Flow of migrants to Europe shifting dramatically to the west
A viral video of a boat full of refugees washing up on a Spanish tourist beach highlights the shifting focal point of entry for migrants invading Europe.
Zahara de los Atunes. Dos de la tarde pic.twitter.com/IvYGmbfE4E
— Jaime Moreno (@GolfJaime) August 9, 2017
Migrant arrivals in Spain are increasing at an alarming rate, and the Spanish authorities aren't ready to receive them. The video is a clear sign that the flow of refugees from Africa and the Middle East to Europe has shifted dramatically westward since 2015.
The first flashpoint was around Turkey and the Greek islands, where hundreds of thousands of people made the short sea crossing to reach European soil.
Stricter border policing, and a political deal between Turkey and the EU, helped reduce the flow there.
Italy soon replaced Greece as the centre of events, with the greatest number of migrants travelling from Libya across the Mediterranean.
But crossings from Morocco to Spain – a distance of nine miles at its narrowest point – are growing rapidly.
According to UN figures published in July, Italy was still the most popular entry point to Europe, with 59,000 arrivals in the first half of 2017.
But newer data from the Italian government has suggested that figures are beginning to fall, in part because of increased sea patrols by the Libyan Navy and the EU.
Some 6,800 people arrived in Spain between January and May this year, nearly 90% fewer than in Italy. But the figure has risen 75% in a single year, suggesting that the movement is beginning to shift.
It's about three times cheaper to cross from Morocco into Spain compared to a crossing to Italy. The much shorter distance makes it safer as well. E.U. border authorities expect the number of refugees arriving in Spain to climb dramatically over the next months as other routes from Libya to Italy are closed off.
The refugees are not coming in numbers comparable to 2015, but it's not for lack of trying. For all their talk of welcoming migrants, E.U. countries are desperately seeking to keep them in Libya and other major crossing points through increased patrols by the coast guard, who not only turn back the new arrivals, but also save dozens of lives every day when the rickety boats used by refugees capsize.
Can Europe really control this mass movement of humanity from one continent to another? History would suggest that it will be very difficult to prevent millions of refugees from arriving if the war-torn regions in the Middle East and Africa do not find peace and some level of prosperity.