Migrant crisis: Monthly record of 218,000 reach EU by sea

Migrants arriving in Lesbos, Oct 15 Image copyright AP
Image caption The island of Lesbos has seen one of the biggest migrant surges

A monthly record of 218,394 migrants and refugees reached Europe by sea in October, the UN says, almost as many as the total number of arrivals in 2014.

The number reaching Greece was 210,265, and for Italy it was 8,129, according to the UNHCR.

Many are refugees from Syria. At least 70 people have drowned trying to reach Greek islands in the past week.

The bodies of four men were recovered from the Aegean Sea on Monday after their boat sank.

Another seven people were missing off the island of Farmakonisi.

On Sunday, the bodies of 10 people were recovered from a capsized boat a short distance from Samos. Six of the dead were children and another child's body was found on a beach.

This year alone, 3,440 have drowned or have been declared missing while trying to cross the Mediterranean to Europe, the UN agency says. The International Organization for Migration says more than 400 people died while travelling to Greece.

According to the UN, 744,175 have arrived on Europe's shores, the vast majority on Greek islands such as Lesbos and Samos.

Image copyright AFP
Image caption Most migrants and refugees head for the islands of Lesbos and Samos

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Most migrants arrive packed into unseaworthy boats, having paid huge sums to people smugglers.

Rough seas have made the crossing from Turkey perilous, and worsening weather conditions appear to have had no effect on the numbers trying to leave.

Most head north via the Balkans to Germany, hoping to get asylum.

Germany expects at least 800,000 asylum seekers this year - some estimates put it as high as 1.5 million. That is at least four times the number who arrived last year.

Chancellor Angela Merkel has been trying to come to an agreement with her coalition partners on restricting the numbers heading for Germany.

Her Christian Social Union (CSU) ally Horst Seehofer is pushing for transit zones to be set up to process arrivals near the country's borders.

Mrs Merkel's CDU party backs the idea, however Social Democrat leader Sigmar Gabriel is opposed to the zones amid concerns that they might resemble detention camps.

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Media caption'The pace of arrivals has picked up'