refugees

Why is this Passover different from any other? Because the story that the Jewish holiday commemorates — the exodus of the ancient Israelites from slavery in Egypt to freedom — resonates more strongly than ever in a world embroiled in a refugee crisis that encompasses approximately 60 million people, the highest number ever recorded, according to United Nations statistics.

After a violent day at the border between Greece and Macedonia, as rain fell on camps filled with tens of thousands of migrants, an uneasy tension permeated both sides of the barbed wire fence. And two things were in abundance: confusion and criticism.

Migrants and refugees stranded at a Greek camp on the closed border stormed a fence on Sunday and were repulsed by Macedonian police.

An old country inn in the southern Swedish town of Karlshamn now shelters refugee families. Children play in the lobby, while a few adults watch news on a large-screen TV. More than 100 volunteers from the community want to help the refugees.

But the newcomers' arrival also has brought out ugly sentiments on social media, says Magnus Arvidsson, who is coordinating the volunteers. He says some people were saying on Facebook, "Oh my God, there [are] a lot of refugees coming to our village and we have to lock our bikes. And hide our stuff. We can't let our children out."

The head of the Catholic Church and the symbolic leader of the Eastern Orthodox church are headed to Greece at the end of next week, on a trip that will signal support for migrants and refugees in that country.

A visit by Pope Francis and Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I to the island of Lesbos was announced Wednesday by church and government officials in Greece, NPR's Sylvia Poggioli reports.

The Vatican confirmed the visit on Thursday, the Associated Press says. The trip is planned for April 16.

Sweden has taken in more asylum seekers per capita than any other European country — 160,000 last year alone. Refugees are now part of the landscape, even in small towns. And nearly everybody, not just those working with aid groups, is encountering the newcomers.

In the southern town of Ronneby, Dagmar Nordberg is giving Swedish lessons to Waliullah Hafiz, who goes by Wali, at her kitchen table. The 60-year-old Swedish museum director met this 23-year-old migrant from Kabul on a train platform in a nearby village on a freezing cold day last November.

Class has just ended at a community center in the southern Swedish town of Ronneby. This is the first stop for refugees in the area, once they've been granted asylum. They receive 60 hours of instruction on how to live in Sweden. The courses cover such things as how to rent an apartment, get a job and grow old here.

This week, several Balkan countries slammed their borders shut on migrants, effectively cutting off their main route leading to Northern Europe.

It's causing growing humanitarian concerns as tens of thousands of people who hoped to move north remain stuck in camps in Greece. Meanwhile, EU nations are still struggling to come up with a solution to the crisis.

European Union leaders and Turkey's prime minister have ended talks aimed at resolving the flood of migrants into Europe, signaling their leaders are closer to an agreement.

The Associated Press reports, "Luxembourg's prime minister says that European Union and Turkish leaders have ended talks ... but that more work is needed to finalize an agreement. Prime Minister Xavier Bettel said in a tweet early Tuesday that EU Council President Donald Tusk 'will take forward the proposals and work out the details with the Turkish side' before the next EU summit on March 17."

Whether or not you're a citizen in New York state, you have a right to attend a public high school and earn a diploma until you're 21. That was Pawsansoe Bree's plan after she left a refugee camp in Thailand when she was almost 19.

Less than four months after it started accepting Syrian refugees, Canada says it has reached its goal of bringing in 25,000 people who have fled the raging civil war.

Saying a maritime force will contribute "critical information and surveillance to help counter human trafficking and criminal networks," NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg announced that the alliance has ordered ships to the Aegean Sea, a focal point for smuggling migrants and refugees from Turkey to Greece.

The mission will include both naval ships and aircraft and will start "without any delay," Stoltenberg said.

Emad, a Damascus native, says he is starting to feel at home in the northwestern Dutch city of Haarlem. The 25-year-old comes on foot to meet me at the city's train station, where I traveled from Paris to meet him in November.

"It's fascinating, it reminds me a lot of Damascus," he says. "Because it has the old city, then it goes modern and it goes to old buildings [again]. So it gives me a warm feeling to be here."

Bringing Syrian refugees to the U.S. has become an especially contentious issue. In Canada, however, they're being welcomed with open arms.

Roughly 600 Syrians from refugee camps in Jordan and Lebanon will arrive by plane in Canada this evening. They're the first of 25,000 Syrians the new Canadian government wants to resettle by the end of February.

Texas and the federal government have taken their power struggle over Syrian refugees to federal court.

