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Although windy autumn weather affected sea crossings from Turkey over the past few days, refugee arrivals in Greece continue to climb and are expected to reach the 400,000 mark shortly. Greece remains by far the largest single entry point for new sea arrivals in the Mediterranean, followed by Italy with 131,000 arrivals so far in 2015.
With the new figures from Greece, the total number of refugees crossing the Mediterranean this year stands now close to the 530,000 mark. In September, 168,000 people crossed the Mediterranean, the highest monthly figure ever recorded and almost five times the number in September 2014.
The continuing high rate of arrivals underlines the need for a fast implementation of Europe’s relocation programme, jointly with the establishment of robust facilities to receive, assist, register and screen all people arriving by sea. These are the steps needed for stabilising the crisis.
The current cooler, windy weather has made the crossing from Turkey to Greece even more perilous. On Thursday, there were at least two rescue operations in waters off Lesvos. On Wednesday, there were four separate rescue operations on Lesvos in which 283 people were recovered. Unfortunately, a woman and a young boy died, bringing the total toll of dead and missing in Greek waters this year to at least 102. In all, nearly 3,000 people have died or gone missing this year crossing the Mediterranean Sea.
The pace and scale of the movement into Greece continues to put enormous pressure on the government and many communities.
UNHCR (The UN Refugee Agency) is concerned that the lack of reception capacity in Greece could seriously jeopardise the relocation programme agreed upon by the European Council, as eligible refugees have nowhere to stay while awaiting relocation.
For its part, UNHCR are working with local authorities, NGOs and the central government to improve the response.
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