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25th Aug 2019

Report: EU border crackdown puts migrants in danger

  • EU governments have spent some €238 million in erecting fences (Photo: Vadim Ghirda)

Billions spent by the EU and member states to curb migration flows into Europe are forcing people to take increasingly dangerous and covert routes, according to a report.

Some 330,000 people seeking international protection are expected to arrive by the Mediterranean sea this year through "overt" routes. But around 900,000 are set to file for asylum.

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The gap between the two figures suggests a massive shift towards covert routes and means, the UK-based Overseas Development Institute (ODI) said in a report out Thursday (15 September).

"While on the surface, the number of people arriving in Europe has fallen, the rate of those taking hidden routes to Europe has not been affected and is likely to increase," said Marta Foresti, author of the report, in a statement.

Last year, some 35 percent of all arrivals came to the EU using covert means like false documents. In 2016, the number is set to increase to 60 percent.

Ouvert routes include travelling through Morocco to Spain or crossing the Mediterranean to reach Italy, among others.

False documents, bribing border guard, hiding in vehicles, overstaying visas, fall under the covert route category.

Europol and migrant smuggling

The EU police agency Europol earlier this week issued similar findings.

It noted migrant smugglers have adapted to stricter border controls and "use new routes and modi operandi to evade law enforcement."

The agency had also found a 295 percent increase, when compared to last year, in the number of Turkish nationals that now ply the migrant smuggling trade.

More than 12,000 new migrant smuggling suspects were reported and identified by Europol in the first eight months of this year alone.

The EU, for its part, signed off a migrant swap deal with Turkey in March that has resulted in a sharp drop of people crossing the Aegean to the Greek islands.

Hidden costs

But the ODI report suggests the bilateral agreement with Turkey, among other efforts like trust funds in Syria and Africa, has had little overall affect on stopping people from seeking other ways to enter Europe.

"There is a significant chance that in the long term, border controls instituted by Europe could end up increasing flows," noted the report.

The researchers had also found little evidence to suggest that efforts to address the root causes slowed migration flows.

They suggested that the some €15.3 billion spent by the EU and member states since December 2014 do not demonstrate the intended results.

They also estimated that another €27.3 billion will need to be spent on the "reception, procedural and resettlement costs" of people who arrived in 2015 and those expected to arrive until the end of this year.

Those costs and hidden flows that help drive migrant smuggling can be curtailed by opening up more legal channels, say the researchers.

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Open Arms may face a fine of up to €901,000 for doing "search and rescue" without authorisation, but rescuing people who are shipwrecked is a legal duty, the NGO says.

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