UNHCR Europe Monthly Report (December 2017)

from UN High Commissioner for Refugees
Published on 12 Feb 2018 View Original


The number of refugees and migrants crossing the Mediterranean to Europe in 2017 dropped 48% compared to 2016 with over 172,300 people arriving by sea last year compared to over 362,700 in 2016. Of the three sea routes, most crossed via the Central Mediterranean route from North Africa to Italy with smaller numbers crossing via the Eastern Mediterranean route to Greece and Cyprus and the Western Mediterranean route to Spain. Most arrivals by sea in 2017 were men (69%), largely due to the higher proportion of men crossing the Central Mediterranean route, while proportions of women and children were higher along the Eastern Mediterranean. Across all three routes, women comprised 13% of arrivals and children comprised 18%.

In Italy, sea arrivals of refugees and migrants dropped from over 181,400 in 2016 to over 119,300 in 2017 - a 34% decrease. The majority of refugees and migrants were rescued in the Central Mediterranean and disembarked at ports in the Calabria region. After over 22,900 refugees and migrants arrived by sea in Italy in May and June (over 23,500), the number of arrivals each month dropped significantly from July onwards, including during October, November and December when 5,900, 5,600 and 2,200 arrivals were recorded, respectively. The number of arrivals in December was a 74% decrease compared to those in December 2016. The primary nationalities arriving by sea in 2017 in Italy were from Nigeria (17%),
Guinea (9%) and Côte d'Ivoire (8%).

In 2017, just under 30,000 refugees and migrants arrived by sea in Greece, an 83% decrease compared to over 173,400 arriving in 2016. Most arrivals were to the islands of Lesvos (12,700), Chios (6,600), and Samos (5,600), a similar trend to previous years. Most arrivals by sea to Greece in 2017 were from the Syrian Arab Republic (42%), Iraq (20%) and Afghanistan (12%), and 41% were men, with 37% children and 22% women. The highest numbers of arrivals were recorded in September and October with over 4,800 and 4,100, respectively but arrivals dropped gradually to half in December (2,400) as the winter weather set in. As the weather deteriorated further, the average daily number of arrivals in December dropped to 76 from 107 in November. Additionally, an estimated 5,550 people arrived in Greece through the Greek-Turkish land border of Evros in 2017. In December, there were 450 arrivals according to provisional data. These figures are lower than the estimated 700 who used this route in November, but one third higher than the estimated 300 arrivals of December 2016. The higher water levels of the Evros River and the low, winter temperatures have made this crossing even more dangerous.

In Spain, over 28,300 refugees and migrants arrived by sea and land in 2017, of which 78% are sea arrivals. This is twice as much as the overall figure for 2016 (some 14,000 persons), largely due to more people crossing the sea, primarily from Morocco. Only in December, some 1,600 persons reached the Andalusian coast after departing from Morocco. On the other hand, last year, some 6,200 reached Spain by land through Ceuta and Melilla, a 5% increase from arrival figures in 2016. Land arrivals by Syrians have been on the rise: in 2017, some 2,300 Syrians reached Melilla (20% more than in 2016), most of whom were families (71% are women and children). Between 01 January and 31 December 2017, nearly 550 refugees and migrants have arrived by sea in Romania compared to just one person in 2016. Most arrivals were in August and September, with only one movement in November. Most of those using this route were from Iraq.

According to official statistics of the Turkish Coast Guard, over 21,900 individuals were rescued/intercepted at the sea borders of Turkey in 2017. On the other hand, official statistics of Turkish Land Forces state that over 30,600 individuals were intercepted at the western land borders of Turkey in 2017; 93% of the interceptions took place at Turkey’s land border with Greece.

Since the closure of the so-called ‘Balkans route’, as of March 2016, refugees and migrants have attempted to reach Western Europe through alternative paths including through the South Eastern European region. For example, in 2017, Bosnia and Herzegovina faced a substantial increase in the number of asylum applications, with more than four times the number of asylum-seekers when compared to 2016 (376 in 2017 vs 79 in 2016). In December alone, 149 people applied for asylum in Bosnia and Herzegovina.