On August 26, 2015, 71 Syrian refugees were found dead in the back of an abandoned truck on the Austrian highway. News of the deaths of another 200 migrants in the Mediterranean Sea broke at the same time. Every day, it seems, reports flood in about migrants risking their lives in unsafe boats, in packed vans and trucks, and on the open road as they try to reach safe haven in Europe.
Frontex, the agency in charge of guarding the EU border, estimates that about 340,000 migrants have tried to sneak into Europe in 2015 so far, almost three times as many as in 2014. Along with the surge in numbers, the demographics of the travelers have also changed. These days, the bulk of them are Syrians fleeing violence at home, Afghans escaping their own ongoing civil war, Roma from Kosovo looking to avoid discrimination, and Eritreans fleeing a dictatorship comparable to the one in North Korea. Whereas in 2014, the bulk of refugees came to Europe through Italy from Libya and Tunisia, now more people arrive in Greece after crossing Turkey and the eastern Mediterranean Sea. Macedonia and Hungary have also seen a surge in traffic. Although the reason for this shift remains uncertain, it seems likely that reports of frequent drownings on the long journey from northern Africa to Italy, and the increasingly volatile situation in Libya, have convinced many refugees to try their luck over land.
Marko Djurica / ReutersMigrants walk along a railway track outside the village of Horgos in Serbia toward the border it shares with Hungary, September 2, 2015. After crossing through the border countries, refugees generally try to make it to Germany, Sweden, France, and the United Kingdom. Germany accepts a high percentage of asylum applicants, and Sweden has a liberal immigration policy rooted in a history of humanitarianism. It is not surprising, then, that Germany has seen the largest number of asylum requests by a large margin. Last year, over 200,000 people applied. In the first half of 2015, asylum applications surpassed that figure. Most experts