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Clandestine Migration to the EU Drops to 5-Year Low

BARCELONA, Spain – The number of people entering Europe illegally fell last year to its lowest level in five years – but there has been an increase in the number of people reaching Spain, according to the figures.
About 150,000 people entered the European Union through irregular crossings in 2018, Frontex Border and Coast Guard Agency said Friday.
This represents the lowest total since 2013 and is 92% below the peak recorded during the 2015 migration crisis.
This drop is due to a dramatic drop in the number of migrants using the central Mediterranean route from Libya, Algeria or Tunisia to Italy, said Frontex. Just over 23,000 irregular crossings were detected on this route for the year, a decrease of 80% from 2017.
Italian Interior Minister Matteo Salvini has decided to close the country’s ports to migrant boats in June and the populist government has adopted new anti-immigrant laws.
Priests demand “civil disobedience” at Christmas to protest anti-migrant law.
At the same time, the number of arrivals in Spain via the Western Mediterranean route from Morocco doubled last year for the second year in a row to 57,000. Most migrants on this route are from sub-Saharan African countries, although the number of Moroccans has increased in recent months, Frontex said many also came from Guinea, Mali and Algeria.
The Spanish government has also allowed certain vessels carrying rescued migrants to land in its ports after being banned from entering Italy or Malta.
Afghan, Syrian and Iraqi nationals made up the largest number of migrants entering Europe by the eastern Mediterranean route last year, Frontex reported, with the total number of migrants increasing by almost a third to 56000.
This increase is mainly due to the increase in the number of migrants crossing the land border between Turkey and Greece, many of whom are Turkish nationals.
Immigration has become a hot topic in much of Europe, with many political parties pledging to fight migrant arrivals, including refugees and asylum seekers.
In the United Kingdom, Interior Minister Sajid Javid has declared a “major incident” after several dozens of people reached the British coast at Christmas time after a dangerous boat trip on the other side of the river. The Royal Navy has been called to help the British border force to prevent further crossings of migrants from France.
The so-called Italian “safety decree”, led by Salvini, came into effect at the end of November. It has abolished Italy’s category of “humanitarian protection” for migrants who do not meet the country’s strict asylum criteria or who are waiting for an answer to their request, and has facilitated their deportation.
Under the new law, some migrants will lose their protected legal status and will therefore have to leave immigration centers, placing them in a legal vacuum – with no prospect of employment, health care or social integration.
International rights groups have also highlighted the dangers faced by migrants who are returned to Libya after leaving Italy from their shores. The EU has increasingly adopted a strategy to help the Libyan coastguards intercept migrants before they reach European shores.
At the same time, non-governmental organizations have been pressured to stop the rescue operations in the Mediterranean of migrants, many of whom are crammed by traffickers in harmless boats. While some have left poverty-stricken households in search of a better life, others are fleeing war, violence and persecution.
Women accounted for nearly one-fifth of those detected at illegal border crossings in Europe last year, Frontex said. A similar proportion reported being under 18 and nearly 4,000 unaccompanied minors.
The International Organization for Migration (IOM) estimates that nearly 142,000 migrants and refugees arrived in Europe last year, most of whom made the perilous crossing of the Mediterranean Sea.
(Sahar News Monitoring Desk)

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