BRUSSELS – The Latest on migrant issues facing Europe (all times local):
Rights groups have slammed a two-year deal between the European Union and Turkey that has left thousands of migrants and refugees stranded in increasingly precarious conditions on Greek islands.
Greek and international aid groups, including Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, have described the deal as a failure by Europe to deal with the refugee issue adequately, saying its consequences are to leave people trapped in often hopeless situations.
The March 2016 deal aimed to halt the flow of tens of thousands of people from Turkey to nearby Greek islands, as they attempted to make their way to more prosperous European countries. It stipulated that those arriving after March 20, 2016 would be held on the islands and returned to Turkey unless they successfully applied for asylum in Greece.
The European Union's statistics agency says the number of people applying for asylum in Europe has dropped to levels similar to those recorded before the wave of migrant arrivals in 2015.
Eurostat said Tuesday that almost 650,000 people applied for asylum in the 28 EU nations for the first time last year, around half the applicants in 2015 when hundreds of thousands of people, mostly Syrians, arrived.
Over 102,000 were Syrians, 47,500 were Iraqis and 43,600 were Afghans.
Almost one in three people sought asylum in Germany in 2017, while 20 percent filed in Italy and 14 percent in France.
Few applied in Slovakia, Poland, Portugal, the Czech Republic and Estonia.
Almost 1 million applications were still being considered by national authorities at the end of last year.