European Union

Why isn't Europe keeping its promise to resettle refugees?

Life jackets used by migrants are seen left on two flotsams at the Sicilian harbor of Pozzallo, February 16, 2015. Better weather since last week has encouraged migrants to make the perilous journey from North Africa, where a breakdown of order in Libya has made it almost impossible to police the traffickers who pack people onto rickety boats.  REUTERS Alessandro Bianchi (ITALY - Tags: SOCIETY IMMIGRATION POLITICS) - RTR4PST2

Life jackets used by migrants are seen. Image: REUTERS Alessandro Bianchi

Aamna Mohdin
Reporter, Quartz
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More than 100,000 migrants have arrived in Europe this year so far. That means in less than two months, migrant arrivals have already exceeded what took six months in 2015—and at this rate, the total number of people arriving in Europe should easily break last year’s record.

Greece alone has received 102,547 arrivals since the beginning of the year, according to the International Organization for Migration. The vast majority of migrants were Syrians, Afghans, Iraqis, Iranians, and Pakistanis, according to Greek authorities. Some were also from Morocco, Bangladesh, and Somalia.

The number of migrants dying making the dangerous crossing has also shot up—409 people have died trying to reach Europe by sea this year, whilst 69 people died in the same period last year.

Though Europe agreed to relocate 160,000 refugees stuck in Greece and Italy, at the start of 2016 it had only rehomed 272 of them. That’s just 0.17% of the refugees it pledged to welcome.

The number of migrants arriving by sea to Italy has roughly stayed the same as last year—7,507 arrivals were registered since the beginning of 2016. Ninety-two migrants have died trying to reach Europe on this route, and 700 migrants were rescued from six leaky boats just yesterday (Feb. 23), according to the Italian navy.

With no real progress for a European-wide solution to the crisis, a number of countries have announced unilateral actions to restrict border crossings. Thousands of migrants were left stranded in Greece following Macedonia’s decision to tighten border controls this week. Macedonia is only allowing migrants from Iraq and Syria to enter the country—leaving thousands of Afghanis trapped.

Austria has introduced a quota of 80 asylum applications per day. Greece criticized Austria for excluding it from a meeting on migration with Western Balkan countries. As the bottleneck builds up in Greece, the country is demanding borders are kept open in Macedonia, Austria, and the rest of Europe.

But the EU blames Greece for not implementing proper border controls and has given it three months to improve its systems or be thrown out of the 26-country Schengen visa-free travel area.

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