Europe refugee arrivals plunge by two thirds in 2016: Border agency

January 6, 2017 5:20 pm

A child looks on at the Ritsona refugee camp, north of Athens, on December 21, 2016. (Photo by AFP)

The number of refugees landing in via two main maritime routes in 2016 nosedived by almost two-thirds to 364,000 in comparison with the year before, according to the EU border agency Frontex.
“The number of migrants detected on Greece’s islands in the eastern Aegean and its mainland dropped by 79 percent to 182,500” in 2016, Frontex said on Friday, citing preliminary estimates. 
The border agency attributed the massive decline in the arrival of Syrian refugees and other migrants in Greece chiefly to a border agreement between the EU and Turkey which came into effect in March. Frontex also cited tighter border controls in the Western Balkans as another reason behind the declining figures.
The EU-Turkey deal sought to stem the flow of refugees into the continent by forcing those deported from the EU to either be located in Turkey or go back to the original country of departure.
Since March, the monthly numbers of arrivals on the Greek islands were a small fraction of the figures for the previous year and ranged between 4,400 and 1,800, Frontex said.
Syrians, Afghans and Iraqis comprised the largest portion of the arrivals, according to the border agency.
In keeping with the ebb in figures on the Eastern Mediterranean route, the number of refugees across the Western Balkans in 2016 also substantially fell to 123,000 from 764,000 in 2015, Frontex said.
In total, in 2016 there were an estimated 503,700 cases of detection of illegal border crossings along the EU’s external borders, it added.
Meanwhile, the border agency said Italy had witnessed a record number of refugees last year, underscoring the high number of arrivals from Africa via the central Mediterranean.
Frontex said it detected a record 181,000 refugees along this route last year, showing a 20-percent spike over 2015.
Since 2010, Italy has seen a tenfold rise in the cases of detection of West Africans along its sea borders, according to the border agency.
Nigerians made up the largest segment of the refugees on this route, followed by nationals from Eritrea, Guinea, Côte d’Ivoire, and Gambia, Frontex said.
In 2015, Europe faced an unprecedented influx of refugees – reportedly around one million arrivals – fleeing conflict-ridden zones in North Africa and the Middle East, particularly Syria.
Many blame support by some Western countries for the militants operating in the Middle East for increased violence, which in turn forces the departure of more people from their home countries.
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