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UNHCR Europe Monthly Report (December 2019)

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MEDITERRANEAN ROUTES: 123,700 refugees and migrants arrived via the three Mediterranean routes in Europe in 2019. This represents a 13% decrease compared to the numbers in 2018 (141,500). In December 2019, 11,100 refugees and migrants arrived via these routes, which is a 21% decrease compared to November 2019.

GREECE: 74,600 refugees and migrants arrived in Greece in 2019. This is an increase of 48% compared to 2018 and of 151% compared to 2017. Arrivals in Greece peaked in September 2019 with 12,500 and have since then been declining. However, the monthly arrivals in the last quarter of 2019 were still significantly higher than the same period of the previous three years. In December 2019 alone, some 7,600 people arrived, (6,200) by sea and (1,400) by land. This is a 90% increase when compared to December 2018 and more than three times the arrivals in December 2017. In 2019, 40% of arrivals were from Afghanistan and 27% were from the Syrian Arab Republic (Syria). At the end of 2019, UNHCR estimated the number of refugees and migrants in Greece at 112,300. The Greek islands hosted 41,100 refugees and migrants, of which 36,400 were living in the five Reception and Identification Centres (RICs). This is six times more than the centres' total capacity of 5,400 people. More details can be found in the UNHCR Greece December Factsheet.

SPAIN: In 2019, some 32,500 refugees and migrants arrived in Spain, a 50% decrease from 2018 (65,400). After a peak of 4,600 arrivals in January 2019, the highest number of arrivals this year was reported in October (4,000). In December, 2,800 people reached Spain. Arrivals were from Morocco (25%), Guinea (16%) and Algeria (16%). More information on 2019 trends can be found in the UNHCR Spain dashboard on sea and land arrivals.

ITALY: In 2019, some 11,500 refugees and migrants arrived by sea in Italy. This is a 51% decrease from arrivals in 2018. In December only, 590 individuals reached Italian shores, compared to 1,230 in November 2019. However it is a 64% increase when compared to December 2018. Top countries of origin in 2019 were Tunisia (23%), Pakistan (10%) and Côte d’Ivoire (10%). More information is available in the UNHCR Italy December dashboard on sea arrivals.

MALTA: The number of arrivals in Malta has increased significantly as a result of disembarkations of people rescued in the Central Mediterranean after departing from Libya. In 2019, some 3,400 refugees and migrants arrived in Malta, more than twice the number recorded in 2018. Most people were from Sudan (39%), Eritrea (7%), and Nigeria (6%).

CYPRUS: In 2019, some 1,700 refugees and migrants arrived in Cyprus by sea, more than twice as many as in 2018 (766). Top countries of origin were Syria, Nigeria and Lebanon. Two boat arrivals in November with more than 120 persons each have put a strain on the firstline reception facility, surpassing its maximum capacity of 350 people and requiring temporary arrangements.

SOUTH EASTERN EUROPE: Some 6,900 people are estimated to have arrived or transited on the way to other countries in December 2019, 42% less than in November. With these, some 121,000 individuals were estimated to have arrived or transited through this region in 2019, a 45% increase compared to 2018.

Data made available to UNHCR indicates that there were over 12,000 asylum applications submitted in the region in 2019. In comparison, over 10,000 applications were submitted in 2018.

UNHCR is working with countries in the region to strengthen their asylum systems, so that people in need of protection can apply for asylum. UNHCR and partners continue to carry out protection monitoring to identify and refer persons with specific needs, while providing counselling to those who wish to ask for asylum in their current location to avoid dangerous onward journeys.

Push-backs continue to be widely reported across the region, including with use of violence.

BOSNIA AND HERZEGOVINA continues to host the largest number of migrants and asylum-seekers among the countries in South Eastern Europe. At the end of 2019, these were estimated at 7,200, more than half the asylum-seekers and migrants in the entire region.