(CNSNews.com) - A plan by the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees for dealing with the European refugee crisis anticipates that as many as 5,000 Middle Eastern refugees and migrants could pass from Turkey into Europe each day over the next four months—with a total of 600,000 moving into Europe from November through February.
“Between November 2015 and February 2016, UNHCR anticipates that there could be an average of 5,000 arrivals per day from Turkey, resulting in up to a total of 600,000 arrivals in Croatia, Greece, Serbia, Slovenia and the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia,” says the UNHCR’s “Winterization Plan for the Refugee Crisis in Europe: November 2015-February 2016." The plan was published on Nov. 5.
UNHCR Spokesman William Spindler repeated the plan's basic assessment to Reuters in a story published on the same day as the plan.
“We need to prepare for the possibility of up to 5,000 to continue arriving every day from now until February of next year," Spindler told Reuters. “If that is the case, we are looking at another 600,000 refugees and migrants arriving in Europe between November this year and February next year.”
“It will put the figure over a million per year,” Spindler told Reuters.
The UNHCR’s estimate of the number of refugees that may move into Europe through Turkey comports with testimony that Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs Victoria Nuland gave to the House Foreign Affairs Committee on Nov. 4.
“Since Russian combat operations began in Syria, Greece recorded its highest weekly migration flow of 2015, with approximately 48,000 refugees and migrants crossing from Turkey into Greece,” Nuland said in written testimony. “More than 600,000 individuals have already entered Greece’s maritime borders this year, including 344,953 through the island of Lesvos, an island of just over 86,400 residents.
“On Greece’s smaller islands, there have been occasions when the number of daily arrivals has exceeded the number of registered permanent residents,” said Nuland.
“The Western Balkans is also stretched thin from increased migration, primarily through Macedonia, Serbia, and Croatia. These countries report an average of 5,000 to 8,000 migrants passing through their borders daily,” she said.
“Most of the migrants and refugees are headed north toward Germany, which for the first 9 months of 2015 recorded 577,000 arrivals,” she testified.
At the beginning of this month, the UNHCR also reported that the more than 218,000 migrants that flowed into Europe from the Middle East and North Africa in October of this year exceeded the total for all of 2014.
“UNHCR said 210,265 people cross the sea from Turkey to Greece last month, a further 8,129 went from North Africal to Italy in the period to Oct. 29,” the Associated Press reported on Nov. 2. “The agency estimates that about 216,000 people crossed the Mediterranean last year, while some 3,000 crossed Turkey’s land border.”
In its winterization plan, the UNHCR expressed the view that winter will not diminish the flow of migrants.
“Several months after the beginning of the crisis, the numbers of people moving along the eastern Mediterranean-western Balkans route in search of safety and protection in Europe continue to grow,” says the UNHCR plan.
“Despite the onset of winter, it is not anticipated that these movements will decrease,” it says. “For those continuing to arrive in Europe, progressively harsh wet and cold winter conditions will only exacerbate the already existing hardships, and may result in further loss of life if measures are not taken urgently.
“Greece, the western Balkans and Central European countries have been struggling for months with this influx of refugees and migrants,” it says.