‘Crisis’ point? UK numbers still bear no comparison to EU’s 2015 influx
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
Life jackets and dinghies used by refugees in Lesbos, Greece