Europe could face a repeat of the chaotic influx of migrants that caught the continent off guard four years ago, Germany has warned.
The Mediterranean countries have again become the gateway into Europe for those fleeing wars and poverty in the Middle East, Asia and Africa.
And nearly 45,600 have arrived by sea so far this year, according to UN data.
EU ministers are keen to implement a common European asylum policy in an attempt to avoid a repeat of 2015.
Greece and Cyprus have sounded alarms over a resurgence of arrivals from neighbouring Turkey – as European Union ministers meet to discuss the issue. Pictured, a pile of life jackets have been dumped on the island of Lesbos, Greece, by migrants crossing from Turkey
A label on one of the life jackets reads ‘persons of 32 kilos or more’. Thousands of the preservers have been left close to the sea on the Greek Island
‘If there is no common European asylum policy, there is a danger that uncontrolled immigration will once again take place, throughout Europe,’ Germany’s interior minister Horst Seehofer told reporters in Luxembourg.
‘We have seen this before and I do not want it to happen again.’
It comes as a growing pile of life jackets and rubber boats are abandoned on the beaches of the Greek Island of Lesbos by migrants making the crossing from Turkey.
Thousands of life preservers are dumped on open ground in an area that has been dubbed The Life Jacket Graveyard by those who live nearby.
Greek Authorities have started relocating refugees from the overcrowded Moria Camp on the island to facilities on the mainland as the flow of migration continues.
Thousands of life preservers have been dumped on open ground in an area on the Greek island of Lesbos that has been dubbed The Life Jacket Graveyard by those who live nearby
In 2015 bitter divisions were sowed among EU states when immigration strained social and security services – fuelling support for populist, anti-immigration, eurosceptic and far-right parties.
Germany’s interior minister Horst Seehofer (pictured in Athens on October 4) says a common European asylum policy is necessary to control immigration
This summer, in August alone, Greece saw the highest monthly arrival numbers since the 2016 EU-Turkey deal that reduced sea crossings there, according to a document prepared by Finland, which currently holds the bloc’s rotating presidency.
Turkey has long complained that the EU support promised in exchange for keeping a lid on migration to Europe is inadequate given that it now hosts around 3.5 million Syrian refugees.
The pressure on overcrowded migrant camps on Greece’s Aegean islands is rising anew.
Charity group Oxfam said over 13,000 men, women and children were now crammed into the Moria camp on Lesbos that was designed to accommodate 3,100 people.
‘The situation of children in the Moria camp is particularly worrying,’ Oxfam said in a statement, stressing that many of those under-age were on their own.
Children’s shows can be seen inside an abandoned rubber boat and life preservers
Though the deal with Turkey helped contain the 2015 crisis, rights groups condemned it for undercutting international humanitarian law on providing safe haven for refugees, and aggravating the suffering of those already in distress.
In return for Turkish help, the EU pledged 6 billion euros on refugee projects in Turkey. The EU says the money has since been delivered, but Ankara disputes this and has asked for more.
Spain has received the second highest number of seaborne migrants this year with nearly 30,000, followed by Italy at nearly 8,000, Malta at close to 1,600 and Cyprus at about 800, according to United Nations data.
Relative to population size, however, Cyprus is currently under the heaviest pressure, according to the Finnish note.
Dubbed The Life Jacket Graveyard by locals, the mound of safety gear has built up over a number of months as migration continues
Cyprus, Greece and Bulgaria said in a separate document at the ministerial meeting that the situation bore ‘alarming elements of an emerging crisis’.
‘Europe cannot be caught unprepared for a second time…The EU will have to consider positively the allocation of further funds to those countries of the broader region of the Eastern Mediterranean route affected by immense migratory flows.’
Maria Ohisalo, the interior minister of Finland, said the EU must address the situation in both the eastern Mediterranean as well as along the sea routes linking Africa to Italy and Malta.
Stormy skies hover above the daunting scene of hundreds of life jackets on Lesbos
Rome and Valletta will try to enrol on Tuesday more EU peers in a migrant relocation scheme they agreed with France and Germany last month for migrants rescued at sea.
The plan was largely seen as a political gesture towards Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte, who adopted a more EU-friendly tone after winning a general election that saw the ouster of the staunchly anti-immigrant Matteo Salvini.
Seehofer has said Germany could take in a quarter of migrants who reach Italy by sea. Rescue boats have repeatedly been stranded in the sea for weeks this summer as EU states quarrelled over who should host those onboard.
More member states may express support on Tuesday but the plan would still not be automatic or obligatory, meaning the usual ‘coalition of the willing’ would step in while those opposed to accommodating the new arrivals are left alone.
The refusal of Hungary, Poland and their ex-communist peers on the eastern flank of the EU to help the ‘front-line’, Mediterranean member states by hosting some migrants has eroded the bloc’s unity since 2015.