LONDON — The number of migrants and refugees who have entered Europe by sea and land this year has passed the 1 million mark, a long-expected but symbolically significant capstone to a year in which displaced people flocked to the continent.
The huge influx — the largest movement of people on the continent since World War II — has strained the resources of Germany, which has been the ultimate destination for most of the migrants; prompted a right-wing backlash there and in much of Europe; and exposed the European Union's inability to coordinate an effective response.
Main points of entry
As of Monday, 1,005,504 people had reached Europe, more than four times the number in 2014, the International Organization for Migration announced Tuesday.
Greece was by far the most popular point of entry, with more than 820,000 migrants arriving there.
Italy saw more than 150,000 come to its shores, and Bulgaria was the first European stop for almost 30,000 newcomers. More than 3,800 people arrived in Spain, while Cyprus and Malta saw a few hundred arrivals.
How they got there
An overwhelming majority of the migrants reached Europe by sea, a perilous journey.
So far this year, 3,692 migrants have died while trying to reach Europe, including 32 Africans who recently perished trying to travel to the Canary Islands, an archipelago off Morocco that is part of Spain.
Most of the migrants were from Africa, the Middle East and South Asia — and, in particular, from Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria.
"We know migration is inevitable, necessary and desirable," said William Lacy Swing, director general of the International Organization for Migration, which has been tracking migration figures.
"But it's not enough to count the number of those arriving — or the nearly 4,000 this year reported missing or drowned," he said. "We must also act. Migration must be legal, safe and secure for all, both for the migrants themselves and the countries that will become their new homes."
Finding a new home
Most of the migrants have sought to make their way to Northern or Western Europe, and in particular Germany. From January to November of this year, around 965,000 arrived in Germany seeking asylum, according to the Interior Ministry; German officials have been predicting for some time that the total number would surpass 1 million this year. This has created new challenges for the country.
The number of migrants arriving in Germany includes more than 102,000 people who arrived from Albania and Kosovo. Germany's strong economy has attracted many Europeans who are seeking jobs and a better life than is possible in the economically depressed Balkan countries, although many are being turned back because they are not eligible for asylum.
Aylan Kurdi, the 3-year-old Syrian boy whose body washed up on a Turkish beach in September, has arguably been the most prominent human face of the crisis. He drowned, along with his 5-year-old brother and their mother, as the family tried to reach Europe. But since their deaths, which attracted worldwide attention, the number of young children who have died while trying to reach Europe has continued to rise.
On Dec. 19, a wooden boat carrying 62 migrants capsized off the Greek island of Khios, and a 2-year-old Iraqi boy drowned. According to the Greek coast guard, the bodies of six of 15 migrants whose bodies washed up on Greek islands this month were those of children.
The International Organization for Migration's figures suggest that the migrants come in different family configurations. The largest number of migrants coming to Europe were men, traveling without their families. For example, of the migrants recorded entering Macedonia from Greece between Dec. 9 and Dec. 20, 46 percent were men, 22 percent were women, 35 percent were children accompanied by a parent or "caretaker," and 1.5 percent were unaccompanied children.