GENEVA, 16 March 2016 (UNHCR)* – The UN Refugee Agency said today that more than one million people, mostly refugees from Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan, have now crossed into Greece since the start of 2015.
UNHCR called the milestone an urgent reminder of the need for a more coordinated approach to managing the influx and protecting people who are fleeing war and persecution.
The agency has repeatedly appealed to European governments, and the European Union, for strong leadership and a vision to address what Filippo Grandi, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, said was “as much a crisis of European solidarity as it is a refugee crisis.”
UNHCR said latest figures showed that up to March 14 more than 143,634 people had travelled to Greece from Turkey this year, taking the total of land and sea arrivals into Greece since January 1, 2015 to 1,000,357.
So far 448 people have drowned or gone missing trying to reach safety in Europe this year compared to a total of 3,771 for last year. For more information, click here.
UNHCR previously reported that more than one million people reached Europe overall last year, but that figure included arrivals across the central Mediterranean route from Libya to Italy.
The new figures showed women and children now make up nearly 60 per cent of sea arrivals, compared to less than 30 per cent in June 2015.
Although the Greek authorities and military have ramped up their response, thousands are sleeping in the open without adequate reception, services, aid or information.
The latest figures came as UNHCR Special Envoy Angelina Jolie Pitt was visiting Greece today on behalf of UN. The Special Envoy’s mission will concentrate on the humanitarian situation of thousands of refugee families in Greece. For more information, click here.
Jolie Pitt yesterday (March 15) called on world governments to show leadership in addressing the Syrian and wider global refugee crisis, during a visit to Lebanon’s Bekaa Valley to mark the fifth anniversary of the start of the Syria conflict.
The five-year conflict has fuelled the worst humanitarian crisis of our time, with 4.8 million Syrians forced to seek refuge in neighbouring countries and a further 6.6 million displaced inside the country.
“On this day, the fifth anniversary of the Syria conflict, that is where I had hoped to be – in Syria, helping UNHCR with returns and watching the families I have come to know be able to go home. It is tragic and shameful that we seem still so far from that point,” the Special Envoy told yesterday’s news conference.
She called on governments to find diplomatic solutions to the crisis, and to look at what more they themselves can do to provide safety to those fleeing persecution and war.
The Special Envoy said: “We are at an exceptionally difficult moment internationally, when the consequences of the refugee crisis seem to be outstripping our will and capacity and even our courage to respond to it.”
She went on to say “we cannot manage the world through aid relief in the place of diplomacy and political solutions,” adding that, “it is not a time for emotion. It is a time for reason and calm and foresight.”
“Leadership in this situation is about doing more than simply protecting your borders or putting forward more aid,” the Special Envoy said. “My plea today is that we need governments around the world to show leadership, to analyze the situation, to understand exactly what their countries can do, how many refugees they can assist and how.” (Source: UN).