A 2015 Snapshot of the Global Refugee Crisis: Background information when reading Go, Went, Gone

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Go, Went, Gone

by Jenny Erpenbeck

Go, Went, Gone by Jenny Erpenbeck X
Go, Went, Gone by Jenny Erpenbeck
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    Sep 2017, 320 pages

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Chris Fredrick

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About this Book

A 2015 Snapshot of the Global Refugee Crisis

This article relates to Go, Went, Gone

Print Review

Go, Went, Gone is set in Berlin during the thick of the ongoing international refugee crisis. Germany and many other countries have become a destination for those who leave home for reasons of violence, conflict, persecution, human rights violations, poverty, and war.

The historic event, now termed the Global Refugee Crisis or European Migrant Crisis, refers to the millions of people forcibly displaced in and around 2015. According to the UN Refugee Agency "By the end of 2016, 65.6 million individuals were forcibly displaced worldwide as a result of persecution, conflict, violence, or human rights violations... and the world's forcibly displaced population remained at a record high." Of these, 22.5 million were refugees at the end of 2016 and 40.3 million were internally displaced. As per the report, in 2016, "10.3 million people were newly displaced by conflict or persecution. This included 6.9 million individuals displaced within the borders of their own countries and 3.4 million new refugees and asylum-seekers."

A significant portion of the refugees are Syrians trying to escape the war waged by Bashar al-Assad and the terror of the Islamic State. As per the UNHCR report, "more than half of the Syrian population lived in displacement in 2016, either displaced across borders or within their own country." The report also states that "the fastest-growing refugee population was spurred by the crisis in South Sudan. This group grew by 64 per cent during the second half of 2016 from 854,100 to over 1.4 million, the majority of whom were children." Large segments are also from Afghanistan, Somalia, Sudan, Democratic Republic of the Congo, the Central African Republic, Myanmar, Eritrea, and Iraq. The refugees' destinations are varied and fluctuate as countries institute new laws that close borders. By mid-2015, Turkey hosted 1.84 million refugees, Pakistan, 1.5 million, Lebanon, 1.2 million. By the end of 2015, Germany had received nearly one million migrants and refugees, and the city of Berlin received close to 10,000 refugees in the month of November alone. Other countries hosting high numbers of refugees included Iran, Ethiopia, Jordan, Hungary, Sweden, Austria, Finland, Belgium, and Luxembourg.

North African refugees en route to Sicily The crisis was not only marked by the huge flow of refugees and migrants but also by the peril the refugees faced on their journeys. The International Organization for Migration (IOM) estimates that over 5,350 migrants died in 2015. Many were smuggled by boat over the Mediterranean Sea, a route which the Independent has called "the deadliest sea passage in the world." According to a humanitarian specialist interviewed by Frontline, "Smugglers don't sell the journey to Italy, they sell the journey to international waters. So these [boats] will never make it further than that. If they make it to international waters, people are lucky. There's no fuel. People have no life jackets almost in all cases. The boats are very bad quality — they will never last long in such dangerous seas… There's no food on board, there's no water." In September 2015, heightened public awareness of the crisis was sparked by a photograph taken of the body of a Syrian toddler, Alan Kurdi, on the shores of the Mediterranean Sea in Turkey.

In 2017, the Global Refugee Crisis is still ongoing. At the beginning of the year, the Independent reported that the number of asylum seekers arriving in Germany had dropped in 2016 and that the German authorities were still working to process the huge backlog of 430,000 applications for asylum. According to the article, "the interior ministry said about 280,000 migrants applied for protection in the year, less than a third of the 890,000 applications received in 2015." Many refugees also continue to die in their attempts to cross the Mediterranean Sea by boat. Only six months into the 2017 calendar year, the death toll had already surpassed 2,000.

Picture of North African refugees by Vito Manzari

This "beyond the book article" relates to Go, Went, Gone. It first ran in the October 18, 2017 issue of BookBrowse Recommends.

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