niroshan86/iStock/Thinkstock(PALERMO, Italy) -- Refugees have been journeying to Europe from Africa and the Middle East for years, but the numbers have seen a sharp climb recently because of several factors.
Some of the reasons they make the treacherous trip: conflict, terrorism, poverty and persecution.
Officials say this weekend marked what was possibly the deadliest refugee disaster. A boat capsized heading from Libya to Europe in the Mediterranean Sea, and survivors say more than 900 people could be dead.
There’s an ongoing debate in Europe about how to handle the crisis. The European Union has scaled back rescue efforts to deter refugees from the journey, which has been ineffective.
More than 35,000 refugees have arrived by boat in Europe this year, and an estimated 1,600 have died on the journey, according to the International Organization for Migration.
In the video below, ABC News documents the perils these refugees face and the numbers behind the crisis.
Photo by Matt Cardy/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- The Pentagon confirmed on Monday that the carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt and the cruiser USS Normandy have moved into the Arabian Sea because of the deteriorating security situation in Yemen.
"Theodore Roosevelt and Normandy have joined other U.S. forces conducting maritime security operations in the Arabian Sea, Gulf of Aden, the Strait of Bab-el-Mandeb and the Southern Red Sea," according to a U.S. Navy statement announcing the move.
"In recent days, the U.S. Navy has increased its presence in this area as a result of the current instability in Yemen," continued the statement. "The purpose of these operations is to ensure the vital shipping lanes in the region remain open and safe."
Col. Steve Warren, a Pentagon spokesman, said that U.S. Central Command moved the ships because of the deteriorating security situation in Yemen.
Warren specifically denied a media report that the two American ships were being moved so they could assist in the interception of a flotilla of seven to nine Iranian ships headed to Yemen to re-supply Houthi rebels. That flotilla left Iran last week, a U.S. official said Monday.
“They are not going to intercept Iranian ships,” said Warren. “That is absolutely not the case.”
While the carrier would likely not be used to board an Iranian vessel as a practical matter a Defense official told ABC News that the deterrent effect of a carrier is significant. The authority to board vessels that might be providing weapons to Yemen is allowed under existing U.N. Security Resolutions.
The official said that should an Iranian vessel need to be boarded there are seven other US Navy vessels in the region that could be used including destroyers and the three ships of the Iwo Jima Amphibious Ready Group.
On April 1, the U.S. Navy boarded a Panamanian-flagged ship that was believed might be transporting supplies from Iran to the Houthis. No weapons were found and there have been no other boardings since then.
The United States closed its embassy in the Yemeni capital of Sanaa in mid-February.
In late March, the US evacuated 300 military personnel from a base in southern Yemen.
Courtesy Hafeez Ahmed Bhatti(SYDNEY) -- A Muslim family who was captured on video being bullied by a passenger on a train from Sydney, has come forward and said they're working with police to identify the woman who allegedly harassed them, and they plan on pressing charges against the woman if she's found.
Cellphone video uploaded to Facebook Wednesday showed Hafeez Ahmed Bhatti, wife Khalida and their 3-month-year-old son being picked on by a woman in a red shirt sitting across from them. The video was uploaded by passenger Stacey Eden, who can be heard trying to stand up for Bhatti's family.
Though Eden has been widely praised for her defense, Hafeez Bhatti told ABC News on Monday that he wants people to know that before Eden began recording, he tried "calmly" educating and "politely" talking to the woman in red, who can be heard associating Bhatti's family with ISIS and accusing Bhatti's kids of "beheading people."
"Before Stacey recorded that video, I tried to educate the woman across from us and say she should not generalize all Muslims based on a minority of terrorists and extremists," Bhatti, 33, said. "And though I appreciate Stacey standing up for us, I want the world to know why we stayed calm. If you try to control yourself and be calm, you can control the situation."
Bhatti, a Bribane resident originally from Pakistan, said he was on a Sydney Airport line train from Sydney, where he was getting his baby's passport done.
"At some point, a lady in a red shirt came into the train in and just put her hand on my wife's head," Bhatti said. "She asked my wife, Khalida, why she was wearing that scarf, saying it was too hot. Then she sat across us and kept going."
The beginning of the cellphone video shows a woman in red asking Khalida, who is wearing a hijab, "Why do you wear it for a man that marries a 6-year-old girl?"
Eden can then be heard chiming in.
"She wears it for herself, OK?" Eden says. "She wears it because she wants to be modest with her body, not because of people like you who are going to sit there and disrespect her."
