In the first six months of 2017, less than half the numbers of migrants have arrived on European shores when compared to the first half of 2016, according to UN Refugee Agency UNHCR. It said, however, that migrants continue to face abuse and death in their search to arrive in Europe.
The UNHCR said despite this that "in the absence of legal alternative ways, many will continue to resort to traffickers without scruples and to criminal networks, risking abuse and death". Between January and June 2017, 99,865 refugees and migrants crossed the Mediterranean from North Africa and Turkey, compared to 231,075 in the same period in 2016, UNHCR said.
"The top five countries of origin during this period were Nigeria, Côte d'Ivoire, Bangladesh, Guinea Conakry and The Gambia," it said, adding that 74% of arrivals were men, 15% were children, and 11% were women. A 94% drop in arrivals from Turkey In its recent report "Desperate Journeys," UNHCR said the decreased number of arrivals is due above all to a "94% drop in the number of people who crossed the sea from Turkey towards Greece". It said the flows on the North African route towards Italy "remained nearly unchanged compared to the previous year", with 83,752 people who had arrived by the end of June and a drop in the months following. Despite the drop in deaths at sea compared to last year, UNHCR said "the probability of dying in the attempt to reach Europe remains at extremely alarming levels". According to the report, 2,253 people died or went missing at sea in the first six months of 2017, with "at least 40" who died attempting to enter Europe or cross through a European country by land. During the same period in 2016, 2,896 people died.
On migrant routes, "dangers and abuses by traffickers and police"
The report said many of the migrants and refugees who reached Italy from Libya had survived dangerous desert crossings and abuses. It said nearly 11,400 of those who reached Italy in the first half of the year were unaccompanied minors. Between January and June, more than 40% of asylum seekers who arrived in Italy received some form of protection, it said. In Spain, it said 9,500 people had reached the country since January, the majority via sea, compared to 4,936 the previous year. "Those who traveled irregularly from Greece and Bulgaria said they experienced abuses at the hands of traffickers, as well as police beatings and assaults by police dogs," it said.
In addition, it said it has continued to receive reports of refusals at the hands of state authorities in Bulgaria, Croatia, Greece, Macedonia, Serbia, Hungary, Romania, and Spain. (Picture shows some of 108 migrants disembarking at Lampesusa's harbour by a ship called Aquarius of humanitarian group SOS Mediterranee - ANSA/ELIO DESIDERIO)