The article originally appeared on India Today.
Here it is bit modified and extended.
The International Organization for Migration (IOM), the United Nations’ migration agency, has said in its latest release* that the number of migrants and refugees that entered Europe by sea routes has seen a drastic reduction this year. Data compiled till June 11 says 73,189 migrants and refugees entered Europe by sea in 2017 whereas the corresponding figure for January-June 11 was 211434, almost three times.
Deepening anti-migrant and refugee sentiments in the wake of terror attacks in many European countries and the US can be attributed to this drastic reduction second year in a row.
Britain has seen three terror attacks in last four months, in March, May and June in which dozens of people lost their lives. There have been two major terror attacks in France and one in Sweden in 2017.
The series of terror attacks in Europe that began with Charlie Hebdo attack in Paris in January 2015 has continued unabated in France, Britain, Germany, Belgium and other European countries. Same is the story of the US where San Bernardino attack in 2015 left 14 dead, Orlando nightclub terror attack in 2016 left 49 dead and other bombings, stabbing and vehicle attacks left many injured. And the sad truth is migrants and refugees and their dependents have been found involved in most of them.
Something that is reflecting in the drastically reduced number of refugees and migrants. 2015 was a crisis year when over a million refugees from civil war ravaged countries like Syria, Afghanistan, Iraq and Nigeria. According to the European Union (EU) claims, 2015 saw 1,321,560 asylum claims.
The rush of migrants and refugees in 2015, said to the biggest wave of human crisis since the Second World War, created a pressure on many European countries, especially the smaller and economically weaker ones. Though the hostile signs were visible quite early with countries like Hungary, Poland, Romania, Slovakia and Czech Republic showing strong reservations, the European Commission settled down with a plan to distribute and relocate refugees among the European countries and set September 2017 as deadline keeping in line with the European spirit. But, so far, only 21000 asylum seekers have been relocated even if the EU is threatening legal action against the erring countries.
But coupled with terror incidents being attributed to migrants and refugees and thus a rising hostility, 2016 saw a steep decline with 364000 people seeking asylum in Europe in 2016. Many European countries erected fences to prevent migrants. The Balkan route was closed down. The EU made a deal with Turkey to monitor and block the Aegean Sea route, the main route taken by asylum seekers to reach Europe via Greece. Turkey that happened to be the gateway for Syrian migrants to entry in Europe sealed its border with Syria. Brexit in the UK in 2016 saw emergence of Theresa May, who is blamed by her rivals to have ‘poisonous propaganda about immigrants’.
2017, it seems going to bring it further down. The first six months of the year has just over 70000 asylum seekers in Europe by sea route and by this rate, we can say the number is not going to be more than 150000 and can even be substantially lower than this, given the surge of recent terror attacks in Europe by Islamic militants.
Emergence of right wing and far right in many European countries and governments hostile to migrants and refugees have further exacerbated the crisis. France’s far right politician Marine Le Pen has emerged as the main political opposition in the country with 34 per cent vote where far right was almost non-existent in France some years ago. She is a strong critic of immigration. Germany’s right wing termed asylum seekers ‘compost’. British PM Theresa May is also not interested in refugees welfare. And to cap all of them, US President Donald Trump is a strong anti-immigration voice and has been trying hard to stop migrants and refugees entering from the US. And he is a vocal supporter of Theresa May and Marine Le Pen.