Academic journal article Journal on Ethnopolitics and Minority Issues in Europe : JEMIE

Introduction

Academic journal article Journal on Ethnopolitics and Minority Issues in Europe : JEMIE

Introduction

Article excerpt

1.The impact of the 'new migration'

By 2016 the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) estimated 65.6 million displaced persons worldwide, increasing by about 300,000 a year. 40.3 million displaced persons remained within their own countries. 22.5 million were refugees-the most ever in human history. 5.5 million were Syrians, leaving Syria at a rate of 750,000 a year. 2.8 million were asylumseekers. The potential for further exodus from the Middle East is enormous: an estimated 54.5 million migrants still remained in Middle Eastern countries; Syria contained 7.1 million, Iraq 4.7, Jordan 2.9, Yemen 2.8, Turkey 2.8, and Lebanon 1.5 (according to a report of the Pew Research Centre in Washington, D.C. in October 2016). Turkey now claims that as many as 3 million (primarily Syrian) refugees are left in that country. At least half a million people have lost their lives in Syria since the commencement of the present revolution and ISIS.

Europe has received vast numbers of refugees from the Middle East, Africa, and South Asia. Over a million refugees and economic migrants reached Europe (initially mainly Greece and Italy) across the Mediterranean in 2015-more than twice as many as during the previous year (according to data collected by the UNHCR and International Organization for Migration). This flow was expected to slow down during the harsh winter months-it did, but over 100,000 migrants arrived in Europe during January and February of 2016; this represented more than in the first six months of the previous year.

During 2015, 839,561 maritime arrivals were recorded in Greece out of a total migrant influx of 885,386. 200,000 arrived just in October. Over half were Syrian, the others from other Middle Eastern countries and South Asia.

Between 1999 and 2013, an estimated half a million illegal or 'irregular' migrants entered Italy by sea; yet since then as many as 600,000 migrants have landed in Italy by sea (according to various estimates in the media). More than 153,000 arrived in 2015, another 181,000 the next year. Italy now has the highest number of arrivals by sea (according to the European Council on Refugees and Exiles). Most are male economic migrants from West Africa (Nigeria, Guinea, Ivory Coast, Gambia, Senegal, Mali), the Horn of Africa (Eritrea, Sudan, Somalia), with some from North Africa (Tunisia, Libya) and the Middle East (Syria), setting off from Libya, a failed state. Thousands have drowned in their attempt to reach Italy-at least 13,000; 700 drowned in just three days in May 2016; in fact, at one point the Italian navy was saving 10,000 a week; more than 2,000 had drowned so far by mid-2017. They continue to come at the rate of over 130,000 a year-a thousand migrants on an average summer day. Migrant smugglers are arrested, and their boats set on fire or blown up.

7,164 'irregular' migrants arrived in Spain and Portugal during 2015 (mostly Guineans, Moroccans, and Algerians), however Spain has attempted to plug the hole presented by Ceuta and Melilla, Spanish exclaves on the Moroccan north coast, a simple ferry ride away from Spain itself. The sea route between Morocco and Spain is currently claimed to be the fastest growing sea route. More than 8,000 sea-borne asylum-seekers have been recorded by Spain between January and mid-August 2017, compared to approximately 2,500 during the same period the previous year. In fact, 1,600 were intercepted and rescued by the Spanish coast guard in the Strait of Gibraltar in just a single day in August.

An increasing list of countries have been blocking migration routes: by March 2016 Greece, Macedonia, Hungary, Croatia, Slovenia, Austria. Although Greece had only 10,200 official applications, most migrants didn't wish to stay there anyway; moreover, Greece has felt mounting pressure from the EU to halt the flow of refugees by increasing border restrictions. During 2015 Hungary reluctantly received 174,425 applications for asylum, but again the vast majority of migrants had no intention to stay there-they were heading farther north, especially to Germany and Scandinavia; to stop the flow Hungary put up barbed wire fences all along its border with Macedonia and Croatia. …

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