It is virtually certain that the total number of arrivals of migrants and refugees in Europe by land and sea will pass the million mark by the end of 2015, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) said on December 18.
IOM said that as of December 18, a total of 990 671 migrants and refugees have entered Europe in 2015 from Africa and the Middle East by a combination of irregular land and sea routes.
Analysts noted that land crossings into Greece and Bulgaria from Turkey now total fewer than 35 000 – or less than per cent per cent of the year’s total irregular arrivals, IOM said. It latest update recorded the number of migrant and refugee arrivals in Bulgaria so far in 2015 as 29 959.
“With about two weeks remaining on the calendar, it is virtually certain 2015’s total will surpass the one million mark, which would be nearly five times 2014’s total,” IOM said.
IOM said that it was very concerned about the high number of sea fatalities likely to accompany this continuing flow of migrants and refugees.
Thus far in the month of December, 35 migrants – among them over a dozen minors – have drowned in the waters off Greece. The December 18 count brings to more than 700 the number of fatalities off Greece or Turkey in 2015.
By comparison, IOM’s Missing Migrants project (www.mmp.iom.int) reported there had been a total of 264 deaths off Greece through October 16. So the 706 deaths reported in the Aegean up to December 16 means there have been more than 420 drownings in just more than 60 days, an average of seven a day.
“We should add that 706 deaths of migrants and refugees crossing from Turkey to Greece are more fatalities than occurred in the entire Mediterranean in all of 2013, the year this emergency began to attract international attention,” IOM said.
Despite ever colder temperatures and dangerous sea conditions daily arrivals to Greece’s Aegean islands continue to run in the thousands. A remarkably high number of migrant flows have been recorded on Greek islands, the organisation said.
In 2015, just more than 800 000 migrants and refugees arrived in Greece by sea up to December 16.
During December alone, about 57 000 migrants arrived and about 45 000 (80 per cent) left by crossing the border into the Republic of Macedonia.
With many migrants now being turned back at the Macedonian border, IOM Greece is expanding its outreach to growing numbers of migrants now stranded in Greek government reception centres in Athens. It offers them free assisted voluntary return to their countries of origin, IOM said.