Your Questions Answered About Europe's Migrant Crisis : Parallels On Facebook, reporters Ari Shapiro and Joanna Kakissis discussed reporting on record numbers of people fleeing violence in the Mideast and elsewhere. One concern: Is "migrant" even the right word?
NPR logo Your Questions Answered About Europe's Migrant Crisis

Your Questions Answered About Europe's Migrant Crisis

Migrants from Africa receive instruction in French in the port city of Calais. Some 3,000 migrants live in a makeshift camp known as "The Jungle." Most are seeking to travel on to Britain, while some are seeking asylum in France. Ari Shapiro/NPR hide caption

toggle caption
Ari Shapiro/NPR

Migrants from Africa receive instruction in French in the port city of Calais. Some 3,000 migrants live in a makeshift camp known as "The Jungle." Most are seeking to travel on to Britain, while some are seeking asylum in France.

Ari Shapiro/NPR

There are more refugees in Europe today than at any other time since World War II. As record numbers of people flee violence in Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as conflicts across North Africa, the most popular route to Europe is across the Aegean Sea to Greece.

NPR international correspondents Ari Shapiro and Joanna Kakissis have reported from many of the countries involved in this crisis, including Turkey, Greece, Bulgaria, Macedonia, Serbia, Russia, Germany, Sweden, France and the United Kingdom.

They answered questions about the migrant crisis during a Facebook Q&A on Friday.


Afghan migrants arrive in the courtyard of the Greek coast guard offices on the Aegean island of Leros. The coast guard and local police fingerprint and register new migrants, most of whom can stay in Greece legally for only a month. Joanna Kakissis for NPR hide caption

toggle caption
Joanna Kakissis for NPR

Afghan migrants arrive in the courtyard of the Greek coast guard offices on the Aegean island of Leros. The coast guard and local police fingerprint and register new migrants, most of whom can stay in Greece legally for only a month.

Joanna Kakissis for NPR

Highlights

On how Greece is coping

Joanna Kakissis: More and more refugees will be entering Greece because it's a far safer route than the central Mediterranean route from North Africa to Italy. And this crisis could bring the country to its knees, yes, though it is already on its knees, financially speaking. The response to the refugee and migration crisis has been very disorganized, largely because the Greek government has been focused on keeping the country solvent.

But ... there are elections again next month and who knows what will happen. And Macedonia is the third European country to tighten its borders in response to migration. So what happens if thousands of refugees are stuck in Greece? It's a terrible scenario.

Ari Shapiro: Right now, there is no comprehensive cost-sharing agreement. A disproportionate share of the burden falls on Greece, which (given its economic situation) may be least capable of handling it. The U.K. and France have agreed to share the costs of handling the migrant camp in Calais, which houses some 3,000 people — less than 1 percent of the total number of migrants who have arrived in Europe this year.

A clothing store in Izmir, Turkey, now specializes in life vests for migrants crossing the Aegean Sea to Greece. They carry children's and adults' sizes. Ari Shapiro/NPR hide caption

toggle caption
Ari Shapiro/NPR

A clothing store in Izmir, Turkey, now specializes in life vests for migrants crossing the Aegean Sea to Greece. They carry children's and adults' sizes.

Ari Shapiro/NPR

How the international community can help

Ari Shapiro: [Four] million people have left Syria since the civil war began almost five years ago. Many of the migrants we're seeing today are Syrians traveling from places like Turkey, which has been stretched far beyond its capacity, with 2 million Syrians already. Most Syrians I talk with say they would like to return home some day, but the war seems unlikely to end any time soon. So at this point, it may be impossible to stop the wave, but there are things the international community — including the U.S. — could do to help make life easier for both the travelers and the countries that seem wholly unprepared to deal with them.

A shop owner in Izmir, Turkey, set up this table outside his store so Syrian migrants can recharge their cellphones for free. Ari Shaprio/NPR hide caption

toggle caption
Ari Shaprio/NPR

A shop owner in Izmir, Turkey, set up this table outside his store so Syrian migrants can recharge their cellphones for free.

Ari Shaprio/NPR

One aid worker I spoke to in coastal Turkey argued that the global community — including the United States (and China, and Russia, etc.) — needs to accept that [4] million people have been displaced by the war in Syria, and those people have to live somewhere. Children have to be educated, adults have to work.

While the U.S. can't fix the migration crisis, I think many humanitarian organizations would say that the U.S. (and other countries around the world) could help by taking in more refugees. ...

The question is whether the international community will work to integrate and resettle them or allow human smugglers to illegally move people wherever the migrants think they have the best opportunity for a future.

Joanna Kakissis: I think we need to remember that Syrians cannot return. I did a project on this earlier this year.

On how non-governmental groups are helping

Ari Shapiro: I think education is the biggest thing. In [my] most recent reporting trip to Turkey, I met two young girls on separate days who wanted to be doctors. Neither has been to school in two years. People who were doctors, lawyers and university professors in Syria could be productive members of society in their new countries, but education is crucial. In [a migrants' site known as] "The Jungle" in Calais, I met a Nigerian man who built a makeshift school where people are now taught French.

On use of the word "migrant" vs. "refugee"

Ari Shapiro: I've just had a conversation with our ombudsman on this very issue ... Many of the people traveling are refugees escaping war and other conflicts. But some seek a better life for economic or other reasons.

On coping with reporting on a humanitarian crisis

Joanna Kakissis: I cope just by getting to know [people], because I've met some remarkable people in the last few years reporting on migration. I've [met] geophysicists, artists, filmmakers, teachers, doctors — all refugees. I've been to their birthday parties, shared their dinners, listened to them sing beautiful songs in Arabic.

I remember an excellent photographer, Yuri Kozyrev, once told me that you can tell the best stories by being a conduit for those stories — by opening up your heart so it can be a sounding board. Sounds a little softy but, you know, it works and it keeps you from falling apart.

Ari Shapiro: Remember what Mister Rogers used to say, "Look for the helpers"? ... Difficult situations often bring out the best in people. It's nice to find those moments.