Far fewer asylum seekers came to Germany in 2017 than in previous years. But in Italy and Greece, the numbers of asylum seekers remain high — and both countries are becoming increasingly frustrated waiting for refugee relocation.
While working for the European border agency Frontex in the Aegean Sea, senior German police officer Frank Rogatty and his team encountered hopelessly overcrowded, unseaworthy rubber dinghies full of panic-stricken people night after night. In the dark, migrants cannot tell whether they are being approached a Turkish police boat or a European vessel. Sometimes, dramatic scenes unfold when the migrants refuse to stop — and unknowingly steer towards treacherous cliffs.
The situation on the Greek islands reveals the full extent of Europe's failure. The refugee camps there are overcrowded; many of the migrants are forced to live in flimsy tents. The Greeks feel they have been abandoned by the EU. The refugee relocation system is not working. As well as opposing this quota system, states like Hungary and Poland are also against the idea of giving extra cash to help those countries who take in the majority of migrants.
When asked about the poor conditions in Greek refugee camps, even German Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere said they were "a Greek problem in the first instance." Italy also feels that it has been left to deal with migrants arriving from North Africa on its own.
In the summer of 2017, it approached the UN-recognized government in Libya to enlist its help to stop their boats crossing the Mediterranean in the first place. The EU is now backing this initiative by training and funding the Libyan coast guard whose mission it is to intercept refugees and migrants at sea and return them to Libya.
Late last year, there were widespread reports of African migrants being subjected to torture, slavery and even summary execution there. During filming in Italy, we too met refugees who described their treatment in Libya as being "like hell."