The woman in red continues, telling the Bhatti's wife, "Your kids behead people," but Eden quickly interrupts her.
"That's not her doing it," Eden says. "That's a minority of people."
When the woman in red then starts ranting about "148 Christians murdered in Kenya" and Muslims murdering each other in Syria, Eden asks, “What’s that got to do with this lady?"
At the end, Eden says, "If you've got nothing nice to say, don't say anything, it's simple."
Bhatti said he and his wife were able to connect with Eden via Skype Friday, and they’ve invited her to come visit his family and local mosque in Brisbane.
He added he's working with the New South Wales Police Force, which is apparently working to obtain surveillance video footage and identify the woman allegedly making the racial comments.
The New South Wales Police Force told ABC News Monday the department was aware of "an incident which occurred on a train traveling on the Airport, Inner-West and South Line involving alleged racial comments" on Wednesday and that an investigation was now underway. The department added it could not confirm or reveal the names of the victims of the alleged crimes.
Once the woman is identified and found, Bhatti said he will "go through the proper channels" to press charges to make sure “this woman doesn't hurt any other Muslim women and families again.”
Pentagon spokesman Col. Steve Warren said the training will consist of defensive and civil operations including medical training, casualty evacuation, counter-unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) tactics, as well as human rights observance training.
Ukrainian troops are continuing to battle the Russian-backed rebels in certain Eastern areas, although fighting has largely stopped recently since a cease-fire was signed in February.
Russia has warned, however, that the U.S. training could destabilize the cease-fire and hinder efforts to implement a peace agreement.
In response to Russia's warning, Warren said Monday, “I would say it’s Russia that’s destabilizing Ukraine.”
“They are the ones who are continuing to provide lethal weapons, they are continuing sending combat forces into Ukraine. Really it’s the Russians who are destabilizing the situation in Ukraine. This is training national guardsmen in national guard tasks,” he added.
NASA(NEW YORK) -- Astronomers have uncovered evidence that a white dwarf star may have gone into death star mode on the edge of the Milky Way, shredding a planet after a close encounter.
NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory and several other telescopes captured evidence of the Earth-sized star's destructive act. A white dwarf star has a dense core and is what stars similar to the sun can transform into after being depleted of nuclear fuel.
When stars enter the dwarf stage, their matter is densely packed into a radius that can be just 1 percent of that of the original star.
The reason for the planetary lashing comes down to the star's gravitational pull and tides being enhanced during a close encounter, according to NASA.
"When such a planet passes too close to a white dwarf, it can be torn apart by the intense tidal forces of the white dwarf. The planetary debris is then heated and glows in X-rays as it falls onto the white dwarf," researchers wrote.
It's estimated the planet that was slayed by the star contained about one third of Earth's mass, whereas NASA said the powerful white dwarf has about 1.4 times the mass of the sun.
Bo Jonsson/Skansen-Akvariet(STOCKHOLM) -- Ten baby crocodiles are on their way to Havana to be released into the wild, their former zookeeper at Skansen Aquarium in Stockholm, Sweden, told ABC News.
Cuba's former president, Fidel Castro, gave the crocodiles’ parents to Russian cosmonaut Vladimir Shatalov in the 1970s. Symbolically named Castro and Hillary, as in Clinton, they were eventually transferred to a city zoo in Moscow.
In 1981, the director of Sweden’s Skansen Aquarium visited Moscow where officials offered him the chance to bring the crocodiles to Stockholm, which he accepted. Since 1984, Hillary and Castro have produced more than 100 crocodiles for export around the world.
Cuban authorities reached out to the zoo last year asking whether it would be possible to release some of the crocodiles into the wild in Cuba.
"We said yes immediately," said Bo Jonsson, one of their zookeepers. "Reintroducing animals into the wild is what zoos are for. Our dream is to contribute to animal conservation, taking them from nature to be saved and secured for future release into the wild."
To survive the 48 hours of travel, the babies are being transported by plane in boxes with tubes in them because they are less stressed when they are in a small and confined space where they can't turn around, Jonsson said, adding that they will monitor the crocodiles during the trip and make sure they are kept humid.
Cuban crocodiles are similar to American crocodiles but tend to be more muscular and aggressive, experts say. Once released into the wild, the zookeeper said, they will adapt to their natural habitat "on day one.”
The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge/PA Wire via Getty Images(LONDON) -- With the second royal baby due any day now, Britain's Prince George of Cambridge is about to become a big brother for the first time.
