Refugees wait to be rescued during an operation at sea with the Aquarius, a former North Atlantic fisheries protection ship now used by humanitarians SOS Mediterranee and Medecins Sans Frontieres, on May 24, 2016 in the Mediterranean sea in front of the Libyan coast. (GABRIEL BOUYS / AFP)
BRUSSELS —The first half of 2019 witnessed some 337,200 applications for asylum lodged in the EU+, marking a 10 percent increase from the same period a year earlier, according to the preliminary analyses published by the European Asylum Support Office Monday.
In contrast to this upward trend, in June 2019 applications fell to the lowest level of the year, but there were fewer working days, according to the report. The EU+ is composed of 28 EU (European Union) member states plus Norway and Switzerland.
2,287 people died attempting to cross the Mediterranean to Europe in 2018
But the number would be much larger if counting in those refugees drowned in the Mediterranean and those rescued by NGO ships but denied entry to European countries recently.
In recent months, countries in Europe have been engaged in a diplomatic dispute over refugees rescued at sea. The reason for the diplomatic row is the so-called Dublin rules which state that the first EU country which a refugee reaches shall be responsible for the refugee.
German media Deutsche Welle reported that an NGO-operated rescue ship Ocean Viking saved a further 81 refugees on Sunday, meaning there are now 251 people on board. Meanwhile, another NGO-operated ship, the Open Arms, still remains at sea with 121 refugees on board after it was denied entry to Maltese and Italian ports.
Matteo Salvini, the Italian interior minister, accused Open Arms of using its rescue mission as "political provocation", adding that the ship had plenty of time to reach Spain, where it is flagged, and where "several mayors are willing to receive it."
For years, the EU has been unable to agree on a binding quota for the distribution of refugees among members as several states have been strictly opposed to such a redistribution.
According to the UN, 2,287 people died attempting to cross the Mediterranean to Europe in 2018.
The European Asylum Support Office is an agency created by European Union Regulation 439/2010 to strengthen the cooperation of EU member states on asylum, enhance the implementation of the Common European Asylum System, and support member states under particular pressure.
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