European migrant crisis

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Asylum applications in the European Union (EU) and European Free Trade Association (EFTA) states between 1 January and 30 June 2015 according to Eurostat data
Operation Triton: Irish Naval Service personnel from the LÉ Eithne (P31) rescuing migrants, 15 June 2015
Syrian and Iraqi immigrants getting off a boat from Turkey on the Greek island of Lesbos. A small boat in water, with land on the horizon behind. Many people are on its outside in orange life jackets, some carrying inner tubes as well. A few are in the water swimming toward the camera. In the foreground a man in a red and black wetsuit has his hand out to them.
Protest "Volem acollir" ("We want to welcome") took place in Barcelona on 18 February 2017 and became the biggest pro-refugee demonstration in Europe
Protesters gather outside Cologne Cathedral after New Year's Eve sexual assaults in Germany, January 2016
Map of Crisis [a], Operation Triton, Refugees at Skala Sykamias Lesvos, Protesters at "Volem acollir" ("We want to welcome"), Protesters after assaults in Germany

The European migrant crisis,[2][3][4][5][6] also known as the refugee crisis,[7][8][9][10] was a period characterised by high numbers of people arriving in the European Union (EU) from across the Mediterranean Sea or overland through Southeast Europe.[11][12] The migrant crisis was part of a pattern of increased immigration to Europe from other continents which began in the mid-20th century.[13] Between January 2015 and March 2016, according to the UNHCR, the top three nationalities among over one million Mediterranean Sea arrivals were Syrian refugees (46.7%), Afghan refugees (20.9%) and Iraqi refugees (9.4%).[14] Opposition to immigration in many European countries appeared to result partly from the socio-economic threat they were perceived to represent.[13]

The majority of people arriving in Italy and Greece especially have been from countries mired in war (Syrian civil war (2011–present), War in Afghanistan (2001–present), Iraqi conflict (2003–present)) or which otherwise are considered to be 'refugee-producing' and for whom international protection is needed. However, a smaller proportion is from elsewhere, and for many of these individuals, the term 'migrant' would be correct. Immigrants (a person from a non-EU country establishing his or her usual residence in the territory of an EU country for a period that is, or is expected to be, at least twelve months) include asylum seekers and economic migrants.[15] Some research suggested that record population growth in Africa and the Middle East was one of the drivers of the crisis,[16] and it was also suggested that global warming could increase migratory pressures in the future.[17][18][19] In rare cases, immigration has been a cover for Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) militants disguised as refugees or migrants.[20][21]

Most of the migrants came from regions south and east of Europe, including the Greater Middle East and Africa.[22] Of the migrants arriving in Europe by sea in 2015, 58% were males over 18 years of age (77% of adults), 17% were females over 18 (22% of adults) and the remaining 25% were under 18.[23] By religious affiliation, the majority of entrants were Muslim, with a small component of non-Muslim minorities (including Yazidis, Assyrians and Mandeans). The number of deaths at sea rose to record levels in April 2015, when five boats carrying almost 2,000 migrants to Europe sank in the Mediterranean Sea, with a combined death toll estimated at more than 1,200 people.[24] The shipwrecks took place in a context of ongoing conflicts and refugee crises in several Asian and African countries, which increased the total number of forcibly displaced people worldwide at the end of 2014 to almost 60 million, the highest level since World War II.[25][26]

Migrant arrivals versus "illegal" border crossings

Table 1. New "illegal" migrants, versus total "illegal" border crossings
Migrants from Asia or Africa newly arriving in the EU, detected but not over an official border-crossing point (BCP) Same from Kosovo Total new migrants arrived to the EU, detected but not over an official BCP Seasonal, circular, workers "illegally" crossing from Albania to Greece Detected "illegal" EU external border crossings by migrants from Greece/Bulgaria through western Balkans heading for northwestern EU member states Total detected "illegal" crossings of EU external borders
2011 131,000[27] 5,000[27] 5,000[27] 141,000[28]
2012 60,500[28] 5,500[28] 6,000[28] 72,000[28]
2013 78,500[28] 8,500[28] 20,000[28] 107,000[28]
2014 231,000[29] circa 21,000[29] circa 252,000[30] 9,000[29] circa 22,000[29] 283,000[28]
2015 1,049,000[31] circa 10,000[32] circa 1,059,000[30] 9,000[31] circa 754,000[32] 1,822,000[28]
2016 376,000[33] -- 376,000[33] 5,000[34] 130,000[34] 511,000[35]
2017 186,000[36] -- 186,000[36] 6,000[36] 12,000[36] 204,000[36]
2018 139,700[37] 139,700[37] 4,500[37] 5,900[37] 150,100[37]

The EU Border and Coast Guard Agency (Frontex) uses the terms "illegal" and "irregular" border crossings for crossings of an EU external border but not at an official border-crossing point (BCP).[38] These include the entrance into Europe of people rescued at sea and brought to land by EU citizens.[39] The total number of such illegal EU external border crossings can be higher than the number of migrants newly illegally arriving in the EU in a certain year, as becomes clear in Table 1, especially for the years 2015 and 2016. News media sometimes misrepresent these correct figures as given by Frontex.[40]

Causes of increased migration in 2014 and 2015


After October 2013, when Italy started rescuing Africans from the Mediterranean Sea with a rescue program called 'Mare Nostrum' ('Our Sea'), the numbers of refugees arriving in Europe began to rise.[41]


Factors cited as immediate triggers or causes of the sudden and massive increase in migrant numbers in the summer of 2015 along the Eastern Mediterranean and Western Balkan route (Turkey-Greece-North Macedonia-Serbia-Hungary) include:

Cost of migration

The opening of the North Macedonia route enabled migrants from the Middle East to take very short, inexpensive voyages from the coast of Turkey to the Greek Islands, instead of the far longer, more perilous, and far more expensive voyage from Libya to Italy. According to the Washington Post, in addition to reducing danger, this lowered the cost from around $5–6,000 to $2–3,000.[42]

