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Spain will continue to be the main entry point for migrants and refugees in 2019.
Despite what most populist politicians proclaim, arrivals to European shores have declined exponentially. If in 2015 more than one million people managed to cross the Mediterranean Sea (1,015,981), in 2018 they did 139,300. It is the lowest number of the last five years . However, according to UNHCR, “the refugees and migrants who tried to reach Europe through the Mediterranean Sea lost their lives at an alarming rate”. In the latest report of the UN Refugee Agency, presented today in Geneva, the tragic figure is exposed: every day an average of six lives were lost .
In total, last year, 2,275 people died or disappeared trying to cross the Mediterranean . “The reduction in search and rescue operations contributed to strengthening its position as the deadliest sea route in the world,” Acnur said in a statement. In fact, NGOs like Doctors Without Borders (MSF) have had to stop rescuing people at sea. The obstacles are no longer only on the part of countries such as Italy or Malta: on January 8, the Maritime Captaincy of Barcelona blocked the Open Arms ship in port.
For Filippo Grandi, UN High Commissioner for Refugees, “saving lives at sea is not an option, nor a political issue, but an ancestral obligation . ” In his opinion, “we can put an end to these tragedies by having the courage and ambition to look beyond the next ship and adopt a long-term approach based on regional cooperation, and focused on human life and dignity.”
The UNHCR report, “Desperate Travesías”, describes how changes in the policies of some EU countries have led to numerous incidents in which a large number of people have been stranded at sea for days and days , waiting for authorization to land. The boats of the NGOs and their crews have faced greater restrictions in their search and rescue operations. On the route from Libya to Europe, for every 14 people who managed to arrive, one lost his life at sea, which represents a drastic increase compared to the levels of 2017. In addition, thousands are counted as returned to Libya, where they live in deplorable conditions in detention centers.
For many of these people, setting foot in Europe represents the last stop on a shocking journey in which they have suffered torture, rape and sexual assault, and the threat of being kidnapped and held for ransom. States must take urgent measures to dismantle human trafficking networks and bring those responsible for these crimes to justice.
Increase in Spain
The report also reveals significant changes in the routes used by refugees and migrants. For the first time in recent years, Spain became the main entry point to Europe , with some 8,000 arrivals by land (through the autonomous cities of Ceuta and Melilla) and another 54,800 people who successfully crossed the dangerous route of the western Mediterranean. A trend that is expected to continue during this year as well. “Given the high number of arrivals by sea in the second half of 2018, it seems likely that Spain will continue to be the main entry point to Europe by 2019″Given this situation, Spain must demand” solidarity and efforts to improve reception conditions. “In addition, UNHCR expects that” fair and efficient asylum procedures for those seeking international protection “will be guaranteed in Spain.
As a result, the death toll in the western Mediterranean practically quadrupled, from 202 in 2017 to 777 in 2018 . Some 23,400 refugees and immigrants arrived in Italy in 2018, five times less than the previous year. Greece received a similar number of arrivals by sea, approximately 32,500 compared to 30,000 in 2017, while the number of people entering through its land border with Turkey almost tripled.
In other parts of Europe, Bosnia and Herzegovina registered some 24,000 arrivals of refugees and migrants who had travelled through the western Balkans. Cyprus received several ships with Syrian refugees from Lebanon, while the UK witnessed a small number of arrivals from France towards the end of the year.
Source: La Razon