Migrant crossings from Turkey to EU doubled in 2019

In 2019, more than 70,000 migrants have crossed from Turkey into EU countries, while 445,000 were allegedly intercepted and held by Turkish authorities.

A confidential EU report has revealed that the number of migrant and refugee arrivals in Europe via Turkey has risen significantly. The number of crossings that took place between January and mid-December 2019 was 46% higher than the number during the same period in 2018.

The majority of EU arrivals from Turkey were in Greece with nearly 68,000, followed by Italy (1,803), Bulgaria (197) and Cyprus (261). Almost a third of those arriving in Greece were Afghans, followed by Syrians (14%), then Pakistanis (9.5%), Iraqis (8%) and Turks (5%).

The report talks about the extremely crowded camps on Greek islands, which host over 35,000 people although they only have capacity for around 5,000. Due to the dire conditions at these island camps, the Greek government is in the process of relocating migrants to the mainland. 

The sharp increase in arrivals raises questions about the 2016 Turkey-EU agreement which aims to discourage irregular migration via the Aegean sea. Under the deal, all irregular migrants arriving in Greece from Turkey can be returned. 

In exchange, the EU pays a total of EUR 6 billion (USD 6.7 billion) in funding to help with the Syrian refugee crisis in Turkey. However, the Turkish government has demanded more funds.

On the other hand, 445,000 irregular migrants were held by Turkish authorities in 2019, according to the Turkish interior minister. Suleyman Soylu also stated in a live interview that 105,000 irregular migrants were sent back to their home countries last year.

TMP – 7/01/2020

Photo credit: Georgios Kritsotakis

Photo caption: LESVOS, GREECE- October 23 2017-Lifejackets left by refugees on the shore of Mytilini.