Balkan route

On 18 June 2015 the government of North Macedonia announced that it was changing its policy on migrants entering the country illegally. Previously, migrants were forbidden from transiting North Macedonia, causing those who chose to do so to take perilous, clandestine modes of transit, such as walking along railroad tracks at night. Beginning in June, migrants were given three-day, temporary asylum permits, enabling them to travel by train and road.[43][42]

In the summer of 2015, several thousand people passed through North Macedonia and Serbia every day, and more than 100,000 had done so by July. [44] Hungary started building the border fence with Serbia. Both states were overwhelmed organizationally and economically. In August 2015, a police crackdown on migrants crossing from Greece failed in North Macedonia, causing the police to instead turn their attention to diverting migrants north, into Serbia.[45] On 18 October 2015, Slovenia began restricting admission to 2,500 migrants per day, stranding migrants in Croatia as well as Serbia and North Macedonia.[46][47] The humanitarian conditions were catastrophic; Refugees were waiting for illegal helpers at illegal assembly points without any infrastructure.[48][49]


Syrian President Bashar al-Assad blamed Europe and the United States for the migrant crisis, saying most of the refugees are fleeing the "terrorism" that he accuses the West of fomenting by supporting elements of the Syrian opposition. Meanwhile, the Syrian government announced increased military conscription, and simultaneously made it easier for Syrians to obtain passports, leading Middle East policy experts to speculate that he was implementing a policy to encourage opponents of his regime to "leave the country".[42]

NATO's four-star General in the United States Air Force commander in Europe stated on the issue of indiscriminate weapons used by Bashar al-Assad, and the non-precision use of weapons by the Russian forces – are the reason which cause refugees to be on the move.[50] Gen. Philip Breedlove accused Russia and the Assad regime of "deliberately weaponizing migration in an attempt to overwhelm European structures and break European resolve".[50]


Immigration of non-EU nationals (green),[51] asylum applicants (orange)[52] and illegal border-crossings (blue)[53] in the European Union, 2010–2014
Migrants arriving in Italy by sea, 1997–2015[54]

Between 2007 and 2011, large numbers of migrants from the Middle East and Africa crossed between Turkey and Greece, leading Greece and the European Border Protection agency Frontex to upgrade border controls.[55] In 2012, immigrant influx into Greece by land decreased by 95 percent after the construction of a fence on that part of the Greek–Turkish frontier which does not follow the course of the Maritsa River.[56] In 2015, Bulgaria followed by upgrading a border fence to prevent migrant flows through Turkey.[57][58]

Between 2010 and 2013, around 1.4 million non-EU nationals, asylum seekers and refugees not included, immigrated in the EU each year, while around 750,000 of such non-EU nationals emigrated from the EU in those years, resulting in around 650,000 net immigration each year, but decreasing from 750,000 to 540,000 between 2010 and 2013.[51]

Prior to 2014, the number of asylum applications in the EU peaked in 1992 (672,000), 2001 (424,000) and 2013 (431,000). In 2014 it reached 626,000.[59] According to the UNHCR, the EU countries with the biggest numbers of recognised refugees at the end of 2014 were France (252,264), Germany (216,973), Sweden (142,207) and the United Kingdom (117,161). No European state was among the top ten refugee-hosting countries in the world.[25]

Prior to 2014, the number of illegal border crossings detected by Frontex at the external borders of the EU peaked in 2011, with 141,051 total (sea and land combined).[60]

According to Eurostat, EU member states received over 1.2 million first-time asylum applications in 2015, more than double that of the previous year. Four states (Germany, Hungary, Sweden and Austria) received around two-thirds of the EU's asylum applications in 2015, with Hungary, Sweden and Austria being the top recipients of asylum applications per capita.[61] More than 1 million migrants crossed the Mediterranean Sea in 2015, considerably dropping to 364,000 in 2016.[62] Numbers of arriving migrants fell again in 2017.[63]

2010 policy report

In 2010 the European Commission commissioned a study on the financial, political and legal implications of a relocation of migrants in Europe.[64] The report concluded that there were several options for dealing with the issues relating to migration within Europe, and that most member states favoured an "ad hoc mechanism based on a pledging exercise among the Member States".[64]

Carriers' responsibility

Article 26 of the Schengen Convention[65] says that carriers which transport people into the Schengen area shall if they transport people who are refused entry into the Schengen Area, be responsible to pay for the return of the refused people, and pay penalties.[66] Further clauses on this topic are found in EU directive 2001/51/EC.[67] This has had the effect that migrants without a visa are not allowed on aircraft, boats or trains going into the Schengen Area, so migrants without a visa have resorted to migrant smugglers.[68] Humanitarian visas are in general not given to refugees who want to apply for asylum.[69]

The laws on migrant smuggling ban helping migrants to pass any national border if the migrants are without a visa or other permission to enter. This has caused many airlines to check for visas and refuse passage to migrants without visas, including through international flights inside the Schengen Area. After being refused air passage, many migrants then attempt to travel overland to their destination country. According to a study carried out for the European Parliament, "penalties for carriers, who assume some of the control duties of the European police services, either block asylum-seekers far from Europe's borders or force them to pay more and take greater risks to travel illegally".[70][71]

EU's management of the crisis

Political positions

Europe needs to fulfil its humanitarian duty, helping those fleeing for their lives, and as a Christian-Democrat, I want to reiterate that is not Christian rights, but human rights that Europe invented. But we also need to better secure our external borders and make sure that asylum rules are used properly and not abused.

Manfred Weber, leader of the European People's Party in the European Parliament.

