Migrant arrivals from Turkey to Europe nearly double in 2019

Migrant arrivals from Turkey to Europe nearly double in 2019

According to a confidential EU report, 70,000 migrants have crossed from Turkey to the EU this year. The numbers raise questions about whether a EU-Turkey refugee deal is unravelling.

The number of migrants and refugees crossing from Turkey to Europe has nearly doubled this year compared to last, according to a confidential EU report published by German media.

From January to the middle of December, 70,002 migrants reached the European Union from Turkey, representing a jump of 46% compared to the same period in 2018, Die Welt reported on Tuesday.

Around 68,000 of the migrants crossed the Aegean to Greece, where they are living in overcrowded migrant camps. Smaller numbers reached Bulgaria, Italy and Cyprus.

In a new development, most migrants came from Afghanistan. Their share is now 30%, while the proportion of asylum applications from Syria is only 14%, followed by Pakistanis (9.5%), Iraqis (8.0%) and citizens of Turkey (5%).

What is the situation on the ground?

The arrivals in Greece have put extreme pressure on overcrowded refugee camps on the Aegean islands. There is a lack of food, clothing, and medicine. The Greek government is transferring more and more asylum seekers onto the mainland.

According to the EU-Turkey migrant deal, that is only granted when persons are especially "vulnerable," because they are sick, pregnant or unaccompanied children.

What does this mean for the EU-Turkey deal?

The development raises questions about to what extent Turkey is complying with a 2016 refugee agreement with the European Union, Die Welt reported.

Under the deal, Turkey is obliged to take back asylum seekers who passed through its territory and to prevent them from crossing to Europe. In exchange, Turkey receives a total of €6 billion ($6.7 billion) in funding to help with the Syrian refugee crisis. Ankara has repeatedly complained that the EU is not living up to its obligations and demanded more funds.

"It has been reported that in some situations Turkish patrol boats have not intervened and even pushed refugee boats into Greek waters after being notified by the Greek coastguard," the confidential EU report states.

What happens to the migrants?

A core of the deal is that migrants stay on the islands so that they have no chance to travel onwards to other EU member states.

From the beginning of this year to the middle of December, 34,000 migrants have been brought to the Greek mainland. According to the EU report, some stay in Greece, but many try to reach the Albanian border and from there travel onwards with the help of smugglers through the Balkans to Austria and Germany.