Nearly One Million Migrants Have Fled to Europe This Year

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Refugees and migrants waiting for buses near Athens.Photo: LOUISA GOULIAMAKI

More than 990,000 migrants and refugees have traveled to Europe via land and sea in 2015, according to the International Organization for Migration, which also concludes that the number will almost certainly surpass one million in the final two weeks of the year, which would make this year’s total nearly five times what it was in 2014. Last month, the UNHCR refugee agency said they expected as many as 5,000 people to arrive in Europe per day through February, though inclement weather has likely reduced that number. The vast majority of Europe’s new migrants — more than 950,000 — have arrived via sea. The UNHCR has also concluded that as of just midsummer, the global-refugee total had already surpassed 20 million people for the first time since 1992.

The UN estimates that more than 5,000 men, women, and children have died during their attempted migrations this year, including roughly 3,700 who have been lost at sea. That total now includes another 18 people who drowned off the Turkish coast on Friday when a wooden boat filled with Iraqi and Syrian refugees overturned on its way to Greece. More than 781,000 people chose this same Aegean Sea route to Europe this year, according to the IOM, and the majority have been refugees from the war zones in Syria, Iraq, and Afghanistan.

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A protester hangs Christmas ornaments on a razor-wire fence at the Slovenia border.Photo: STRINGER

In addition, last week the New Scientist pointed out that beyond the human toll, European wildlife has been severely impacted by the hastily constructed border fences erected by Balkans countries in an attempt to stem the flow of migrants. The natural migration routes and feeding territories of wolves, bears, deer, and an endangered species of lynx have been disrupted by the barriers, and some dead animals have been found trapped in the barbed-and-razor-wire fences as well. The government of Croatia has now filed a letter to the European Commission indicating that the border fence in neighboring Slovenia violates an E.U. conservation law, though previous efforts to block new border-fence construction along ecological grounds have failed.