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Some 150,000 Migrants Have Reached Europe This Year — 1,900 Have Not

Almost all the migrants are bound for Italy and Greece, the International Organization for Migration reported on Friday. And according to the UN Refugee Agency, an average of 1,000 people are arriving on the Greek islands everyday.

by Natalie Alcoba
Jul 10 2015, 11:15pm

Imagen por Stratis Mpalaskas/EPA

This past Monday, the remains of five migrants were discovered in the waters off the coast of Tunisia.

A day later, four more — or perhaps five — lost their lives, and at least 15 others were reported missing, after a boat carrying 40 refugees capsized between Turkey and the sparsely populated Greek islands of Farmakonisi and Agathonisi.

On Thursday, another four bodies were discovered off Tunisia; at least 12 would later perish off the Libyan coast at the bottom of a rubber dinghy, authorities said.

This grim tally provides a snapshot of the risks taken by a wave of humanity fleeing the clutches of war and poverty to face a perilous journey over water and into Europe.

So far this year, 1,900 migrants have died in the Mediterranean — twice the number that didn't make it to their destination over the same period in 2014, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) reported on Friday.

For every tragic death, scores more survive the gamble: IOM estimated that some 150,000 migrants have reached Europe by sea to date this year, almost all bound for Italy and Greece.

On average, 1,000 refugees are now arriving on the Greek islands every day, according to the UN Refugee Agency, with more than 77,000 touching land in 2015. That's a dramatic influx for a small country in the midst of an economic crisis, the IOM said.

"An urgent response from Europe is needed before the situation deteriorates further," UNHCR spokesperson William Spindler said at a press briefing in Geneva on Friday.

Syrians are now overwhelmingly choosing Greece over Italy as their preferred destination, and using an eastern Mediterranean route through Turkey and Greece to get there.

More than 60 percent of the Greece-bound refugees hail from Syria, with others traveling from Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq, and Somalia, according to the IOM. Eritreans make up the biggest group of migrants to Italy, at more than 18,000 so far this year, while Nigerians, Somalians and Syrians are also arriving in droves. A total of 170,000 migrants arrived in Italy by sea in all of 2014, IOM reported, and 34,400 landed in Greece. 

Some of those who make it have to thank the efforts of Italian, Greek and Turkish coast guards, along with European Union vessels deployed in the region. Just this week, Italian vessels managed to save 393 migrants crowded onto four dinghies about 40 miles north of Libya, including one that was partially submerged with the remains of the aforementioned 12, authorities said. 

Federico Soda, a Rome-based official with IOM, noted that while the number of migrants arriving in Europe is "substantial", it should not be described as "an invasion".

"Lebanon, a country of 4 million people, is hosting 1.5 million Syrian refugees and Turkey is hosting about 2 million," he said in a press release. 

Related: Migrants Suffer as Greek Islands Buckle Under Dual Crisis