ABU DHABI, 26th February 2016 (WAM) —- 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 Geneva-based International Organization for Migration, said Friday.
As of 25/2, Greece alone had received some 111,099 arrivals since the beginning of the year, according to IOM estimates.
During the same period, over 418 migrants and refugees have also lost their lives 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, 3,348 arrivals were registered on 24 February. 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.
According to updated data from the Greek authorities 67,415 migrants crossed into Greece in January of which approximately 44 percent were male, 22 percent female and 34 percent 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.
Meanwhile in Italy, 1,085 migrants were rescued at sea in the last 2 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 maximize 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.
Since the beginning of the year, IOM estimates that 8,966 migrants have arrived by sea in Italy. Compared to the same period last year, arrivals in Italy are about 1,000 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 noted.
In Italy, IOM staff are deployed at the main landing points in Sicily, including Lampedusa, Calabria and Apulia. They provide legal assistance to those arriving by sea, monitor reception conditions and support the authorities in the identification of vulnerable groups.