‘These countries [in Europe] prefer that we drown than live on their lands’

The New York Times reports: As NATO dispatches warships to the Aegean Sea in a new effort to contain the flow of refugees coming through Turkey and on to Europe, the deaths keep piling up: at least 400 so far this year, according to the International Organization for Migration. Already in 2016, more than 76,000 people — nearly 3,000 a day — have arrived in Greece from Turkey.

Increased patrols by the Turkish coast guard, plummeting temperatures and stormy seas — all factors that officials believed would lead to fewer crossings — have seemed to have little effect on the numbers.

If anything, there has been a surge in departures in recent weeks, as desperate refugees have taken advantage of the lower prices that smugglers typically charge during winter, when the journey is riskier than it is in summer. Those numbers could rise further, with a new wave of what Turkish officials say is now at least 100,000 refugees fleeing heavy Russian bombing raids and a Syrian government offensive near Aleppo this week.

“We have no choice but to leave now,” said Mahdi, 36, a Syrian refugee and former teacher who prepared to make the journey with his wife and two children, ages 11 months and 3. “It’s already hard to get to Europe, and it’s going to get harder because these countries prefer that we drown than live on their lands.” [Continue reading…]

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