Migrant arrivals to Greece fall sharply following EU deal with Ankara

Far fewer migrants arrived in Greece in April compared to the same period last year, latest figures show, following a deal signed by the European Union and Turkey aimed at curbing the flow of people boarding smugglers' boats to cross the Aegean Sea.

A total of 3,469 people crossed from Turkey to Greece in April, compared to 13,556 in April 2015, the UN refugee agency (UNHCR) and the Greek migration crisis managing body said Tuesday.

The number of migrants - many of them refugees from conflict zones in Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan - exploded in spring 2015 and around 1 million migrants reached European shores last year.

In March, the EU and Turkey struck a deal in which Ankara received a package of incentives, from billions in refugee aid to progress on visa-free access to the bloc for Turkish citizens, in exchange for help in returning migrants.

So far Greece has sent around 400 migrants - out of the tens of thousands of people stranded in the country by border closures further north - back to Turkey under the deal.

Arrival figures since the start of 2016 chart the discouraging effect of the agreement, which sees so-called irregular migrants returned to Turkey in exchange for direct resettlements of Syrian refugees. In January 67,415 migrants arrived in Greece, in February 57,066 and in March, the last month of open borders, 26,971.

In the first two days of May only 112 people arrived on Greek islands.

Last update: Fri, 24/06/2016 - 08:49

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