Migration & visa related news
Between 2008 and 2014, the number of people coming to Europe via the central Mediterranean route jumped from 39,800 to 170,760
October 1, 2015 Europe is experiencing its greatest migrant influx since the Second World War and expects between 800,000 and one million newcomers this year. But how many migrants and refugees arrive in Europe? And where are they from? According to EU border agency Frontex, there are eight routes often used but the main three are the central Mediterranean route, the eastern Mediterranean route and the western Balkans route. Last year, more than 260,000 people entered Europe via these three routes but that number is expected to be much larger this year since the EU has seen more than half a million arrive on its borders in 2015 so far.
Since 2008, the numbers coming to Europe have increased substantially as war and poverty worsened in certain countries such as Libya.
Central Mediterranean route
This route involves movement from north Africa to Italy. Migrants often meet in Libya where they locate and pay smugglers who will facilitate their trip across the Mediterranean. In 2014, the majority of border control operations on the Central Mediterranean route turned into search and rescue (SAR) operations.
Normally after six or seven hours after leaving the Libyan coast, migrants made distress calls to Italian authorities.
In 2009, there was a sharp decrease in illegal migrants after the Italian government signed a bilateral agreement with Libya which enabled the Italian government to return immigrants to Libya.
There was a spike in the number of migrants crossing following civil unrest in Libya and Tunisia in 2011 but after an accelerated repatriation agreement, numbers declined sharply after March that year.
In the same year, there was another spike after many were forcibly expelled by the Muammar Gaddafi regime. After his fall in August 2011, numbers of migrants dropped dramatically.
In 2014, the lack of basic law enforcement allowed smuggling networks to thrive. In that year, an estimated 3,500 migrants lost their lives whilst making the crossing.
The deaths were a result of large wooden boats used that were old and in poor condition. There could be up to 800 migrants on some vessels that were designed to carry 10 to 20 people. Since April, smugglers have got sturdier boats which have greater passenger capacity.
Many Ethiopians take Eritrean nationality in Libya so they cannot be returned to Ethiopia. This makes it harder to assess the nationality of migrants entering Italy.
Western Balkans route
This encompasses two main migratory flows. First, migrants from western Balkan countries and secondly, those who entered Bulgaria or Greece through Turkey. The latter route is dominated by Syrian and Somalian nationals.
The western Balkans has become increasingly popular after the introduction of visa-free travel within the EU. 2014 was marked by an unprecedented number of Kosovans crossing the Serbian-Hungarian border illegally.
Unlike other western Balkan countries- Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro, Serbia and former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia - Kosovan nationals are not allowed visa-free travel in the EU.
Most migrants travelling across the western Balkans are assisted by people-smuggling networks. Between April and June, there have been approximately 52,000 non-regional migrants in transit from Turkey, Greece and Bulgaria, which has seen a 219 per cent increase on the number crossing in January to March.
In the same period there had been an 83 per cent decrease in regional migrants. This is largely due to the sharp decline of Kosovans migrants- which has fallen by 98 per cent compared to the previous quarter.
Hungarian and Serbian authorities implemented joint border controls in order to tackle the rise of Kosovan asylum applications. This effort was supported by Germany, who sent personnel and surveillance equipment. Within Kosovo, authorities attempted to persuade citizens not to leave through a series of public information campaigns. Currently 91 per cent of border crossings are by non-regional migrants and refugees, notably those from Afghanistan and Syria.
Eastern Mediterranean route
This passage refers to migrants crossing through Turkey to the EU via Greece, southern Bulgaria or Cyprus. Turkey has opened up their visa policy to African countries, meaning many arrive in Turkey by plane and then cross illegally into Europe. Turkish Airlines doubled its seat capacity between 2011 and 2014 and Frontex suggested that the airline was fuelling the illegal migration crisis by opening new routes in Africa earlier this month.
In 2008 to 2009, this route accounted for around 40 per cent of all migrants arriving in the EU. In 2010, there was a dramatic increase in migrants coming from Afghanistan and Iraq.
It was not until 2012 that that number dropped after the Greek government tightened their border controls. In 2014 there was increasing pressure from Syrians fleeing conflict at home.
16,005 migrants were detected on the central Mediterranean route in April 2015, with 1,000 fatalities. There were fewer between January and March, most likely due to poor weather conditions and a possible lack of wooden boats. This route has had the biggest increase in the last year, which is largely due to an influx of Syrian and Afghan migrants. This route is seen as more favourable than the Central Mediterranean route because it is a shorter distance, is cheaper and the crossing is less weather dependent.
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