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EU records rising migrant numbers

August 19, 2015

The number of migrants recorded entering the EU by irregular means in July has trebled compared with last year, according to a report by the bloc's border agency. Frontex said the situation amounted to an emergency.

Flüchtlinge erreichen Hafen von Palermo
Image: picture alliance/ZUMA Press/A. Melita

According to Frontex's report on Tuesday, 107,500 migrants were detected at the EU's borders in July - the third consecutive monthly record and the first time the figure has topped 100,000.

The pattern appeared to be the same over the longer term, the agency said. Almost 340,000 migrants were seen at the border in the first half of the year, compared with 280,000 during the whole of 2014.

"This is an emergency situation for Europe that requires all EU member states to step in to support the national authorities who are taking on a massive number of migrants at its borders," Frontex director Fabrice Leggeri said in a statement.

Southern states hit hardest

The EU has approved 2.4 billion euros ($2.6 billion) in funding to help member states cope with the flood of migrants. Many of those who arrive are fleeing unrest in Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan, and do so through Italy, Greece and the western Balkans.

"Frontex has called on member states to provide additional equipment and people to support our operations in Greece and in Hungary," Leggeri said.

Hungary has adopted an increasingly robust response to the migrants, with border patrols and a new fence along the border with Serbia. Greece has called on its EU partners to devise a comprehensive strategy after data showed that 21,000 refugees landed on Greek shores last week alone.

Athens found wanting

However, while William Spindler, the spokesman for the United Nations refugee agency UNHCR in Geneva, said the EU should help Greece, he also said Athens needed to show "much more leadership" on the issue.

"It's very difficult for us to start working on the ground if we don't have somebody who is in charge," said Spindler.

Many of the migrants entering southern Europe do so with the aim of heading further north for destinations where conditions are perceived as being more favorable.

A report in the German newspaper "Handelsblatt" on Tuesday said the German government expected some 650,000 people to apply for asylum in 2015.

UN refugee chief Antonio Guterres has called for more solidarity among European countries in taking in asylum seekers, insisting it was "unsustainable" for Germany, along with Sweden, to take in the majority of refugees.

rc/cmk (AFP, AP, dpa)

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