2015: Top photos of the year

This year, the stark reality of a migrant crisis embodied in a drowned boy and the horrors of the Paris attacks contrast with the levity of a viral meme featuring Pope Francis and the hope of a generation of refugees beginning a new life in Canada. Following are 20 of the best news photos from 2015.

From Je Suis Charlie to Alan Kurdi and the migrant crisis, these are the top news photos of the year

Volunteers walk on a pile of lifejackets left behind by migrants, many of whom seeking refuge in Western Europe, who arrived by boat on the Greek island of Lesbos on Dec. 3, 2015. (Aris Messinis/AFP/Getty)

Each year we assemble a collection of the top news images from the past 365 days. This year, the stark reality of a migrant crisis embodied in a drowned boy and the horrors of the calculated attacks in Paris contrast with the levity of a viral meme featuring Pope Francis, as well as the hope of refugees beginning a new life in Canada. Following is a selection of some of the best photos from 2015. 

The year of the refugee

The European refugee crisis, driven by a mass exodus from war-torn Syria, came to the fore in April after a string of migrant-boat sinkings led to over 1,200 drownings in the Mediterranean Sea. The incidents represented a spike in a near continuous flow of migrants the UN calls the largest wave of forcibly displaced people since the Second World War.

In one of the most emblematic scenes of the year, migrants — this one shaken from a rough voyage — leap off an overloaded dinghy, exhausted and relieved to be on European soil. This woman, being comforted by a Dutch volunteer, landed on the Greek island of Lesbos on Oct. 23. (Yannis Behrakis/Reuters)

The first Syrian refugees arrive in Canada

To make good on a pledge to bring 10,000 Syrian refugees to Canada before the end of the year (an average of two flights per day through December) John McCallum, the newly-appointed minister of immigration and refugees, says a "colossal effort" is underway at processing centres in Jordan, Turkey and Lebanon.

During a brief welcoming speech at the airport on Dec. 11, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said, "Tonight they step off the plane as refugees, but they walk out of this terminal as permanent residents of Canada." At least 25,000 are to be admitted to Canada by the end of February.

The first planeload of government-assisted refugees from Syria arrived in Toronto early Dec. 11 via a processing centre in Beirut. Among the first 163 to land were Elo Manushian and her husband, Hagop, who attended a welcoming event at an Armenian community centre hours after stepping off the plane. (Mark Blinch/Reuters)

The photo that shook the world

Images of three-year-old Alan Kurdi shocked the world in September, putting a harsh spotlight on the refugee disaster unfolding across Europe. The image prompted both empathy and outrage over the perceived failure of rich, developed nations to protect those left vulnerable by war and poverty.

The toddler's father, who buried his drowned wife and two sons in Kobani, declined an invitation to come to Canada to join his sister, Tima Kurdi, who opened a hair salon in Port Coquitlam, B.C.

On Sept. 2, after yet another migrant boat sinking, this photo of a toddler’s lifeless body washed ashore in Turkey brought into stark relief the plight of a Syrian family, and the thousands of others, fleeing war and poverty for a new start in the West. (Nilufer Demir/AFP/Getty)

The Syrian civil war rages on

While the attacks in Paris galvanized international efforts against ISIS, Syria's civil war continues into its fifth year, with Russia — the Assad regime's primary backer, along with Iran — reported to be fighting alongside Assad's troops. In rebel-held Douma, airstrikes like the one blamed for this girl's injuries, have become a fact of daily life.

A wounded girl is treated at a makeshift hospital in a rebel-held area of Douma, east of Damascus, on Aug. 22. She was injured in an air raid by forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad in what activists in Syria say was one of the bloodiest government attacks of the year. (Abd Doumany/AFP/Getty)

#PopeBars trends on Twitter

Pope Francis, urging unity amid civil strife and inequality on his first trip to Africa, was photographed while inadvertently striking a rap emcee-like pose, inspiring a flurry of social media posts musing about just what kind of rhymes the pontiff might deliver. The Vatican also released a rock album this year titled Wake Up! 

