The protest took place in Prague, at the main square (Wenceslas Square)
Image: CC BY-SA 3.0, Jan Loužek - Wikimedia Commons

Poland has had a dichotomous reaction to the current migrant crisis. The Polish Prime Minister Ewa Kopacz called the mandatory refugee quota an act of solidarity. However, Jaroslaw Gowin, the leader of the Poland Together party and member of a right wing coalition said that Pope Francis is wrong to ask Roman Catholic countries to take in Muslims seeking asylum.


Greece international federation of red cross and red crescent societies: Flickr.jpgOn one of the stony beaches of Kos island, close to the town centre, dozens of migrants are still camped out, with nowhere else to go.
Image: International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies/ Flickr

Roughy 120,000 people have arrived in Greece in 2015 so far, and 75,000 of them have landed on the small island of Lesbos. This massive influx has been treated with mixed feelings, especially as Greek struggles with a severe economic depression. 

There are two refugee camps on the island, and people arriving have to sometimes walk 40 miles to get to them. Some Greeks feed off the misery, charging exorbitant prices for food and shelter, while others volunteer to help drive the pregnant, elderly and children to shelters. There seems to be a bifurcated response to the growing number of refugees arriving in Greece. There are citizens that are going above and beyond by travelling to Victoria Square, where many refugees have gathered, and offering everything from food and warm clothes, to a place to stay in their homes. Others insist that the Syrian refugees are illegal migrants who just want to steal from Greece. 


Arbeitsbesuch, Macedonia, Bundesministerium für Europa, Integration und Äusseres .jpgRefugees at the border crossing Gevgelija, Arbeitsbesuch, Macedonia, August 24, 2015
Image: Bundesministerium für Europa, Integration und Äusseres/ Wikimedia

In early October, Macedonia received the highest numbers of refugees it has seen so far, with more than 10,000 a day trying to cross through its borders. Humanitarian workers in the transit town of Gevgelija acted quickly to provide aid for those injured during the trip, and get them warm clothes for the colder months that are approaching. In response to these growing numbers, police have expedited the passport process, and are working to get the migrants onto trains headed west as quickly as possible. 


ZAGREB, CROATIA-paul prescott : and refugees from Middle East at train station building. Zagreb, Croatia, September 18, 2015
Image: paul prescott /

On October 19, Croatia opened its border with Serbia, allowing more than 3,000 refugees into the country. This border opening, which was unannounced, comes at a difficult time in the Balkans, with Serbia, Slovenia and Croatia all accusing one another of making the situation worse. The Croats claim that they don’t have laws that can confine travellers to emergency shelters, even though those shelters remain less than half full. 

According to an article in CBC, “the surprise move allowed an estimated 3,000 more refugees to travel into Croatia bound for Slovenia, the next agonizing obstacle looming on the West Balkans rout that currently serves as asylum seekers’ main eastern entrance to the European Union” In the upcoming months, the UN estimates another 10,000 refugees at least are headed north to Croatia. 


slovenia Photoman29 : Syrian refugees at the blocked Slovenian border with Croatia on September 20th, 2015 in Slovenia. Bregana, Slovenia, September 20, 2015
Image: Photoman29 /

Since Hungary closed its border with Croatia last week, Slovenia has been overwhelmed. Official estimates claim that over 18,000 refugees have crossed the border since October 16, and the small Slavic country is struggling to cope. There supposedly isn’t the infrastructure to handle such numbers. This worry has led to talks of calling in the Slovenian army to oversee the allocation. Two thirds of the parliament are expected to vote in favor of this referendum.


