Mediterranean Migrant Crossings Down 80 Percent

by Edmund Kozak from Polizette

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The number of migrants traveling to Europe across the Mediterranean Sea is down significantly compared to this time last year.

The International Organization for Migration (IOM) reported on Tuesday that 31,993 migrants entered Europe via the Mediterranean from the start of the year through April 9.

In 2016, 172,774 migrants traveled to Europe via the Mediterranean during the same time period, meaning over 80 percent fewer migrants crossed the sea compared to this time last year.

In addition to far fewer migrants crossing the Mediterranean this year, the IOM report also suggests that the ethnic makeup of the migrants themselves, and the places at which they mostly enter Europe, has also significantly changed.

Between January 1 and March 22, 2016, a vast majority of migrants crossing the Mediterranean — 148,731 out of 163,273 — arrived in Greece, according to the report. Only 14,492, fewer than nine percent, arrived in Italy.

But between January 1 and March 22, 2017, 20,674 out of 25,170 migrants, 82 percent, crossing the Mediterranean arrived in Italy. Only 3,946, just over 15 percent, arrived in Greece.

The shift in country of arrival for the majority of migrants reflects a significant shift in point of origin of the migrants. Fewer Middle Easterners are entering Europe via the Mediterranean Sea — the majority of those crossing are now Africans, a fact the report itself indicates.

“IOM Rome spokesperson Flavio Di Giacomo reported [April 10] that over 2,100 migrants rescued last week have been brought to Italy since IOM’s last report. Among them were over 500 Bangladeshis and around 50 Syrians – the rest, mostly sub-Saharan Africans,” the report states.

Italy has always received a majority of its migrants from Africa, so the drop in migrants entering Greece reflects a significant drop in the number of Middle Eastern migrants.

There are a number of potential reasons for this change, most likely a significant decrease in new refugees fleeing Syria. Those who continue to leave the region may also be opting for the longer, but significantly less perilous, land route.

Some observers believe the decrease could be the result of shifting European policies to manage the massive influx of migrants.

“After a considerable period of time most European nations have realized that encouraging millions of migrants to enter Europe via perilous human-trafficking routes was the wrong approach for all concerned,” said Ben Harris-Quinney, chairman of the Bow Group, the UK’s oldest conservative think tank.

“Collective efforts have seen the creation of refugee camps in afflicted regions and anti-piracy operations to prevent unregistered boats from crossing between Africa and Mediterranean nations,” Harris-Quinney said.

Rising anti-migrant sentiment within Europe may also be a factor. “Since Merkel has reversed her open-door migrant policy and other nations like Britain have restricted their migrant intake, there is no longer such a strong pull factor from European nations,” Harris-Quinney told LifeZette.

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Friday, April 14, 2017