GENEVA – More than 218,000 refugees and other migrants crossed the Mediterranean in October — a record monthly tally this year and more than in the whole of last year, the U.N. refugee agency said Monday.
The massive influx despite cooling weather and choppy waters highlights the strains that European policymakers and authorities have been under with the unprecedented flood of people fleeing countries including Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan through Turkey to Greece this year. The office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees estimates that more than 600,000 people have now crossed the Mediterranean this year.
UNHCR said 210,265 people crossed the sea from Turkey to Greece last month, a further 8,129 went from north Africa to Italy in the period to Oct. 29. The agency estimates about 216,000 people crossed the Mediterranean last year, while some 3,000 crossed Turkey's land border.
The October figure was "beyond anything that could have been expected even a few months ago," UNHCR spokesman Adrian Edwards said.
He noted a decline over the past few days, but cautioned that it was too early to determine if that amounted to a trend.
European Union pledges to relocate about 160,000 refugees — less than three-fourths of the October influx — shows the response is still far short of needs.