Migrant crisis: One million enter Europe in 2015

  • 22 December 2015
  • From the section Europe
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Migrants wait to board a ferry for Athens in the port of Mitilini, on the Greek island of Lesbos, 3 December 2015 Image copyright EPA
Image caption Migrants and refugees continue to arrive through Greek islands like Lesbos, from where they are moved by ferry to Athens

The number of migrants and refugees crossing into Europe by land and sea this year illegally has passed one million, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) says.

This represents a fourfold rise on the total last year.

Most crossed by sea, with more than 800,000 travelling from Turkey to Greece. Half are migrants from Syria.

Eleven more migrants drowned on Tuesday, adding to the IOM toll of 3,695 dying or missing at sea.

Seven people were rescued by Turkish coast guards after the craft went down, apparently en route from Kusadasi in Turkey to the Greek island of Samos. One report said the dead were Syrians.

Migrant crisis in graphics

Shelter or despair in Athens

Desperate journeys

Media captionFrontex - EU's border force explained

The huge influx of migrants has caused significant political rifts within the EU, with some states inside the border-free Schengen area putting up fences and reimposing frontier controls.

Hungary and Slovakia are taking legal action at the European Court of Justice to challenge EU plans to share asylum seekers across EU states.

Meanwhile, many migrants and refugees are pressing to be allowed to settle in richer northern countries like Germany and Sweden.

'We must act'

Migration passed the symbolic milestone on Monday, the IOM said, with the total for land and sea reaching more than 1,006,000.

Media captionThe BBC's Jenny Hill reports on how some refugees in Germany are being given apprenticeships

  • 972,500 people have arrived by sea
  • 34,000 people have crossed from Turkey into Bulgaria and Greece by land
  • 942,400 new asylum claims in the EU Jan-Nov 2015, rising to more than 1 million when Norway and Switzerland are included (Source: Eurostat monthly figures)
  • More than 1 million registrations in Germany's "EASY" system which counts new arrivals ahead of them claiming asylum. This includes a large number (approx 40%) of people from the Balkans not included in UNHCR figures

Entries via six EU nations - Greece, Bulgaria, Italy, Spain, Malta and Cyprus - are covered in the report.

It found among other things that

  • Half of the refugees crossing the Mediterranean were from Syria, 20% were from Afghanistan and 7% from Iraq
  • Most of the migrants who died - 2,889 - were making the sea crossing between North Africa and Italy, while more than 700 died in the Aegean crossing to Greece from Turkey
  • Only 3.5% of migrants made a land journey to Greece or Bulgaria via Turkey
Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Germany is the main destination for the migrants
Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Germany registered at least 1 million asylum seekers this year, both from outside and inside Europe

The IOM gathers its statistics from registrations, law enforcement agencies and its own monitors.

Its director general, William Lacy Swing, said it was not enough to just count the figures.

"We must also act," he said. "Migration must be legal, safe and secure for all - both for the migrants themselves and the countries that will become their new home."

A joint IOM and UNHCR statement said found a "more co-ordinated European response" was beginning to take shape.

However, it said more needed to be done to improve reception facilities, accommodation and registration, and to identify those who do and do not qualify for refugee protection.

Save the Children campaigns director Kirsty McNeill said: "This is the test of our European ideal. When children are dying on our doorstep we need to take bolder action. There can be no bigger priority."

Frontex boost

Image copyright AP
Image caption Some European nations, including Macedonia, are tightening borders

The EU last week agreed to increase the numbers of Frontex border agency staff in Greece, a key arrival point.

Germany alone has received a million refugees and migrants this year, although many were already within Europe, particularly in the Balkans.

Macedonia is now refusing to allow anyone through its Greek border who does not come from a war zone.

A UN report also last week warned that the number of forcibly displaced people worldwide would "far surpass" 60 million this year.

A note on terminology: The BBC uses the term migrant to refer to all people on the move who have yet to complete the legal process of claiming asylum. This group includes people fleeing war-torn countries such as Syria, who are likely to be granted refugee status, as well as people who are seeking jobs and better lives, who governments are likely to rule are economic migrants.