After the shock of 2015, years of migratory tensions in Europe

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After the chaotic influx of more than a million migrants in 2015, European countries did not benefit from the lull in the following years: the drop in arrivals did not put an end to the tragedies in the Mediterranean, nor to the quarrels. on the reception of these men, women and children.

The 2015 crisis

Arrivals in Europe gradually increased from 2011, at the start of the conflict in Syria. But it was in 2015 that the situation took on dizzying proportions.

In April, a tragedy strikes the spirits: up to 800 migrants who left Libya perish in a shipwreck. It is the worst disaster in the Mediterranean for decades. At the end of the summer, arrivals multiply: in total, more than a million are recorded over the year, including more than 850,000 via Greece.

Fearing a humanitarian catastrophe, Chancellor Angela Merkel opens the doors of Germany, drawing the wrath of her neighbors who criticize a “call for air”. But Berlin, on the verge of saturation, will quickly reintroduce border controls, followed by others, starting with Austria and Slovakia.

To relieve Italy and Greece, the Europeans adopted in September distribution quotas for asylum seekers, despite the opposition of several Eastern countries. This temporary plan, constantly contested, will crystallize European divisions.

On their way, migrants see fences standing up, as in Hungary and Slovenia.

2016, Turkey-EU agreement

In March 2016, the borders were closed one by one all along the Balkan route, from Macedonia to Austria, which had been used since the summer by migrants seeking to reach northern Europe.

And on March 18, a decried pact between the EU and Turkey eased the pressure: it provides, in exchange for financial assistance, for the return to Turkey of all migrants who will now arrive in Greece.

Result: arrivals in Europe fell sharply (to less than 390,000 in 2016). But tens of thousands of migrants find themselves stranded in Greece.

2017, Italy on the front line

Another consequence of this lockdown: Libya becomes the main migration route and Italy the first gateway to Europe.

Agreements between Rome and the Libyan authorities and militias will be a game-changer in mid-2017. At the cost of heated controversy: the EU, which supports the Libyan coast guard, is accused of turning a blind eye to the detention and violence suffered by migrants in Libya.

In 2018, it is Spain’s turn to become the main gateway to Europe.

2018-2019, political crisis

The Italians brought to power at the end of May a coalition of the far right and the populists. One of its first decisions is to refuse to welcome a humanitarian boat loaded with 630 migrants.

The Aquarius finally ends its journey in Spain, after a week-long odyssey that exacerbates tensions within the EU, especially between Rome and Paris.

At the end of a European summit under high tension at the end of June, European countries are considering the creation of “disembarkation platforms” outside the EU and “controlled centers” in Europe, where quickly distinguish irregular migrants to be expelled and applicants. asylum to be received. But the capitals are far from agreeing on the modalities.

For a year, with the closure of Italian ports embodied by the Minister of the Interior Matteo Salvini (far right), the scenario repeats itself: ships will be stranded in the Mediterranean for weeks, until agreements are reached. concluded between a few countries committing to receive rescued migrants.

Alas, a ship of the NGO Sea-Watch made an impression in June 2019 by forcibly docking on the island of Lampedusa.

Temporary agreement

The change of government in Italy at the end of summer 2019 and the reopening of Italian ports will allow an agreement to be drawn up in September between Germany, France, Italy and Malta, supported by a few countries.

A temporary mechanism is supposed to facilitate disembarkations, by making automatic the reception of migrants rescued by several volunteer countries. It will in fact be suspended with the health crisis.

In 2019, less than 129,000 migrants arrived in Europe.

2020, Erdogan “blackmail”

At the end of February 2020, Turkey announced the opening of the border with Greece, causing the influx of tens of thousands of migrants. Europeans are crying out for “blackmail”.

The closure of borders linked to the health crisis will, however, limit attempts to cross. The new coronavirus pandemic will also lead to the closure of Italian and Maltese ports in early April, and a scarcity of humanitarian boats.

At the same time, the crisis accelerates crossings in the central Mediterranean. NGOs fear a “tragedy behind closed doors”, while Italy calls for EU support.

A smaller phenomenon, attempts to cross the Channel illegally from France are increasing, causing tensions between Paris and London.

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