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April 22, 2015

Shipwreck kills 900 migrants fleeing to Europe

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Hundreds of people are feared dead after a migrant boat capsized while traveling from North Africa to Europe.

Only 28 people are known to have survived the wreck, which happened when the people aboard a small fishing boat tried to attract the attention of passing boat. A Tunisian captain and Syrian crew member have been taken into custody.

The incident has raised new questions about the effects that conflict in the Middle East has on vulnerable populations.

Syrians are displaced in high numbers as more and more people risk their lives to escape, said State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki. There are more than four million Syrian refugees and more than 2.5 million people displaced within Iraq, and more than seven million people displaced within Syria. The U.S. will likely admit 1,000 to 2,000 Syrian refugees this year, she said.

Until recently, Italy operated the Mare Nostrum search-and-rescue operation in the Mediterranean, which it has now scaled back. But even in the absence of Mare Nostrum, people are not deterred from crossing the Mediterranean, Psaki said.

A group led by Representative Michael McCaul of Texas has raised the concern that the U.S. may admit refugees who have ties to terrorist groups.

Guterres responded to this criticism. “We are not here to give shelter to terrorists. We are here to give shelter to those that are the first victims of terrorism. And the first victims of terrorism today are the Syrians themselves,” he said.


Warm up questions
  1. What do you know about recent events in Iraq and Syria?
  2. Where is Libya?
Critical thinking questions
  1. What are the effects of conflict on local populations in countries such as Syria?
  2. Why would someone risk their life to leave their home?
  3. How should the community in Europe address high numbers of refugees that are attempting to reach their borders?
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