They come from all over — Somalia, Indonesia, the Caribbean, Libya. Many are so desperate to escape their home countries, they pay thousands of dollars for spots on rickety boats crossing treacherous seas.
According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, a record number of people are fleeing wars. More than 207,000 people crossed the Mediterranean in 2014.
The Italian coast guard sees a new trend, with traffickers charging exorbitant fees for passage on overloaded ships, then abandoning the craft and the desperate people aboard.
Millions of refugees escape by land too. Syrians fleeing their country's civil war have crossed into neighboring Lebanon for years. Now the Lebanese government has issued new restrictions so Syrians must state their purpose for entering the country. The accepted categories for entry are tourism, business, medical treatment and work. Those who own property in Lebanon are also allowed to move freely.
"We understand the reasons they cite for doing what they are doing," said Ron Redmond, senior regional communications and spokesman for the U.N. refugee agency. "Our concern is that there is no mention of refugees in these new regulations."
Globally, the number of people forced to leave their homes has exceeded 50 million. That number is the highest since World War II and includes people leaving their countries because of war, the internally displaced and asylum seekers. According to the United Nations, at least half of refugees are children.
More than 3 millions Syrians have fled that country since the uprising against President Bashar al-Assad began more than three years ago. With no clear end in sight to the civil war, Syria’s neighbors are looking to find different ways to cope with the influx of refugees.
How will Lebanon’s new restrictions affect refugees?
How severe has the global refugee situation become?
What struggles do refugees face when they’re fleeing their home countries?
We consulted a panel of experts for the Inside Story.