Czech politician Tomio Okamura speaks at the anti-immigration rally in Prague, 17 October 2015
Matteo Salvini with League's delegation at the Quirinal Palace in April 2018

Slavoj Žižek identifies a "double blackmail" in the debate on the migrant crisis: those who argue Europe's borders should be entirely opened to refugees, and those who argue that the borders should be closed completely.[72][page needed]

European Commissioner for Migration, Home Affairs and Citizenship, Dimitris Avramopoulos, said that the European Commission "does not care about the political cost" of its handling of the migration crisis, because it's there for five years to do its job "with vision, responsibility and commitment" and what drives it "is not to be re-elected", and invited European national leaders to do likewise and stop worrying about reelection.[73][74]

On 31 August 2015, according to The New York Times, Angela Merkel, German Chancellor and leader of the Christian Democratic Union, in some of her strongest language theretofore on the immigrant crisis, warned that freedom of travel and open borders among the 28 member states of the EU could be jeopardised if they did not agree on a shared response to this crisis.[75]

Nicolas Sarkozy, President of the Republicans and former French president, compared EU migrant plan to "mending a burst pipe by spreading water round the house while leaving the leak untouched".[76] Following German Chancellor Angela Merkel's decision to allow tens of thousands of people to enter Germany, Sarkozy criticised her, saying that it would attract even greater numbers of people to Europe, where a significant part would "inevitably" end up in France due to the EU's free movement policies and the French welfare state. He also demanded that the Schengen agreement on borderless travel should be replaced with a new agreement providing border checks for non-EU citizens.[77]

Italian Prime Minister and Secretary of the Italian Democratic Party Matteo Renzi said the EU should forge a single European policy on asylum.[78] French Prime Minister Manuel Valls of the French Socialist Party stated, "There must be close cooperation between the European Commission and member states as well as candidate members."[79] Sergei Stanishev, President of the Party of European Socialists, stated:

At this moment, more people in the world are displaced by conflict than at any time since the Second World War. ... Many die on the approach to Europe – in the Mediterranean – yet others perish on European soil. ... As social democrats the principle of solidarity is the glue that keeps our family together. ... We need a permanent European mechanism for fairly distributing asylum-seekers in European member states. ... War, poverty and the stark rise in inequality are global, not local problems. As long as we do not address these causes globally, we cannot deny people the right to look for a more hopeful future in a safer environment.[80]

According to The Wall Street Journal, the appeal of Eurosceptic politicians has increased.[81]

Nigel Farage, leader of the British anti-EU United Kingdom Independence Party and co-leader of the eurosceptic Europe of Freedom and Direct Democracy group, blamed the EU "and Germany in particular" for giving "huge incentives for people to come to the European Union by whatever means" and said that this would make deaths more likely. He claimed that the EU's Schengen agreement on open borders had failed and that Islamists could exploit the situation and enter Europe in large numbers, saying that "one of the ISIL terrorist suspects who committed the first atrocity against holidaymakers in Tunisia has been seen getting off a boat onto Italian soil".[82][83] In 2013, Farage had called on the UK government to accept more Syrian refugees,[84] before clarifying that those refugees should be Christian due to the existence of nearer places of refuge for Muslims.[85] Marine Le Pen, leader of the French far-right National Front and co-president of the former Europe of Nations and Freedom (EMF) grouping, accused Germany of looking to hire "slaves" by opening its doors to large numbers of asylum seekers among a debate in Germany whether there should be exceptions to the recently introduced minimum wage law for refugees.[86][87] Le Pen also accused Germany of imposing its immigration policy on the rest of the EU unilaterally.[88] Her comments were reported by the German[89] and Austrian press,[90] and were called "abstruse claims" by the online edition of Der Spiegel.[91] Centreright daily Die Welt wrote that she "exploits the refugee crisis for anti-German propaganda".[92]

Geert Wilders, the leader of the Dutch Party for Freedom (a member of the former EMF grouping), who is known for his criticism of Islam, called the influx of people an "Islamic invasion" during a debate in the Dutch parliament, speaking about "masses of young men in their twenties with beards singing Allahu Akbar across Europe".[93] He also dismissed the idea that people arriving in Western Europe via the Balkans are genuine refugees, stating: "Turkey, Greece, Macedonia, Serbia are safe countries. If you flee them then you are doing it for benefits and a house."[94]

Initial proposals

After the migrant shipwreck on 19 April 2015, Italy's Premier Matteo Renzi spoke by telephone to French President François Hollande and to Maltese Prime Minister Joseph Muscat.[95][96] They agreed to call for an emergency meeting of European interior ministers to address the problem of migrant deaths. Renzi condemned human trafficking as a "new slave trade"[97] while Prime Minister Muscat said 19 April shipwreck was the "biggest human tragedy of the last few years". Hollande described people traffickers as "terrorists" who put migrant lives at risk. The German government's representative for migration, refugees and integration, Aydan Özoğuz, said that with more migrants likely to arrive as the weather turned warmer, emergency rescue missions should be restored. "It was an illusion to think that cutting off Mare Nostrum would prevent people from attempting this dangerous voyage across the Mediterranean", she said.[98][99][99][100] Federica Mogherini, High Representative of the EU for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, called for collective EU action ahead of a meeting in Luxembourg on Monday 20 April.[100][101]

In a press conference, Renzi confirmed that Italy had called an "extraordinary European council" meeting as soon as possible to discuss the tragedy,[102] various European leaders agreed with this idea.[103][104] Cameron tweeted on 20 April that he "supported" Renzi's "call for an emergency meeting of EU leaders to find a comprehensive solution" to the migrant crisis in the Mediterranean.[105] He later confirmed that he would attend an emergency summit of European leaders on Thursday.[106]

On 20 April 2015, the European Commission proposed a 10-point plan to tackle the crisis:[107]

  • Reinforce the Joint Operations in the Mediterranean, namely Triton and Poseidon, by increasing the financial resources and the number of assets. We will also extend their operational area, allowing us to intervene further, within the mandate of Frontex;
  • A systematic effort to capture and destroy vessels used by the smugglers. The positive results obtained with the Atalanta operation should inspire us to similar operations against smugglers in the Mediterranean;
  • Europol, Frontex, EASO and Eurojust will meet regularly and work closely to gather information on smugglers' modus operandi, to trace their funds and to assist in their investigation;
  • EASO to deploy teams in Italy and Greece for joint processing of asylum applications;
  • Member States to ensure fingerprinting of all migrants;
  • Consider options for an emergency relocation mechanism;
  • A EU wide voluntary pilot project on resettlement, offering a number of places to persons in need of protection;
  • Establish a new return programme for rapid return of irregular migrants coordinated by Frontex from frontline Member States;
  • Engagement with countries surrounding Libya through a joined effort between the Commission and the EEAS; Initiatives in Niger have to be stepped up.
  • Deploy Immigration Liaison Officers (ILO) in key third countries, to gather intelligence on migratory flows and strengthen the role of the EU Delegations.

