disruption and even death the severe effects of cold on migration across europe
Last updated on January 30th, 2024 at 01:17 pm
For much of January, the dropping temperatures have caused chaos across northern Europe. For scores of migrants, often travelling on routes far away from populated areas, the season can not only lead them to failure but kill.
On January 19, InfoMigrants spoke to Amin, a volunteer helping migrants in the Italian Alps as part of the organisation On Borders. Originally from Morocco, he provided an elaborate report on how the cold season is affecting migration across Europe.
In mid-January, a blanket of thick snow precipitated over much of northern and central regions of the continent, even at lower altitudes. Transport came to a halt as roads marked chaotic incidents, airports reported closures and rail and bus networks called a pause.
European Migrant Crisis: People’s hopes for ‘better lives’
The volunteer said the police controls have doubled in recent months, compelling migrants to depart for the border later at night, going higher up in the mountains and covering longer routes. This, accompanied by the cold, “is making things so dangerous for them”.
Some of the snow has now melted, but the warmer temperatures come heralded with strong winds and heavy rains, which can make travelling outside just as problematic. The snow stays for most of the winter at higher altitudes, even during much of the summer.
The situation in northern France has been tumultuous, too. On January 18, the organisation Utopia 56 – addressing the needs of migrants in Calais and Paris – said at least five young men from Syria “died of cold” in the Channel, trying to reach the UK.
The French rescue services have raised serious concerns over the water temperatures in the Channel at this time of the year. They said most migrants crossing the route to reach the continent for ‘better lives’ might not survive more than 10 minutes if they fell in.
Free places in refuges, yet migrants have to sleep on street
Taking to X (previously known as Twitter) on January 18, Utopia 56 highlighted the cold conditions in the region, stressing that “there are tens of thousands of people sleeping on the street and they don’t have any place in which to take refuge.”
The organisation accused authorities of leaving “hundreds of places free in the refuges while thousands of people were left on the streets in temperatures that fell below zero.” It added: “Places exist, but the political will is a lot less in evidence.”
The situation in Poland, on the border with Belarus, has been just as pathetic. On January 22, InfoMigrants spoke to a humanitarian worker helping migrants as part of the Grupa Granica (Border Group) collective. She also highlighted the unpredictable temperatures there.