With the debate continuing in Europe over how to manage the ongoing refugee crisis, the UN has now released figures that, despite concerns, the number of people dying crossing the Mediterranean fell last year. According to the latest UN statement, the number of deaths fell by over 25% in 2018. The previous year saw 2262 fatalities overall. Furthermore, the number of migrants reaching Europe fell by nearly 60,000 in the same time period.
Southern European countries are the main gateways for refugees trying to enter Europe. Spain saw the highest number of arrivals in 2018; following Italy’s policies to cut the number of refugees arriving on their shores. In 2015, a peak number of refugees – an estimated one million – arrived in Southern Europe in a year, mostly through Greece or Turkey.
The largest group arriving in 2018 were from the west African state of Guinea, Morocco, and Mali. This was followed by migrants from Syria, Afghanistan, and Iraq. In an interview, UNHCR spokeswoman Celine Schmitt commented: “The Mediterranean has been for years the most deadly sea crossing in the world for refugees and migrants.”
However, despite the number of migrants falling, the debate between EU countries over immigration policies is continuing to cause divisions. For instance, countries who have seen the highest number of refugees have seen a rise in far-right parties gaining power. Italy’s government closed its ports last year, leaving migrants stranded at sea. Other countries, like Germany and Sweden, have welcomed a very high number of refugees.
Where refugees should be relocated to in the future, and EU immigration policies, is still being debated among these countries and others. The EU plans to work closely with North African nations in the coming years to help regulate the number of arrivals, as well as taking part in development projects, and border protection projects in African states.
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