Geneva (AFP) - The UN refugee agency said Thursday that it was expecting 700,000 migrants and refugees to reach Europe via the Mediterranean sea this year and projected at least the same amount again in 2016.
"UNHCR's response is now based on the assumption that up to 700,000 people will seek safety and international protection in Europe in 2015, and possibly even higher numbers in 2016," the agency said, issuing a revised funding appeal.
UNHCR spokesman Adrian Edwards confirmed that the figures specifically referred to people expected to seek refuge by crossing the Mediterranean.
The agency had previously projected 350,000 arrivals in 2015, but those figure had not been updated in many months.
Overall, the figures show that the agency expects no let up in the waves of people making the perilous sea crossing to escape conflict and strife in the Middle East and Africa.
On Tuesday, UNHCR said 520,000 people had arrived on Europe's shores since January 1. Some 2,980 people have perished or disappeared trying to make the crossing.
More than half of those to have reached Europe this year were Syrians fleeing the country's brutal civil war, which has forced at least four million people to leave their homeland and internationally displaced more than 7.6 million others.
The 2015 figures and the projections for 2016 mark a major surge compared to last year, when the agency recorded 219,000 migrant and refugee arrivals in Europe by sea.