Sunday

21st Jan 2018

More refugees arriving in Italy than Greece

  • Migrant numbers have remained stable in Italy, but dropped dramatically in Greece (Photo: Frontex)

More migrants trying to make their way into Europe are arriving in Italy than Greece for the first time in a year, according to the latest UN figures.

While 9,149 migrants arrived to the shores of Italy in April, Greece received 3,462 people, figures of the UN's refugee agency show.

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In March, before the EU-Turkey deal came into force, under which Ankara pledged to take back migrants from Greece, 26,971 people arrived to Greece, while 9,676 arrived to Italy.

Arrivals through the Aegean Sea have dropped after the EU-Turkey deal kicked in.

Last year in April, 13,556 migrants made their way to Greece, while 16,063 people made their way to Italy from Africa in the hope of seeking asylum in the EU.

But migrants arriving in Italy are not coming from Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan, the three major groups trying their luck through Greece.

Asylum seekers making their way through the Mediterranean are primarily from Nigeria, Gambia, Somalia and other Sub-Saharan African nations.

Concerns that migrants will increasingly take the Italian route have prompted fears of another mass influx, leading Austria to plan to restrict access through the its Brenner border crossing with Italy.

The EU Commission has expressed concern over the effect this could have on the viability of the passport-free Schengen zone.

Merkel under pressure

German Chancellor Angela Merkel, whose country has accepted more than one million asylum seekers since last summer, was instrumental in pushing the EU-Turkey deal.

Since the deal was put in place, arrivals in Germany have rapidly declined. About 16,000 migrants arrived in April, compared with 120,000 arrivals last December.

But despite the deal's apparent success at stemming the flow of migrants, two-thirds of Germans oppose a fourth term for Merkel.

Only 36 percent of respondents to a poll carried out by Insa for the German magazine Cicero said they wanted Merkel and her Christian Democrats (CDU) party to lead the government following federal elections in 2017.

Merkel has also been under fire for what her critics say is a submissive attitude towards Turkey.

She allowed the prosecution of German comedian Jan Boehmermann following Ankara's request, for insulting the Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan in a satirical poem.

Support for the CDU and its Bavarian sister party, the Christian Social Union (CSU), has fallen to 33 percent.

German magazine Der Spiegel reported that the CSU, which has been critical of Merkel's refugee policy, might run a separate campaign from the CDU in the 2017 election.

Merkel's coalition partner, the Social Democrats (SPD), have also seen a drop in their approval rating to 20 percent.

The party making gains is the anti-immigrant Alternative for Germany (AfD) that moved from a marginal party to having 15 percent support nationally.

Meanwhile, German authorities are investigating claims that 40 Islamist militants were among the asylum seekers who have travelled to the country.

Police said they had received 369 reports of possible extremism, and found that roughly one-tenth of the cases needed to be investigated.

Hans-Georg Maassen, the head of Germany's domestic intelligence agency, had warned that the Islamic State militant group was attempting to “send a political signal” by using the refugee route to stoke fears in Europe.

Turkey free speech row goes EU-wide

Turkey's EU embassy has called for legal action against a Dutch comic for insulting its president, lifting a dispute on free speech, which began in Germany, to a European level.

Merkel, Renzi agree basics of Africa plan

The German chancellor Angela Merkel backed an Italian plan on stemming migration flows from Africa, but disagrees on how it should be financed.

Merkel authorises probe into Erdogan satire

Decision to authorise proceedings against Turkey-bashing comic split Merkel's coalition, prompted accusations of "kowtowing" to Turkish "despot" Erdogan.

EU asks for G7's help on refugees

EU Council president Donald Tusk said the world should show solidarity and help to pay for aid to refugees and encourage regular migration.

Macron eyes France-UK border agreement

French president Macron wants the UK to take in more refugees as he revisits the 2003 Le Touquet agreement, which allows British border controls to take place inside French territory.

Magazine

The asylum files: deadlock and dead-ends

The EU is reforming a number of internal asylum laws, but lack of staff, politics, and the sheer complexity of the bills means deadlines - like those announced by EU council chief Tusk - are likely to come and go.

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