As Migrants Continue to Arrive in Europe, Asylum Seekers Relocated

Greece - Arrivals of migrants and refugees to Europe by sea in 2015 approached 800,000 through the first week of November, a figure that amounts to nearly four times the total for all of 2014.

IOM reports the total number of fatalities on these routes now total 3,455 – although we caution that we may be seeing some discrepancies in Greece and Spain where migrants previously counted as “missing” now are confirmed fatalities, a factor which should not change the overall count, but may have been double-counted by our research team.

We can report confidently that, according to Hellenic Police, an estimated 17,600 migrants and refugees crossed into Greece from Friday (6/11) to Sunday (8/11). Some 6,803 arrived on Friday, 6,340 on Saturday and 4,528 on Sunday. Weather conditions were fine and migrants and refugees continued to board boats.

However the death toll continued to rise, with the Greek coast guard recovering eight bodies off Lesbos and Agathonisi during the weekend. They included a two- to three-year-old boy. IOM is reporting the recovery of the remains of a dozen or so migrants off Greece since last Thursday night, however staffers on the islands caution that many of these so-called “new” fatalities are simply confirmations of the dozens who were declared “missing” in a series of shipwrecks over the past week.

The number of migrants and refugees crossing from Greece to the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) also reached 26,840 between 6.00 am Monday November 2 and 6.00 am Monday November 9.

Strikes on Greek ferry routes from Monday to Friday resulted in fewer arrivals at Greece’s borders with the FYROM compared to previous weeks. On Tuesday, November 3rd only 1,286 migrants traveled from the islands to the mainland and then through Friday morning, no migrants departed from the islands.

Finally, on Saturday November 7, some 12,500 migrants were transferred from the islands to Athens and Kavala by ferry. This is the highest number in a single day since the beginning of the crisis.

During the strike, although no migrants arrived from the islands, an average of around 1,350 migrants a day continued to arrive at the FYROM border between November 4-6. This suggests that there are still large numbers of migrants stranded in Athens, trying to find money to continue their trip to Northern Europe.

Two relocation operations of asylum seekers were carried out by the Italian government last week. On Thursday 5 November, 19 Eritreans (18 men and one woman) were transferred to the French city of Nantes, while on Sunday 8 November Spain received 11 Eritreans and one Syrian.

IOM staff accompanied the migrants from Sicily to Nantes.  On arrival, they were met by local authorities, government officials and representatives of the French Office for Immigration and Integration (OFFI). The next day, they were divided into three groups and transferred to nearby villages.

“According to IOM staff who accompanied them, the migrants were tired but very happy,” said IOM Rome spokesperson Flavio Di Giacomo. “The average age of the group was about 24. Everyone looked very calm and happy with the outcome.”

The second relocation to Spain involved 11 Eritreans and one Syrian. They flew from Sicily, transiting in Rome and arriving in Madrid on Sunday evening on a scheduled flight. They were also met by local authorities and transferred to different Spanish cities, where their asylum claims will be processed.

“Since October, 118 asylum seekers have been relocated to Finland, Sweden, Spain and France. The program is still in its initial phase, but the positive outcome should soon lead to many more asylum seekers being relocated,” said Federico Soda, Director of the IOM Coordinating Office for the Mediterranean in Rome.

“This program shows that European Union (EU) member states can work together to share the burden and reduce pressure on the countries with external borders, that are EU entry points. However, people entitled to international protection still have to pay smugglers and take great risks to reach the safety of Europe. Relocations will have to continue while we look for safe and durable alternatives closer to the source of these migration flows,” he added.

From the beginning of this year, over 141,700 migrants and refugees have arrived in Italy. The largest nationality group at the end of October was from Eritrea (37,796). This was followed by Nigeria (19,576), Somalia (11,020), Sudan (8,692) and Syria (7,232).

In 2015 the number of Nigerian, Somali and Sudanese arrivals in Italy has more than doubled from 2014. The number of Syrians has fallen dramatically to about a fifth of those arriving in the first 10 months of last year.
Most Syrians now try to reach Europe via Turkey, Greece and the Western Balkans. Some 630,000 migrants and refugees, mostly from Syria, Afghanistan and Iraq, have reached the Greek islands so far in 2015.

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