Budapest,_Hungary,_Central_Europe,_4_September_2015..jpgWomen and children among Syrian refugees striking at the platform of Budapest Keleti railway station. Refugee crisis. Budapest, Hungary, Central Europe, 4 September 2015.
Image: Mstyslav Chernov/ Wikimedia

In September, Hungarian riot police used tear gas and water cannons to dispel Syrian refugees hoping to cross the border from Serbia. After that, hundreds of refugees stormed the checkpoint into Hungary at Horgos-Roszke, clashing with security forces and leaving 14 police officers injured. In an interview, Ban Ki-moon, the Secretary General of the UN, said that this sort of treatment was unacceptable. A major reason Hungary is dealing with so many refugees is that they’re one of the last gatekeepers to western Europe. Beyond Hungary is Austria and Germany, two of the more refugee friendly countries. 


International Organization for Migration germany.jpgA young man, traveling on his own, was one of the 67 adults and 39 children flying to Germany on 10 October 2013.
Image: International Organization for Migration/ Remi Itani

As the EU’s most populous country, feelings are extremely mixed about what Germany’s role should be in the Syrian Crisis. Since the beginning of the crisis, Chancellor Angela Merkel’s approval rating has dropped sharply. However, Germany has gone above and beyond in helping the Syrian refugees, promoting an idea of “Willkommenskultur,” or “welcome culture.” Thousands of Germans have pitched in, from bringing food and clothing to shelters to paying medical bills. But Germany’s president Joachim Gauck warned that the country was nearing a limit as it prepares for an estimated 800,000 refugees this year. 


Vienna, Austria Josh Zakary.jpgSyrian expressing their appreciation for the kind Austrian welcome. Vienna, Austria, September 4, 2015
Image: Josh Zakary/ Flickr

Austria has also been inconsistent with their handling of the Syrian refugee crisis. On one hand, some refugees are being greeted with welcome banners, hot tea and warm beds. On the other hand, there are certain refugee camps that have been considered inhumane by the UN. In camps such as the one in Traiskirchen, refugees have seen unhygienic conditions, overcrowding and insufficient medical care. As of October 19, Austrian officials have began deporting refugees to the neighboring Slovakia to deal with the overwhelming numbers. 


Ireland response .jpgIrish Naval personnel from the LÉ Eithne (P31) rescuing migrants as part of Operation Triton. June 15, 2015
Image: Irish Defence Forces-- Wikimedia

Though it seems like it might be too far away to be involved, Ireland has been helping the crisis any way it can. Since the summer, Irish ships have been patrolling the mediterranean saving refugees. Furthermore, they’ve implemented a system called Direct Provision, a government run system that provides housing, food and medical care to asylum seekers. However, this system has been criticized for not allowing participants to collect social welfare, or become gainfully employed, leaving them in a limbo.


Madrid Lord Kuernyus : placard giving the welcome to the Syrian refugees in the town hall of Madrid. September 20, 2015, Madrid, Spain
Image: Lord Kuernyus /

After originally attempting to limit the influx to 3,000 refugees, in September Spain agreed to accept an additional 14,931 as part of the larger EU response. The Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy initially voiced concern for housing more refugees, citing his country’s 22.4 percent unemployment rate, but has since agreed to accept more. In total, Spain is expected to accept roughly 35,000 refugees seeking asylum. 

This refugee crisis isn’t going away. The United States has agreed to take in roughly 100,000 refugees by 2017, but that’s years away and these people need help now. 

The United States has currently accepted less than 2,000 Syrian Refugees

The biggest issue is that there still isn’t a solution to the source of the problem--the quagmire of the Syrian civil war has no end in sight. The UN estimates that there are more than 12 million Syrians in need of humanitarian aid. These people need our help. 

There is some hope. Countless organizations aretrying to help Syrian refugees by gathering donations and providing shelters. European countries are working to raise the number of accepted refugees across the continent. It may not work overnight. But it’s a start. 

If you feel something after seeing these photos, it’s because you should. They’re images of an crisis that isn’t just going away. It’s something that we need to pull together to fix, not as Americans or Europeans but as a world, as Global Citizens. 

You can put yourself in the shoes of refugees by going to TAKE ACTION NOW to tell the world what one thing you would bring with you if you suddenly had to leave your country.