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Reuters/Stoyan Nenov
Stuck in limbo.
CHANGING TIDE

Has Europe solved its crisis? Refugee arrivals to Greece have dropped by 90%

By Aamna Mohdin

The number of migrants and refugees arriving in Greece has dropped by a staggering 90% last month.

Frontex, the EU’s border agency, said 2,700 people arrived in Greece from Turkey in April. During the height of the refugee crisis last year, authorities were seeing April’s total number of arrival on a daily basis. Syrians accounted for the vast majority of arrivals, which also included refugees from Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Iraq.

As a result in this reduction, the number of refugees arriving in Italy surpassed Greece for the first time since June 2015. That said, there was a 13% decrease in the number of refugees arriving in Italy in April from the month before and a nearly 50% reduction compared to the same month last year.

The significantly reduced number of refugees is largely as a result of the controversial EU-Turkey deal and stricter border policy, according to Frontex. The deal, which has been slammed by human-rights groups, sees Turkey receive up to €6 billion ($6.8 billion) in aid, visa-free travel to Europe for Turkish citizens, and renewed EU membership talks in return for Turkey agreeing to take back those who cross over to Greece.

The reduction is also due in part to the strict border policy widely applied across a number of Balkan states, which has resulted in more than 50,000 refugees are currently stuck in legal limbo in Greece. Many arrived before the EU-Turkey deal was finalized.

While the EU-Turkey deal is clearly having an impact, it remains to be seen how long the deal will last.

The EU has called on Turkey to reform its broad anti-terror laws, which critics say is being used to stifle dissent, but Turkey refuses to do so, arguing the laws are vital for its national security. Just last month, a female suicide bomber wounded 13 people in the city of Bursa, while a car bomb killed three people in Diyarbakir.