Daily Telegraph, 3/10/2017
Europe could face a new wave of migrant arrivals this summer, a leaked German government report has warned. Up to 6.6m people are waiting in countries around the Mediterranean to cross into Europe, according to details of the classified report leaked to Bild newspaper.
They include more than 2.5m in North Africa waiting to attempt the perilous crossing by boat. Angela Merkel’s government has not commented on the report, which the newspaper says was marked for internal use only.
There are fears of a dramatic rise in arrivals as the summer weather turns favourable for sea crossings. Growing numbers of migrants are known to be attempting to reach Europe by boat in the wake of the closure of the Balkan land route last year.
They include refugees fleeing the turmoil in Syria and Iraq as well as economic migrants from Africa, the Middle East and Asia. The report warns the number waiting to cross into Europe has risen by 650,000 since the end of January alone — an increase of 12 per cent.
It says 1m are waiting in Libya, where smugglers use small and often unseaworthy boats to carry migrants to outlying Italian islands. Another 1m are waiting in Egypt, 430,000 in Algeria, 160,000 in Tunisia, and 50,000 in Morocco. Others are waiting in transit countries along the route, with up to 720,000 in Jordan.
The numbers also include 3.3m waiting in Turkey, most of whom are currently prevented from crossing into Europe by the EU’s migrant deal with President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s government.
Mrs Merkel’s Christian Democrat party (CDU) is reportedly to call for similar deals with North African countries in its manifesto ahead of September’s elections.
The manifesto will include plans for “those who are rescued from drowning” while attempting the crossing to be returned to where they set out, according to Bild. The German chancellor is currently riding high in the opinion polls, discontent at her “open-door” refugee policy behind her.
But any repeat of the chaotic scenes of 2015 could threaten her chances of re-election. More than 50,000 migrants have arrived in Italy by boat so far this year, an increase of 45 per cent compared to last year, though still far fewer than in 2015. More than half are reportedly economic migrants from Nigeria, Bangladesh, Guinea, Cote d’Ivoire and the Gambia.
The Italian government at the weekend signed an agreement with Libya, Niger and Chad to stem the flow by boosting border controls and setting up reception centres for asylum-seekers in North Africa. But conditions in asylum-seekers’ camps in Libya have come under heavy criticism. Filippo Grandi, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, said he was “shocked” after visiting a camp in Tripoli at the weekend.
“Killings, rape and torture are allegedly commonplace” in Libyan camps, according to Fatou Bensouda, chief prosecutor at the International Criminal Court.