Migrants’ unsafe sea crossings top record 100,000 mark in July

Amnesty: New Frontex report underscores need for safe and legal routes to Europe • ‘Emergency situation that requires all EU member states support national authorities taking on massive number of migrants at borders’ – Frontex director Fabrice Leggeri

The number of irregular crossings into the EU topped 100,000 in July 2015, the first time this many people have sought to enter in a single month since Frontex began keeping records in 2008.(Photo: MSF)
The number of irregular crossings into the EU topped 100,000 in July 2015, the first time this many people have sought to enter in a single month since Frontex began keeping records in 2008.(Photo: MSF)

A new report by the European Union’s border agency Frontex shows yet again the unprecedented scale of the refugee crisis and drives home the urgent need for safe and legal routes to the EU for desperate people to seek protection, Amnesty International said.

The report found that the number of irregular crossings into the EU topped 100,000 in July 2015, the first time this many people have sought to enter in a single month since Frontex began keeping records in 2008.

People fleeing conflict in Syria and Afghanistan accounted for “the lion’s share”, according to Frontex.

“The Frontex report is yet more confirmation, as if any were needed, that Europe’s focus on keeping people out rather than managing an ever-growing global refugee crisis is failing,” said Gauri van Gulik, Deputy Europe and Central Asia Programme Director at Amnesty International.

“While there are definite pressure points – including the central Mediterranean and the Balkans – the problem goes well beyond that. Rather than the piecemeal reactions so far, it’s clear that the EU needs a more holistic approach, and must provide safe and legal routes to enter Europe so people don’t have to risk their lives en route.”

In the month of July, the number of migrants detected at EU’s borders more than tripled to 107,500 compared to the same month of last year, surpassing the 100 000 mark in a single month for the first time since Frontex began keeping records in 2008.

The figure was the third consecutive monthly record, jumping well past the previous high of more than 70,000 reached in June. Both the Eastern Mediterranean route and the Western Balkans were also well above the previous month’s highs.

This brings the number of detections in the January-July period to nearly 340,000, compared to 123,500 recorded in the same period of last year and 280 000 in all of 2014. This has created an unprecedented pressure on border control authorities in Greece, Italy and Hungary.

Syrians and Afghans accounted for a lion’s share of the record number of migrants entering the EU illegally. Most of them, fleeing instability in their home countries, initially entered Greece from Turkey.

“This is an emergency situation for Europe that requires all EU member states to step in to support the national authorities who are taking on a massive number of migrants at its borders,” said Frontex Executive Director Fabrice Leggeri.

“Frontex has called on member states to provide additional equipment and people to support our operations in Greece and in Hungary and the European Commission has approved national programmes to provide significant financial assistance to the Member States to address these challenges,” he added.

In July, the most detections were reported in the Aegean Sea (nearly 50,000), mainly on the Greek islands of Lesbos, Chios, Samos and Kos.

Italy detected more than 20,000 migrants last month, bringing the total number to 90,000 so far in 2015.  Nine out of every ten migrants taking the perilous journey from Libya to Italy come from Africa, mainly Eritrea and Nigeria.

In the Western Balkans, the Hungarian authorities reported more than 34,800 detections.

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