Over a million migrants and refugees have reached Europe this year, says IOM

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Source: The Guardian

More than a million people have now reached Europe through irregular means in 2015, the International Organisation for Migration has announced, in what constitutes the continent’s biggest wave of mass migration since the aftermath of the second world war.

Out of a total of 1,005,504 arrivals by 21 December, the vast majority – 816,752 – arrived by sea in Greece, the IOM said. A further 150,317 arrived by sea in Italy, with much smaller figures for Spain, Malta and Cyprus. A total of 34,215 crossed by land routes, such as over the Turkish-Bulgarian border.

The overall figure is a four-fold increase from 2014’s figures, and has largely been driven by Syrians fleeing their country’s civil war. Afghans, Iraqis and Eritreans fleeing conflict and repression are the other significant national groups.

The European migration flow is nevertheless far more manageable than in the Middle East, where roughly 2.2 million Syrian refugees live in Turkey alone. In Lebanon, 1.1 million Syrians form about one-fifth of the country’s total population, while Jordan’s 633,000 registered Syrian refugees make up around a tenth of the total.

The denial of basic rights to refugees in those countries, where almost all Syrians do not have the right to work, is one of the causes of Europe’s migration crisis. Refugees who have lived for several years in legal limbo are now coming to Europe to claim the rights bestowed on them by the 1951 UN refugee convention.

“In Jordan, life is so difficult,” said Nemer, a 24-year-old Syrian student, minutes after landing this week on the Greek island of Lesbos. “There’s no [legal] work. I can’t go to university. There’s no hope. And in Turkey it’s the same thing: no work and no hope.”

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