BRUSSELS (AP) — U.N. and European border agency officials urged the European Union on Tuesday to step up measures to help thousands of people who have fled violence in Syria, Afghanistan and Iraq and are pouring into Greece and other EU countries in record numbers.
Fabrice Leggeri, head of the EU border agency Frontex, described it as an "emergency situation for Europe that requires all EU member states to step in." Speaking in Brussels, he urged member nations to provide more help for Greece and Hungary, which are two of the most affected countries.
Frontex said 107,500 migrants were detected at EU borders in July — the third consecutive monthly record and the first time the monthly number topped 100,000. Nearly 340,000 migrants were spotted at EU borders in the first half of the year, compared to 280,000 for all of 2014.
William Spindler, a spokesman for the U.N. High Commissioner on Refugees, told reporters in Geneva that the wealthy European bloc needed to "wake up" to the dire conditions faced by many refugees. He said 160,000 migrants have reached Greece since January, compared to 43,500 in all of 2014. More than four-fifths of them are from Syria, and 14 percent from Afghanistan.
Spindler noted that Greece faces an economic crisis, but called on its government to help international organizations like UNHCR take a more active role in places like the overburdened island of Kos.
"This influx is very difficult for a small island community to handle, but it should not be too difficult for the whole of the EU ... including some of the most developed and richest economies in the world to cope with the arrival of a few thousand refugees," he added.
Almost 2,350 migrants have died crossing the Mediterranean this year, according to the International Organization for Migration.