By Güneş Kömürcüler
The Mediterranean region, one of the oldest trade routes and centres of attraction for centuries, faces a serious terrorism threat, which has triggered a huge migrant and refugee influx to European countries. The ongoing developments will lead to the region’s fall in disfavour in economic, trade and tourism terms, as what happened centuries ago.
A red line has actually being drawn in the Mediterranean region, showing how terrorism, political and economic uncertainties are becoming more threatening. If the Mediterranean countries, irrespective of which continent they are on, do not come together and find a solution to the rising threats in the region, much worse will likely happen.
Let’s make a quick review of the situation by numbers again, but this time, the figure will use more than economic terms. The number of refugees and migrants crossing the Mediterranean in hope of reaching European soil in the first six months of this year was the highest on record, according to the U.N.’s refugee agency, the UNHCR.
Some 137,000 made the dangerous journey, showing an 83 percent of increase from the same period of the previous year.
One-third of the men, women and children who arrived by sea in Italy or Greece were from Syria, said the UNHCR. “And this could be just the beginning,” warned the UNHCR.
The large majority of these people were fleeing from war, conflict or persecution to seek greater opportunities in Europe, the latest UNHCR report said.
A recent warning note from Britain’s Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) has actually showed the spill over effects of the alarmingly rising risks in the region.
The FCO released the note following a sad bombing attack in Tunisia in June, which saw more than 30 Britons killed.
The countries with the highest risk of attack on visitors include Spain, France, Turkey, Tunisia and Egypt, although not all areas are deemed unsafe, according to the warning note.
Medium-risk zones include Germany, Italy and Greece due to a heightened threat of terrorist attacks, from groups or individuals motivated by the conflict in Iraq and Syria, according to the note.
The FCO said there is “a high threat from terrorism” in France and Spain from Islamist terrorist groups. In North African side of Mediterranean region, Tunisia and Egypt have been named with the highest risk of attack. Egypt saw two terrorist attacks last June in two of its most touristic spots. The government has since vowed to put extensive measures to prevent such attacks and to maintain its tourism incomes, which has a significant share in the country’s economy. The attack in Tunisia, where tourism revenues constitute around 15 percent of the total GDP, followed these terrible Egypt attacks in July.
Among these countries, Turkey has been the most proximate to Syria and Iraq in geographical terms and is now hosting more than 2 million “guests” fleeing from the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL).
With the rise in threats, it would also be inevitable to see serious blocks at sea, which is among the world’s busiest waterways and accounts for 15 percent of the global shipping activity, according to the United Nations Environment Program.
These threats will not fade away overnight. Their negative effects on the region’s economy, trade and tourism will likely worsen the situation.