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218,394 migrants reached EU by sea last month in record tally

Published 02/11/2015

An Iraqi man prays at the port of Mytilene on the island of Lesbos, Greece (AP)
An Iraqi man prays at the port of Mytilene on the island of Lesbos, Greece (AP)

The UN refugee agency has said more than 218,000 migrants crossed the Mediterranean in October - a record monthly tally this year and almost as many as in all of 2014.

The UNHCR said 210,265 people crossed the sea from Turkey to Greece alone last month and another 8,129 went from north Africa to Italy through October 29.

The agency estimates that about 219,000 migrants and refugees made those crossings last year.

Spokesman Adrian Edwards called the October figure "beyond anything that could have been expected even a few months ago".

European Union pledges to relocate about 160,000 refugees - less than three-fourths of the October influx - shows the response is still far short of needs.

UNHCR estimates that more than 600,000 people crossed the Mediterranean this year.

Earlier, the mayor of the Greek island of Lesbos said there is no more room to bury the rising number of asylum-seekers killed in shipwrecks of smuggling boats.

Mayor Spyros Galinos told Greece's Vima FM radio there were more than 50 bodies in the morgue on his eastern Aegean island that he was still trying to find a burial location for.

Mr Galinos said he was trying to fast-track procedures so a field next to the main cemetery could be taken over for burials.

Hundreds of thousands of people have made the short but dangerous crossing from Turkey to Greek islands this year.

With rougher fall weather coming on, the bodies of 19 people were recovered from the Aegean in three separate incidents on Sunday alone.

Greek authorities have increased to 43 the number of deaths from last week's sinking of an overloaded wooden boat carrying more than 300 refugees and economic migrants from Turkey to the Greek island of Lesbos.

The coast guard said Monday that rescuers have so far recovered the bodies of 20 children, 17 men and six women who drowned after the battered vessel capsized off the eastern Aegean Sea island in rough seas on October 28.

A total of 274 people survived the accident, which was the worst in Greek waters during the mass refugee influx following the war in Syria.

At least 90 people have drowned in the Aegean Sea over the past five days, while thousands have crossed to the Greek islands on frail, unseaworthy craft provided by smuggling gangs.

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