EU border chief says migrant entries from Turkey on the rise

The European Union's border agency Frontex says the number of migrants entering Europe from Turkey has jumped sharply, with more than 82,000 people, mostly from Syria and Afghanistan, entering in 2019

More than 82,000 migrants tried to enter Europe without authorization in 2019, an increase of 46% over the previous year, Frontex Executive Director Fabrice Leggeri said in Brussels.

The EU agreed in 2016 to give Turkey up to 6 billion euros ($6.6 billion) in Syrian refugee aid money and other incentives to persuade the government in Ankara to stop migrants leaving for Greece. But since last summer, Greece's eastern islands have struggled to ease severe overcrowding at refugee camps where outbreaks of violence frequently occur. On the Greek island of Lesbos, protests broke out Friday in front of the country's largest refugee camp after an asylum seeker died of stab wounds. Several dozen migrants set fire to trash bins and blocked traffic outside the camp before riot police were called in to disperse them.

Authorities said the 20-year-old man from Yemen died while being taken to a hospital by ambulance late Thursday following a clash at the Moria camp on Lesbos. A 27-year-old Afghan migrant was arrested in connection with the incident and was being questioned, police said.

Frontex said the number of arrivals last year was the highest since the EU-Turkey deal came into force.

Ankara also sought EU political and financial help in setting up a safe area in northern Syria, where people fleeing the conflict could take refuge or be sent to from Turkey, but the Europeans are reluctant to get involved. ———

Derek Gatopoulos in Athens, Greece, contributed.