The United Nations’ International Organization for Migration (IOM) reports that at least 22,439 migrants and refugees traveled to Europe by sea in the first 122 days of 2018.
According to the organization, which records migrant travel worldwide, 42 percent of illegal seaborne migrants arrived in Italy, followed by 38 percent in Greece, and 20 percent in Spain. The Geneva agency states that this compares with 45,540 recorded arrivals throughout the region in the same period in 2017, and 184,793 in 2016.
In 2015, a total of 815,000 recorded migrants arrived in Europe through Greece, according to the Greek Reporter.
Despite the decline in illegal migrant arrivals, the trip across the Black Sea to Europe remains as dangerous as ever. The IOM recorded 615 deaths throughout the period this year.
Much of the decline can be attributed to the European Union’s 3 billion euro deal with the Turkish government to stem the flow of migrants into Europe, which has threatened to “flood” Europe with migrants.
Under EU law, member states are not permitted to deport failed asylum seekers who do not provide a country of origin, essentially turning them into stateless individuals. Regulations demand that failed asylum seekers can only be deported to the first EU country they arrived in. As such, countries that act as the first point of entry for illegal migrants often fail to register the arrivals to prevent them from being sent back.
Western European countries on the brunt of the refugee crisis, such as the Netherlands, have complained that as many as 95 percent of illegal migrants in the Netherlands arrived from other EU states, but were not registered anywhere else.
In a letter to the Times of London, Dutch migration minister Mark Harbers challenged the European Commission’s assurances that “The registration and fingerprinting of migrants arriving in Greece and Italy has reached a rate of almost 100 percent.”
“Only one third have been registered previously,” he wrote. “This means about two thirds still manage to enter and travel through other member states undetected and unregistered, despite all measures taken to improve registration.”
“The Netherlands ends up granting protection to large numbers of asylum seekers who consciously refuse to apply for protection in the member state of first arrival,” Harbers wrote. “Giving asylum seekers this de facto choice of which member state they want to settle in is in itself a pull factor.”