A year after the 10-point plan was introduced[when?], the European Commission also began the process for reforming the Common European Asylum system.

Started in 1999, the European Commission began devising a plan to create a unified asylum system for those seeking refuge and asylum. Named the Common European Asylum System (CEAS), the system sought to address three key problems which consisted of asylum shopping, differing outcomes in different EU Member States for those seeking asylum, and differing social benefits in different EU Member States for those seeking asylum.[108]

In an attempt to address these issues, the European Commission created five components that sought to fulfill minimum standards for asylum:[108]

  • The Asylum Procedures Directive
  • The Receptions Conditions Directive
  • The Qualification Directive
  • The Dublin regulation
  • The Eurodac Regulation

Completed in 2005, the Common European Asylum System sought to protect the rights those seeking asylum. The system proved to create differing implementation across EU states, building an uneven system of twenty-eight asylum systems across individual states. Due to this divided asylum system and problems with the Dublin system, the European Commission proposed a reform of the Common European Asylum System in 2016.[109]

Starting on 6 April 2016, the European Commission began the process of reforming the Common European Asylum System and creating measures for safe and managed paths for legal migration to Europe. First Vice-President Frans Timmermans stated that, "we need a sustainable system for the future, based on common rules, a fairer sharing of responsibility, and safe legal channels for those who need protection to get it in the EU."[110]

The European Commission identified five areas that needed improvement in order to successfully reform the Common European Asylum System:[110]

  • Establishing a sustainable and fair system for determining the Member State responsible for asylum seekers.
  • Achieving greater convergence and reducing asylum shopping.
  • Preventing secondary movements within the EU.
  • A new mandate for the EU's asylum agency (to allow the Asylum Support Office to have a role in implementing policy and have an operational position).
  • Reinforcing the Eurodac system (to support the implementation of a reformed Dublin System).

To create safer and more efficient legal migration routes, the European Commission sought to meet the following five goals:[110]

  • A structured resettlement system.
  • A reform of the EU Blue Card Directive (to enhance the admission process and increase rights).
  • Measures to attract and support innovative entrepreneurs (to increase economic growth and create jobs).
  • A REFIT evaluation of the existing legal migration rules (to simplify the current rules for living, working, or studying in the EU).
  • Pursuing close cooperation with third countries (to create a more successful management of migrants).

On 13 July 2016, the European Commission introduced the proposals to complete the reform of the Common European Asylum System. The reform sought to create a just policy for asylum seekers, while providing a new system that was simple and shortened. Ultimately, the reform proposal attempted to create a system that could handle normal and impacted times of migratory pressure.[111]

The European Commission's outline for reform proposed the following:[111]

  • Replace the Asylum Procedures Directive with a Regulation, which sought to create a fair and efficient common EU procedure:
    • Simplify, clarify, and shorten asylum procedures.
    • Ensure common guarantees for asylum seekers.
    • Ensure stricter rules to combat abuse.
    • Harmonize rules on safe countries.
  • Replace the existing Qualification Directive with a new Regulation, which sought to unify protection standards and rights:
    • Create greater convergence of recognition rates and forms or protection.
    • Implement firmer rules sanctioning secondary movements.
    • Provide protection only for as long as needed.
    • Strengthen integration incentives.
  • Reform the Reception Conditions Directive, which would allow for common reception standards for asylum seekers:
    • Administer standards and indicators on reception conditions developed by the European Asylum Support Office and update contingency plans.
    • Ensure asylum seekers remain available and discourage them from absconding.
    • Clarify that reception conditions will only be provided in the Member State responsible.
    • Grant earlier access to the labour market.
    • Implement common reinforced guarantees.

Securing borders

Migrants crossing illegally into Hungary underneath the unfinished Hungary–Serbia border fence, 25 August 2015
In June 2015, Royal Navy ship HMS Enterprise replaced HMS Bulwark in the mission to rescue migrants crossing the Mediterranean from Libya to Italy[112]

The 2013 Lampedusa migrant shipwreck involved "more than 360" deaths, leading the Italian government to establish Operation Mare Nostrum, a large-scale naval operation that involved search and rescue, with some migrants brought aboard a naval amphibious assault ship.[113] In 2014, the Italian government ended the operation, calling the costs too large for one EU state alone to manage; Frontex assumed the main responsibility for search and rescue operations. The Frontex operation is called Operation Triton.[114] The Italian government had requested additional funds from the EU to continue the operation but member states did not offer the requested support.[115] The UK government cited fears that the operation was acting as "an unintended 'pull factor', encouraging more migrants to attempt the dangerous sea crossing and thereby leading to more tragic and unnecessary deaths".[116] The operation consisted of two surveillance aircraft and three ships, with seven teams of staff who gathered intelligence and conducted screening/identification processing. Its monthly budget was estimated at €2.9 million.[114] Amid an upsurge in the number of sea arrivals in Italy from Libya in 2014, several European Union governments refused to fund the Italian-run rescue option Operation Mare Nostrum, which was replaced by Frontex's Operation Triton in November 2014. In the first six months of 2015, Greece overtook Italy in the number of arrivals, becoming in the summer of 2015 the starting point of a flow of refugees and migrants moving through Balkan countries to Northern European countries, mainly Germany and Sweden.

