Wed | Nov 14, 2018

Migrants shift to old, risky route to Europe

Published:Friday | January 19, 2018 | 12:00 AM
In this February 17, 2017 file photo, migrants sit on the ground next to Spanish police officers after storming a fence to entre the Spanish enclave of Ceuta, Spain. (AP)


The smugglers took Rodriguez Tankeu's savings and disappeared, leaving the 25-year-old bewildered near Tripoli, the Libyan capital. The former car mechanic headed to Algeria, where he saw, one by one, all the spots on engine-powered boats go to wealthier migrants.

Broke, tired and desperate, he moved further west.

"Morocco was my last hope," he says. "It was either making it to Europe or giving up for once and for all."

Algeria and Morocco are increasingly popular points of departure for economic migrants and asylum seekers, whose arrivals more than doubled last year along the hazardous Western Mediterranean passage into Europe.

The trend comes as Libya and Turkey have worked to stop migrants from departing for Europe. The controls helped reduce the number of migrants arriving in Italy by one-third and by more than 70 per cent in Greece last year, according to European border agency Frontex.

Spain worked to help shape the European Union's approach to curbing immigration, in large part by training and funding governments in countries such as Turkey. Yet it is the EU member that could face the most pressure if migrants keep moving westwards. The Spanish prime minister has called on the bloc to increase funding for southern European countries.