By Graham Duncan, Contributing Writer

The migrant crisis is not a new problem for Europe, but recent increases in the numbers of migrants arriving on the continent have forced a new round of discussions among European heads of state.

The debate over how to handle the crisis has dominated European and international politics for most of this year. On October 26, a significant watershed was reached as leaders of the countries along one migration route in the Western Balkans agreed to a plan of action. Leaders of Greece, Bulgaria, Serbia, Hungary, Austria, Germany and five other Balkan nations gathered in Brussels to formulate a plan to control the flow of migrants into Europe. According to Susannah Cullinane of CNN, the agreement provides for “100,000 additional sites in Greece and the Balkans to receive migrants… increasing patrols off the coast of Greece and plans to discourage migrants from moving to the border of another country in an effort to limit secondary movement.” Other provisions are also included to ensure the humane treatment of the refugees after they arrive in Europe. This becomes even more important as winter is around the corner and route by sea is extremely treacherous. The International Organization for Migration estimates that that almost 681,000 migrants have arrived by sea so far this year and an additional 3,715 are dead or missing in the Mediterranean.

The migrant crisis has been affecting families for more than five years.The rise of civil strife in northern and eastern Africa, Syria, Iraq, Iran and Afghanistan has driven millions from their homes. Migrants have been pouring into Europe mostly via the Mediterranean Sea to arrive in Greece and other Balkan countries. According to NPR, as of September 2015, 4.1 million Syrians have fled their country since the beginning of their civil war in 2011 with “an estimated 7.6 million Syrians displaced inside their homeland.” By early September 2015, more than 381,000 migrants and refugees had reached Europe; Syrians account for just over half that number, with countries like Iraq, Libya, and Afghanistan (among many others) composing the rest. The refugees are not only coming to Europe but also to Turkey and other countries in the Middle East (i.e. Lebanon). 244,000 migrants have arrived in Greece alone, accounting for two-thirds of migrants coming to Europe, according to Greg Myre of NPR.

The migrant crisis has been affecting families for more than five years.

The migrant crisis has been the area of Asbury’s international focus during this week’s Great Commission Congress. Throughout the week and continuing through Thanksgiving, Asbury is taking up an offering to support Samaritan’s Purse and its efforts to meet the needs of the thousands of new migrants arriving in Europe every day. Students can donate via the jars around campus or online atwww.firstgiving.com/fundraiser/greatcommission/RefugeesinEurope.