Mediterranean migrant arrivals near 900 000

December 1, 2015, 4:11pm

Refugees and migrants disembark from a dinghy at the Greek island of Lesbos. (Santi Palacios)  

Dpa on News24

Geneva - The number of migrants who have arrived on Europe's southern shores this year is climbing towards 900 000 and includes growing numbers of vulnerable children, international organisations said Tuesday in Geneva.

However, arrivals in November dropped by more than a third to 140 000, compared to October, marking the first month with a downward trend this year, according to the UN Refugee Agency (UNCHR).

The decrease was due to colder temperatures and Turkish efforts to stop people smugglers, UNHCR spokesperson William Spindler said.

About 870 000 migrants and refugees have crossed the Mediterranean Sea since January.

On the main sea route from Turkey to Greece, the share of children has risen from one in six in June to one in three in October.

"Children are among the most vulnerable of the migrants and refugees travelling to Europe," said Leonard Doyle, spokesperson of the International Organisation for Migration (IOM).

Children are at risk of illness and injury, as well as exploitation, separation from family, kidnapping and trafficking, IOM and the UN Children's Fund (Unicef) said in a joint report.

Along the Balkan route, Macedonian authorities have registered more than 15 000 unaccompanied minors since mid-June.

Italy has seen a sharp increase of Nigerian children who are in the hands of traffickers seeking to exploit them, according to IOM.

Marie-Pierre Poirier, the top Unicef official dealing with the European migration crisis, said that "warm clothes, scarves and baby socks are not enough".

"Children on the move have lived through war, deprivation and hardship; now they need stability, protection and support," she added.