GENEVA, Nov 2 – The number of migrants and refugees entering Europe by sea last month was roughly the same as for the whole of 2014, United Nations refugee agency UNHCR said on Monday.
The monthly record of 218,394 also outstripped September’s 172,843, UNHCR spokesman Adrian Edwards said.
“That makes it the highest total for any month to date and roughly the same as the entire total for 2014,” he said. The UNHCR puts 2014 arrivals by sea at about 219,000.
“It also 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 Oct. 20.”
The vast majority of refugees and migrants to Europe have travelled via Turkey to Greece, a switch from the previously more popular African route via Libya to Italy.
The top nationality are Syrian, accounting for 53 percent of arrivals, as a result of the civil war that has driven hundreds of thousands from their homes.
Afghans come second, making up 18 percent of the total.
The flow of refugees into Europe, however, is still dwarfed by the numbers in Syria’s neighbours. Turkey, Lebanon and Jordan have Syrian refugee numbers exceeding 2 million, 1 million and 600,000 respectively.
UNHCR said in October that it was planning for up to 700,000 refugees in Europe this year and a similar or greater number in 2016.
But that plan has already been eclipsed, with 744,000 arriving so far. Some 3,440 are estimated to have died or gone missing in the attempt to escape to Europe.
Migration experts had expected the number of people making the hazardous journey by sea to dwindle as winter approached, but the boats have continued to arrive.
The Greek coastguard said on Monday that four refugees drowned and another six were missing off the Greek island of Farmakonisi after their boat sank.
Four people were rescued. Eleven people, including six infants, drowned on Sunday when their boat capsized off the island of Samos, trapping them in the cabin.
(Reporting by Tom Miles; editing by Jeremy Gaunt)