WARSAW: Over half a million migrants have crossed the European Union´s border so far this year, up from 280,000 in 2014, the bloc´s Frontex border agency said Tuesday but warned some people may have been counted twice.
“More than 500,000 migrants were detected at EU borders in the first eight months of this year after a fifth consecutive monthly record was registered in August when 156,000 crossed the EU borders,” a Frontex statement said.
“However, a large number of the persons detected at the Hungarian border with Serbia had already been counted when they arrived in Greece from Turkey a few weeks earlier,” it added, suggesting the number of entries could be lower.
The Greek islands experienced the greatest “number of detections in August at 88,000, an 11-fold rise compared to the same month last year.”
Syrian refugees accounted for nearly 75 percent of the people arriving in Greece from Turkey, Frontex said.
Frontex Executive Director Fabrice Leggeri said that the agency offered Greek authorities “additional staff to help identify and register the new arrivals on Lesbos and Kos” to ease what he described as “intense migratory pressure” on the Greek islands.
Frontex added that “migrants arriving in Turkey speak about increasingly aggressive and cruel smugglers.”
People smugglers “ignore worsening weather conditions and force migrants on overcrowded rubber boats to squeeze a bigger profit out of every trip.
“Since the beginning of the year, 106,000 migrants were rescued in the Central Mediterranean (attempting to reach Italy), six percent fewer than in the same period of last year,” the statement said.
Harrowing pictures of three-year-old Syrian refugee Aylan Kurdi, whose body was found washed up on a Turkish beach after the boat carrying his family to Kos sank, caused an outpouring of emotion around the world, pressuring European leaders to step up their response to the refugee crisis.
But two weeks later EU members are still at odds over how to accommodate the tens of thousands of new arrivals.
Turkish authorities say they have rescued over 42,000 migrants from stricken boats since the beginning of the year.
The route across the Aegean Sea from Turkey to Greece has become the busiest for migrants and refugees trying to reach Europe.