A year ago, Aylan’s photo went viral. What’s happened in the refugee crisis since?

Agence France-Presse
Syrian refugee

A year ago, the highly publicized death of a 3-year-old Syrian boy sparked outrage across the world and drove home the grim reality of Europe's growing migration crisis.

Germany threw open its borders and volunteers across Europe flocked to train stations and frontier crossings to welcome those fleeing war and poverty.

But a major backlash swiftly followed. The EU's outer borders have since come back down hard, the so-called Balkan migrant route has shut and anti-migrant sentiment has soared.

Here is a recap of key events in the past year.

Hundreds dead

The photo of 3-year-old Aylan Kurdi's tiny body washed up on a Turkish beach goes viral on Sept. 2, 2015, as Europe faces its worst migrant crisis since World War II.

Aylan is one of some 3,700 people who die trying to reach Europe in 2015, including his mother and his brother, according to the International Organization for Migration (IOM).

In the first eight months of 2016 alone, another 3,165 die or go missing at sea — a sharp rise from 2,656 people in the same period last year.

Syrian migrants
Thousands of life vests left by migrants and refugees are piled up at a garbage dump site on the Greek island of Lesbos, on October 19, 2015.Yannis Behrakis/Reuters

'We can do this'

Even before Aylan's photo makes headlines around the world, German Chancellor Angela Merkel takes the lead on the migrant crisis.

"We can do this," becomes her rallying cry and grateful refugees name her "Mama Merkel."

She then presses the EU to adopt a quota system to share out the influx throughout the bloc — without setting a limit on numbers.

Britain and France make modest pledges to accept 20,000 to 24,000 Syrian migrants each over several years. 

But several countries such as Hungary, which lies on the Balkan route to northern and western Europe, resist.

Back to border checks

Over the weekend of Sept. 5-6 in 2015 alone, more than 20,000 people reach Germany, which then reinstates border controls on Sept. 13, 2015.

Criticism of Merkel's open-door policy grows within her own conservative party.

In 2015, around 1 million migrants reach Germany, setting a record for the nation.

Hungary Border
Syrian migrants cross under a fence as they enter Hungary at the border with Serbia, near Roszke, on August 27, 2015.Bernadett Szabo/Reuters

New fences

The Czech Republic and Slovakia follow Germany's lead and reinstate border controls, while Hungary builds a reinforced fence on its frontier with Serbia. 

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban pushes through a law punishing "illegal border crossing" with prison terms of up to five years and scheduled an October 2016 referendum on the disputed EU quota plan.

Starting in February 2016, several southeastern European countries shut their borders to migrants, including Macedonia, Slovenia, and Croatia — effectively closing the Balkan migrant route.

A million migrants

The IOM says 1,046,599 migrants and refugees reach Europe in 2015, with a monthly peak of more than 221,000 in October that year.

More than 821,000 travel through Greece, with the vast majority making the perilous journey across the Aegean Sea in rickety, overcrowded boats from Turkey's shores.

Most of the others make their journey from Libya to Italy — a much longer, far more dangerous route.

A combination picture shows migrants sitting along a road as they are waiting to cross the border with Croatia near the village of Berkasovo, Serbia October 21, 2015 (top) and the same location on May 27, 2016. Marko Djurica and Antonio Bronic/Reuters

EU, Turkey sign deal

In March 2016, the EU and Turkey sign a controversial deal aimed at stemming the migrant flow.

In exchange, Europe promises Turkey visa-free travel, accelerated talks on EU membership and $3.4 billion in aid to help millions of migrants stuck there.

The flow to Greece drops sharply as Turkey boosts its coastal patrols.

It shifts to Italy, where more than 100,000 migrants have arrived so far this year.

But fears are growing that the pact with Turkey may collapse as rifts deepen with Ankara over its post-coup crackdown.

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