The Greek Government summons the Turkish ambassador after a surge in migrant arrivals in Lesbos
MADRID, 30 Aug. –
At least 909 migrants and refugees have died so far this year trying to reach the countries of southern Europe by sea, according to a new report by the International Organization for Migration (IOM) that coincides with an unexpected surge in arrivals in Greece .
The organization estimates that more than 46,000 migrants and refugees have arrived on the European coast since January 1 across the Mediterranean, which represents a decrease compared to the 68,000 arrivals recorded during this same period in 2018.
Greece and Spain, with 23,000 and almost 15,000 arrivals, respectively, represent 82 percent of the total, but the most dangerous route remains that of the central Mediterranean, which connects North Africa with Italy and Malta. In this area 640 people have perished this year, triple that in the western part of the Mediterranean.
In the case of Greece, the agreement signed between the EU and Turkey in the framework of 2016 – which included incentives for Turkey in exchange for greater control of migrants – resulted in a drastic reduction in arrivals, although in the latter months a new rebound has been registered.
On Thursday, some 650 migrants arrived on the island of Lesbos aboard 16 boats, thirteen of them in less than an hour, according to local authorities and the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). “We were surprised. We had not seen this level of simultaneous arrivals since 2016,” a UNHCR spokesman, Boris Cheshirkov, said in statements to Reuters.
Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias has summoned Turkey's ambassador to Athens on Friday to convey his concern about this increase in arrivals. The Turkish ambassador has reiterated Ankara's commitment to the commitments signed in 2016, according to local media.
The one in Moria continues to be the largest reception center for migrants in Europe – with more than 10,000 people – and human rights organizations have repeatedly expressed criticism for the situation of these facilities. This same month a young Afghan man died and two others were injured during a fight.
UNHCR has insisted that the situation is “urgent” and has urged the authorities to relocate migrants by moving them to mainland Greece. IOM estimates that, since June 2016, almost 17,000 people have chosen to voluntarily return to their home countries, with Pakistan and Iraq at the top of this list.