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  By the end of 2015, it was estimated that approximately 60 million people had been displaced worldwide due to conflict, persecution and unliveable conditions in their home countries. On average, almost 4,600 people are being forced to flee their countries every day. Syria’s war remains the single biggest generator worldwide of both new refugees and continuing mass internal and external displacement.

Having seen that the number of people attempting the dangerous Mediterranean crossing was growing every day, and aware of the clear lack of Search and Rescue (SAR) resources at sea, MSF decided that preventing thousands of people from drowning had become a humanitarian imperative. Within six weeks, it was operating three SAR vessels in the Mediterranean. An MSF team also operated in Tunisia, providing training to the Libyan Red Crescent in dead body management because of the number of drowned people washing up on the shore.

An estimated one million migrants and refugees crossed into Europe in 2015, and MSF increased its operations accordingly, focusing on setting up mobile responses to attend to the needs of the unprecedented numbers of people on the move. Once on European shores, they were faced with squalid and inhumane reception conditions, razor wire fences, intimidating soldiers and closed borders.

The rise in the number of refugees stuck in exile means that the pressures on the countries hosting them are is increasing too. Turkey is the world’s biggest hosting country, while Lebanon is home to more refugees per head than any other country. Overall, the lion’s share of the global responsibility for hosting refugees continues to be carried by countries immediately bordering conflict zones.

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MSF project coordinator on board the Dignity I, August 2015

“It was a horrific sight, people desperately clinging to lifebelts, boats and anything they could to fight for their lives, amidst people drowning, and those who had already died.”

Syrian man living alone in a forest in Serbia after he lost track of his wife and four children.

“We fled to Europe for the security of the children. To make sure they were safe and had access to good education. Because there is nothing left in Syria. My entire town is destroyed. But if I’d known that it’s so hard to reach Europe, I would never have sent them. I’d rather have died in Syria than to go through this. I thought people in Europe would treat us well. Because of all the difficulties on the road, some of us gave up and went back to Syria. They are dead now. In total, I was arrested 33 times. I was thrown in prison in Greece, in Macedonia, in Serbia, in Hungary. Why? I don’t understand. I did nothing wrong. I did not steal or kill. I flee death, but I only find death. My future is the future of my children. If only I knew where they were.”