More than 50,000 refugees fleeing violence and unrest in the Middle East and Africa have arrived on Europe’s shores already this month -- almost 10 times as many as in January 2015. This unrelenting influx will add to the pressure on leaders who are already reeling from the impact of the crisis.
With European Union countries reintroducing border controls, chaos at Europe’s external frontiers and the threat of terrorism associated with the civil war in Syria looming over the continent’s largest cities, the dilemma has fractured European politics and frayed the social fabric.
The following charts show why the worst may yet be to come.
The number of refugees fleeing to Greece by sea this month is almost 10 times what it was this time last year, according to UNHCR data through Jan. 27. Normally the winter months are quieter as migrants wait for better weather but with this January’s total almost as high as that of last June, the figures suggest that Europe will continue to face a huge inflow.
As the crisis in Syria has intensified, the makeup of the refugees has changed. Whereas in 2015 more than half of the migrants arriving in Greece were men, that’s now slipped to 44 percent as whole families follow them to seek asylum in Europe.
In choppy seas and overladen boats, many migrants perish before they get to Europe. And as the refugees become ever more desperate to flee, more drown en route. Already this year 68 people have died attempting to cross to Greece compared with 272 in all of 2015.
It’s not just about the crossing from Turkey to Greece. While the greatest number of refugees attempt to cross to one of the Greek islands, the route to Italy from North Africa can’t be underestimated. While November saw the number arriving on Italian shores slump to 3,218 -- the lowest since March -- it trebled in December.