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Migrants go underground to evade sealed borders

September 16, 2016

Covert migrant routes are booming, the Overseas Development Institute (ODI) says. About 60 percent of migrants arriving in Europe use false passports, hide in trucks or overstay visas as border controls tighten.

Griechenland Insel Kos - pakistanische Flüchtlinge
Image: picture-alliance/AP Photo/T. Stavrakis

The proportion of migrants using covert means to enter Europe is expected to rise sharply this year despite the European Union pouring at least 17 billions euros ($19 billion) into efforts at stemming the flow of refugees over the past 18 months, the London-based think tank said Friday.

"While on the surface, the number of people arriving in Europe has fallen, the rate of those taking hidden routes to Europe has not been affected and is likely to increase," Marta Foresti, author of the ODI report, said in a statement.

"These covert routes can be more dangerous and make it harder for governments to monitor migration and design effective responses."

The ODI projects that 330,000 migrants will arrive in the EU through Mediterranean routes this year, but the number of asylum applications is forecast to reach 890,000.

Some 65 million people are on the move worldwide, fleeing war, ethnic strife, political repression and poverty. About a third of Europe's new arrivals are from Syria, the report said, with most others from middle-income countries.

Tightened border controls 'ineffective'

Tightened border controls and bilateral agreements may be effective in reducing flows along a specific route in the short term; in the long term they do not seem to deter people from arriving, the report said.

"Deterrence measures and border controls are expensive and mostly ineffective," the ODI warned. "Border controls have, in many cases, simply rerouted refugees and migrants towards alternative, 'covert' routes."

European countries have committed to spending 1.7 billion euros since 2014 on tighter border controls, including a British plan to build a wall along the approach road to the French port of Calais to prevent migrants from climbing aboard UK-bound trucks - with sometimes fatal results.

And more than 15 billion euros has been spent on bilateral agreements, such as the EU-Turkey deal aimed at reducing the number of migrants travelling from Turkey to Europe.

That's been roundly criticized by human rights groups who claim Turkey's human rights record makes it an inappropriate partner dealing with the humanitarian crisis.

"The public debate usually focuses on the costs of managing the flux of migrants who enter Europe," Foresti told the Thomson Reuters Foundation. "The costs of containing and reducing migration are rarely in the spotlight."

The report's release come a week before the UN Summit for Refugees and Migrants in New York. The world body hopes to craft an international response to the largest displacement crisis since World War II.

Infografik Flüchtlinge Mittelmeer 1. Quartal 2016 Vergleich 1. Quartal 2015 Englisch

jar/kms (Reuters, dpa)