In a suit filed Wednesday, the state says it wasn't adequately consulted over refugee placement and asked the court system to immediately block the resettlement of any Syrian refugees in Texas.

The federal government responded Friday, saying it had communicated with the state as required and that Texas' request would prolong the suffering of families with small children for no legitimate reason.

Some Oregon and Washington lawmakers have called for at least a temporary halt to refugee resettlement. They want the federal government to beef up its screening process. But White House officials said in a conference call with reporters Monday that the process is already rigorous.

Jay Inslee says he won't join the growing list of governors who say they don't want Syrian refugees within their state borders.

In an interview with NPR's Morning Edition, the governor of Washington state publicly welcomed refugees, citing the inscription on the Statue of Liberty, warning fellow governors against "fear," and insisting that background checks minimize whatever risk the refugees may pose.

They fled from Iraq, Syria and other desperate places — and now they find themselves on an island in the Pacific Ocean that is the smallest independent republic in the world. Children who are being detained as refugees in Nauru have reportedly started a Facebook page to tell their stories.

The creators of the page, Free the Children NAURU, say it was made to let "asylum seeker and refugee children doomed on Nauru speak out and share their dreams and hopes with other children around the world."

The boats land on the rocky shores of Lesbos, a Greek island in the northern Aegean Sea, nearly every hour. Sometimes 60 to 70 boats arrive every day, carrying mothers, fathers and children from Syria, Afghanistan and Iraq.

On a chilly, overcast afternoon late last month, one boat arrived just after a downpour. A family of four from Aleppo, drenched and wearing orange life vests, jumped on the beach and held each other, shivering. The mother, Noor al-Kadri, wept as she embraced a volunteer who helped her and her family off the shore.

Germany and Poland may not share a common language or currency, but they do share an open border.

Both are among the 26 European nations in what's known as the Schengen Area, and getting from one to the other is as simple as crossing a bridge over the Oder River by car or on foot.

No one has asked to see passports at this border crossing, 60 miles east of Berlin, since Poland joined the European Union in 2004. Nor does anyone check to see whether travelers are obeying custom rules.

Neatly trimmed lawns divide dozens of identical two-story brick buildings that make up the Kenwood Gardens apartment complex in Toledo, Ohio. The people who live here are college students, blue-collar workers and — as of recently — refugees from Syria's civil war.

It's where Omar Al-Awad and his family are settling into their new life in America. On a recent morning, the apartment is already bustling: a tea kettle is on the stove, and Omar's wife, Hiyam, is helping their three children review what they learned in their first day of American school.

Saying that thousands of people have overwhelmed its infrastructure at Slovenia's border with Croatia, Slovenia is moving to deploy its army. More than 6,000 people arrived Tuesday, Slovenia's interior minister says, with more than 18,000 reaching Slovenia since Friday.

Updated at 3:45 p.m. ET

Despite protestations from some former Soviet bloc countries, the European Union decided to resettle 120,000 refugees through a system of quotas determined by the size and wealth of each country.

Secretary of State John Kerry is pledging that the United States will significantly increase the number of migrants it accepts over the next two years, ratcheting up to 100,000 annually by 2017.

Syria doesn't have a history of free and open elections, but in the past few weeks Syrians have been voting with their feet. After four years of brutal civil war, Syrians are registering a sense of hopelessness and are willing to risk dangerous journeys for a chance to start over again in Europe.

As the numbers mount, with Europe overwhelmed, the blame game has begun. Why don't the richest Gulf Arab states — the diplomatic and financial sponsors of Syria's rebel groups — resettle these desperate refugees?

City of Seattle Community Tech / Flickr

Somali immigrants living in Washington hope the federal government will help them restart the flow of money to relatives in Somalia. Those remittances have ground to a halt since a California bank announced last month it would stop handling them.

That leaves an uncertain future for many families in Somalia who depend on money from relatives abroad. Mohammed Jama, executive director of the Abu Bakr Islamic Center in Tukwila, said in the devastated Somali economy, his relatives have hardly any income.

James Hall Photography

Advocates plan to rally in Olympia Tuesday in what’s become an annual push for immigrant and refugee rights.

More than a dozen groups plans to make some noise on the Capitol steps and meet with lawmakers on several key issues: restoring previously-cut funds to food aid and job training, and investing in better English-language learner services in public schools.

Refugees face a lot of stress.  They’re usually escaping war or poverty.  They land here unable to speak English and without a means of support.  But for some women, there’s the additional burden of domestic violence.