Migrants, refugees crossing Med to Europe at vastly higher rate than in 2015 – IOM

Migrant and refugee arrivals in Greece and Italy have exceeded 120 000 in 2016, having reached the 100 000 milestone earlier this week, almost four months earlier than in 2015, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) said on February 26.

As of February 25, Greece alone had received about 111 099 arrivals since the beginning of 2016, according to IOM estimates.

During the same period, more than 418 migrants and refugees had died trying to cross the Mediterranean, with the Eastern Mediterranean route between Turkey and Greece continuing to be the deadliest, accounting for 321 migrant deaths. During the same period in 2015, 428 migrants died in the first two months of the year.

According to IOM Greece, 3348 arrivals were registered on February 24. These are not the actual daily arrivals, but the number of migrants who have officially been recorded by the Greek authorities after their arrival. This procedure can take a few days, IOM said.

According to updated data from the Greek authorities, a total of 67 415 migrants crossed into Greece in January of which about 44 per cent were men, 22 per cent female and 34 per cent children.

The main departure country was Turkey and the main landing points were the Greek islands of Lesbos, Kos, Samos, Rhodes, Kalymnos, Megisti, Leros and Chios.

IOM Greece staff are present in the islands of Crete, Samos, Kos and Lesbos, working closely with the authorities to identify vulnerable migrants, including unaccompanied minors, the elderly, migrants with medical needs, and families with children. Vulnerable groups are referred to the authorities to be given the necessary care, the organisation said.

Meanwhile in Italy, 1085 migrants were rescued at sea in the past two days and brought to Pozzallo (531) and Augusta (554). Rescuers also brought five bodies to Augusta – three women and two men from Sub-Saharan Africa – who died during the journey.

“The news of these five deaths is deeply concerning. These migrants probably asphyxiated because of the overcrowding on board. Overloading the boats is a common practice by smugglers who promise safe passage to destitute migrants but want to maximise their profits. It is well known that overcrowding on the boats is common and deadly,” said Federico Soda, director of the IOM Coordination Office for the Mediterranean in Rome.

IOM estimates that since the beginning of 2016, a total of 8966 migrants have arrived by sea in Italy. Compared to the same period last year, arrivals in Italy are about 1000 higher.

“This increase is important because it consists almost entirely of migrants originating from Sub-Saharan Africa, in particular Nigeria, Gambia and Mali. We are also seeing an increase in the number of migrants coming from Morocco (483 in January 2016 compared to 93 in January 2015). Moroccan nationals are reaching Libya via Algeria and sometimes Tunisia. On the other hand, there has been a sharp drop in the number of Syrians using the Central Mediterranean route,” Soda said.



The Sofia Globe staff

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