Migrants diversifying routes to Europe: UN

Geneva, Nov 23 (IANS/AKI) Migrants and refugees are making “increasingly diversified” journeys to Europe and the numbers heading by boat from Greece to Turkey has risen while crossings to Italy from North Africa have declined in recent months, the United Nations said on Thursday.

“Over the past months, the sea route to Greece has gained more traction, sea arrivals to Italy have reduced and we have seen migrants and refugees using increasingly diversified journeys to reach Europe,” said the UN refugee agency UNHCR’s Europe Bureau director Pascale Moreau, presenting a new report.

The number of crossings from Libya to Italy has dropped, with some 21,700 people arriving by sea to Italy between July and September – the lowest number for this period recorded in the past four years, according to the report.

According to the report, during the third quarter of this year, an increased proportion of those arriving in Italy had set off from Tunisia, Turkey and Algeria. The top three nationalities arriving in Europe via the Mediterranean routes were of Syrian, Moroccan and Nigerian nationality, said the report.

Greece has seen a rise in sea and land arrivals since the summer, with around 4,800 people reaching its shores in September, the highest number in one month since March 2016, when the EU struck a controversial deal with Turkey.

Some 80 per cent of sea arrivals to Greece were Syrian, Iraqi and Afghan nationals, out of which two thirds were women and children, the report stated.

Spain saw a 90 per cent increase of land and sea arrivals from July to September compared to the same period last year. Most of these 7,700 arrivals were from Morocco, Cote d’Ivoire and Guinea, but Syrian nationals accounted for most land arrivals, the report found.

The report also details crossings from Turkey to Romania via the Black Sea over the summer – the first ones since February 2015 – as well as a large increase in arrivals to Cyprus since the start of the year.

“Despite the reduction of crossings via the Central Mediterranean route, thousands continue to attempt desperate and dangerous journeys to Europe,” Moreau underlined.

As of November 20, close to 3,000 people are estimated to have died or gone missing at sea and another 57 known to have died along land routes in Europe or at Europe’s borders in 2017, Moreau noted.

The actual numbers are likely to be higher, she added.

The report also underlines the “difficult situation” of many women and girl victims of trafficking and of the more than 15,200 unaccompanied and separated children who have arrived in Europe so far this year, UNHCR said.

It also shows that onward movements have continued over the past months as well as reports of push-backs from several countries.

The practice of turning back migrants and refugees should be investigated and stamped out, says the report.

UNHCR repeated its call for more access to safe and legal pathways to Europe, such as resettlement and family reunification, and access to political asylum.

Last September, the agency asked for 40,000 additional resettlement places for refugees located in 15 priority countries along the Central Mediterranean route, Moreau noted.

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