from the world's big
Who are the people running away from Europe?
UNHCR data shows a small but intriguing flow of refugees from countries like France, Germany and the UK
- The countries of Europe are not just a destination for refugees, they're also a source
- UNHCR data reveals a small but intriguing flow of refugees from countries like France, Germany and the UK
- What are the stories behind the raw figures? Here are some of their stories
Syrian and Iraqi refugees crossing from Turkey to Greece in October 2015.
Image: Wikimedia Commons / Ggia - CC BY-SA 4.0
The 2015 refugee crisis saw Europe struggle to manage a massive inflow of Syrians and other migrants, displaced by war and poverty at home. Numbers have since gone down, but at a price – both Europe's attitudes towards migrants and its external borders have hardened; last Thursday, 150 migrants drowned off the coast of Libya.
The Mediterranean's deadliest shipwreck this year – at least partly attributable to the withdrawal of official search and rescue operations and the criminalisation of NGO rescue boats – sparked few headlines across the continent.
Even the wealthy, liberal democracies in Western and Northern Europe generate refugee flows.
The UNHCR, the UN's refugee agency, keeps track of the movements of refugees and tries to manage them as best as possible. Buried beneath the more important numbers of refugees flowing into Europe are smaller figures, for refugees from Europe.
- As this map shows, Syria remains red-hot, in terms of refugee population. According to the UNHCR, 6.7 million Syrians are refugees.
- Next-level sources of refugees are Iraq, Iran and Israel/Palestine (between 100,000 and 1 million from each country).
- As red turns to pink, we're entering Europe, with the former Soviet Union, ex-Yugoslavia and Turkey as major source countries (between 10,000 and 100,000 from each).
- A big chunk of Eastern Europe (as well as Northern Africa and some other bits of the ex-USSR) are yellow (between 1,000 and 10,000 refugees per country).
Escape from Monaco
Iceland, Monaco and Andorra are some of the more unlikely source countries of refugees registered by the UNHCR.
Image: Ruland Kolen
To varying degrees, war, civil strife, oppression and poverty could be cited as push factors for people to flee any of those countries. But as we move into shades of green, the countries become more affluent and liberal, and the reasons more mystifying.
- Two Baltic countries (Estonia and Latvia) and three Balkan ones (Montenegro, Bulgaria and Greece) are the source of between 100 and 1,000 refugees. These places may be struggling economically but are generally considered to be peaceful and free.
- Even west of the former Iron Curtain, most countries generate between 10 and 100 refugees – not just larger ones like the UK, France and Germany, but also smaller ones like Belgium, Portugal or Austria.
- In the lowest category (less than 10 refugees) are Europe's least populous nations, including Ireland, Iceland, Denmark and Switzerland. But not even the micronations are refugee-free.
As this infographic shows, Andorra, Monaco and Luxembourg are the home countries of three refugees each. Two refugees hail from San Marino, the other micronation enclaved within Italy (no refugees from the Vatican, though). Even Gibraltar the the home of a single, solitary refugee. Who are these people? Why did they run away from places many more people are struggling to get into? Here are two of their stories.
A clash of parenting cultures
The stalinist skyscraper of the Palace of Science and Culture in Warsaw, where Norwegian Silje Garmo and her child were granted asylum.
Image: Wikimedia Commons / Thomas Quine - CC BY-SA 2.0
A recent article in the German press (Die Zeit, 15 May 2019) discusses the case of a Norwegian woman who fled her country because she feared the state would take away her baby. Silje Garmo claims she was harassed by Barnevernet, the Norwegian child protection agency. The agency claimed Garmo led a "chaotic life", which prevented her from adequately caring for the child.
The woman feared the agency would take the child into custody – as had happened with her older daughter. In May 2017, mother and then newborn baby went into hiding – fleeing to Poland shortly thereafter. Garmo eventually applied for asylum in Poland. This was granted in December 2018, triggering a diplomatic crisis between the two countries.
Barnevernet is frequently accused of heavy-handedness, including by a number of Polish immigrant families who have lost custody of their children. This could be ascribed in part to the difference in cultural attitudes towards child-rearing between liberal (1) Norway and conservative Poland.
That point of friction may also be why Poland eventually decided to grant Garmo asylum, something Polish authorities do exceedingly rarely: it offers Poland moral leverage in its fight for the Polish parents in Norway who are seeking to regain custody of their children. That fight has escalated earlier this year, with first Norway and then Poland expelling consular staff from each other's diplomatic missions. Relations between the two countries are now at their lowest point in living memory.
Homeschooling away from home
A mother homeschooling her daughter (no relation to the families mentioned below).
Image: Wikimedia Commons / Jason Kasper - CC BY-SA 2.0
In 2008, the Romeike family fled from Germany to the US and applied for asylum. Devout Christians, Uwe and Hannelore Romeike believe in homeschooling their five children – a practice strictly forbidden by German law.
After taking their children out of Germany's public school system, the Romeikes received fines running into thousands of euros, and lived in the fear that the German government would take custody of their children. So they fled to the US, where up to 2 million children are homeschooled legally.
