KOS, Greece (AP) — A giant passenger ferry headed for the Greek holiday island of Kos Friday, to provide temporary accommodation for thousands of refugees sleeping rough after crossing clandestinely from Turkey in flimsy boats.
Also Friday, the International Organization for Migration said the number of migrants and asylum-seekers who have crossed the Mediterranean to Europe this year will pass the quarter-million mark by the end of the month — more than half of them arriving in Greece.
The Eleftherios Venizelos, which can take up to 2,500 people, is due on Kos Friday afternoon. It will function as a refugee registration center, where refugees, mostly Syrians, can stay as they wait for temporary travel documents to leave the island.
It will replace an old stadium criticized for its lack of basic amenities.
The Geneva-based IOM said Friday that financially struggling Greece has reported 134,988 arrivals from Turkey this year, while Italy recorded 93,540 newcomers up to the end of July. Adding in arrivals in Spain and Malta, the group says that 237,000 people have made the crossing in 2015. It is forecasting that the total will top 250,000 by the end of August.
Over the whole of last year, 219,000 made the risky crossing to Europe.
The IOM estimated that at least 2,300 people have died trying to make the crossing this year.