HUFFINGTON POST

More People Fled To Europe By Boat This Year Than The Population Of Washington, DC

New figures highlight the staggering scale of the refugee crisis.
Hundreds of thousands of people fleeing poverty and war have arrived in Europe this year.
Hundreds of thousands of people fleeing poverty and war have arrived in Europe this year.

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.

Comparison of annual Mediterranean sea arrivals.
Comparison of annual Mediterranean sea arrivals.

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.

Those who make it to Europe by boat often face a long journey north by foot and road to refugee-friendly nations.
Those who make it to Europe by boat often face a long journey north by foot and road to refugee-friendly nations.

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.

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