Refugee and migrant arrivals to Europe across the Mediterranean so far in 2015 have added up to more than 100 000, with record numbers now arriving every day in the Greek islands, the United Nations refugee agency has said.
Official figures show that as of June 8 2015, a total of 103 000 refugees and migrants had arrived in Europe: 54 000 in Italy, 48 000 in Greece, 91 on Malta and 920 in Spain, according to the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), quoted by the UN News Centre.
The latest tally includes about 6000 migrants and refugees who were disembarked in southern Italy last weekend in a major rescue operation coordinated by the Italian Coast Guard and joined by navy ships deployed by Frontex and from Italy, Germany, the UK, Ireland, and Spain.
Record numbers of the refugees are arriving in flimsy rubber dinghies and wooden boats on the Greek island of Lesvos, putting an enormous strain on its services and resources.
Half of about 600 refugees, mainly from Syria, Afghanistan and Iraq, who arrive daily in Greece, now come ashore on Lesvos. Arrivals there have grown from 737 in January to 5000 in April and more than 7200 in May 2015.
Hundreds of refugees leave the island for the Greek mainland every day after being identified, screened and registered.
At present, however, there are about 2200 to 2500 waiting there for registration by the authorities. A screening centre in the village of Moria, a former detention centre for migrants waiting to be deported, is currently housing more than 1000 refugees.
“This is more than twice its official capacity of 410 people. In addition, an education park in Kara Tepe is being used as temporary accommodation for around 1000 refugees,” UNHCR spokesperson Adrian Edwards told a news conference in Geneva, the UN News Centre said.
UNHCR has a permanent presence in the island’s main town, Mytilini, and is working with people at the Moria centre.
UNHCR has been present on Lesvos and other Greek islands since 2011, supporting the authorities’ efforts to improve reception conditions and procedures, providing legal advice to newcomers about the asylum procedure in Greece, as well as their right and responsibilities, and identifying and referring people with specific needs such as unaccompanied children, people with disabilities, the elderly and victims of torture or trauma.
In recent weeks, UNHCR has been distributing sleeping bags and hygiene kits to refugees in greatest need in Lesvos and other Greek islands.
To deal effectively with the challenges posed by the large number of arrivals in Lesvos and other Greek islands, UNHCR is calling for urgent reinforcement of personnel and resources of all the state services and civil society organisations dealing with the reception of refugees.
(Archive photo: Photo: UNHCR/G. Gubaeva)