John Stevens, Daily Mail, February 1, 2016
The number of migrants arriving in Greece was nearly 35 times higher last month than at the same point last year.
In a sign that the crisis is not easing, figures from the UN’s refugee agency show that 58,547 entered Europe via Greece in January, compared with 1,694 a year ago.
Despite the colder weather, an average of nearly 2,000 a day landed on the Greek islands from Turkey last month.
More than 5,000 were recorded on one single day, January 9. The total arrivals in Greece since the start of January last year have now reached 915,270.
Greek police statistics show that more than a third–35 per cent–of those who arrived last month were children, although there have been reports that some lie about their age. Forty-four per cent were men and 21 per cent women.
The International Organisation for Migration has warned that the number of deaths on the route from Turkey to Greece is ‘increasing at an alarming rate’, with 218 people drowned in the first four weeks of 2016, four times the deaths between January and mid-August 2015.
Across the Mediterranean, 344 people have now been reported dead or missing this year. UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) combined statistics for the region, including Greece, Italy and Spain, show there have been 62,397 arrivals in Europe by sea since January 1.
Fifty-eight per cent were Syrian, a fifth from Afghanistan and 9 per cent from Iraq. In November, EU leaders pledged 3billion euros (£2.1billion) in aid to Turkey in return for it helping to stem the numbers, but so far there has been little sign of change. Officials in Ankara are reportedly now demanding a further 2billion euros.
On Saturday 37 people, including babies and children, drowned off the Turkish coast while trying to reach the Greek island of Lesbos. Gulcan Durdu and her husband rushed to help after they were woken by screams as the boat hit rocks. They took a boy to their home to warm him but he died in her arms. ‘I will never stop hearing those cries for the rest of my life,’ she said.
Greece has been warned that unless it improves border security it could be kicked out of the EU’s passport-free Schengen Area.
Last week the European Commission approved a plan to send border guards from EU member states to Macedonia to stop Greece simply waving through refugees.
Other migrants are attempting to enter the EU via Turkey’s land border with Bulgaria. Two bodies were found along the route between Bulgaria and Serbia last week, where an extreme cold spell has seen temperatures drop to -21C (-5.8F).
The two men, both lightly dressed and in separate locations, are believed to have frozen to death. Aid agencies are warning that many migrants are suffering from illness.
Authorities have lost track of around 10,000 unaccompanied children over the past 18 months, amid fears that organised crime gangs are beginning to exploit the vulnerable youngsters. Brian Donald, chief of staff of the EU police agency Europol, said the figure ‘would be a conservative estimate’.
The migrant crisis has cost German taxpayers £38billion so far, the German Economic Institute estimates. Angela Merkel’s government is reported to be planning tax rises to meet the growing bill to feed, house and educate the one million-plus arrivals.
Young migrants have been filmed assaulting two German pensioners who challenged them as they harassed young women on a Munich subway train. A video recorded on a mobile phone shows the men–of Eastern European or Arabic origin–grappling with the pensioners.
The incident comes after a series of sexual assaults on women in Cologne by gangs of migrants.