Pope Francis gives his blessing during a visit to a refugee camp in the conflict-ridden Central African Republic on Nov. 29. Pope Francis is the first pope in modern history to visit a conflict zone. (Gianluigi Guercia/AFP/Getty)

China's red alert smog

In December, the Chinese capital launched restrictions under its first red alert for pollution, closing schools, suspending factories and keeping half the vehicles off the streets. China's government has publicly set 2030 as a deadline to reach the country's emissions peak, and data suggest the country's coal consumption is already in decline.

Smoke billows from coal-fired power plants in Shanxi, upwind of Beijing, in China on Nov. 26. A history of heavy dependence on coal has made China the source of nearly a third of the world's total CO2 emissions. (Kevin Frayer/Getty )

Paris attacks

Roses, candles and other tributes became symbols of national resolve as France reeled in the aftermath of a series of co-ordinated attacks at cafés, restaurants and the Bataclan theatre, as well as a failed attack at the Stade de France, that killed 130 people in November. Eighty-nine people were killed at the Bataclan alone.

A flower sticks out of a bullet hole in the window of Le Carillon restaurant on Nov. 15, the first of three days of national mourning declared for the victims of the Nov. 13 Paris attacks. (Christopher Furlong/Getty)

'Sunny ways, my friends'

"Sunny ways, my friends. Sunny ways," Trudeau told his enthusiastic supporters in Montreal after the Liberals surged to victory in a stunning majority government win, dashing the hopes of Stephen Harper, who had been seeking his fourth consecutive mandate as prime minister. The Trudeaus' feature in Vogue magazine, and his perceived good looks, also made a major splash online.

Liberal Party leader Justin Trudeau, accompanied by his wife Sophie Grégoire-Trudeau, soaks up the atmosphere at campaign headquarters in Montreal on Oct. 19. (Jim Young/Reuters)

The bat flip heard around the world

Toronto Blue Jays slugger Jose Bautista's infamous bat flip in Game 5 of this year's American League Divisional Series game cemented his place in Toronto sports lore and caused such an uproar it trended worldwide on Twitter.

The Jays went on to win the game and the series before losing to the Kansas City Royals in the American League Championship Series.

In an emotionally-charged gesture, Jose Bautista tosses his bat after hitting a three-run homer to give the Toronto Blue Jays the lead in Game 5 of the team’s first baseball playoff run since 1993. (Tom Szczerbowski/Getty )

Spiteful journalist trips migrants

Photographer Marko Djurica captured the now infamous moment in which Hungarian camerawoman Petra Laszlo intentionally tripped a man carrying a child — two of about 1,000 migrants who had been waiting days for buses that never came, near Roszke, Hungary, on Sept. 8. "It came as quite a shock," Djurica said of the incident. Her photos, taken for Reuters, were widely published.

Petra Laszo, pictured here tripping a man on the Hungary-Serbia border, issued an apology in a letter in which the 40-year-old former video journalist said she was ‘sincerely sorry’ but feared for her safety on that August day. (Marko Djurica/Reuters)

The supermoon eclipse

Stargazers in Canada and around the world were in for a rare, two-for-one treat when a total lunar eclipse coincided with a so-called supermoon near the end of September. The supermoon happens when a full moon comes up during its closest approach to the Earth, which makes it appear larger and brighter than normal.

The supermoon comes up big and bright over Glastonbury, England, on Sept. 27. The convergence of a supermoon and eclipse is a particularly rare combination that has not happened since 1982 and won't happen again until 2033. (Matt Cardy/Getty)

The Balkan route

In August, a new wave of migrants surged through the Balkans and came up against a police line on the Macedonian border with Greece. The stoppage proved futile after thousands of migrants stormed past police. In November, Macedonia, along with Slovenia, Croatia and Serbia, clamped their borders shut again, leaving a growing number of migrants stranded in tents with winter approaching.

On Aug. 21, Macedonian police clashed with thousands of migrants attempting to break into the country after being stranded in a fenced no-man's. The clash marked an escalation in the Balkan country’s refugee crisis. (Georgi Licovski/EPA)

Donald Trump's presidential run

Real estate magnate turned Republican presidential front-runner Donald Trump has campaigned on a platform of promises that includes building a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border (but not Canada's) and barring of Muslims from the U.S., among other hair-raising statements. Third in line for Time magazine's person of the year, (he was attacked by an eagle during the photoshoot) Trump has angered people on all sides of the political spectrum.

