Number of migrants hit new record in 2015
Dec 18, Athens: Almost a million people have crossed the Mediterranean escaping conflict in Syria and elsewhere in 2015. The number of people fleeing war and violence in the current fiscal year is likely to break all previous records, the UN Refugee Agency has said.
A report release by UNHCR on Friday said that the global refugee total, which a year ago was 19.5 million, had as of mid-2015 passed the 20 million thresholds for the first time since 1992.
According to UNHCR, unprecedented numbers of refugees travelled to Europe this year. Some 84 percent came to Europe from Syria, Afghanistan, Eritrea, Somalia, and Iraq.
Asylum applications, meanwhile, were up 78 percent at 993,600 over the same period in 2014.
High Commissioner for Refugees António Guterres said that, "Forced displacement is now profoundly affecting our times. It touches the lives of millions of our fellow human beings - both those forced to flee and those who provide them with shelter and protection."
The report came as rights groups, charities and global organisations marked International Migrants Day by remembering the thousands of refugees and migrants who have died during perilous journeys this year.
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon in his message said: "2015 will be remembered as a year of human suffering and migrant tragedies." He added that in total, more than 5,000 women, men and children had lost their lives this year "in search of protection and a better life".
By mid-November, more than 800,000 refugees had reached Italy and Greece, with smaller numbers arriving in Spain and Malta, according to Human Rights Watch (HRW).
At least 3,695 people were reported to have died or gone missing in the Mediterranean from January 1 to December 18, 2015, according to the International Organisation of Migrants (IOM).
The Oslo Times