By Don Rajael, CCNN Writer
Europe is struggling with a major refugee crisis, as millions seek asylum from chaos engulfing the Middle East and Africa.
What’s the difference between an immigrant and a refugee? Well, an immigrant is defined as someone who chooses to resettle in another country, usually for better economic opportunities, whereas a refugee is often forced to escape their country due to the threat of serious harm.
As military extremists from the Islamic State cause havoc in the Middle East, citizens from countries like Syria are running for the border to keep their families safe. In fact, Syrian refugees have been pouring into Europe ever since civil war broke out between President Bashar al-Assad’s government and rebels in 2011. The United Nations Refugee Agency registered nearly 5 million Syrian refugees, a number that climbed from about 230,000 in 2012.
The United Nations’ high commissioner for refugees (UNHCR), Antonio Guterres, said, “Syria has become the great tragedy of this century – a disgraceful humanitarian calamity with suffering and displacement unparalleled in recent history.”
Neighboring countries like Lebanon, Jordan, and Turkey accepted hundreds of thousands of refugees, but with the Islamic State waging war in Iraq and Syria, millions are heading all the way to Europe. Thousands have perished trying cross the Mediterranean Sea in rickety boats, while those who safely reach the European Union (EU) face massive humanitarian aid shortages. Italy, Greece, and Hungary are getting hit very hard, prompting security concerns over Islamic extremists sneaking in with the refugees. Germany is reeling from a flood of refugees as other nations are trying to stem the tide with tighter border controls.
Featured image courtesy of Arbeitsbesuch Mazedonien. Image of Zaatari refugee camp courtesy of United States Department of State on Flickr.