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump greets supporters at a partisan rally in Mobile, Ala., on Aug. 21. The Trump campaign had to relocate the planned rally to a larger venue to accommodate the crowd. (Mark Wallheiser/Getty)

California wildfires

Northern California roasted under one of the worst fire seasons in the state's history this summer. One wildfire in particular burned through tens of thousands of hectares, including 12,000 homes in Lake Country, 135 kilometres north of San Francisco, prompting U.S. President Barack Obama to declare it a major disaster, releasing millions in federal money for recovery and cleanup.

Firefighters watch a wildfire nicknamed Rocky as it burns through drought-parched scrubland near Clearlake, Calif., on Aug. 1. (Noah Berger/EPA)

Fiesta de San Fermin

Pamplona's controversial bull runs, made famous in North America by Hemingway's 1926 novel The Sun Also Rises, produce some of the most stunning images every year. Here, one of the tens of thousands of revellers who pack the streets of Pamplona was caught in a moment by David Ramos amidst the crush of the opening day Chupinazo celebration.

The opening day Chupinazo kicks off the San Fermin Running of the Bulls fiesta on July 6, in Pamplona, Spain. (David Ramos/Getty)

Baltimore reacts to Freddie Gray's funeral

Baltimore erupted in violence on the day of Freddie Gray's funeral in the most violent, racially-charged demonstrations in the U.S. since clashes in Ferguson, Mo., last year. Gray was arrested for having a switchblade on April 12. A week later, his in-hospital death from a severe spinal cord injury intensified a debate on race and police tactics — a debate that was re-ignited in November in Chicago after the release of a video showing the death of Laquan McDonald.

A group of young people in Baltimore trash a police car a few blocks from where the funeral of Freddie Gray, a 25-year-old black man who died after being injured in police custody, was held on April 27. (Chip Somodevilla/Getty)

Nepal earthquake

The death toll in Nepal, which climbed over the course of months, is estimated to have exceeded 9,000 following a magnitude 7.8 earthquake (the worst in over 80 years) struck on April 25. The earthquake destroyed dozens of UNESCO heritage temples in Kathmandu and triggered an avalanche on Mount Everest that killed 19 people. A major aftershock struck on May 12.

Rescuers rush a victim away from a collapsed tower in Kathmandu on April 25 in the immediate aftermath of a devastating earthquake that killed thousands and flattened centuries-old buildings in Nepal. (Omar Havana/Getty)

A rare Chilean eruption

Volcano Calbuco erupted for the first time in more than four decades in April, sending up a thick plume of ash 20 kilometres into the air. Authorities declared a red alert and kept some 15,000 residents away from their homes over the course of a weeks-long evacuation.

Volcano Calbuco, in southern Chile, casts an ominous pall over the town of Puerto Montt, located about 1,000 kilometres south of Santiago, on April 22. (Alex Vidal Brecas/EPA)

Kobani won back from ISIS

In September, ISIS fighters captured about 300 Kurdish villages and hamlets near Kobani and ventured into the town itself, sending tens of thousands of residents fleeing into Turkey. The town was recaptured with the help of U.S.-led coalition airstrikes but the scope of its destruction will make it hard for refugees to return any time soon.

Musa, a 25-year-old Kurdish marksman, surveys the remains of Kobani on Jan. 30. Kurdish forces recaptured the Syrian town, located near the Turkish border, on Jan. 26 in a symbolic blow to ISIS jihadists who have seized large swathes of territory in their onslaught across Syria and Iraq. (Bluent Kilic/AFP/Getty)

Je Suis Charlie et marches républicaines

Attacks in Paris began on Jan. 7 when two brothers stormed the offices of the satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo, killing 12 people, including a police officer. In the following days, gunmen stormed a printing company and a Kosher supermarket in in the French capital raising the death toll to 17. The attacks galvanized world leaders in the fight against global extremism and inspired vigils around the world under the slogan Je Suis Charlie.

Hundreds of thousands of people — including more than 40 world leaders — marched in Paris on Jan. 11 to honour the victims killed in a rash of terror attacks carried out by Islamist radicals. (Fredrik Von Erichsen/EPA)


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