ATHENS – Overwhelmed with more than 74,000 refugees and migrants, some 42,305 of them in 2017 said they wanted asylum after the European Union closed its borders to them and they didn’t want to be returned to Turkey, where they had fled civil war and strife and economic troubles in their own countries.
Turkey was the jumping-off point to reach the EU through Greece, primarily the islands holding more than 15,000, before the borders were closed and other countries reneged on promises to help take some of the overload.
The asylum count came from the European Observation Network for Territorial Development and Cohesion, ESPON, whose statistics showed 204,718 refugees arrived in the EU last year. while 118,962 people traveled from Libya to Italy, according to the network’s data.
That’s a far cry from 2015 when some 1.3 million asylum applications were lodged across the 28 member states of the EU, chiefly from nationals of Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria, before the clamps were put on.
The numbers fell dramatically after the EU reached a swap deal with Turkey in the spring of 2016 but that has been mostly suspended and seen only a handful returned as Greece is struggling to deal with the numbers that just keep rising, albeit slower than previously.