A slight increase of arrivals to Greece comes with intense debate and potentially grave consequences. Aid workers are warning of a looming catastrophe in the overcrowded camps. However, actual numbers of arrivals and asylum applications remain low compared to 2015/16.

The arrival of 694 people to Lesvos, Samos and Chios last week adds to the 38,598 migrants and refugees who have arrived to Greece by land and sea between January and mid-September 2019, according to UNHCR. This compares to an annual total of more than 50,000 in 2018 and more than 860,000 at the peak of arrivals in 2015.

Yet, the surge in arrivals over the summer and through September has potentially severe consequences as it could exacerbate the already critical situation for over 25,000 people in the overcrowded camps on the Aegean islands. “The level of human suffering is just indescribable”, states a representative from Médecins Sans Frontières, pointing to a sharp rise in self-harm including among toddlers.

Statistics from the European Asylum Support Office (EASO) reveals that 400,500 asylum applications were launched in EU+. Despite an 11% increase compared to the same period of 2018, the level is “dramatically lower” than in 2015-2016.

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Photo: (CC) ChadBriggs, March 2016

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