Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin - MERGE - Migration and the Middle East

MERGE Brief, December 2020

Here are the significant migration-related developments of last month in and around the Middle East region.

  • Rather than European shores, Yemen and the Gulf of Aden are the most crowded maritime migration routes globally, as the International Organization for Migration (IOM) reports. According to the Guardian's coverage, the EU blocks other alternative crossings such as Turkey and Libya. Meanwhile, in an interview with Time magazine, the UN World Food Programme Executive Director David Beasley says the worst humanitarian disaster on earth is taking place in Yemen now, and the Gulf countries seem to be quite indifferent to provide any assistance. 
  • According to the International Organization for Migration (IOM) annual report, as the crisis in Syria enters its tenth year, it is expected to lead to the biggest population displacement worldwide in 2021. As of December 2020, around 7 million Syrians remain internally displaced, and around 5.6 million are registered as refugees in Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, and Turkey.
  • With the contribution of more than 15 watchdog organizations, a 1500-page blackbook has been published and handed over to the EU Commission. Based on the testimonies of 12,654 victims, the book documents thousands of illegal pushbacks and violent practices at European borders, especially across the Balkan route. [The Guardian] 
  • The EU extends the financial support for two cash-based humanitarian projects in Turkey toward refugees in the country for one more additional year. The European Commission says the funding (485 million euros) will no longer be allocated under the EU Facility for Refugees in Turkey scheme but from the EU's budget. 
  • After fire destroyed Greece's largest migrant camp, Moria, in September and left nearly 13,000 people without shelter, a new settlement was hurriedly constructed on a former military site to replace the Moria camp. In December, it was reported that unexploded bombs, machine gun ammunition, and machine gun shells had been found on the site, where children frequent to play. According to The Human Rights Watch (HRW), the soil is also contaminated with lead, raising serious concerns about the safety and health of the residents.
  • On December 23, fire destroyed yet another camp in Europe, Lipa in Bosnia. The incident left nearly 1400 people without a roof over their heads in the winter cold. Bosnia has become a bottleneck for thousands of displaced people trying to reach the EU. The European Union has announced additional funding to urge Bosnia to rebuild the Lipa camp. Whether the new settlement will be of decent quality remains to be seen.
  • As of December, the IOM's Missing Migrants Project has recorded over 3,000 deaths on migratory routes worldwide in 2020. The overall number in 2020 is less than previous years, yet some routes witnessed an increase in fatalities, most notably, the route to Spain's Canary Islands and the migratory routes in South America. However, most fatalities were recorded within and en route to Europe, where at least 1,773 people lost their lives, a trend that has stayed intact since 2014, when IOM's Missing Migrants Project began collecting this data.