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Europe struggles to respond as migrants numbers rise threefold

Updated: 2015-08-19 10:06
Europe struggles to respond as migrants numbers rise threefold

Migrants line up to receive sandwiches offered by volunteers of the organisation "Solidarity Kos" outside Captain Elias, a derelict hotel where migrants find shelter on the Greek island of Kos, August 17, 2015. [Photo/Agencies]


Hungary, which has attracted criticism from the United Nations refugee agency with its plans to build a fence to stem an influx of migrants, said on Tuesday it would send thousands of policemen to patrol the southern border with Serbia.

Hungary reported detecting more than 34,800 people in July crossing its borders from non-EU states, notably via Serbia.

Frontex said it recorded some 107,500 people arriving outside regular channels in July, after a previous record in June of over 70,000, and more than three times as many as July last year.

The most active frontiers were those of the Greek islands in the Aegean off Turkey, where nearly 50,000 people were recorded arriving by sea, mainly on Lesbos, Chios, Samos and Kos.

There were chaotic scenes on the island of Kos last week, where local police locked migrants in an outdoors athletics stadium to process them. On one occasion police sprayed fire extinguishers at the crowds to keep them back.

The Greek state eventually charted a passenger ship to house and process migrants in an attempt to ease conditions onshore, where many are living in tents, some in shelters made from cardboard boxes.

Nearly 340,000 such migrants were seen so far this year arriving in the EU, mainly in Italy, Greece and Hungary. That was a 175 percent rise on the same period last year and much more than the 280,000 registered arrivals in all of 2014.

Other EU data shows 625,920 people claimed asylum in the bloc last year. Frontex officials were not immediately available to comment on how far the increase in numbers being detected may be a result of increased monitoring of the frontiers.

In Germany alone, which recorded 203,000 claims last year, officials said on Tuesday they expect to register some 750,000 refugees this year.

"Syrians and Afghans accounted for a lion's share of the record number of migrants entering the EU illegally," Frontex said in a statement. "Most of them, fleeing instability in their home countries, initially entered Greece from Turkey."

Frontex Executive Director Fabrice Leggeri said: "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."


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