Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vermont, said Wednesday he has meetings scheduled with Senators from both parties this weekend to discuss the unprecedented migrant crisis in Europe, and if the United States can be doing more to help.
"This is on a scale that is unimaginable," Leahy said of the crisis.
Hundreds of thousands of people running from war in Syria, Iraq and other countries are seeking better lives in places like Germany, but embarking on dangerous, even deadly journeys.
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At least 12 migrants, including five children, drowned off the Turkish coast Wednesday when two boats carrying them to the Greek island of Kos capsized, Turkish officials said. The Associated Press reported the tides washed up the body of one small boy on the beach, leaving witnesses in tears.
Leahy said the fighting in Syria needs to stop, and Iraq needs to fight back against ISIS, to start to stem the flow of desperate migrants.
"Since the war started in Syria, I've gone to some of the refugee camps," Leahy said. "I have nightmares just thinking of some of them."
"Our heart goes out to these communities," Carrie Hessler-Radelet, the director of the Peace Corps, said in response to questions from necn about the migrant crisis.
Hessler-Radelet was at the University of Vermont Wednesday praising UVM for being a top-producing school for the international service organization. Right now, 25 alumni are working around the globe, she said, with goals of sustainable international development in agriculture, education, health,and other sectors.
Hessler-Radelet also announced a historic high in the number of colleges and universities joining the Peace Corps Prep program. Throughout the last year, 26 new schools, including UVM, have partnered with the Peace Corps to offer undergraduate courses and community service opportunities to prepare them for eventual work in international development.
As for the rapidly-unfolding crisis, Hessler-Radelet noted the Peace Corps does not take action to respond to humanitarian crises or natural disasters on its own. Instead, she explained the Peace Corps partners with governmental organizations, such as ministries of education, in countries where it performs development work.
"So far, the governments have not asked us to work in refugee camps or refugee settings but if they did, we would entertain those requests," Hessler-Radelet told necn. "And I think that we all need to be so aware of the human toll that is taking place there in that tragic situation."
Leahy said he is not aware of whether the United States can or will accept any refugees, but he said a first priority needs to be finding ways to reduce the loss of life of migrants.