Refugees arrivals from across the Mediterranean halved in March compared to the previous month, according to newly released UNHCR figures.
The UN agency reported that just over 30,000 refugees made arrived in March, compared to over 61,000 in February.
The news comes as the European Union begins implementing plans to deport migrants from across the continent to Turkey. Turkey will be receiving around €6 billion in to deal with the influx of asylum seekers. In return, previously selected migrants in Turkey will be received in the European Union. Turkey already hosts more than 2.5 million refugees.
Although the number of people making the Mediterranean crossing has dropped, the number of refugees arriving as of March 2016 is still higher than the same period last year.
Both NATO and national governments have been stepping up patrols of the Mediterranean, and in particular the Aegean Sea, which separates Greece from Turkey.
Mediterranean policy may be having an effect
But the drop in numbers crossing the Mediterranean may be mainly down to poor weather, which can put off potential refugees from attempting the journey.
UN statistics show 46% of refugee arrivals originated in Syria, followed by Afghanistan and Iraq.
More than 160,000 refugees have arrived in Europe in 2016 alone, with an estimated 528 individuals having perished.
In addition to the Mediterranean route, many refugees had previously attempted to cross the “Balkan route” to reach northern Europe. This involved a path through countries like Macedonia, Croatia and Slovenia. But leaders have declared this route closed, prompting speculation as to whether the Mediterranean would see an influx of crossings.
Irregular flows of migrants along Western Balkans route have come to an end. Not a question of unilateral actions but common EU28 decision
— Donald Tusk (@eucopresident) March 9, 2016
It is a sign that the European refugee policy – with a combination of removals and stepped-up border and sea patrols – may be having an impact on refugee numbers.
But the EU-Turkey deal has not been without criticism, with some claiming it may even be a violation of international law.
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