According to new data, the number of migrant and refugee arrivals in Italy and Greece has already passed more than 100,000 this year, which points to an influx that could dwarf numbers from 2015.
As of the beginning of this week, "Greece alone had received some 102,547 arrivals since the beginning of the year," read a statement from the International Organization for Migration. "In comparison, in 2015, migrant arrivals topped 100,000 in June."
The influx is part of a perhaps unprecedented surge of migrants risking the dangerous crossing to Europe. Hazardous winter weather, compounded sometimes by the duplicity of people smugglers, have led to hundreds of deaths in the first few months of of the year.
The migrant landfalls in Europe this year have mostly been on Greek islands off the Turkish coast. The majority of those documented in January comprised refugees from Syria and Afghanistan. A survey published by the U.N.'s refugee agency this week found that 94 percent of Syrians who made the crossing to Greece and 71 percent of Afghans claimed they were fleeing persecution and violence.
The scale of the arrivals here is startling, given the numbers from preceding years:
All the while, the global response to the crisis remains muddled. European officials have engaged in extended talks with Turkey over an aid package that could compel Ankara to tighten its border controls. Turkey is coping with trying to support more than 2 million Syrian refugees within its borders, at a cost of billions of dollars in unbudgeted funds.
And the backlash against European leaders who initially championed the plight of refugees continues to grow. German Chancellor Angela Merkel, feted last year as TIME magazine's Person of the Year, is particularly in the crosshairs. A recent poll found that 40 percent of Germans believe Merkel should resign for her earlier welcoming stance to refugees.
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