"Prince George and his little brother or sister will be incredibly close in age, and they will grow up side by side," said Daily Mirror royal correspondent and ABC News' royal contributor Victoria Murphy. "But of course, there's one huge difference, and that's that George is destined to be king and this baby is not."
The obvious question is whether Prince George, who will turn 2 in July, will have a little brother or sister to watch over. Royal sources tell ABC News that George's parents, Duchess Kate and Prince William, do not know the baby's gender.
Whether the baby is a boy or a girl, the two children will be third and fourth in line to the British throne. That means they likely will have a close bond fostered by sharing something completely unique, as did their father and his younger brother, Prince Harry, before them.
It remains unclear whether the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge will bring George to meet the new prince or princess at St. Mary's Hospital in London, where Kate is due to deliver sometime this month, ABC News has learned. Royal sources tell ABC News that William and Kate will make that decision on whether to bring George to the hospital after George's baby brother or sister is born.
But who can forget William's visit to the Lindo Wing of St. Mary's Hospital 30 years ago to visit Prince Harry for the first time after Princess Diana gave birth? It is hard to imagine that George's parents won't want to do the same with this new baby.
One thing is for sure, William, 32, is determined to give his children a normal life.
"I think that just like Kate, William is very keen for his children to have the upbringing that she had," Murphy said. "She had a very happy childhood. She's very close to both of her parents, who are still together and still very much in love."
"It's a very secure family unit," she said of Duchess Kate's family, which also includes two more Middleton children, Pippa and James. "And I think that's what she and William want to give their children."
From Prince George's very first photo op while with his parents on an official trip in New Zealand in April of last year, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge have tried to ensure George has some semblance of life as a normal child.
In that first photo op, George was introduced to the world at a playgroup with other children his age. Months later, like Princess Diana did for her sons 30 years ago, Duchess Kate brought Prince George to see Santa and he waited in line just like every other child, with no special treatment.
"Kate takes him to parks. She takes him to the beach. She takes him to the farm. She wants him to enjoy all of that, like any other child would," Murphy told ABC News. "She takes him to carol services at Christmas to mix with other children."
ABC News has also learned that, like many young children, George loves to splash about in the pool and his parents are teaching him to swim.
William and Kate currently rely on one nanny, Maria Teresa Turrion Borrallo, to help with George. Royal sources told ABC News the couple, for the moment, does not plan to hire an additional nanny or other staff after the baby's birth.
Like many other young families, George and his sibling will also enjoy the company of their family's beloved dog, Lupo, a wedding gift to William and Kate from Kate's brother, James Middleton.
"Of course, this baby will be their second child, but in some ways this baby is their third child because you've got to remember they also have Lupo, who was there long before Prince George," Murphy said. "And Lupo is their absolute, beloved pet dog, who they treat exactly like one of the family."
"And as well as having a great relationship with William and Kate, Lupo and George also get on really well," she said.
iStock/Thinkstock(OSLO, Norway) -- The FM radio dial will soon join the ranks of obsolete technology alongside the floppy disk, answering machines and VCRs -- well at least in Norway.
The Scandinavian country's Ministry of Culture said in a statement that FM radio will be switched off in 2017 with digital radio taking its place.
Norwegians won't lose their favorite radio programming and can instead expect higher quality and more choices, according to Thorhild Widvey, Norway's minister of culture, who said the move was first discussed in 2011.
"Listeners will have access to more diverse and pluralistic radio content, and enjoy better sound quality and new functionality," Widvey said in a statement. "Digitization will also greatly improve the emergency preparedness system, facilitate increased competition and offer new opportunities for innovation and development."
Norway's digital audio broadcasting network (DAB) already includes 22 national channels with room for plenty more, whereas the country's FM radio station hosts five.
When the FM dial dies, broadcasters will be able to decide whether to take their stations to DAB or the more cutting edge DAB . The Ministry of Culture also said it expects the majority of future radio programming in Norway to be on DAB .
The move may be a win for everyone. According to the Ministry of Culture, the cost of transmitting FM radio is eight times higher than going digital.
It's expected the switch could provide as much as $25 million USD in savings per year for national channels, allowing more money to be invested in programming.
Chris Jackson/Getty Images(LONDON) — Arranging security for Kate Middleton and the new royal baby should be a little easier the second time around.
That's because the Duchess is expected to give birth at the same hospital where George was born, St. Mary's in London.
Notices have already been posted outside the hospital, forbidding any parking 24 hours a day April 15-30. Middleton is expected to give birth during that time.
St. Mary's is also where Middleton's husband, Prince William, and his brother, Prince Harry, were born.
