Germany warned on Tuesday of a repeat of the chaotic influx of migrants that caught the European Union unprepared in 2015, with Greece and Cyprus sounding alarms over a fresh surge of arrivals from neighboring Turkey.
EU ministers were meeting to discuss migration as Greece has again become the main gateway to Europe for people fleeing wars and poverty in the Middle East, Asia and Africa, with UN data showing nearly 45,600 arrivals by sea so far this year.
“If we leave all the countries on the EU’s external border (to fend for themselves), there will never be a common European asylum policy,” German Interior Minister Horst Seehofer said.
“And if there is no common European asylum policy, there is a danger that uncontrolled immigration will once again take place, throughout Europe. We have seen this before and I do not want it to happen again,” he told reporters in Luxembourg.
The bloc is wary of any recurrence of the 2015 crisis that sowed bitter divisions among EU states, strained social and security services and fueled support for populist, anti-immigration, euroskeptic and far-right parties.
Greece saw the highest monthly arrival numbers in August since the 2016 EU-Turkey deal that greatly reduced sea crossings there, according to a document – seen by Reuters – prepared by Finland, which currently holds the bloc’s rotating presidency.
The pressure on Greece’s overcrowded migrant camps on its Aegean islands is rising anew. Charity group Oxfam said over 13,000 men, women and children were now crammed into the Moria camp on Lesvos that was designed to accommodate 3,100 people.
“The situation of children in the Moria camp is particularly worrying,” Oxfam said in a note, stressing that many of those under-age were on their own without relatives or other adults taking care of them.
The deal with Turkey that curbed migrant arrivals, though rights groups criticized it for undercutting international humanitarian law and aggravating the suffering of refugees and migrants already in distress, helped the EU end the 2015 crisis.
In return for Ankara’s help in keeping a tight lid on migration to Europe, the bloc agreed to spend 6 billion euros on refugee projects in Turkey. The EU says the money has already been delivered, but Ankara disputes that and has asked for more. [Reuters]