Record 137,000 migrants cross Mediterranean in 2015

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Afghan refugees wade ashore in Mytilini, on the Greek island of Lesvos. Photo: UNHCR/Jowan Akkash

A record number of people have crossed the Mediterranean Sea into Europe since the start of 2015, the UN refugee agency said Wednesday, with conflict the main push factor.

According to UNHCR, from January to June, 137,000 refugees and migrants made the journey.

That's over 80 per cent more than for the same six-month period last year.

Deaths at sea also reached unprecedented levels with more than 1,300 refugees and migrants drowned or missing in April.

Daniel Johnson has more.

The findings from the UN refugee agency show that the bulk of the record 137,000 people who arrived by sea in Italy or Greece were fleeing war, conflict or persecution.

That makes the issue a primarily refugee crisis, according to UNHCR.

In a new development, the UN report shows that the eastern Mediterranean route from Turkey into Greece now delivers more people than the central Mediterranean route, from north Africa to Italy.

A third of the arrivals were from Syria, followed by Afghanistan and Eritrea.

Another record was also broken in the first six months of the year for deaths at sea.

Between January and March, 479 refugees and migrants drowned or went missing, compared to 15 in the same period in 2014.

And in April a succession of wrecks left an unprecedented 1,308 people drowned or missing; the number over the same month in 2014 was 42.

Deaths at sea have now fallen in line with increased surveillance, but UN High Commissioner for Refugees Antonio Guterres said the "risks remain very real" for the thousands of refugees and migrants who continue to cross the Mediterranean every week.

Daniel Johnson, United Nations, Geneva

Duration: 1’09″

 

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