More than half a million refugees and migrants have arrived in Greece this year so far, said the UN refugee agency on Tuesday, warning of the possible failure of the relocation program as reception centers run the risk of becoming saturated.
“In Greece, the number of sea arrivals this year has now passed the half-million mark with the arrival yesterday on the Aegean islands of nearly 8,000 people, bringing the total to some 502,500,” UNHCR spokeswoman Melissa Fleming said in a press conference in Geneva.
Meanwhile, the EU border agency Frontex had reported that more than 700,000 migrants had entered the European Union in the first nine months of the year, with many traveling through Turkey, which is currently hosting more than 2 million Syrian refugees.
The spike in arrivals in Greece is sharply increasing the pressure on reception centers on the islands, Fleming said.
The relocation program ‘may fail’
“It is of utmost importance here, as in other parts of Europe, that reception conditions be adequate to the task. Without this essential element, the relocation program agreed by Europe in September is in serious peril and may fail,” Fleming warned.
The European Parliament had agreed on September 17 to an emergency relocation plan for 120,000 refugees.
According to UNHCR, the total number of arrivals in 2015 so far in Europe via the Mediterranean is now over 643,000.
Noting deteriorating weather conditions, International Organization for Migration (IOM) spokesman Joel Millman said at least 25 migrants died in the Aegean Sea this week. In total, 291 refugees died this year so far while trying to reach Greece from Turkey.
New figures revealed that at least 3,138 refugees, including the 291 in the Aegean Sea, had died crossing the Mediterranean Sea so far this year.
Meanwhile, 651,132 refugees arrived in Europe so far this year.
The largest national group comes from Syria, embroiled in a civil war.