Record 218,000 migrants crossed Mediterranean in October: UN

More than 3,500 migrants died on Mediterranean sea routes to Europe in 2015, according to the International Organization for Migration (IOM) (AFP Photo/Angelos Tzortzinis)

Geneva (AFP) - More than 218,000 migrants and refugees crossed the Mediterranean to Europe in October -- a monthly record and more than during the whole of 2014, the United Nations said Monday.

"Last month was a record month for arrivals," UN refugee agency spokesman Adrian Edwards told AFP, pointing out that "arrivals in October parallelled the entire 2014."

In October, 218,394 people made the perilous crossing -- all but 8,000 of them landing in Greece -- compared to 216,054 Mediterranean arrivals during all of last year, UN figures show.

The soaring numbers of arrivals last month brought to over 744,000 the number of people who have made the journey so far this year.

The October figures show that despite the increasingly harrowing conditions at sea at the onset of winter, refugees from Syria and other trouble spots continue to pile into boats heading west, fearing that Europe is about to close its borders.

Among the more than 600,000 migrants and refugees who have crossed to Greece since the beginning of the year, 94 percent come from the world's top 10 refugee-producing countries.

The ballooning number of crossings has had dire consequences, with the numbers of deaths piling up by the day.

Some 3,440 people have died or gone missing trying to cross the Mediterranean to Europe so far this year, according to UNHCR numbers last week.

The figures do not take into account the latest tragedy, with at least 15 migrants and refugees, including six children, drowning off Greece on Sunday when two boats making the hazardous crossing from Turkey capsized.

Most of the Mediterranean deaths this year have happened on the longer, more dangerous route to Italy, but with surging numbers attempting the far shorter crossing from Turkey to Greece, the death toll along that route has been mounting.

The latest tragedies bring the migrant death toll in Greece's waters in the past month to over 80, many of them children, according to AFP's count.

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