UNCHR sounds alarm as migrant sea influx triples

The Greek office of the United Nations refugee agency (UNHCR) on Wednesday appealed to the European Union to boost support for Greece and other southern European countries struggling with a growing influx of would-be immigrants, reporting that arrivals on islands in the Aegean have tripled over the past year.

Warning that the situation risked turning into a “humanitarian crisis,” the head of the UNHCR’s Greek office, Giorgos Tsarbopoulos, said the number of refugees and undocumented migrants arriving on islands in the Aegean, chiefly the northeastern Aegean and the Dodecanese, had increased by 223.23 percent.

A total of 22,089 migrants entered Greece by sea in the first eight months of the year, up from 6,834 in the same period in 2013.

Of the migrants arriving in Greece, 65 percent were from Syria, with many of the others coming from Somalia, Eritrea and Afghanistan.

The pressure is even greater on Italy, which saw the arrival on its shores of some 140,000 would-be migrants in the first nine months of this year.

Greece received 207 million euros from the EU’s External Borders Fund from 2007 to 2013, according to official figures released in Brussels on Wednesday. But it only absorbed 43 percent of the funding, compared to an EU average absorption rate of 87.6 percent.

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