On Tuesday, Greece, Cyprus and Bulgaria announced the launch of the Eastern Mediterranean Migration Route Initiative (EMMI). They called upon the EU to make further resources available to countries along the route and to implement a relocation mechanism. The joint initiative comes amid concern over Turkish operations in Northern Syria sparking an increase of arrivals over the Eastern Mediterranean.

Interior ministers of Cyprus, Greece and Bulgaria presented a document with their “Joint Position and Recommendations on Migration Pressures in the Eastern Mediterranean” to the EU Justice and Home Affairs Council held in Luxembourg. While the discussion of EU interior ministers were focusing on a relocation and disembarkation arrangement for the Central Mediterranean, the new joint initiative calls for an effective mechanism for relocation from the Eastern Mediterranean, the establishment of a functioning common European return mechanism and the provision of adequate support and allocation of resources to affected countries.

The initiators underlined that the Eastern Mediterranean, due to geopolitical factors in the Middle East, receives the overwhelming majority of arrivals of refugees. In the course of the council meeting, ministers and EU officials expressed concerns that Turkey’s impending operations in northeast Syria might cause more people to flee Syria and push some of the four million refugees hosted in Turkey to move on to the EU.

Although current levels of arrivals only represent a fraction of numbers in 2015, humanitarian conditions in receptions centers on Greek islands continue to be critical. Last weekend, Greek authorities transferred around 570 “vulnerable” people, including families, single women with children and unaccompanied children, from the refugee camp Moria on the island of Lesvos to the mainland to cope with overcrowding.

From January until September 2019, at least 24,052 migrants and refugees arrived to Spain, 9,508 to Italy and Malta and 48,518 to Greece according to data from the UN Refugees Agency, UNHCR.

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Photo: (CC) Gal, December 2005

This article appeared in the ECRE Weekly Bulletin . You can subscribe to the Weekly Bulletin here.