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The European migrant crisis highly increased in 2015 when rising numbers of people arrived in the EU travelling across the Mediterrean sea or overland through southeast Europe. These people include not only asylum seekers, but also economic migrants and some hostile agents, such as Islamic State agents, disguised as refugees or migrants.
According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), the top three nationalities of entrants were Syrian (46.7%), Afghan (20.9%) and Iraqi (9.4%).
In 2015, the number of people applying for asylum in the EU peaked at 1.26 million, more than double than the previous year, while over 2,257 people are thought to have lost their lives in the Mediterranean in the first six months of 2017 alone. In 2016 5,022 lives were estimated to be lost in the Mediterranean and in 2015 3,771.58% of the total amount of migrants arriving in Europe by sea in 2015 were adult males over 18 years of age, 17% of them were adult females over 18 years of age and 25% were minors under 18 years of age. The number of deaths at sea rose to record levels in April 2015, when five boats carrying almost 2,000 migrants to Europe sank in the Mediterrean Sea, with a combined death toll estimated at more than 1,200 people.
This movement towards Europe continues to take a devastating toll on human life. According to UNHCR, since the beginning of 2017, over 2,700 people are believed to have died or gone missing while crossing the Mediterranean Sea to reach Europe, with reports of many others perishing en route. These risks do not end once in Europe. Those moving onwards irregularly have reported numerous types of abuse, including being pushed back across borders.
With so many lives at risk, rescue-at-sea operations undertaken by all actors must remain a priority.
Despite some progress in increasing the number of safe pathways to Europe, these opportunities are far too few to offer a feasible alternative to risky irregular journeys for people in need of protection. Further efforts are needed to increase access to existing legal pathways, including family reunification.
Amid an upsurge in the number of sea arrivals in Italy from Libya in 2014, several European Union governments refused to fund the Italian-run rescue option Operation Mare Nostrum which was replaced by Frontex’s Operation Triton in November 2014, this replacement was not able to improve the situation in any way. In the first six months of 2015, Greece overtook Italy as the first EU country of arrival, becoming, in the summer 2015, the starting point of a flow of refugees and migrants moving through Balkan countries to Northern European countries, mainly Germany and Sweden.
Since April 2015 the European Union has struggled to cope with the crisis, increasing funding for border patrol operations in the Mediterranean, devising plans to fight migrant smuggling, launching Operation Sophia and proposing a new quota system both to relocate asylum seekers among EU states for processing of refugee claims to alleviate the weight on countries on the outer borders of the Union, and to resettle asylum-seekers who have been determined to be genuine refugees. Individual countries have at times reintroduced border controls within the Schengen Area, and rifts have emerged between countries willing to allow the entry of asylum-seekers for processing of refugee claims and others countries trying to discourage their entry for processing.
Four states (Germany, Hungary, Sweden and Austria) received around two-thirds of the EU’s asylum applications in 2015, with Hungary, Sweden and Austria being the top recipients of asylum applications per capita.
Illegal border crossing by migrants is the greatest issue countries like Italy and Greece have to face, extremely organized groups of smugglers are spread throughout the whole Africa and Middle east that, violating any human right, succeed in transportating huge quantities of migrants in The Old Cotinent. According to Frontex, the EU border surveillance agency, which collects data concerning illegal crossigs of the EU’s external borders registered by national authorities. In 2015 and 2016, more than 2,3 milion illegal crossings were detected. In 2015, 2,2 milion people were found to be illegally present in the EU. In 2016, the number had dropped to 984,000. “Being illegally present” can mean a person failed to register properly or left the member state responsible for processing their asylum claim – this is not, on its own, grounds for sending them away from the EU. A Considerable amount of people are, however, expelled, from the EU (e.g. because their asylum claims were refused). In 2015 533’000 people were ordered to return, but onyl 43% actually left. In 2016, half of the 494,000 ordered to do so, returned home.
In a vote on the EU’s budget for 2017 in December 2016, MEPs secured a reinforcement package of €728 million for mainly migration-related funds.
Following negotiations with the member states, Parliament gave its green light on 5 April 2017 to a mid-term review of the EU’s 2014-2020 budget. €3.9 billion in additional support will be made available for migration-related measures.
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