April 18, 2016 / 2:22 PM / a year ago

Migrant arrivals fall sharply after EU-Turkey deal: EU agency

Migrants from Syria warm themselves by fire at a makeshift camp on the Greek-Macedonian border, near the village of Idomeni, Greece March 10, 2016. REUTERS/Stoyan Nenov

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - The number of migrants entering the European Union from Turkey fell sharply in March, EU border agency Frontex said on Monday, as the bloc’s migrant return deal with Ankara showed its first results.

For the whole of March, 26,460 migrants embarked on the journey from Turkey to Greece, Frontex said, less than half the figure recorded in February.

After the deal with Turkey came into force on March 20, under which migrants can be sent back, some 3,500 people arrived in Greece compared to the 22,900 who came between March 1 and 20.

The agency said that stricter border policies by the former Yugoslav republic of Macedonia had also made a difference.

However, the number of people trying the longer and more dangerous sea journey from northern Africa to Italy increased sharply, to nearly 9,600 from 2,283 in March 2015.

Most of those arriving in Italy were from sub-Saharan African countries with little evidence that migrants from the Middle East had changed routes, Frontex added.

Reporting by Robert-Jan Bartunek; editing by Philip Blenkinsop

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