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Migrant arrivals in Europe set to hit one million mark

Published 18/12/2015

Refugees and migrants arrive on the Greek island of Lesbos after being rescued from the Aegean (AP)
Refugees and migrants arrive on the Greek island of Lesbos after being rescued from the Aegean (AP)

Refugee and migrant arrivals by sea and land into Europe this year are expected to top the one million mark next week, according to the International Organisation for Migration.

The Geneva-based agency said 990,761 people have arrived from Africa or the Middle East, with more than 800,000 crossing from Turkey to Greece alone. More than half of those - about 455,000 - were Syrians.

The IOM estimates the one million mark will be reached by Tuesday, more than four times the total of 240,000 crossings by land and sea into Europe last year.

The agency said daily arrivals continue in the thousands despite "ever colder temperatures and dangerous sea conditions".

The report came as Turkey's state-run news agency said four Iraqi migrants - two of them children - had drowned after a boat taking them to Greece sank off the Turkish coast.

Anadolu Agency said the boat was taking eight Iraqi migrants to the Greek island of Kos when it sank shortly after leaving the Turkish resort of Bodrum.

Turkish coastguards rescued the four other migrants.

Anadolu said authorities detained a Turkish man suspected of organising the journey.

UN secretary-general Ban Ki-moon called on the world to urgently tackle the global migration crisis by creating a "new global compact on human mobility".

In a statement for International Migrants Day he said 2015 had been marked by worrying developments in which "millions have been made into scapegoats and become the targets of xenophobic policies and alarmist rhetoric".

Mr Ban said more than 5,000 people have died this year while trying to flee to safer places, and "tens of thousands" have been exploited by human traffickers.

He called for countries to "expand safe channels for regular migration", including for family reunification, and better employment and education opportunities.

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