EU sees sharp decline in illegal immigrants in 2017

European asylum office says irregular migration has fallen by 97 pct in 2017 over 2016
BRUSSELS: Flow of irregular migrants to Europe has seen a sharp decline by 97 percent since 2016, following a refugee deal between Turkey and the EU, the European asylum office said Monday.
A new report released by the European Asylum Support Office (EASO) also revealed that the EU had received 728,470 applications for international protection in 2017.
“This figure represents a decrease of 44 percent compared to 2016 when there were almost 1.3 million applications,” the report said.
According to the report, the migratory pressure at the EU external borders remained high in 2017, “but decreased for a second consecutive year, mostly on the eastern and central Mediterranean routes, whereas there was an unprecedented upsurge on the western Mediterranean route.”
The report said the overall number of asylum applications registered in 2017 dropped, but applications from a number of countries remained “considerably” high.
Syria (15 percent), Iraq (seven percent) and Afghanistan (seven percent) were the top three countries of origin of applicants. They were followed by Nigeria, Pakistan, Eritrea, Albania, Bangladesh, Guinea, and Iran.
In 2016, Turkey and the EU signed a deal aiming to stem the irregular migration flow through the Aegean Sea by taking stricter measures against human traffickers and improving conditions for nearly 3 million Syrian refugees in Turkey.
The deal also allows for the acceleration of Turkey’s EU membership bid and visa-free travel for Turkish nationals within the Schengen area, on the condition that Ankara meets all 72 requirements set by the EU.
Turkey has long complained of the EU being slow to deliver the promised funds for refugees and failing to uphold its end of the deal concerning visa-free travel.
Last November, European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker said that the financial support the EU promised to Turkey will be fully respected.–AA

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