‘Cri­sis’ point? UK num­bers still bear no com­par­i­son to EU’s 2015 in­flux

The Guardian Weekly - - Spotlight - By Alexan­dra Top­ping

The re­cent rise in the num­ber of peo­ple at­tempt­ing to cross the Chan­nel to Eng­land from France has been re­ferred to as a “mi­grant cri­sis”. The num­bers, how­ever, are mi­nus­cule com­pared with the height of the EU’s 2015 cri­sis, when 10,000 peo­ple landed in a sin­gle day in Greece.

More than 220 peo­ple have at­tempted the Chan­nel cross­ing since Novem­ber, and Sa­jid Javid, the UK home sec­re­tary, cut short a fam­ily hol­i­day to deal with what he has called a “ma­jor in­ci­dent”.

Char­i­ties and hu­man­i­tar­ian groups say in­creas­ing num­bers of Ira­ni­ans have tried to make the cross­ing in re­cent months. In the lat­est in­ci­dent, six Ira­nian men were found on a beach in Kings­down, near Deal in Kent, last Sun­day.

Three years ago, Europe’s big­gest in­flow of mi­grants and refugees since the sec­ond world war was tak­ing place. As many as 220,000 peo­ple ar­rived in Europe by boat in 2014, and more than 900,000 in 2015. The num­ber of peo­ple land­ing in Greece rose from 43,000 in 2014 to more than 750,000 in 2015, while ar­rivals in Italy dropped slightly from 170,000 to about 144,000.

The ar­rival of tens of thou­sands of refugees forced Greece’s prime min­is­ter, Alexis Tsipras, to call for help as is­lands equipped to deal with a small an­nual in­flux of tourists were over­whelmed.

The num­bers started to fall after a 2016 EU deal with Tur­key, and a 2017 bi­lat­eral ar­range­ment be­tween Italy and Libya, but tens of thou­sands of peo­ple each year are still try­ing to reach Europe.

By Novem­ber, Spain had taken in 56,200 ir­reg­u­lar mi­grants ar­riv­ing by sea last year, Greece 28,700 and Italy 22,500, ac­cord­ing to the UN refugee agency, UNHCR. The pres­sure on Greece may have sub­sided slightly since 2015, but over­land ar­rivals in the year to date have risen to 14,000, a three-fold in­crease on the same pe­riod in 2017.

The Chan­nel num­bers are also small in the con­text of wider UK im­mi­gra­tion and asy­lum sta­tis­tics. Ac­cord­ing to Home Of­fice data re­leased at the end of Novem­ber, 7,444 peo­ple claimed asy­lum in the third quar­ter of this year, of whom peo­ple cross­ing the Chan­nel made up a very small per­cent­age. Far larger num­bers ar­rive by plane from coun­tries such as Uganda and the Demo­cratic Repub­lic of the Congo, but get lit­tle me­dia cov­er­age. ALEXAN­DRA TOP­PING IS A NEWS RE­PORTER FOR THE GUARDIAN

The num­ber of peo­ple land­ing in Greece rose to more than 750,000 in 2015

STRATIS BALASKAS/EPA

Life jack­ets and dinghies used by refugees in Les­bos, Greece

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