In the three weeks since the start of the new year, 203 migrants lost their lives in efforts to reach Europe, prompting the European Court of Auditors to conduct an inspection on EU migration management.
In view of the stark figures, the European Court of Auditors will examine whether EU-designed asylum and return procedures in Greece and Italy are effective and swift, whether migration policies are achieving intended results and if follow-up procedures are being carried out.
“The challenges of migration revealed weaknesses in the EU’s asylum and migration policies and in its external border management… ensuring the implementation of the right measures and legal framework for handling migration is vital,” said Leo Brincat, a member of the European Court of Auditors overseeing the audit.
After collecting relevant data, an audit report is expected to be published before the end of 2019.
Greece and Italy Bearing the Brunt
Over one million people tried to reach the EU in 2015, with thousands still migrating to the Union through Greece and Italy, which are on the front line.
Greece has been at the center of international attention having for over four years borne the brunt of the refugee flows from neighboring Turkey.
In December 2018, the number illegal migrants seeking refuge in Greece reached 3,000. More specifically, according to Greek Coast Guard data, 88 incidents with a total of 3,138 people arrived to the Greek islands from the Turkish coast, and in the same month it proceeded with the arrest of 12 traffickers and 10 vessels.
According to Greek authorities, there are currently over 14,693 migrants and refugees on the Greek islands, primarily on Lesvos (6,922), Samos (4,174), Chios (1,436), Leros (1,063) and Kos (1,029).
Turkey’s Sad Role
Turkey has receive billions of euros in exchange for its efforts to stem the flow of refugees into Europe.
In the meantime, the refugee influx towards Europe for the most part through Greece has thwarted tourism to four of the Greek islands on the receiving end. Kos, Lesvos, Samos and Chios have seen tourism traffic slump since 2016.
In efforts to manage the crisis, the EU introduced a series of “temporary” measures, including the creation of the controversial “hotspots” – five hotspots in each of Greece and Italy – as well as relocation schemes. Both measures will be covered by the audit.
Meanwhile, the head of Amnesty International Europe and Central Asia, John Dalhuisen, has repeatedly called on the EU to take responsibility and active steps to address the issue.
Referring to the agreement with Turkey, Dalhuisen said “the ‘double-speak’, this deal is cloaked in fails to hide the European Union’s dogged determination to turn its back on a global refugee crisis, and willfully ignore its international obligations”.