Migration Out of Middle East Appears Unlikely to Ease

With the abrupt collapse of a cease-fire in Syria last week, international migration officials expect no letup in a wave of migration out of the Middle East that has set off the worst global migrant crisis in 70 years.

The five-year conflict in Syria has displaced half its population, driving more than 6 million Syrians out of the country. Though more than 1 million Syrians have escaped to Europe, the majority live in camps in neighboring Turkey, Lebanon and Jordan.

The September 12 cease-fire, brokered by the U.S. and Russia, had raised expectations that the break in fighting could pave the way for peace, eventually allowing millions of Syrians living in temporary shelters in the region to return home instead of seeking asylum in Europe.

But as the truce crumbled in the wake of a U.S. airstrike on Syrian troops and Syrian government bombings of a U.N. aid convoy, hopes that a recent drop in migration to Europe could be extended were all but quashed.

“I’d turn the question around by saying, ‘Have the drivers, have the root causes of forced movement — have they changed?’ ” said William Lacy Swing, director general of the Geneva-based International Organization for Migration (IOM). “And the answer is, clearly, given the state right now of the Syrian cease-fire, clearly the root causes have not changed.”

Numbers down, deaths up

Data released by the IOM on Tuesday showed that the number of refugees and migrants arriving in Europe via the Mediterranean has plunged this year.

From January 1 through September 25, 302,149 migrants and refugees entered Europe by sea, down 40 percent from the 508,347 who crossed the Mediterranean during the same period last year, the IOM said.

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