The year of migration so far


People face cold, hunger and danger when they flee their country. They risk their lives to escape conditions such as poverty and war.

Around 4.2 million people worldwide were declared stateless, or belonging to no country, by the end of 2020. But the UN refugee agency estimates that the real number is much higher.

Here’s a look at some of the challenges people leaving their home countries have faced in 2021 so far.


In January, Bosnians took refuge in abandoned buildings near the town of Bihac. Some were fleeing the conflict in Afghanistan. They tried to stay warm as they lined up to reach EU member Croatia across the border.


In February, police in the North African territory of Melilla, Spain, rescued people hiding in garbage containers as they attempted to reach mainland Spain.

And the German ship Sea-Watch rescued more than 360 people aboard small boats off the Libyan coast. The migratory route from the central Mediterranean, south of the Sahara Desert, to Italy is considered one of the deadliest in the world.


In March, deteriorating security and economic conditions in Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador led to the largest increase in the number of migrants to the southwestern border of the United States in 20 years. U.S. customs and border protection officials treated 173,281 people from the southwest border in March. President Joe Biden’s administration has also attempted to deal with large numbers of children trying to cross the border on their own.


In May, Spain deployed troops to the Spanish territory of Ceuta in North Africa. Troops guarded the country’s border with Morocco after about 8,000 people swam or climbed a barrier.

About two-thirds of those who made it to Ceuta, including children who arrived alone, have been deported by the Spanish authorities. But many said they would try to reach Europe again.


In June, thousands of Belarusians fled to Poland after political conflict repression by President Alexander Lukashenko. Almost 10,000 Belarusians have registered for humanitarian visas or asylum in the past year.

Lukashenko, in power since 1994, won another election in 2020. Months of protests followed. Tens of thousands of people have been arrested for expressing their opposition to Lukashenko.


In July, Afghans who had crossed Iran for weeks arrived at the Turkish border to face a three-meter-high wall and other barriers. Turkish authorities have stepped up their efforts to prevent refugees from entering the country. Turkey arrested 1,500 people near the Iranian border in a week, as violence escalated in Afghanistan.


In August, Greece completed a 40-kilometer fence, guarded by soldiers, on its border with Turkey. The barrier was built to prevent asylum seekers from trying to reach Europe after the Taliban took control of Afghanistan.


And, this month, more than 12,000 Haitians and others crossed the Rio Grande from Mexico where they lived in a camp under a bridge in southern Texas. They were joined by people from Cuba, Venezuela and Nicaragua. Hundreds more continued to arrive at the border, causing a humanitarian and political crisis for President Biden.

US authorities have started returning Haitians from Texas, who entered the country without permission, to their homeland. The operation could be the start of the county’s largest expulsion of migrants or refugees in many years.

I am Ashley Thompson.

Reuters news agency reported this story. Ashley Thompson adapted it for VOA Learning English. Mario Ritter, Jr. was the editor.


Words in this story

migrant -not. a person who goes from one place to another mainly to find work

repression -not. a serious attempt to punish people for doing something that is not authorized; increased effort to enforce a law or rule


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