The main migratory routes to Europe changed again at the beginning of the year, an European Commission report reveals.
Unlike the Central Mediterranean channel where 77% decrease compared to the first half of last year is observed, the Western Mediterranean route and the Eastern route from Turkey to Greece and the Balkans, are peaking up in numbers.
The European Commission reports of double increase of migrants crossing the Aegean Sea and the Greek land border with Turkey and 22% rise on the route to Spain. 6 623 arrivals were registered in Spain since January 2018 of which 17% coming from Morocco, 14% from Guinea and 10% from Mali.
In the same time, he reception centres on the Greek islands, especially on Samos and Lesbos, are full with Syrian, Iraqi and Afghan migrants and the Commission has warned the living conditions should be urgently improved to avoid the turmoil seen there in previous years.
The Western Balkans route, proclaimed closed in 2016, has been re-activated with significant number of migrants entering from the coasts of Albania, Bosna and Herzegovina and Montenegro, the report states.
Tunisia becomes leading source of economic migration to the EU
The shifting in the main migratory channels to Europe trend was noticed in the European Border and Coast Guard Agency 2108 risk report, published earlier this year. The report sent warning that bigger ships are now transporting more migrants from Moroccan and Tunisian shores, as well as the sudden decline in figures from Libya since last July.
The new data confirms this trend and reveals Tunisian migrants have become the largest national group on the main migratory route to Europe. Every fifth man on the vessels in the Central Mediterranean now is Tunisian, with Eritreans (19%), and Nigerians (7%) taking second and third position. Leading the charts last year were Nigerian, Guinean and Ivorian migrants.
A significant number of boats depart from Tunisia towards Italy, representing 22% of all migrant departures in 2018. The vast majority of arrivals from Tunisia are Tunisian citizen, the Commission points out. After a 43% increase for the last two years, the number of Algerian nationals arriving irregularly in Europe has dropped in the first quarter of 2018, data shows.
Despite the falling trend in numbers, the Central Mediterranean route remains the main gate to Europe with over 10 000 crossings in the first three months of the year. The European Commission warns sudden rises are to be expected when weather conditions improve in the summer, calling for vigilance and more guards to patrol the EU external borders.
Referring to the growing numbers the EU migration commissioner Dimitris Avramopoulos said “recent developments call for vigilance, continuous efforts and coordination for everybody”.
Niger resumes accepting transit refugees from Libya
The EU and Niger have resolved their differences over the transit stationing of refuges from Libya and since last week people are being evacuated again, the report boasts.
The UNHCR EU funded project for emergency resettlement from Libya to Europe through Niger was put on hold in early March because of the Nigerian government’s concerns over the slow distribution of people already flown to the country.
Out of the 1 152 persons evacuated from Libya to Niger, the UN Refugee Agency has submitted 475 for resettlement and 108 have already departed from Niger, the European Commission reveals. Another 132 vulnerable refugees and asylum-seekers were airlifted on 10 May from Libya to Niger. The Commission now urges the EU countries that pledged to accept people from Libya to take in at least half of the promised 2681 Libyans, as well no less than 16 000 asylum seekers from other countries by October.
The voluntary return programme, financed by the EU and executed by the International Organisation for Migration, IOM, is also advancing, the report says. The self-imposed target of 15 000 people by February was only reached by the end of April with 15 391 migrants stranded in Libya safely returned home, 6 185 of them since the beginning of the year.
According to the report conditions for migrants in Libya have improved and more people have access to the humanitarian assistance provided by the international organizations inside and outside of detention camps. The Commission is now “moving towards the closure of the detention centres in their current form”, the report confirms the announcement made by the EU top diplomat Federica Mogherini in December.
Africa Fund’s financial gap
The EU Emergency Trust Fund for Africa is running 147 programmes for a total amount of € 2,59 billion. The bulk of the activity goes to the Sahel – Lake Chad region where 79 of the projects for € 1,29 bill. are developed and the Horn of Africa’s 50 programmes with budget of €820 mill. The North of Africa’s 14 projects are worth €335 million.
However, the EU has to fill the €1.2 billion gap in funding and the current negotiations among the EU states on the 3 billion needed for the Syrian refugees in Turkey show this is not going to be an easy task.