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The European migrant crisis arose through the rising number of migrant arrivals in 2015 – a combination of economic migrants and refugees – to the European Union (EU) across the Mediterranean Sea and the Balkans from North Africa, the Middle East, and South Asia.
The term has been used since April 2015, when at least five boats carrying almost two thousand migrants to Europe sank in the Mediterranean Sea, with a combined death toll estimated at more than 1,200 people.
The shipwrecks took place in a context of ongoing conflicts in several North African and Middle Eastern countries as well as the refusal by several European Union governments to fund the Italian-run rescue option Operation Mare Nostrum, which was replaced by Frontex’s Operation Triton in November 2014.
On 23 April 2015, EU governments agreed to triple funding for border patrol operations in the Mediterranean so that they would be equal to the previous capabilities of Operation Mare Nostrum, but Amnesty International immediately criticized the EU’s decision not “to extend Triton’s operational area” to the area previously covered by Mare Nostrum.
Some weeks later, the European Union decided to launch a new operation based in Rome, called EU Navfor Med, under the command of the Italian Admiral Enrico Credendino.
In 2014, EU member states received 132,405 requests from migrants.
In total, 23,295 requests were accepted so these migrants will receive some form of protection by the EU (asylum, refugee status, subsidiary protection, protection because of humanitarian reasons), while 109,110 requests were rejected so these migrants will be required to leave the territory of the European Union.
According to Eurostat, four states – Germany, Italy, France, and Sweden – take around two-thirds of the EU’s asylum applications; while analysis of United Nations and World Bank data by The New York Times indicates Hungary, Austria, and Sweden, together with Serbia and Kosovo, to be among the top recipients of EU asylum seekers per capita, when adjusted for their own populations.
As of August 2015, Frontex recognizes the following general routes on sea and on land used by illegal migrants and human traffickers to enter the EU:
the Western African route
the Western Mediterranean route
the Central Mediterranean route
the Apulia and Calabria route
the circular route from Albania to Greece
the Western Balkan route
the Eastern Mediterranean route
the Eastern Borders route
Several serious accidents and deaths have occurred in Europe as a result of human trafficking involving migrants.
Standard cargo trucks are normally used, increasing the severity of accidents when they occur.
The International Organization for Migration says that deaths at sea have increased ninefold after the end of Operation Mare Nostrum.
Amnesty International condemned European governments for “negligence towards the humanitarian crisis in the Mediterranean” which they say has led to an increase in deaths at sea.
Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch have criticised the funding of search and rescue operations.
Amnesty International says that the EU is “turning its back on its responsibilities and clearly threatening thousands of lives”.
Pope Francis expressed his concern about the loss of life and urged EU leaders to “act decisively and quickly to stop these tragedies from recurring”.
Australian PM Tony Abbott said the tragedies were “worsened by Europe’s refusal to learn from its own mistakes and from the efforts of others who have handled similar problems.
Destroying the criminal people-smugglers was the centre of gravity of our border control policies, and judicious boat turnbacks was the key.”
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