The Guardian and Reuters noted that doubling the size of Operation Triton would still leave the mission with fewer resources than the previous Italian-run rescue option (Operation Mare Nostrum) whose budget was more than 3 times as large, had 4 times the number of aircraft[117] and had a wider mandate to conduct search and rescue operations across the Mediterranean Sea.[118]

On 23 April 2015, a five-hour emergency summit was held and EU heads of state agreed to triple the budget of Operation Triton to €120 million for 2015–2016.[119] EU leaders claimed that this would allow for the same operational capabilities as Operation Mare Nostrum had had in 2013–2014. As part of the agreement the United Kingdom agreed to send HMS Bulwark, two naval patrol boats and three helicopters to join the Operation.[119] On 5 May 2015 it was announced by the Irish Minister of Defence Simon Coveney that the LÉ Eithne would also take part in the response to the crisis.[120] Amnesty International immediately criticised the EU response as "a face-saving not a life-saving operation" and said that "failure to extend Triton's operational area will fatally undermine today's commitment".[121]

On 18 May 2015, the European Union decided to launch a new operation based in Rome, called EU Navfor Med, under the command of the Italian Admiral Enrico Credendino,[122] to undertake systematic efforts to identify, capture and dispose of vessels used by migrant smugglers.[123] The first phase of the operation, launched on 22 June, involved naval surveillance to detect smugglers' boats and monitor smuggling patterns from Libya towards Italy and Malta. The second phase, called "Operation Sophia", started in October, and was aimed at disrupting the smugglers' journeys by boarding, searching, seizing and diverting migrant vessels in international waters. The operation uses six EU warships.[124][125] As of April 2016, more than 13,000 migrants were rescued from the sea and 68 alleged smugglers were arrested in the course of the operation.[126]

The EU seeks to increase the scope of EU Navfor Med so that a third phase of the operation would include patrols inside Libyan waters in order to capture and dispose of vessels used by smugglers.[127][128][129] Land operations on Libya to destroy vessels used by smugglers had been proposed, but commentators note that such an operation would need a UN or Libyan permit.

The Greek islands (Kos, Leros, Chios, for example) serve as main entry points into Europe for Syrian refugees.[130]

The entry routes through the Western Balkan have experienced the greatest intensity of border restrictions in the 2015 EU migrant crisis, according to The New York Times[45] and other sources, as follows:

From To Barrier Situation
 Turkey  Greece Greece Greece built a razor-wire fence in 2012 along its short land border with Turkey.[45] In September 2015, Turkish provincial authorities gave approximately 1,700 migrants three days to leave the border zone.[131]
 Turkey  Bulgaria Bulgaria As a result of Greece's diversion of migrants to Bulgaria from Turkey, Bulgaria built its own fence to block migrants crossing from Turkey.[45]
 Greece  North Macedonia Macedonian In November 2015, North Macedonia began erecting a fence along its southern border with Greece, with the intention of channeling the flow of migrants through an official checkpoint as opposed to limiting the inflow of migrants.[132] Beginning in November 2015, Greek police permitted only Syrians, Iraqis, and Afghans to cross into North Macedonia.[133] In February, Macedonian soldiers began erecting a second fence meters away from the previous one.[134]
 Serbia  Hungary Hungaria Hungary built a 175-km (109-mi) razor-wire fence along its border with Serbia in 2015.[45]
 Croatia  Hungary Hungary Hungary built a 40-km (25-mi) razor-wire fence along its border with Croatia in 2015.[45] On 16 October 2015, Hungary announced that it would close off its border with Croatia to migrants.[135]
 Croatia  Slovenia Slovenia Slovenia blocked transit from Croatia in September 2015,[45] pepper spraying migrants trying to cross.[136] Although re-opening the border, by 18 October 2015, Slovenia restricted crossing to 2,500 migrants per day.[47]
 Hungary  Austria Austria planned to put border controls into effect along its border with Hungary in September 2015, and officials said the controls could stay in effect under European Union rules for up to six months.[45]
 Slovenia  Austria Austrian
 Russia  Norway On 25 January 2016, it was reported that Russia closed its northern border checkpoint with Norway for asylum seekers to return to Russia.[137] While the announcement was noted as closure of the border, it apparently was considering only returning asylum seekers, thus only partial closure of the border.
 Russia  Finland On 4 December 2015, Finland temporarily closed one of its land border crossings by lowering the border gate and blocking the road with a car. The closure was reported to only apply for asylum seekers and lasted only a couple of hours.[138] On 27 December 2015, Finland closed its Russian border for people riding on bicycles, reportedly enforcing the rule only on Raja-Jooseppi [fi] and Salla checkpoints. Earlier, more and more asylum seekers had crossed the border on bikes.[139]
 Austria  Germany Germany placed temporary travel restrictions from Austria by rail in 2015[45] but has imposed the least onerous restrictions for migrants entering by the Western Balkans route in 2015, in the context that Chancellor Angela Merkel had insisted that Germany will not limit the number of refugees it accepts.[45]

Migration policies

Migration Partnership Framework

3rd Prague Process Ministerial Conference

Beginning in 1999, the Tampere Agenda outlines the EU’s policy on migration, presenting a certain openness towards freedom, security, and justice.[140] This agenda focuses on two central issues, including the development of a common asylum system and the enhancement of external border controls.[140] The externalization of borders with Turkey is essentially the transferring of border controls and management to foreign countries, which are in close proximity to EU countries.[141] The EU’s decision to externalize its borders puts significant pressure on non-EU countries to cooperate with EU political forces.[142]

Communication on Global Approach to Migration and Mobility" (GAMM). The Migration Partnership Framework introduced in 2016 implements greater resettlement of migrants and alternative legal routes for migration.[140] The Migration Partnership Framework's goals aligns with the EU’s efforts throughout the refugee crisis to deflect responsibility and legal obligations away from EU member states and onto transit and origin countries.[140] [143] By directing migrant flows to third countries,[clarification needed] policies place responsibilities on third countries[clarification needed].[143] States with insufficient resources are forced (by law) to ensure the protection of migrants’ rights, including the right to asylum.[143] Destination states under border externalization strategies are responsible for rights violated outside their own territory.[143] Fundamental rights of migrants can be impacted during the process of externalizing borders.[143] For example, child migrants are recognized to have special status under international law, yet during transit, they are vulnerable to trafficking and other crimes.

