Fatih Aktas / Anadolu Agency / Getty Images

Refugees pouring into Greece and Italy surpass last year's numbers

Plus thousands of new refugees fleeing the battle around Aleppo, Syria, are now attempting to cross the Turkish border

More than 74,000 people have arrived on the shores of Greece and Italy so far this year — a sign that the European refugee crisis shows no signs of abating in the new year, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) said Friday.

Meanwhile, just this week thousands of other refugees have fled rapidly worsening violence in the Syrian city of Aleppo and tried crossing into Turkey. 

In the first four days of February, about 7,500 people — most fleeing conflicts in Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan — arrived in Greece and Italy, the IOM reported. That is more than in the entire month of February in 2015, the organization said.

So far this year, 74,676 people have arrived on the shores of Greece or Italy, compared to 11,834 in all of January and February last year.The vast majority of them went to the Greek islands.

Nearly half are men, 22 percent are women and 34 percent children. Last year, about 850,000 people entered the European Union through Greece out of the nearly one million people who crossed the bloc's borders.

Aid organizations expect tens of thousands more to arrive in Europe in the coming days as people flee a surge of violence in Aleppo. Rights group Amnesty International urged Turkey to let in the refugees after reports that the country's border remained closed.

Syrian government troops fighting rebels in that country have in the past two days cut off the main supply route to Aleppo with the aim of isolating the population and depriving them of aid, humanitarian groups say. 

Many of the people fleeing Aleppo and attempting to cross the Turkish border come carrying luggage on their heads, Reuters reported.

"The situation in Aleppo is a humanitarian catastrophe,” said a Syrian opposition spokesman in Geneva. “The international community must take urgent, concrete steps to address it.”

With Reuters

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