New Report on Migrant Flows to Europe

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More than 186,000 migrants arrived to Europe in 2017 via Mediterranean routes, according to new data released by IOM's Dispacement Tracking Matrix. Approximately 92 per cent of migrants reached European countries by sea (172,362), and the remaining 8 per cent arrived using various land routes.

Although the flows through the Western Balkans route dropped upon the closure of the route, available data shows that there are still migrants who are trying to reach Western Europe via Balkan routes.

In late summer 2017, a new route seemed to be appearing,  from Turkey to Bulgaria and Romania via Black Sea. Between August and November Romanian and Coast Guard saved more than 1,000 migrants (mainly Iraqi and Iranian nationals) in 11 different search and rescue operation. Unpredictable and harsh weather on the sea cost the lives of at least 24 migrants and  left 14 people missing.

This year Italy has received the majority of all migrants and asylum seekers, with the total of 119,369 accounting for 64% of the overall registered population. However, this is the lowest number of arrivals reported in the past four years in Italy.

The decrease in arrivals in Italy noted in 2017 has been influenced mainly by different bilateral agreements between Libyan and Italian (and European) authorities as two entities representing the main departure and main destination points for migrants who aim to reach Europe by crossing the Central Mediterranean route.

By the end of June 2017, there were more arrivals to Italy then in 2016, 83,752 and 70,222 respectively. In the late summer, number decreased following the implementation of the new policies related to apprehensions on the sea and support provided to the Libya coast guard, from an average of more than 12,000 monthly arrivals recorded for the second quarter of 2017, to less than 6,000 arrivals per month in the second half of the year. The overall reducation in flows across the sea is also assosciated with the significant decrease in arrivals to Greece and Bulgaria. In 2017, Greek authorities registered 35,052 new arrivals, an 80% decrease compared to 173,614 recorded in 2016 while apprehensions of irregular migrants in Bulgaria plummeted from 17,187 reported at the end of 2016 to 2,562 at the end of December 2017.

In contrast, available IOM flow monitoring data indicates more than two fold increase in arrivals to Spain and Cyprus. Between January and December 2017, total of 28,707 migrants reached Spanish territory by sea and land. The latter comprised 22% of the total reported arrivals (28,707) with 6,293 newly registered migrants particularly in Spanish enclaves in Northern Africa, Ceuta and Mellila.

At the end of December 2017, Authorities in Cyprus registered 1,078 new irregular migrants and asylum seekers who arrived to the island in approximately 16 independent landings throughout the year (three times increase). In terms of nationalities registered in two main receiving countries - Greece and Italy, there were no significant changes in the nationality groups detected.

The Central Mediterranean route remains the deadliest sea route with reported 2,834 dead and missing migrants in 2017, out of the total of 3,119 that took place in the whole of Mediterranean (the lowest figured reported since 2014, 

Migrants and asylum seekers are trying to cross the countries in the region, often repeatedly upon being returned by the authorities to Greece (these are mainly migrants who got stranded in Greece upon the closure of the route in March 2016). The most significant increase in irregular entries is observed in Bosnia and Herzegovina, from 143 reported in 2016 (mainly in the last quarter of the year) to 755 apprehended throughout 2017. An increase is also noted in Montenegro, from 308 registered migrants in 2016 to 807 reported at the end of 2017.

Irregular entries to Albania, almost exclusively from Greece, are consistent in the past two years - 831 in 2016 to 752 in 2017, while the decrease has been observed in terms of irregular entries to Kosovo. Interesting changes have happened in terms of the origin countries or irregular migrants. Top three nationalities registered in all three countries in 2016 were Syrian, Afghan and Iraqi. One year later, 43% of the overall number of irregular migrants intercepted in Kosovo, Albania and Montenegro were Algerian and Moroccan nationals.

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Pic: IOM Italy