Africa Agreement: Emergency Trust Fund

Between 11 and 12 November 2015, Valletta Summit on Migration between European and African leaders was held in Valletta, Malta, to discuss the migrant crisis. The summit resulted in the EU setting up an Emergency Trust Fund to promote development in Africa, in return for African countries to help out in the crisis.[144]

Angela Merkel

According to the Washington Post, German Chancellor Angela Merkel's public pledges (at a time of diplomatic standoff with the government of Hungary at the beginning of September, when tens of thousands of refugees were attempting to cross Hungarian territory without getting processed for asylum application in the country) that Germany would offer temporary residency to refugees, combined with television footage of cheering Germans welcoming refugees and migrants arriving in Munich,[145] persuaded large numbers of people to move from Turkey up the Western Balkan route.[42]

On 25 August 2015 – according to The Guardian – 'Germany's federal agency for migration and refugees' made it public, that "The #Dublin procedure for Syrian citizens is at this point in time effectively no longer being adhered to". During a press conference, "Germany's interior minister, Thomas de Maizière, confirmed that the suspension of the Dublin agreement was "not as such a legally binding act", but more of a "guideline for management practice".[146] Around 24 August 2015, while thousands of migrants tried to reach Western Europe through the Balkans, a considerable proportion of them fleeing the Syrian Civil War, and noticing that most of the burden of migrants crossing the Mediterranean Sea fell on the peripheral southern EU member states Greece and Italy, the German Chancellor Angela Merkel, according to news media, decided to no longer follow the rule under the 'Dublin' EU regulations for asylum seekers holding that migrants "can apply for asylum only in the first EU member state they enter"[147] (The 'Dublin' regulation actually holds that the migrant should apply for asylum in the first EU country where he was formally registered.)[citation needed] Germany ordered its officers to also process asylum applications from Syrians if they had come through other EU countries.[147] In the night of 4 September 2015, Merkel decided that Germany would admit the thousands of refugees who were stranded in Hungary,[148] in sweltering conditions,[149] and whom the Hungarian prime minister Orban had sent to the Austrian border.[150] With that decision, she reportedly aimed to prevent disturbances at the German borders.[150] The days following that 4 September, tens of thousands of refugees traveled from Hungary via Vienna into Germany.[148][149]

Analyst Will Hutton for the British newspaper The Guardian on 30 August 2015 praised Merkel's decisions on migration policies: "Angela Merkel's humane stance on migration is a lesson to us all… The German leader has stood up to be counted. Europe should rally to her side… She wants to keep Germany and Europe open, to welcome legitimate asylum seekers in common humanity, while doing her very best to stop abuse and keep the movement to manageable proportions. Which demands a European-wide response (…)".[151]

Turkey Agreement: Locating migrants to safe country

Mediterranean sea arrivals to Greece and Italy from January 2015 to September 2016, according to UNHCR data[152]

The EU proposed to the Turkish government a plan in which Turkey would take back every refugee who entered Greece (and thereby the EU) illegally. In return, the EU would accept one person into the EU who is registered as a Syrian refugee in Turkey for every Syrian sent back from Greece.[153] 12 EU countries have national lists of so-called safe countries of origin. The European Commission is proposing one, common EU list designating as 'safe' all EU candidate countries (Albania, North Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia and Turkey), plus potential EU candidates Bosnia and Herzegovina and Kosovo.[154] The list would allow for faster returns to those countries, even though asylum applications from nationals of those countries would continue to be assessed on an individual, case-by-case basis.[154] International Law generated during the Geneva Convention states that a country is considered "safe" when there is a democratic system in a country and generally there is: no persecution, no torture, no threat of violence, and no armed conflict.[155]

In November, Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan reportedly threatened to send the millions of refugees in Turkey to EU member states if it was left to shoulder the burden alone.[156] On 12 November 2015, at the end of the two-day summit in Malta, EU officials announced an agreement to offer Turkey €3 billion over two years to manage more than 2 million refugees from Syria who had sought refuge there, in return for curbing migration through Turkey into the EU.[157] The €3 billion fund for Turkey was approved by the EU in February 2016.[158]

In January 2016, the Netherlands proposed that the EU take in 250,000 refugees a year from Turkey in return for Turkey closing the Aegean sea route to Greece, but Turkey rejected the plan.[159] Starting on 7 March 2016, the EU met with Turkey for another summit in Brussels to negotiate further solutions of the crisis. An original plan saw for the closing statement to declare the Western Balkan route closed. However, this was met with criticism from German chancellor Angela Merkel.[160] Turkey countered the offer by demanding a further €3 billion in order to help them in supplying the 2.7 million refugees in Turkey. In addition, the Turkish government asked for their citizens to be allowed to travel freely into the Schengen area starting at the end of June 2016, as well as an increased speed in talks of a possible accession of Turkey to the European Union.[161][162] The plan to send migrants back to Turkey was criticized on 8 March 2016 by the United Nations, which warned that it could be illegal to send the migrants back to Turkey in exchange of financial and political rewards.[163]

On 20 March 2016, an agreement between the European Union and Turkey, aiming to discourage migrants from making the dangerous sea journey from Turkey to Greece, came into effect. Under its terms, migrants arriving in Greece would be sent back to Turkey if they did not apply for asylum or their claim was rejected, whilst the EU would send around 2,300 experts, including security and migration officials and translators, to Greece in order to help implement the deal.[164]

