The immense scale of the refugee and migrant crisis that has shaken Europe was highlighted this week by a staggering statistic.
Last month, 218,394 men, women and children fled to Europe via the Mediterranean Sea, the United Nations refugee agency said on Monday. This is more than any previous month on record, and roughly the same number as arrived during the whole of 2014.
Last year, UNHCR estimated that 219,000 people fled to Europe by sea. This year, to date, some 744,000 have arrived, over half of them Syrians.
That number is more than the population of Washington, D.C. It is close to the total number of "boat people" who fled Vietnam over two decades ago after the end of the war. It is ten times the number of refugees that the U.S. has admitted this year and more than 500 times the number of Syrians resettled in the U.S. since the war broke out in 2011.
The October figure is "beyond anything that could have been expected even a few months ago," UNHCR spokesman Adrian Edwards said.
The number of refugees and migrants sailing to Europe keeps climbing even though the sea crossing is getting more dangerous as winter approaches, bringing storms and freezing temperatures.
Usually, the number of people attempting the journey spikes in the summer, and declines during fall and winter. This year, the soaring figures are bucking the trend.
Some 3,440 people have already drowned this year trying to sail to Europe, according to UNHCR. Now, months after Europe reeled from the image of three year-old Alan Kurdi lying dead on a Greek beach, the bodies of children are again washing up on Europe's shores.
More on the refugee crisis:
- A Thousand Miles In Their Shoes
- How You Can Help Refugees Stay Safe And Warm This Winter
- 5 Major Myths Of Europe's Refugee And Migrant Crisis Debunked
- Read The Diary Of Syria's Piano Man On His Escape To Europe
- Despite Falling Temperatures, Refugee Arrivals In Europe Keep Rising
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