Frontex, the European Union’s coast guard and border patrol agency, registered a 46 percent increase in migrants arriving from Turkey in 2019 despite a deal with the EU to curb migrant influx into the bloc, Deutsche Welle reported on Friday.
Figures from Frontex released on Friday showed that although migrant arrivals decreased overall in 2019, there was a major increase in arrivals through Turkey.
“This was mainly due to the situation in Syria, but also instability in Afghanistan, and changing policies towards Afghan nationals by Iranian and Pakistani authorities,” Frontex chief Fabrice Leggeri told reporters.
In 2016 the EU and Turkey agreed to a deal in which Ankara received funds from the bloc in exchange for efforts to stop refugees from attempting to cross to Greece in small, often makeshift, boats.
However in 2019 there was a 46 percent increase in arrivals in the EU through Turkey, a total of 82,000 people.
Despite this, Leggeri did not put blame on the Turkish coast guard, saying it was “working well” to stop people from trying to leave.
The Frontex report also highlighted that the number of refugee arrivals had hit its lowest level since 2013, two years before the crisis that caught many European governments off guard. Indeed, the number of new migrants has dropped 92 percent since 2015, the agency noted.
One reason for the drop was that increased surveillance activity in the Mediterranean had led to a steep decline in groups of refugees taking the often deadly route to Italy or Spain via Northern Africa.
Frontex’s figures, part of the agency’s 2019 annual report, also marked a major upswing in deportations and voluntary returns. A record 15,850 people — mostly departing Germany, Italy, France and Belgium — used Frontex’s return operations, many of which are arranged on commercial airlines.
Frontex also increased its own ranks in 2019, announcing that it had 7,500 applicants for border guards in just the last three months of the year. In total, it expects to build a force of about 10,000 over the next several years.
The amount of money needed to meet all of the agency’s goals, however, has been a sticking point at recent EU budget talks.
Many member states have expressed consternation at the €84 billion ($93 billion) bill they are being asked to cover over the next seven years in the wake of Britain’s exit from the bloc.