It was also agreed that any irregular migrants who crossed into Greece from Turkey after 20 March 2016 would be sent back to Turkey, based on an individual case-by-case evaluation. Any Syrian returned to Turkey would be replaced by a Syrian resettled from Turkey to the EU, preferably the individuals who did not try to enter the EU illegally in the past and not exceeding a maximum of 72,000 people.[153] Turkish nationals would have access to the Schengen passport-free zone by June 2016 but this would not include non-Schengen countries such as the UK. The talks aiming at Turkey's accession to the EU as a member began in July 2016, and $3.3 billion in aid was to be delivered to Turkey.[164][165] The talks were suspended in November 2016, following the 2016 Turkish coup d'état attempt.[166] A similar threat was raised as the European Parliament voted to suspend EU membership talks with Turkey in November 2016: "if you go any further," Erdoğan declared, "these border gates will be opened. Neither me nor my people will be affected by these dry threats."[167][168]

Migrants from Greece to Turkey were to be given medical checks, registered and fingerprinted, then bused to "reception and removal" centres.[169][170] and later deported to their home countries.[169] The UNHCR's director Vincent Cochetel claimed in August 2016 that parts of the deal were already de facto suspended because of the post-coup absence of Turkish police at the Greek detention centres to oversee deportations.[171][172]

The UNHCR said it was not a party to the EU-Turkey deal and it would not be involved in returns or detention.[173] Like the UNHCR, four aid agencies (Médecins Sans Frontières, the International Rescue Committee, the Norwegian Refugee Council and Save the Children) said they would not help implementing the EU-Turkey deal because blanket expulsion of refugees contravened international law.[174]

Amnesty International said that the agreement between EU and Turkey was "madness", and that 18 March 2016 was "a dark day for Refugee Convention, Europe and humanity". Turkish prime minister Ahmet Davutoglu said that Turkey and EU had the same challenges, the same future and the same destiny. Donald Tusk said that the migrants in Greece would not be sent back to dangerous areas.[175]

On 17 March 2017, Turkish interior minister Süleyman Soylu threatened to send 15,000 refugees to the European Union every month, while Turkish foreign minister Mevlut Cavusoglu also threatened to cancel the deal.[176][177]

Refugees protesting at the Pazarkule border gate, the Greek-Turkish border

On 9 October 2019, the Turkish offensive into north-eastern Syria began. Within the first week and a half 130,000 people were displaced. On 10 October it was reported that President Erdoğan had threatened to send "millions" of Syrian refugees to Europe in response to criticism of his military offensive into Kurdish-controlled northern Syria. [178] On 27 February 2020, a senior Turkish official said Turkish police, coast guard and border security officials had received orders to no longer stop refugees’ land and sea crossings to Europe.[179]

Changes in Schengen & Dublin

  European Union members legally obliged to join Schengen at a future date
  Countries with open borders

In the Schengen Agreement of 14 June 1985, 26 European countries (22 of the 28 European Union member states, plus four European Free Trade Association states) joined together to form an area where border checks on internal Schengen borders (i.e. between member states) are abolished and instead checks are restricted to the external Schengen borders and countries with external borders are obligated to enforce border control regulations. Countries may reinstate internal border controls for a maximum of two months for "public policy or national security" reasons.[180]

The Dublin regulation determines the EU member state responsible to examine an asylum application to prevent asylum applicants in the EU from "asylum shopping", where applicants send their applications for asylum to numerous EU member states to get the best "deal" instead of just having "safety countries",[181] or "asylum orbiting", where no member state takes responsibility for an asylum seeker. By default (when no family reasons or humanitarian grounds are present), the first member state that an asylum seeker entered and in which they have been fingerprinted is responsible. If the asylum seeker then moves to another member state, they can be transferred back to the member state they first entered. This has led many to criticise the Dublin rules for placing too much responsibility for asylum seekers on member states on the EU's external borders (like Italy, Greece, Croatia and Hungary), instead of devising a burden-sharing system among EU states.[182][183][184]

In June 2016, the Commission to the European Parliament and Council addressed "inherent weaknesses" in the Common European Asylum System and proposed reforms for the Dublin Regulation.[185] Under the initial Dublin Regulation, responsibility was concentrated on border states that received a large influx of asylum seekers. A briefing by the European Parliament explained that the Dublin Agreement was only designed to assign responsibility, not effectively share responsibility.[186] The reforms would attempt to create a burden-sharing system through several mechanisms. The proposal would introduce a "centralized automated system" to record the number of asylum applications across the EU, with "national interfaces" within each of the Member States.[187] It would also present a "reference key" based on a Member State's GDP and population size to determine its absorption capacity.[187] When absorption capacity in a Member State exceeds 150 percent of its reference share, a "fairness mechanism" would distribute the excess number of asylum seekers across less congested Member States.[187] If a Member State chooses not to accept the asylum seekers, it would contribute €250,000 per application as a "solidarity contribution".[187] The reforms have been discussed in European Parliament since its proposal in 2016, and was included in a meeting on "The Third Reform of the Common European Asylum System – Up for the Challenge" in 2017.[188]

Under the Dublin Regulation, an asylum seeker has to apply for asylum in the first EU country they entered, and, if they cross borders to another country after being fingerprinted, they can be returned to the former. As most asylum seekers try to reach Germany or Sweden through the other EU countries in order to apply for asylum there, and as 22 EU countries form the borderless Schengen area where internal border controls are abolished, enforcement of the Dublin Regulation became increasingly difficult during late summer 2015, with some countries allowing asylum seekers to transit through their territories and other countries renouncing the right to return them back or reinstating border controls within the Schengen Area to prevent them from entering. In July 2017, the European Court of Justice upheld the Dublin Regulation, despite the high influx of 2015, giving EU member states the right to deport migrants to the first country of entry to the EU.[189]

Countries responded in different ways:

