Thirty times more, refugees and migrants arrived in Greece during the period between January and February 2016 compared with the same period in 2015.
The International Organization for Migration (IOM) reported today, that during 1 January – 25 February, 120,369 migrants and refugees chose the so-called Eastern Mediterranean route to enter the EU, while in 2015 the number of the people who entered Greece was recorded at 3,952.
Turkish daily, Hurriyet, reported that Frontex Executive Director, Fabrice Leggeri, admitted that the ongoing efforts to limit the influx of migrants and refugees from Turkey to Greece didn’t result in reducing the influx.
Ahead of the March 7 summit on Turkey and European Union cooperation over the refugee crisis, the European Council President Donald Tusk is expected to discuss about the current situation with Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.
“The trend is not stopping, is not being reduced; it is an ongoing challenge,” Leggeri told reporters at a press conference after two days of talks with Turkish officials. Overall, 129,455 migrants and refugees reached the EU during 1 January – 25 February 2016, while in 2015 11,834 people in need had made the dangerous crossing.
Leggeri said that compared with the previous months, “the number of irregular border crossings from Turkey to Greece and Bulgaria was lower in January and February than in December last year.” However, he acknowledged that “according to Frontex figures, the number of irregular migrants crossing this area was multiplied by 30 if we compare to the same months, January and February, last year.”
Migrant tragedies, many victims are children and women
According to the IOM report, hundreds of people lost their live in the Mediterranean. A total of 418 deaths of migrants and refugees at sea were recorded with the number of casualties being slightly lower than at this time in 2015 – by ten victims.
IOM estimates that of 321 people who have died in the Eastern Mediterranean (Turkey – Greece crossing) in 2016’s first nine weeks, 77 were children – an average exceeding one per day. Thirteen children died on this route in February.
Yesterday, a UNHCR spokesperson said that some 55 per cent of refugees from Syria currently arriving in Greece were women and children. IOM said that the three largest nationalities registered in Greece so far were Syria (55,858), Afghanistan (31,550) and Iraq (20,484).
Leggeri admitted that “there are many casualties in the sea,” stressing that what is taking place right now in the Mediterranean is “a humanitarian disaster.”
“Frontex on the EU side rescued last year approximately 98,000 migrants in the vicinity of the Greek islands. Just to compare, Frontex rescued approximately 68,000 migrants between Libya and southern Italy last year. So we compared the figures and of course we came to the conclusion that this is a common challenge and a humanitarian concern that so many people risk their lives,” Leggeri said.
“Turkish coast guards this year have rescued 12,000 migrants in the vicinity of Turkish coast. Since the beginning of this year, in two months, we have already registered 108,000 who were able to arrive on the Greek islands. Frontex has rescued 15,000 migrants in the Aegean Sea this year. You see it is approximately the same number as what the Turkish coast guard did on each side,” he said.