Almost 50,000 migrants arrived on the Greek islands from North Africa in July alone.. By mid-August, that number has reached 158,000. Germany, which receives the most asylum applications of the European Union, is expecting 800,000 refugees to come this year. Last year, 123,500 migrants were detected at Europe’s external borders – this year, there are 340,000 migrants.
Those heading to Greece through the eastern Mediterranean route use a shorter voyage from the Turkish mainland to the islands of Kos, Chios, Lesvos and Samos. However, the journey from Libya to Italy is much longer and more dangerous.
We have been hearing of these shipwrecks all summer long. The International Organization for Migration reported that over 2,000 migrants have died so far this year. There are many reports of violence and abuse by people traffickers. Migrants are usually robbed, even though they have already paid their traffickers thousands of dollars.
Hungary is a major transit point. The country has asked the European Union not to send back migrants that have travelled through from Hungary, which is understandable when there were 34,000 migrants trying to cross into their border in July alone. They are planning to fence off the whole border with Serbia to help further prevent the problem.
So who are the migrants? Syrians are the largest migrant group by nationality, followed by Afghans, then Eritrea, Nigeria and Somalia. The Syrian civil war has triggered this huge influx; meanwhile others are trying to escape human rights abuses and poverty. In the case of Somalia, migrants are fleeing from persecution. Migrants from Eritrea are mainly young men that are trying to avoid the compulsory military service, which is resembled to slavery.
Italy ended their search and rescue mission, Mare Nostrum, in November of 2014 and replaced it by a smaller and cheaper operation with the European Union called Triton – it patrolled 30 nautical miles of its coast. Now aid organization are scaling down their rescue efforts as well. This has caused the European Union to recommit to the original spending of Mare Nostrum. However, with the economic climate gloomy, the European Union doesn’t seem to know how to decide who should allocate more spending.
There are rising tensions over the Dublin Regulation, the EU principle for handling asylum claims. It reads that the responsibility for examining the claim lies primarily with the member state that played the greatest part in the applicant’s entry or resident in the European Union, which is often the first country that they reached. Greece is complaining that there are too many applicants there and so far, Finland and Germany have ceased to send migrants back to Greece.
Who gets in? Who has to leave? How will borders be controlled? There are still many unanswered questions.