As many as 600,000 migrants could enter Europe from Turkey during the four months to the end of February 2016 alone, a report by the United Nation’s refugee agency has found. The flow of migrants north into Europe had been predicted to slow as winter set in, but instead new records are being set.
In a “winterisation” plan laid out by the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) for dealing with Europe’s migrant crisis over winter, officials have predicted that as many as 5,000 migrants from the Middle East may travel from Turkey into Europe every day.
That equates to some 600,000 migrants moving north between the beginning of November 2015 and the end of February 2016. That represents a huge increase in the migrant flow, as the first ten months of 2015 saw a total of 850,000 migrants arriving in Europe by sea.
If the rate is sustained, some 1,800,000 more migrants could be expected to arrive in Europe next year.
Discussing the publication of the plan earlier this month, UNHCR Spokesman William Spindler told Reuters: “We need to prepare for the possibility of up to 5,000 to continue arriving every day from now until February of next year. If that is the case, we are looking at another 600,000 refugees and migrants arriving in Europe between November this year and February next year.”
The UNCHR has warned in its plan that the comparatively harsher conditions which winter brings could spell more deaths along the migrant route, CNS News has reported.
“Several months after the beginning of the crisis, the numbers of people moving along the eastern Mediterranean-western Balkans route in search of safety and protection in Europe continue to grow,” the plan reads.
“Despite the onset of winter, it is not anticipated that these movements will decrease. For those continuing to arrive in Europe, progressively harsh wet and cold winter conditions will only exacerbate the already existing hardships, and may result in further loss of life if measures are not taken urgently.”
Earlier this month the UN agency reported that the number of migrants entering Europe by sea in October this year was equal to the total for the whole of 2014, when approximately 219,000 new arrivals were recorded.
UNHCR spokesman Adrian Edwards said the figure “shows the just astonishing amount of arrivals in just a few days during the course of the month. The month peaked at 10,006 [arrivals in Greece alone] on a single day, on October 20.”
In a written testimony to the House Foreign Affairs committee, Victoria Nuland, Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs noted “On Greece’s smaller islands, there have been occasions when the number of daily arrivals has exceeded the number of registered permanent residents.”