It was the first time refugees to the US used the right to homeschool their children as grounds for protected status. Following their lead, a few other German homeschooling families have sought refuge in the US. Other German homeschoolers have gone to New Zealand and Canada.
In 2010, the Romeikes were granted asylum in a ruling that was subsequently overturned. However, in 2014 the Department of Homeland Security allowed them to remain in the country indefinitely.
It's likely they will remain in America for the time being: in January 2019, the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) upheld Germany's prohibition of home education. The ECHR ruled that the law did not violate the human rights of Dirk and Petra Wunderlich, a German husband and wife who had been homeschooling their four children. The children were forcibly removed from their home near Darmstadt for three weeks in 2013, after which the Wunderlichs nevertheless refused to stop homeschooling them.
School attendance has been compulsory in Germany since 1918. The only exceptions are children with a severe illness, children of diplomats and child actors. Despite the ban, between 300 and 600 German children are being homeschooled at present.
These two examples point to child custody issues as a main source of refugee cases originating in Europe's affluent liberal democracies. Based on fairly partial evidence, that may be an unwarranted conclusion. As mentioned, individual stories of refugees from these countries in Europe are hard to come by. If you know of any, please send them in.
(1) Update 26 August 2019 - Reader J. Wiklund puts a finer point on Norway's attitude towards child-rearing: "I wouldn't call (it) liberal or modernist. It is in practice a quite old-fashioned Lutheran supervision. We have the same tradition in Sweden, another Lutheran country. If the parents take drugs or drink lots of alcohol, they are not trusted to have children. In the old days, it was the Church that supervised them, nowadays it is the municipality (church and civil parishes being divided in the 19th century)."
Strange Maps #982
Got a strange map? Let me know at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Join Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter and best-selling author Charles Duhigg as he interviews Victoria Montgomery Brown, co-founder and CEO of Big Think, live at 1pm EDT tomorrow.
Richard Feynman once asked a silly question. Two MIT students just answered it.
Here's a fun experiment to try. Go to your pantry and see if you have a box of spaghetti. If you do, take out a noodle. Grab both ends of it and bend it until it breaks in half. How many pieces did it break into? If you got two large pieces and at least one small piece you're not alone.
But science loves a good challenge<p>The mystery remained unsolved until 2005, when French scientists <a href="http://www.lmm.jussieu.fr/~audoly/" target="_blank">Basile Audoly</a> and <a href="http://www.lmm.jussieu.fr/~neukirch/" target="_blank">Sebastien Neukirch </a>won an <a href="https://www.improbable.com/ig/" target="_blank">Ig Nobel Prize</a>, an award given to scientists for real work which is of a less serious nature than the discoveries that win Nobel prizes, for finally determining why this happens. <a href="http://www.lmm.jussieu.fr/spaghetti/audoly_neukirch_fragmentation.pdf" target="_blank">Their paper describing the effect is wonderfully funny to read</a>, as it takes such a banal issue so seriously. </p><p>They demonstrated that when a rod is bent past a certain point, such as when spaghetti is snapped in half by bending it at the ends, a "snapback effect" is created. This causes energy to reverberate from the initial break to other parts of the rod, often leading to a second break elsewhere.</p><p>While this settled the issue of <em>why </em>spaghetti noodles break into three or more pieces, it didn't establish if they always had to break this way. The question of if the snapback could be regulated remained unsettled.</p>
Physicists, being themselves, immediately wanted to try and break pasta into two pieces using this info<p><a href="https://roheiss.wordpress.com/fun/" target="_blank">Ronald Heisser</a> and <a href="https://math.mit.edu/directory/profile.php?pid=1787" target="_blank">Vishal Patil</a>, two graduate students currently at Cornell and MIT respectively, read about Feynman's night of noodle snapping in class and were inspired to try and find what could be done to make sure the pasta always broke in two.</p><p><a href="http://news.mit.edu/2018/mit-mathematicians-solve-age-old-spaghetti-mystery-0813" target="_blank">By placing the noodles in a special machine</a> built for the task and recording the bending with a high-powered camera, the young scientists were able to observe in extreme detail exactly what each change in their snapping method did to the pasta. After breaking more than 500 noodles, they found the solution.</p>
The apparatus the MIT researchers built specifically for the task of snapping hundreds of spaghetti sticks.
(Courtesy of the researchers)
What possible application could this have?<p>The snapback effect is not limited to uncooked pasta noodles and can be applied to rods of all sorts. The discovery of how to cleanly break them in two could be applied to future engineering projects.</p><p>Likewise, knowing how things fragment and fail is always handy to know when you're trying to build things. Carbon Nanotubes, <a href="https://bigthink.com/ideafeed/carbon-nanotube-space-elevator" target="_self">super strong cylinders often hailed as the building material of the future</a>, are also rods which can be better understood thanks to this odd experiment.</p><p>Sometimes big discoveries can be inspired by silly questions. If it hadn't been for Richard Feynman bending noodles seventy years ago, we wouldn't know what we know now about how energy is dispersed through rods and how to control their fracturing. While not all silly questions will lead to such a significant discovery, they can all help us learn.</p>
Reaching beyond the stereotypes of meditation and embracing the science of mindfulness.
