The Greek islands are struggling to cope with large number of migrants.
A record 107,500 migrants crossed the European Union’s borders last month, according to new figures, showing they are arriving in dramatically increasing numbers and creating a humanitarian crisis for the 28-nation bloc.
Frontex, the EU border agency, reported on Tuesday that its latest figures far outstripped the previous monthly record in June of 70,000.
During the first seven months of the year, there were nearly 340,000 migrants, up from 123,500 during the same period last year, Frontex said.
“This is an emergency situation for Europe that requires all EU member states to step in to support the national authorities who are taking on a massive number of migrants at its borders,” Fabrice Leggeri, Frontex director, said in a statement.
For its part, Italy said on Tuesday eight suspected people smugglers had been arrested. They are accused of condemning the victims to their deaths by forcing them to stay in the ship’s fume-filled hold.
In another development, at least six Syrian refugees, including a baby, reportedly drowned off the Turkish coast, trying to reach Greece.
Reports said 24 migrants were rescued when a boat overturned on Tuesday after leaving Turkey’s Bodrum peninsula for the Greek island of Kos.
The EU has approved 2.4bn euros ($2.6bn) of funding to help member states cope with the flood of migrants, but the UN refugee agency has urged more help from the bloc for Greece, pointing out that “the vast majority” of the migrants there will travel on towards northern Europe.
UNHCR said in the last week alone, 20,843 migrants – virtually all of them fleeing war and persecution in Syria, Afghanistan and Iraq – arrived in Greece, which has seen around 160,000 migrants land on its shores since January.
“The pace of arrivals has been steadily increasing in recent weeks,” William Spindler, UNHCR spokesperson, said in the Swiss city of Geneva.
Germany alone expects as many as 750,000 refugees to seek asylum there this year, according to media reports.
According to a report in the Handelsblatt newspaper, Berlin expects up to three-quarters of a million to apply for asylum in 2015.
Antonio Guterres, the UN refugee chief, called on Tuesday for more solidarity among European countries in taking in asylum seekers, insisting it was “unsustainable” for Germany, along with Sweden, to take in the majority of refugees.
France and Britain, meanwhile, were preparing to sign a deal this week to try to alleviate the migrant crisis in the northern French port of Calais, where thousands of people desperate to get to Britain through the Channel tunnel have gathered.
And there is no sign the flood of migrants into Europe will subside.
Claude Moraes, a British member of the European Parliament and chair of its Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs Committee, told Al Jazeera on Tuesday the EU is not doing enough to ease the growing humanitarian crisis.
An estimated 250,000 migrants have already crossed the Mediterranean this year to Italy and Greece, and the International Organization for Migration said on Tuesday it expected that number to pass 300,000 by the end of the year.
The ones who make it to shore are the lucky ones, with 2,440 people having died trying so far this year, according to the UNHCR.
That number includes the 49 migrants asphyxiated in the hold of a ship carrying 362 people that sank at the weekend.
The surge in migrant numbers is most visible in Greece, which has largely failed to provide any support to the tens of thousands of migrants wallowing in squalid conditions.
“For months, UNHCR has been warning of a mounting refugee crisis on the Greek islands,” Spindler said.
He said the “reception infrastructure, services and registration procedures both on the islands and on the mainland need to be strengthened urgently”.
Until recently, most migrants making the perilous journey across the Mediterranean to Europe travelled to Italy, but dangers and logistical difficulties have shifted the flood increasingly towards Greece.
When the migrants arrive on the Greek islands there is little if anything for them and most have been forced to sleep outdoors.
An unprecedented surge in refugee arrivals has pushed the resort island of Lesbos to “breaking point”, with some 2,000 people landing there every day, the International Rescue Committee said on Tuesday.