By Fatih Erel
The number of refugees arriving in Greece fell to below 50 daily this month, with zero refugee fatalities so far on the eastern Mediterranean between Turkey and Greece, after some 400 drowned in the first four months of this year, according to International Organization for Migration (IOM) figures.
The number of refugees arriving in Greece from Turkey by sea so far this month totals just 1,015, IOM spokesman Joel Millman told Anadolu Agency in Geneva.
Although almost 200,000 refugees arrived in Europe by sea so far in 2016, the total arriving in Greece over the last two months is about 5,000, Millman said.
Last year, more than a million refugees arrived in Europe.
Millman said the sharp decline in refugee arrivals and deaths may be related to the EU-Turkey refugee deal that went into effect in late March.
The deal aims to discourage irregular migration through the Aegean Sea by taking stricter measures against human traffickers and improving the conditions of nearly 3 million Syrian refugees in Turkey.
The deal also allows for the acceleration of Turkey’s EU membership bid and visa-free travel for Turkish nationals within the Schengen area, on the condition that Ankara meets 72 requirements set by the EU.
Millman said about 195,000 refugees entered Europe this year by sea through May 21, and the death toll in the first three weeks of May stands at 1,370 on all Mediterranean routes, including the Aegean Sea, which is 24 percent lower than last year’s total of 1,792 in the same period.
According to the IOM, a total of 13 fatalities have been reported this month in just three incidents on all Mediterranean routes, while nearly 330 refugees drowned in the Mediterranean during May 2014, and another 95 died last May.