The hospital is well-equipped to handle the privacy and security needs of the royal family. Its private Lindo wing, where Middleton gave birth last time, offers birthing suites and doctors with experience caring for "complex pregnancies," according to the hospital website.
Like last time, there's not expected to be a "massive change in police presence" during and after the birth, as ABC News royal correspondent Victoria Arbiter outlined in 2013 before the birth of George. But police presence is expected to be "stepped up a notch."
And just like before, Middleton will likely want to leave the hospital as soon as possible.
After a photo op outside the hospital -- hopefully with young George in tow -- the family will head immediately to Kensington Palace, where Arbiter said they have a "secure, fortified" place that "gives them privacy and security without added worries."
But their stay at Kensington is likely to be a brief couple days, royal commentator Victoria Murphy told ABC News recently.
"After that the intention is for them to leave and to go to their country home of Anmer Hall," Murphy said of their estate in Norfolk, England. "And really that is where they consider to be their home now, where they feel most comfortable and where they will spend the next few weeks."
Roya Nikkhah, a royal family commentator and writer, explained that the country home has everything the family of four needs in one secure place.
"There's a huge amount of private space there," Nikkhah told ABC News recently. "There's an enormous garden. There's tennis, there's swimming but all in one place. They don't have to get protection officers to take them from one bit to the other as they do in London."
Added Nikkhah, "It's a kind of completely enclosed childhood for Prince George and his new brother or sister that's about to arrive. And I think that's what William and Kate, particularly William, wants for his children. He wants to have that incredibly normal life that's completely private, that's away from the spotlight."
iStock/Thinkstock(BERGEN, Norway) — Scientists and residents in Norway were stunned by an odd bit of precipitation recently: worms.
A biology teacher named Karstein Erstad was skiing when he found the snowy mountainside in Bergen covered in the creepy crawlies, according to The Local. Similar reports were made throughout the country, as far as the country's border with Sweden.
Erstad explained a weather pattern could have lifted the worms up in the air and scattered them miles away; he found similar reports dating back to 1920.
"It's a very rare phenomenon," the scientist explained. "It's difficult to say how many times it happens, but it has only been reported a very few times."
Photo by Tullio M. Puglia/Getty Images(ROME) -- As many as 700 refugees and migrants were reportedly onboard a boat that capsized in the Mediterranean Sea on Sunday morning, with many feared dead.
Adrian Edwards, Head of News and Chief Spokesperson for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, called the incident a "catastrophe" on Twitter, noting that it "may be [the] biggest ever." Similar incidents aren't terribly uncommon. Edwards noted on Twitter that in 219,000 crossings last year, 3,500 people died. In about 35,000 crossings in 2015 -- Sunday's notwithstanding -- 950 individuals have died.
New Mediterranean catastrophe may be biggest ever. Still hearing only a few dozen survivors from boat said carrying 700 #refugees & migrants
Pawel Gaul/iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- The U.S. Agency for International Development announced this weekend that it would provide $126 million in funds to help rebuild health services in Ebola-affected nations in West Africa.
The agency says the money will be used to "help Liberia, Sierra Leone, and guinea restart critical health services that stopped due to the Ebola outbreak, including vaccinations, water and sanitation services, prenatal and maternal health care and nutrition, and programs to prevent and treat malaria and other infectious diseases."
"USAID has helped West African nations by beating back the Ebola outbreak." Associate Administrator Mark Feierstein said. "Now we're helping ensure people have food to eat, schools are open and educating children, people are able to communicate through a strong infrastructure network, and families can support themselves by returning to jobs and markets."
With help from the international community, the Ebola outbreak in West Africa has been slowed. In Liberia, in particular, the number of new Ebola cases has dropped from 50 per day to zero.
Marcio Silva/iStock/Thinkstock(BAGHDAD) -- Kurdish forces have seized large expanses of ISIS-held terrain in northern Iraq, the U.S.-led coalition said in a Sunday statement.
During the operations, the Kurdish Peshmerga cleared 11 villages of enemy combatants and restored security to an area about 25 square miles in size. The Peshmerga were assisted by coalition air strikes, which destroyed ISIS weapons systems and fighting positions.
"The operation is yet another example demonstrating the commitment and ability of our partners to defeat [ISIS] forces on the battlefield in Iraq," Lt. Gen. James Terry, commander of the coalition forces said. "The determined efforts of the Peshmerga, combined with coalition support, further denies [ISIS] key terrain and freedom of movement in Northern Iraq."