- There are a lot of misconceptions when it comes to what mindfulness is and what meditation can do for those who practice it. In this video, professors, neuroscientists, psychologists, composers, authors, and a former Buddhist monk share their experiences, explain the science behind meditation, and discuss the benefits of learning to be in the moment.
- "Mindfulness allows us to shift our relationship to our experience," explains psychologist Daniel Goleman. The science shows that long-term meditators have higher levels of gamma waves in their brains even when they are not meditating. The effect of this altered response is yet unknown, though it shows that there are lasting cognitive effects.
- "I think we're looking at meditation as the next big public health revolution," says ABC News anchor Dan Harris. "Meditation is going to join the pantheon of no-brainers like exercise, brushing your teeth and taking the meds that your doctor prescribes to you." Closing out the video is a guided meditation experience led by author Damien Echols that can be practiced anywhere and repeated as many times as you'd like.
A study looks at the performance benefits delivered by asthma drugs when they're taken by athletes who don't have asthma.
- One on hand, the most common health condition among Olympic athletes is asthma. On the other, asthmatic athletes regularly outperform their non-asthmatic counterparts.
- A new study assesses the performance-enhancement effects of asthma medication for non-asthmatics.
- The analysis looks at the effects of both allowed and banned asthma medications.
WADA uncertainty<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yMzUzNzU0OS9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYxMDc4NjUwN30.fFTvRR0yJDLtFhaYiixh5Fa7NK1t1T4CzUM0Yh6KYiA/img.jpg?width=980" id="01b1b" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="2fd91a47d91e4d5083449b258a2fd63f" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" alt="urine sample for drug test" />
Image source: joel bubble ben/Shutterstock<p>When inhaled β-agonists first came out just before the 1972 Olympics, they were immediately banned altogether by the WADA as possible doping substances. Over the years, the WADA has reexamined their use and refined the organization's stance, evidence of the thorniness of finding an equitable position regarding their use. As of January 2020, only three β-agonists are allowed — salbutamol, formoterol, and salmeterol —and only in inhaled form. Oral consumption appears to have a greater effect on performance.</p>
The study<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yMzUzNzU0Ny9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTY1MTIzMDQyMX0.Gk4v-7PCA7NohvJjw12L15p7SumPCY0tLdsSlMrLlGs/img.jpg?width=980" id="d3141" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="ebe7b30a315aeffcb4fe739095cf0767" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" alt="runner at starting position on track" />
Image source: MinDof/Shutterstock<p>Of primary interest to the authors of the study is confirming and measuring the performance improvement to be gained from β-agonists when they're ingested by athletes who don't have asthma.</p><p>The researchers performed a meta-analysis of 34 existing studies documenting 44 randomized trials reporting on 472 participants. The pool of individuals included was broad, encompassing both untrained and elite athletes. In addition, lab tests, as opposed to actual competitions, tracked performance. The authors of the study therefore recommend taking its conclusions with just a grain of salt.</p><p>The effects of both WADA-banned and approved β-agonists were assessed.</p>
Approved β-agonists and non-asthmatic athletes<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yMzUzNzU1MC9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYxMzkxODk0M30.3RssFwk_tWkHRkEl_tIee02rdq2tLuAePifnngqcIr8/img.jpg?width=980" id="39a99" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="b1fe4a580c6d4f8a0fd021d7d6570e2a" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" alt="vaulter clearing pole" />
Image source: Andrey Yurlov/Shutterstock<p>What the meta-analysis showed is that the currently approved β-agonists didn't significantly improve athletic performance among those without asthma — what very slight benefit they <em>may</em> produce is just enough to prompt the study's authors to write that "it is still uncertain whether approved doses improve anaerobic performance." They note that the tiny effect did increase slightly over multiple weeks of β-agonist intake.</p>
Banned β-agonist and non-asthmatic athletes<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yMzUzNzU1Mi9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYzNjI3ODU5Mn0.vyoxSE5EYjPGc2ZEbBN8d5F79nSEIiC6TUzTt0ycVqc/img.jpg?width=980" id="de095" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="02fdd42dfda8e3665a7b547bb88007ef" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" alt="swimmer mid stroke" />
Image source: Nejron Photo/Shutterstock<p>The study found that for athletes without asthma, however, the use of currently banned β-agonists did indeed result in enhanced performance. The authors write, "Our meta-analysis shows that β2-agonists improve anaerobic performance by 5%, an improvement that would change the outcome of most athletic competitions."</p><p>That 5 percent is an average: 70-meter sprint performance was improved by 3 percent, while strength performance, MVC (maximal voluntary contraction), was improved by 6 percent.</p><p>The analysis also revealed that different results were produced by different methods of ingestion. The percentages cited above were seen when a β-agonist was ingested orally. The effect was less pronounced when the banned substances were inhaled.</p><p>Given the difference between the results for allowed and banned β-agonists, the study's conclusions suggest that the WADA has it about right, at least in terms of selection of allowable β-agonists, as well as the allowable dosage method.</p>