The UN has previously said it sees no let up in the coming months and that the number of migrants who reach Europe in 2016 could exceed the 2015 figures, especially if relentless violence in Syria persists.
Its director general, William Lacy Swing, said it was not enough to just count the figures. It’s necessary and it’s desirable, ” he said, adding that “migration must be legal, safe and secure for all – both for the migrants themselves and the countries that will become their new home”.
Out of a total of 1,005,504 arrivals to Greece, Bulgaria, Italy, Spain, Malta and Cyprus by December 21, the vast majority – 816,752 – arrived by sea in Greece, IOM said.
Most of the migrants crossed by sea, with more than 800,000 travelling from Turkey to Greece.
Most of the migrants who died, 2,889, were making the sea crossing between north Africa and Italy, while more than 700 died in the Aegean crossing to Greece from Turkey.
– Migration “inevitable” -Afghans made up 20 percent of migrant arrivals in Europe, while seven percent were Iraqis.
Germany and Sweden have been among the most welcoming, and some less-wealthy eastern European countries have erected border fences in an attempt to block the flood of migrants and refugees.
The crisis has not only triggered the rise of anti-EU and anti-immigrant parties across Europe, but has also endangered the bloc’s much-cherished Schengen free-movement zone, as countries begin to impose strict border controls.
However, it said more needed to be done to improve reception facilities, accommodation, registration and to identify those who do and do not qualify for refugee protection.
At the same time, UNHCR continues to call for safe, regular ways for refugees to find safety through more resettlement and humanitarian admission programmes, more flexible visa arrangements, more private sponsorship programmes and other possibilities. Some perished anonymously in shipwrecks that killed hundreds.
“The number of people displaced by war and conflict is the highest seen in Western and Central Europe since the 1990s”, the UNHCR said, referring to the conflicts in the former Yugoslavia that decade. Smaller countries have objected to an European Union plan to evenly distribute the new arrivals, while Germany has presented one of the most generous policies for refugees.
A joint IOM and UNHCR statement said “a more co-ordinated European response is beginning to take shape”.