WASHINGTON - The International Organization for Migration (IOM) said the number of refugees and migrants arriving in Europe by sea and land this year is expected to top the 1 million mark next week.
The Geneva-based agency said in a statement Friday, marked as International Migrants Day, that 990,761 people have arrived from Africa and the Middle East.
About 800,000 people have crossed from Turkey to Greece; among them, more than half — about 455,000 — are Syrian.
IOM spokesman Joel Millman said about 4,300 people arrived Wednesday from the Turkish coast to nearby Greek islands, and the organization estimates the 1-million mark will be reached by Tuesday.
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?"IOM estimates that the million person mark will pass. This is almost five times last year's level, which is extraordinary," said Millman.
"We also want to point out that these very high flows for December are proving to be what we feared: very lethal. Particularly in the Eastern Mediterranean, where we counted 760 deaths so far this year, that is 421 since October 16, so two months ago, an average of seven [deaths] a day," he said.
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?IOM said daily arrivals continue in the thousands despite colder temperatures and dangerous sea conditions.
“2015 will be remembered as a year of human suffering and migrant tragedies," IOM said. In the past 12 months, “over 5,000 women, men and children lost their lives in search of protection and a better life.”
On International Migrants Day, IOM called for a coherent, comprehensive and human-rights based commitment “guided by international law and standards and a shared resolve to leave no one behind.”
Meanwhile, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry reaffirmed the responsibility and commitment of the United States “to help other human beings who make great sacrifices and take great risks to face the unknown” in search of a better, safe and dignified life. “All countries should help — not just the ones next door,” Kerry said in a statement Friday.
“Whether they are escaping war or poverty or seeking opportunity, migrants’ quests can benefit everyone,” Kerry said, “from families back home that depend on their earnings, to employers abroad who need their energy and skill.” he added.
The flow of people is Europe's biggest migration crisis since World War II.