UNHCR: Restrictions for Refugees in Europe Lead to More Dangers

Written by on February 28, 2017 in Bulgaria - No comments

Refugees on the Greek island of Lesbos. Photo by UNICEF/Alessio Romenzi.

The increased border restrictions in Europe, including the closure of the so-called Balkan Route, makes refugees take more dangerous journeys, says the UNHCR. According to the refugee agency by the United Nations, refugees did continue to move, but they increasingly relied on smugglers, since there were no legal ways to Europe, at least not for them.

Since the Balkan Route closure exactly a year ago, far less refugees reached Greece via the eastern Mediterranean. But, at the same time, the central Mediterranean route from North Africa to Italy has become the main entry point to Europe, the UNHCR said.

The agency counted more than 180,000 refugees, who arrived in Italy, by sea, in 2016. They included people in need of international protection, victims of trafficking and migrants seeking better lives. Nigeria and Eritrea are the two countries most of these asylum seekers came from, in most cases via Libya, by boat.

Among several alarming aspects, one sticks out: The number of unaccompanied and separated children making that dangerous journey with an uncertain outcome is increasing. There were 25,000 cases in 2016. Their number nearly doubled within a year.

Also, the U.N. refugee agency says that the journey to Italy is particularly dangerous. There were more deaths at sea in the Mediterranean in 2016 than ever before, according to the UNHCR.

But, in spite of the so-called “E.U. Turkey Agreement”, refugees are leaving Turkey, either via the Mediterranean, or via land borders into Bulgaria and Greece.

According to the latest UNHCR study, which came up with these numbers and trends, tens of thousands of refugees have reportedly been pushed back by border authorities in Europe, including in Bulgaria, with many cases of alleged violence and abuses in an apparent attempt to deter further entry attempts. Push-backs are an illegal practice.

In addition, the UNHCR has received reports of refugees and migrants kidnapped, held against their will for several days, physically and sexually abused, tortured or extorted by smugglers and criminal gangs, at several points along the key routes.

by im.

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