Almost 2,000 refugees and migrants arrived in Europe by sea every day in the first two months of 2016, according to new statistics from the International Organization for Migration (IOM) that come amid warnings of a coming “humanitarian crisis.”
In just nine weeks through Feb. 29, 129,455 people arrived on the Mediterranean shores of Greece and Italy — the majority from war-ravaged Syria, Afghanistan and Iraq — the IOM said in a statement. In the same period last year, fewer than 12,000 arrivals were recorded, leading the organization to predict that 2016 could surpass the figure of more than 1 million arrivals for the whole of last year.
The deaths of 418 people at sea were also recorded in the January and February, the IOM said.
Austria and the Balkan states are attempting to stem the tide by setting higher criteria for granting entry to refugees. This week, authorities used tear gas to prevent people crossing by land from Greece into Macedonia.
The U.N.’s refugee agency has meanwhile warned that the inconsistent policies of European countries are causing “unnecessary suffering.”
“Europe is on the cusp of a largely self-induced humanitarian crisis,” UNHCR spokesman Adrian Edwards told Al Jazeera. “This is in light of a rapid build-up of people in an already struggling Greece, with governments not working together despite having already reached agreements in a number of areas, and country after country imposing new border restrictions.”