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Half a million migrants cross Mediterranean

September 29, 2015

More than 520,000 people have crossed into Europe so far this year, over a third of them fleeing the Syrian conflict. The figures were confirmed as Croatia renewed its criticism of Hungary's border policy.

Migrants cling to a boat off the Greek coast
Image: Reuters/A. Konstantinidis

Detailing the sheer number of refugees who have traveled by boat to reach Europe's shores, the International Organization for Migration said some 522,124 people had arrived in the continent so far this year.

Some 388,000 people had entered through Greece, more than 175,000 of which were from Syria, and another 131,000 from North Africa had landed in Italy, the nongovernmental organization said in a news release.

The IOM figures released on Tuesday only apply to migrants who were picked up on the high seas by rescue vessels.

The data also revealed that approximately 2,890 migrants had died on the journey, many having drowned when the boats they were traveling in capsized.

Croatia complains

Croatia's prime minister, Zoran Milanovic, once again hit out at Hungary's border policy on Tuesday, after the Balkan country was flooded with migrants who had been blocked from entering the EU through the Serbia-Hungary frontier.

"For me Budapest's policy is totally unacceptable from the human point of view," he said, after visiting a migrant center in the east of the country.

Hungary's migrant fence
Hungary has built a fence along its border with Serbia and is erecting a similar structure on its frontier with CroatiaImage: Getty Images/AFP/A. Nimani

Milanovic said he wanted to know what else Hungary would do to reduce the flow of refugees after it built a 3.5-meter (11.4-foot) fence, complete with razor wire, along its border. "How will they stop people? Shoot at them? Deploy the army?" he asked.

Hungary has seen almost 300,000 refugees arrive over the past few months, after traveling from Greece through the western Balkans. Two weeks ago, Budapest launched a crackdown, blocking illegal migrants from entering the country.

Refugee referendum?

Meanwhile in the Czech Republic, an opposition party called for a referendum on whether to reject an EU decision to redistribute 120,000 migrants among its nations.

The parliamentary Dawn group called for the country to exit the EU after the Czech government was one of the only eastern European countries to agree to the plan.

Slovakia, Hungary and Romania have denounced the idea of accepting a quota of migrants.

Germany struggles

Also on Tuesday, the German state of Bavaria said that 169,400 migrants had arrived there since the beginning of September.

State governor Horst Seehofer confirmed that 10,000 people had entered on Monday alone.

Germany introduced border checks on September 13 to ease the registration process for asylum seekers.

mm/kms (AFP, AP, dpa)