BRUSSELS – The European Union executive said on Thursday there had been an increase in the number of people arriving in Europe without a genuine claim to asylum as countries around the continent grow increasingly nervous over the migration crisis.
The 28-nation bloc has all but failed to curb or control the influx of refugees and migrants, with more than one million arriving in Europe last year, mainly via Greece and heading towards the EU’s biggest economy, Germany.
More than 54,500 people have already reached Europe by sea this year, including 50,668 through Greece, according to data from the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR).
That is despite winter weather making the journey even more perilous, a fact highlighted by the UNHCR saying 235 people were dead or missing already in 2016. On Thursday, 24 migrants drowned when their boat sank off a Greek island close to Turkey.
Much of the EU debate on how to handle the influx has focused on distinguishing people fleeing war and thus eligible for international protection from labor migrants seeking better lives without being under immediate threat.
“Indeed we have seen that the numbers of people arriving in Europe who don’t have a genuine claim to asylum have been rising slightly,” a spokeswoman for the European Commission told a regular news briefing.