Migrants crossing to Europe reach nearly a quarter-million

Published August 14th, 2015 - 04:33 GMT
The International Organization for Migration estimated 239,000 migrants have so far fled to Europe this year. (AFP/File)
The International Organization for Migration estimated 239,000 migrants have so far fled to Europe this year. (AFP/File)

Some 239,000 people fleeing conflict and poverty have crossed the Mediterranean to Europe so far this year, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) said Friday.

The number of arrivals in Southern Europe has now surpassed last year's total of 219,000, the Geneva-based aid organization said.

The vast majority of the boat people have landed in Greece and Italy, while Spain and Malta have seen only small numbers of arrivals since January.

The inflow into Greece has increased dramatically over the past months, creating a humanitarian crisis on overwhelmed Greek islands.

"The world finds itself facing the worst refugee crisis since the Second World War," EU Migration Commissioner Dimitris Avramopoulos said in Brussels, acknowledging that Europe is "struggling to deal with the high influxes of people seeking refuge within our borders."

On Thursday, the commissioner met with several ministers in his native Greece to discuss the migrant crisis there, which he called "particularly urgent."

The commission - the European Union's executive - has pledged 474 million euros (528 million dollars) until 2020 to help Greece deal with the influx.

Athens is also expected to trigger the EU's civil protection mechanism, which would enable the supply of immediate humanitarian help, Avramopoulos said.

However, the commissioner pointed out that Greece is not alone in facing an acute migration crisis. While 50,000 people reached Greece in July, Hungary has also emerged as one of the most affected countries, with 35,000 arrivals in the same period.

Budapest requested 8 million euros in emergency assistance on Thursday, which the commission would consider without delay, Avramopoulos said.

At the same time, he criticized Hungary for building a border fence and said the commission "encourages member states to use alternative measures."

IOM said 92,000 of those who have crossed the sea to Europe this year were Syrian refugees, followed by Afghans, Eritreans, Nigerians and Somalis.

By Albert Otti and Helen Maguire

© 2022 dpa GmbH

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