Wednesday 6 Jan 2016
Turkish authorities say they have found the bodies of 34 migrants, at least three of them children, at two locations on the Aegean coast after they apparently tried to cross to the Greek island of Lesbos.
The flow of mostly Syrian refugees and migrants braving the seas to seek sanctuary in Europe dipped towards the end of last year with the colder weather, but the total still reached 1 million last year, nearly five times more than in 2014.
The migrants died after their boat or boats apparently capsized in rough seas. It was not known how many vessels were involved or how many people were on board.
Twenty-four of the bodies were discovered on the shoreline in the district of Ayvalik, the Turkish coast guard command told Reuters. Ten others were found in the district of Dikili, a gendarmerie official in the local headquarters said.
Reuters TV footage showed a body in an orange life jacket lying at the grey water's edge in Ayvalik, lapped by waves. The nationalities of those drowned were not immediately clear.
"We heard a boat sank and hit the rocks. I surmise these people died when they were trying to swim from the rocks. We came here to help as citizens," an unnamed eyewitness said.
Increased policing on Turkey's shores and colder weather conditions have not deterred refugees and migrants from the Middle East, Asia and Africa from embarking on the perilous journey in small, flimsy boats.
"Migrants and refugees continue to enter Greece at a rate of over 2,500 a day from Turkey, which is very close to the average through December," International Organization for Migration (IOM) spokesman Joel Millman told reporters in Geneva.
"So we see the migrant flows are continuing through the winter and obviously the fatalities are continuing as well."
Tuesday 5 Jan 2016
Denmark has followed a move by Sweden to reintroduce border controls in a bid to clamp down on illegal immigrants.
Denmark has imposed temporary identity checks on its border with Germany following a similar move by Sweden, dealing a double blow to Europe's fraying passport-free Schengen area amid a record influx of migrants.
Sweden began checking documents of travellers from Denmark on Monday for the first time in half a century, causing delays of up to 50 minutes for trains and buses crossing the 7.9km Oresund Bridge, Europe's longest combined road and rail bridge. However private vehicles were exempt from the checks.
Denmark's prime minister said Sweden's move gave his country no option but to impose its own border controls and he appealed to the European Union to take "collective decisions" to better protect its external borders against the tide of migrants.
"The Swedish ID checks can increase the risk of a large number of illegal immigrants to accumulate in and around Copenhagen," Lars Lokke Rasmussen told a news conference in Copenhagen, justifying the new controls on the German border.
Last year some 163,000 refugees sought asylum in Sweden, the largest number for any EU country relative to its population. But with arrivals running at around 10,000 a week in November, mostly travelling through Denmark, the Swedish government has said it is time to tighten border controls and asylum rules.
"A dark day for our Nordic region," former centre-right Swedish foreign minister Carl Bildt said on his Twitter feed on Monday to describe the imposition of border checks.
Thousands of commuters daily use the Oresund Bridge - familiar to fans of the 'Nordic noir' crime drama series "The Bridge" - to shuttle by car, train and bus between the Danish capital Copenhagen and the Swedish city of Malmo.
Friday 13 Nov 2015
Europe is in a 'race against time' to save its system of passport-free travel and must move fast to tighten control of migration over its external borders, European Council President Donald Tusk says.
Citing Sweden's move to reimpose checks on arrivals from other EU countries and new measures in Germany and Slovenia, he told a news conference at a summit on migration on Malta that these showed EU states were under "huge pressure."
"Saving Schengen is a race against time," the former Polish premier said of the open border system among European states. "And we are determined to win that race."
That would require implementing the series of measures agreed amid great dispute among EU governments over the past few months, he said.
"This includes, first and foremost, restoring external border control. Without effective border control, the Schengen rules will not survive."
"We must hurry, but without panic," he said after a summit with African leaders that will be followed by an emergency EU summit later on Thursday in Valletta to discuss migration and notably efforts to secure a deal with Turkey to slow departures.