Spain has taken just over 40 percent of all irregular migrants crossing the Mediterranean Sea into Europe this year, according to the UN Migration Agency.
The International Organization for Migration (IOM) reports that the number has nearly tripled compared to those registered at this time last year. Spain tops the list of destinations, taking 23,741 migrants via the Mediterranean by the end of July, compared to 8,677 for the same period in 2017.
Last month the IOM said that Spain had overtaken Italy as the top destination for Mediterranean crossings – and the latest figures confirm that the surge has continued.
Arrivals to Italy are now down by over 80 percent compared to 2017, the IOM says. However, the number of people coming to Greece has risen by almost 50 percent, with nearly 5,000 more arrivals than last year’s totals.
However, the overall picture shows a large decrease in the number of migrants and refugees entering Europe by sea. The IOM says 59,271 had arrived by August 5, compared to more than 117,000 at this time last year, and over 263,000 during the same period in 2016.
“The decision taken by the government in June to receive the 630 migrants rescued by Aquarius, and the decision to take other NGO ships here in Spain has sent a message of solidarity, a message that a lot of people are comfortable with. However, this is a complicated issue even for those who support the government’s policies,” Euronews correspondent Anelise Borges reported for Good Morning Europe.
The European Commission has announced €30 million for Spain in emergency assistance to deal with the increase influx of refugees.
According to the Centre for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), increasing numbers of migrants from sub-Saharan Africa are choosing to settle in the Maghreb, due to the difficulties in reaching Europe.