The number of migrants traveling to Europe across the Mediterranean Sea is down significantly compared to this time last year.
The International Organization for Migration (IOM) reported on Tuesday that 31,993 migrants entered Europe via the Mediterranean from the start of the year through April 9.
In 2016, 172,774 migrants traveled to Europe via the Mediterranean during the same time period, meaning over 80 percent fewer migrants crossed the sea compared to this time last year.
There are a number of potential reasons for this change, most likely a significant decrease in new refugees fleeing Syria. Those who continue to leave the region may also be opting for the longer, but significantly less perilous, land route.
Some observers believe the decrease could be the result of shifting European policies to manage the massive influx of migrants.
“After a considerable period of time most European nations have realized that encouraging millions of migrants to enter Europe via perilous human-trafficking routes was the wrong approach for all concerned,” said Ben Harris-Quinney, chairman of the Bow Group, the UK’s oldest conservative think tank.
“Collective efforts have seen the creation of refugee camps in afflicted regions and anti-piracy operations to prevent unregistered boats from crossing between Africa and Mediterranean nations,” Harris-Quinney said.
Rising anti-migrant sentiment within Europe may also be a factor. “Since Merkel has reversed her open-door migrant policy and other nations like Britain have restricted their migrant intake, there is no longer such a strong pull factor from European nations,” Harris-Quinney told LifeZette.