In the latest years Europe has beenthe destination for huge quantities of migrants, mostly coming from Africa andMiddle-East through the Mediterranean Sea or overland through Southest Europe. Accordingto UNHCR (UN High Commissioner for Refugees) most of these refugees come fromSyria (46.7 %), Afghanistan (20.9 %) and Iraq (9.4 %). In 2014 the total amountof migrants directed to Europe standed at 500’000, while it more than doubledin 2015.
This growth caused several issues especially for Countries such Italyand Greece which are the main destination for migrants coming by the sea. Thesenumbers do not only concern asylum seekers, many of them are economic migrants,people searching for better life conditions, as well as some hostile agents,such as Islamic State agents, often disguise as refugees or migrants. During their trip leading to Europe, migrants have to face inhuman conditions,smugglers violate any kind of human rights, making these trips incrediblydangerous. In the first half of 2017, according to UNHCR, over 2’700 migrantshave been reported dying across the Mediterranean Sea, over 5’000 died in 2016and about 3 thousands in 2015. These numbers peaked on April 2015 when fiveboats carrying 2’000 sank, with a combined estimated toll of 1’200 deaths.These risks do not end once landed in Europe, those moving irregularly havebeen reported numerous kind of abuse, including being pushed back acrossborders. With so many lives at risk, rescue-at-sea operations undertaken by allactors must remain a priority.
The number of same pathways leading to Europehas increased, but these possibilities remain to narrow to offer a stablealternative to risky irregular journeys for asylum seekers. Italy had launchedthe “Operation Mare Nostrum”, but several EU countries refused to fund it,causing its replacement with “Frontex’s Operation Triton” in November 2014,which did not lead to any improvent in the matter. In the early 2015, Greeceovertook Italy as the first EU country of arrival, becoming the starting pointof a flow of refugees and migrants moving through Balkans countries to NorthernEuropean countries, mainly Germany and Sweden. Countries involved The conflict in Syriacontinues to be by far the biggest driver of migration. But the ongoingviolence in Afghanistan and Iraq, abuses in Eritrea, as well as poverty inKosovo, are also leading people to look for new lives elsewhere. Although not all of those arriving in Europe choose to claim asylum,many do. Germany received the highest number of new asylum applications in2015, with more than 476,000.
But far more people have arrived in the country -German officials said more than a million hadbeen counted in Germany’s “EASY” system for counting and distributingpeople before they make asylum claims.Hungarymoved into second place for asylum applications, as more migrants made thejourney overland through Greece and the Western Balkans. It had 177,130 applications by the endof December.
The InternationalOrganization for Migration (IOM) estimates that more than 1,011,700 migrants arrived by seain 2015, and almost 34,900 byland.This compares with 280,000 arrivals by land and seafor the whole of 2014. The figures do not include those who got in undetected.
The EU’s external border force, Frontex, monitors thedifferent routes migrants use and numbers arriving at Europe’s borders and putthe figure crossing into Europe in 2015 at more than 1,800,000.Most of those heading for Greece take the relativelyshort voyage from Turkey to the islands of Kos, Chios, Lesvos and Samos – oftenin flimsy rubber dinghies or small wooden boats. According to the IOM, more than 3,770 migrants werereported to have died trying to cross the Mediterranean in 2015.Most died on the crossing from northAfrica to Italy, and more than 800 died in the Aegean crossing from Turkey toGreece.The summer months are usually when mostfatalities occur as it is the busiest time for migrants attempting to reachEurope.But in 2015, the deadliest month formigrants was April, which saw a boat carrying about 800 people capsize in thesea off Libya. Overcrowding is thought to have been one of the reasons for thedisaster.
Although Germany has had the most asylum applicationsin 2015, Hungary had the highest in proportion to its population, despitehaving closed its border with Croatia in an attempt to stop the flow inOctober. Nearly 1,800 refugeesper 100,000 of Hungary’s local population claimed asylum in 2015.Sweden followed close behind with 1,667 per 100,000.The figure for Germany was 587 and for the UK it was 60 applications for every 100,000 residents.The EU average was 260.Tensionsin the EU have been rising because of the disproportionate burden faced by somecountries, particularly the countries where the majority of migrants have beenarriving: Greece, Italy and Hungary.
In September, EUministers voted by a majority to relocate 160,000 refugees EU-wide, but for nowthe plan will only apply to those who are in Italy and Greece.Another 54,000 were to be moved from Hungary, but the Hungarian governmentrejected this plan and will instead receive more migrants fromItaly and Greece as part of the relocation scheme.The UK has opted out of any plans for a quota systembut, according to Home Office figures, 1,000 Syrian refugees were resettledunder the Vulnerable Persons Relocation scheme in 2015. Prime Minister DavidCameron has said the UK will accept up to 20,000 refugees from Syria over thenext five years.
Although huge numbers have been applying for asylum,the number of people being given asylum is far lower.In 2015, EU countries offeredasylum to 292,540 refugees. In the same year, more than a million migrantsapplied for asylum – although applying for asylum can be a lengthy procedure somany of those given refugee status may have applied in previous years.