The flow of refugees and migrants across the Mediterranean into Europe is accelerating, according to newly released UN data — despite worsening weather and increasingly dangerous sea conditions.
The following chart, from the UN High Commission on Refugees (UNHCR), shows the number of refugees and migrants crossing the Mediterranean into Europe per month. It compares 2014 monthly totals (in gray) with 2015 (in blue). What you see is pretty astonishing — the pace is actually accelerating, even while it declined this time of year in 2014:
Usually at this time of year, migration across the Mediterranean tends to slow down. That's because of weather: In colder months, the Mediterranean is increasingly dangerous. Last week, a boat packed with roughly 280 migrants capsized in the Mediterranean amid near-gale-force winds — one of the worst disasters of the year.
Part of the increase in migrants in October was caused by refugees trying to rush across before the weather gets even worse — and European politics turn even more against migrants. "The fear of borders closing and winter approaching is just making for a rush, rush, rush," Mette Petersen, a regional spokesperson for UNHCR, told the New York Times.
According to UNHCR data, 53 percent of the people crossing the Mediterranean hail from Syria, and another 18 percent come from Afghanistan. Though the trip to Europe may be dangerous, many may feel it's preferable to war or refugee camps.
"The only way people will be persuaded not to go to the Aegean Islands or Italy or Spain is if there’s a realistic chance that they can get humanitarian aid, feed themselves, have their kids educated and work elsewhere," Demetrios Papademetriou, president of Migration Policy Institute Europe, told Time in October. "They need to be persuaded that they will be resettled in massive numbers — at least half a million people a year — as part of a global program with Europe leading the way."
As long as people feel that Europe is their best chance at a future for themselves and their families, the flow of refugees will likely continue.