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Regional Refugee and Migrant Response Plan for Europe (January to December 2017)

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Background and context

The regional Refugee and Migrant Response Plan (RMRP) was initiated following the large-scale population movements registered throughout Europe in 2015. During 2016, a further 347,000 refugees and migrants have arrived in Europe, in addition to the over one million refugees and migrants that undertook the perilous journey across the Mediterranean Sea in 2015. Most refugees and migrants have crossed by boat from Libya to Italy or from Turkey to Greece through the Aegean Sea. Both routes have proved more perilous during 2016 than in 2015. In 2016, 4,690 refugees and migrants died or were reported missing in the Mediterranean Sea, 25% more than in 2015.

Arrivals in Italy and Spain have increased steadily during 2016, with a total of 170,973 and 4,971 respectively in the year to date. Following a peak of over 27,000 arrival in Italy in October and 1,170 arrivals in Spain in September, the worsening weather conditions brought on by the onset of winter have resulted in fewer arrivals in the last two months of 2016, although the numbers of arrivals in November and December remain three times higher than the same period in 2015.

In the first quarter of 2016 a total of 151,452 individuals reached Greece from Turkey, however, following the EU-Turkey Statement of 18 March 2016, these numbers dropped dramatically. Between 1 April and 31 October, just over 18,000 people completed this dangerous sea journey. This relatively low number of arrivals is expected to continue in 2017.

The majority of these people are in search of safety and protection, as almost 60 per cent of those arriving in Europe in 2016 come from the world’s top 10 refugee-producing countries, primarily from the Syrian Arab Republic (Syria), Afghanistan and Iraq.

The majority of arrivals are expected to stay in Greece, Italy and Spain and are likely to apply for asylum in these countries. Some of them will be eligible for relocation to another country in Europe, or alternatively resettlement. Countries, such as those in the Western Balkans and Central Europe, that were previously part of an important transit axis between Greece and refugees’ and migrants’ intended final destination in northern or Western Europe are unlikely to receive significant numbers of new arrivals. However, persons are still moving through and are subject to additional protection risks. Residual populations of refugees and migrants are likely to remain in these countries in 2017.

In 2017, the response to the influx of refugees and migrants required by humanitarian partners is likely to involve a longer term, planned approach, still focused on ensuring immediate assistance and protection of new arrivals, but also increasingly on cash based interventions and ensuring that accommodation conditions are adequate and safe. During 2016, the living conditions in the sites in Greece have deteriorated due to the congestion of people. These include many having specific needs, such as unaccompanied or separated children (UASC), single women, pregnant or lactating women, the elderly, people with disabilities, as well as the sick and injured. The number of children arriving remains high, 27% of the total arrivals, and the number of UASC in particular has increased during 2016, now comprising over a quarter of all children (24,135 up un- til the end of October).

In this context, the response during 2017 by humanitarian partners will primarily focus on the relatively static and increasing populations in Greece and Italy. The 2017 RMRP outlines the intended operational response and financial requirements. It presents a set of measures that will enable the humanitarian community to contribute to the protection of refugees and vulnerable migrants, as well as the human rights of all people involved.