UN says 218,000 refugees crossed Mediterranean in October

Record 218,000 refugees crossed Mediterranean in October, nearly matching same number as in whole of 2014

Photo by: Reuters
Photo by: Reuters

Refugees, most of them Syrians, struggle to leave a half-sunken catamaran carrying around 150 refugees as it arrives on the Greek island of Lesbos, after crossing part of the Aegean Sea from Turkey on October 30, 2015.

The United Nations said on Monday that more than 218,000 refugees crossed the Mediterranean into Europe in October, nearly matching the same number as in the whole of 2014.

"Last month was a record month for arrivals," UN refugee agency spokesman Adrian Edwards told Agence France Presse, adding that "arrivals in October parallelled the entire 2014."

Over 218,000 people made the perilious journeys by unsafe boats in October, while 210,000 of them arrived in Greece. The UN figures showed that 219,000 people crossed the sea during all of last year.

The arrivals in October brought the number of people who made the journey so far this year to over 744,000.

The October figures indicate that although conditions have worsened due to the harsh winter days, refugees from Syria and other troublesome countries continue to flow west on unsafe boats, fearing that Europe will close its borders.

Ninety-four percent of more than 600,000 refugees who crossed into Greece since the beginning of the year come from the world’s top 10 refugee-producing countries.

A refugee hands over a toddler to a volunteer lifeguard as a half-sunken catamaran carrying around 150 refugees, most of them Syrians, arrives after crossing part of the Aegean Sea from Turkey on the Greek island of Lesbos on October 30, 2015 (Reuters)

Over 3,300 people have lost their lives or gone missing trying to reach Europe’s shores across the Mediterranean so far this year.

About 20 percent of the refugees who arrived in Europe were children, according to UNHCR numbers released last week.

The number of deaths do not include the latest incident that occured in Greece on Sunday. At least 15 refugees, including six children, drowned in the Aegean Sea when their boat capsized off the Greek island of Samos on Sunday morning.

Most of the deaths in the Mediterranean so far this year have taken place on the more dangerous route to Italy but the death toll on the route from Turkey to Greece has been mounting as greater numbers of people are attempting the far shorter crossing in the Aegean.

Including the latest incidents, the number of refugee deaths in Greece’s waters reached 80 in October, many of them children, AFP reported.

This is the worst refugee crisis since World War II, according to the International Organization for Migration.

TRTWorld and agencies