Migrants cover themselves with blankets given by the Red Cross as they wait for their transfer at the port of Tarifa, in the province of Cadiz, southern Spain. EPA/A.CARRASCO RAGEL
Migrants cover themselves with blankets given by the Red Cross as they wait for their transfer at the port of Tarifa, in the province of Cadiz, southern Spain. EPA/A.CARRASCO RAGEL

According to a new report from the UN Refugee Agency UNHCR, the migrant route towards Greece is becoming 'hot' again. Meanwhile, fewer people are crossing the Mediterranean from Libya to Italy.

The migrant and refugee routes towards Europe are changing. According to a new report released by the UN Refugee Agency UNHCR, the number of people who crossed the Mediterranean from Libya to Italy has gone down sharply. 21,700 people arrived between July and September, the report states. That is the lowest number in four years for the same time period. 

In the third quarter of this year, however, the number of migrants who have reached Italian coasts from Tunisia, Turkey, and Algeria has gone up. Most of those who arrive in Europe from the Mediterranean route are of Syrian, Moroccan, and Nigerian origin. 

"Over the past months, the sea route to Greece has gained more traction, sea arrivals to Italy have reduced and we have seen migrants and refugees using increasingly diversified journeys to reach Europe," said Pascale Moreau, Director of UNHCR's Europe Bureau. 

Majority of arrivals in Greece are Syrians, Iraqis and Afghanis 

About 80 percent of the arrivals by sea to Greece are made up of Syrians, Iraqis and Afghanis. Of these, two-thirds are women and children, the report said. Spain has also seen a 90 percent increase in arrivals by land and sea in the third quarter of 2017, compared to the same period last year. Most of these arrivals - 7,700 people - came from Morocco, the Ivory Coast, and Guinea, but arrivals by land were made up mostly of Syrians.

The report also highlighted an uptick over the summer in arrivals to Romania from Turkey, through the Black Sea (for the first time since February 2015) as well as a massive increase in arrivals to Cyprus since the beginning of the year. "Despite the reduction of crossings via the Central Mediterranean route, thousands continue to attempt desperate and dangerous journeys to Europe," said Moreau. She noted with deep concern that as of 20 November, close to 3,000 people are estimated to have died or gone missing at sea and another 57 known to have died along land routes in Europe or at Europe's borders in 2017. The actual numbers are likely to be higher, she added.

3,000 dead at sea

The report also underlined the difficult situation of women and girls who are trafficking victims as well as 15,200 unaccompanied and separated minors who have arrived in Europe so far this year. It also shows that movements of people who are trying to cross land borders have increased in the last three months, despite push-backs from several countries. The report said these practices should be investigated. 

40,000 resettlement requests, still much to do 

"UNHCR continues to call for greater access to safe and legal pathways to Europe, such as resettlement and family reunification. It is also key to ensure that people can have access to asylum in European countries," Moreau said. "We are very thankful for the contributions made by States so far, however much more is needed to respond to UNHCR's call for 40,000 additional resettlement places requested last September for refugees located in 15 priority countries along the Central Mediterranean route," she said.
 

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