“He wanted to die rather than leave”: a year of migration

September 21 (Reuters) – Cold, hunger and danger. These are the conditions people face when they flee their countries, often risking their lives to escape circumstances ranging from poverty to war.

About 4.2 million people were declared stateless at the end of last year, although the true global figure is estimated to be significantly higher, according to the UN refugee agency.

Between 2018 and 2020, on average between 290,000 and 340,000 children per year were born into a refugee life.

Below is an overview of some of the challenges people leaving their home countries have faced this year so far.


* In Bosnia, dozens of people, some fleeing the conflict in Afghanistan, are sheltering in abandoned buildings in and around the northwestern town of Bihac. They wrap themselves as best they can against the snow and frost as they line up to reach EU member Croatia across the border.

* Thousands of Hondurans, including many families with children, cross the border at El Florido into Guatemala, hoping to reach the United States. Skirmishes break out at the border and Guatemalan authorities use sticks and tear gas to push back people fleeing poverty and violence in their country. Read more


* Spanish police in the North African enclave of Melilla rescue people hidden in garbage containers, including one in a plastic bag full of toxic ash, as they attempt to reach the Spanish mainland. Read more

* The German NGO Sea-Watch ship rescues more than 360 people aboard canoes off the Libyan coast. The Central Mediterranean migration route between sub-Saharan Africa and Italy is known as one of the deadliest in the world.


* The deteriorating security and economic conditions in Mexico and the Northern Triangle – Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador – have resulted in the largest increase in the number of migrants at the southwestern border of the United States in 20 years, l administration of President Joe Biden rushing to deal with an influx of children trying to cross the border on their own. Read more


* Spain deploys troops to the Spanish enclave of Ceuta in North Africa to patrol the border with Morocco after around 8,000 people entered the North African enclave by swimming or climbing the fence.

Spanish soldier Rachid Mohamed talks to a boy who uses plastic bottles to stay afloat and swim across to El Tarajal beach from Morocco. “He preferred to die, I have never heard someone so young say that, that he wanted to die rather than return to Morocco,” said the soldier.

About two-thirds of those who made it to Ceuta, including unaccompanied children, are being deported by Spanish authorities, but many say they will try to reach Europe again.


* Thousands of Belarusians escaping political repression by President Alexander Lukashenko have fled to neighboring Poland, where nearly 10,000 have applied for humanitarian visas or asylum over the past year. Read more

* Relief organizations operating in the Mediterranean are calling for an end to handovers to the Libyan authorities due to reports of ill-treatment.

* More than 40 Africans are rescued, while four die, after their boat runs aground on the coast of Lanzarote in Spain’s Canary Islands, while more than 100 people travel safely to other islands.

A total of 8,222 people arrived illegally in the Canaries between January 1 and August 15, more than double compared to the same period last year, according to data from the Interior Ministry.


* Lithuania accuses Belarus of bringing potential migrants and asylum seekers from abroad to the European Union and begins building a 550 km (320 mile) razor wire barrier at the border to prevent them to cross illegally.

Belarus has decided to allow migrants to enter EU member Lithuania in response to sanctions imposed by the bloc.

* Afghans who manage to make the weeks-long journey through Iran on foot to the Turkish border face a three-meter-high wall, ditches or barbed wire as Turkish authorities step up their efforts. efforts to block any influx of refugees into the country.

* Turkey arrests nearly 1,500 people near the Iranian border in just one week amid rising violence in Afghanistan. Read more

* France and Britain agree to deploy more police and invest in detection technology on the French coast to try to stop boats crowded with people making the perilous crossing of the Channel. Read more

“It was a way of dying,” Abdullah Al Badri, an asylum seeker from Kuwait, told Reuters in London, describing how it felt to get on a boat. “You say ‘okay’, that’s the last point, I’m going to try (at the risk of) my life.” Read more


* Greece completes a 40 km fence, guarded by soldiers armed with rifles and equipped with a high-tech surveillance system, at its border with Turkey to prevent potential asylum seekers from trying to reach Europe after the takeover of Afghanistan by the Taliban.

* Afghan migrants stranded in Serbia watch with dismay Islamist militants take over at home. Authorities say there are around 4,500 migrants in government-run camps across Serbia, including 1,200 from Afghanistan. Read more

* A ship carrying 257 people, mainly men from Morocco, Bangladesh, Egypt and Syria rescued from international waters off Tunisia, docks in the Italian port of Trapani to the applause of those on board. Read more


* Britain approves plans to refuse boats carrying people illegally to its shores, deepening a diplomatic disagreement with France over how to handle an increase in people trying to cross the Channel in small dinghies.

* More than 10,000 people, mostly Haitians, live in a squalid camp under a bridge in South Texas, even as hundreds more head for the border in a growing humanitarian and political challenge for the US president Joe Biden.

Haitians are joined by Cubans, Venezuelans and Nicaraguans under the Del Rio International Bridge over the Rio Grande connecting Ciudad Acuña in Mexico to Del Rio, Texas. They sleep under light blankets, while a few have pitched small tents.

Compiled by Juliette Portala, Anna Rzhevkina, Veronica Snoj and Milla Nissi; Edited by Philippa Fletcher

Our Standards: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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