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UNHCR Europe Monthly Report (June 2018)

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Trends and Key Figures

In June, just over 14,000 refugees and migrants arrived to Europe via Italy, Greece and Spain, bringing the total number of refugees and migrants who have arrived by land and sea routes to these three countries to just under 56,600 in the first half of 2018. This marks a reduction of 46% from the 104,400 that arrived in Europe via the three countries in the first six months of 2017. The primary nationalities amongst arrivals in this period were Syrians, Guineans, and Iraqis. While increased arrivals of refugees and migrants have been recorded so far in Greece and Spain, the overall reduction in arrival numbers in Europe this year is primarily due to lower numbers of refugees and migrants being able to cross to Italy from Libya.

In the first six months of 2018, most arrivals to Europe were to Greece (22,000) by land and sea, and Spain (17,900).

Italy: Just over 3,100 refugees and migrants arrived by sea in June, a decrease compared to the 3,900 that arrived in May and a significant reduction compared to the 23,500 refugees and migrants that crossed the sea, mostly from North Africa, in June 2017. Approximately 70% of sea arrivals to Italy in June, amounting to 2,200 persons, departed from Libya.

As of 10 June, non-Italian flagged NGO vessels were no longer allowed to disembark in Italy. On this day, Italy refused disembarkation permission to the NGO vessel Aquarius carrying over 600 refugees and migrants.

Malta too denied disembarkation permission. Aquarius subsequently disembarked in Spain following permission granted by the Spanish government, a decision welcomed by UNHCR. Subsequent to this, the NGO vessel Lifeline carrying over 230 persons was granted disembarkation permission in Malta at the end of June following commitments by other European to relocate some of the rescued persons. At the same time, apart from the NGO vessels (as none of them have the Italian flag), Italian Coast Guards as well as Italian and non-Italian commercial vessels continued disembarking in Italy. This included a Danish-flagged cargo vessel that had rescued over 100 persons was ultimately granted disembarkation permission in Italy after several days of waiting off the Italian coast for permission.

After 10 June, the Libyan Coast Guard increasingly took responsibility for interceptions or rescues of vessels that had departed from Libya’s coast. As a result, over 3,400 refugees and migrants were disembarked in Libya in June, including over 1,000 Sudanese and Eritrean nationals. Those intercepted or rescued were subsequently transferred to detention facilities in Libya. Also in June, the existence of Libya’s Search and Rescue Region was confirmed by the International Maritime Organization.

The largest groups that arrived by sea in Italy in June were from Sudan (24%), Eritrea (11%), and Guinea (10%). Amongst those disembarked in Italy were persons showing injuries sustained at the hands of traffickers in Libya demanding ransom money who then subsequently sold them on to other traffickers. However, as of the end of June, most arrivals in Italy by sea in 2018 had been from Tunisia (18%), Eritrea (15%) and Sudan (9%).