  • Hungary became overburdened by asylum applications and on 23 June 2015 it stopped receiving back applicants who had crossed the borders to other EU countries and been detained there.[190] Later in the year, migrants in southern Hungary started a hunger strike in protest against the closure of the green border with Serbia.[191][192] Hungarian police used tear gas and a water cannon on the protesters after they threw stones and concrete at the riot police.[193]
  • On 24 August 2015, in accordance with article 17 of the Dublin III Regulations, Germany suspended the general procedure as regards Syrian refugees and to process their asylum applications directly itself.[194] The change in Germany asylum policy incited large numbers of migrants to move towards Germany, especially after German chancellor Merkel stated that "there is no legal limit to refugee numbers".[195][196] Austria was meanwhile allowing unimpeded travel of migrants from Hungary to Germany through its own territory. Germany then established temporary border controls along its border with Austria, in order to "limit the current inflows" and "return to orderly procedures when people enter the country" according to German Interior Minister Thomas de Maizière.[197] The Czech Republic reacted by increasing police presence along its border with Austria in anticipation of the mass of migrants in Austria trying to reach Germany through the Czech Republic. Czech police conducted random searches of vehicles and trains within Czech territory, with cars and helicopters patrolling alongside the green border. Some Czech police officers were stationed also within Austria in order to give advance warning if large numbers of migrants moved towards the Austrian–Czech borders.[198] Between 9 and 10 September, Denmark closed rail lines with Germany, after hundreds of migrants refused to be registered in the country as asylum seekers and insisted on continuing their travel to Sweden.[199]
  • On 2 September 2015, the Czech Republic also decided to defy the Dublin Regulation and to offer Syrian refugees the option to have their application processed in the Czech Republic or to continue their journey elsewhere. Immigrants of other nationalities would normally face detention and return under the Dublin Regulation if trying to reach Germany through the Czech Republic.[200] On 7 September, Austria began phasing out special measures that had allowed tens of thousands of migrants to cross its territory and decided to reinstate the Dublin Regulation.[201]
  • On 14 September, Austria established border controls alongside its border with Hungary. Austria deployed police officersand the army along its border.[202] Hungary also deployed army personnel along its border with Serbia[203] and announced that in future those who illegally enter the Hungarian territory of Schengen will be arrested and face imprisonment.[204] They later closed the border.[205] Following Austrian chancellor Werner Faymann's remarks likening Hungary's treatment of refugees to Nazi policies,[206] Hungary started transporting refugees by bus directly to the border with Austria, where they were offloaded and tried to cross to Austria on foot.[207]

Management of immigration

Expenditure on refugees (caseload) 2015–2016 (2016 summary)[208]
Country Refugees
in € Mil.
ø Costs
in € per
Sweden 179,017 2,403 0.54% 245.27
Austria 136,208 1,566 0.46% 181.91
Germany 1,301,068 13,309 0.44% 163.48
Switzerland 65,164 1,156 0.19% 139.45
Norway 33,613 645 0.18% 124.19
Luxembourg 4,263 69 0.13% 120.82
Finland 37,739 447 0.21% 81.53
Denmark 27,970 393 0.15% 69.31
Malta 3,398 24 0.28% 56.36
Belgium 52,700 543 0.13% 48.08
Netherlands 58,517 680 0.10% 40.15
Italy 197,739 2,359 0.14% 38.80
Cyprus 4,550 36 0.21% 30.79
Hungary 114,365 293 0.27% 29.80
Iceland 850 10 0.06% 29.02
Greece 57,521 313 0.18% 28.91
France 149,332 1,490 0.07% 22.30
UK 81,751 1,081 0.04% 16.59
Bulgaria 36,194 95 0.22% 13.23
EU+EFTA 2,614,306 27,296 0.17% 52.14

The table "Expenditure on refugees (caseload) 2015–2016 (2016 summary)" summarizes the 1.7 million asylum applicants in 2015 will cost €18 billion in maintenance costs in 2016. The total 2015 and 2016 asylum caseload will cost €27.3 billion (27.296 in € Mil.) in 2016. In the "Expenditure on refugees (caseload) 2015–2016 (2016 summary)," Sweden will bear the heaviest cost. [208]

Quota system (relocation)

The escalation in April 2015 of shipwrecks of migrant boats in the Mediterranean led European Union leaders to reconsider their policies on border control and processing of migrants.[100] On 20 April the European Commission proposed a 10-point plan that included the European Asylum Support Office deploying teams in Italy and Greece for joint processing of asylum applications.[209] Also in April 2015 German chancellor Angela Merkel proposed a new system of quotas to distribute non-EU asylum seekers around the EU member states.[210]

In September 2015, as thousands of migrants started to move from Budapest to Vienna, Germany, Italy and France demanded asylum-seekers be shared more evenly between EU states. Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker proposed to distribute 160,000 asylum seekers among EU states under a new migrant quota system to be set out. Jean Asselborn, the Luxembourg foreign minister, called for the establishment of a European Refugee Agency, which would have the power to investigate whether every EU member state is applying the same standards for granting asylum to migrants. Viktor Orbán, the prime minister of Hungary, criticised the European Commission warning that "tens of millions" of migrants could come to Europe. Asselborn declared to be "ashamed" of Orbán.[211][212] German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier said that EU members reluctant to accept compulsory migrant quotas may have to be outvoted: "if there is no other way, then we should seriously consider to use the instrument of a qualified majority".[213]

National governments' position in the European Union Justice and Home Affairs Council majority vote to relocate 120,000 refugees:
  Non-EU state

Leaders of the Visegrád Group (Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, Slovakia) declared in a September meeting in Prague that they will not accept any compulsory long-term quota on redistribution of immigrants.[214] Czech Government's Secretary for European Affairs Tomáš Prouza commented that "if two or three thousand people who do not want to be here are forced into the Czech Republic, it is fair to assume that they will leave anyway. The quotas are unfair to the refugees, we can't just move them here and there like a cattle." According to the Czech interior minister Milan Chovanec, from 2 September 2015, Czech Republic was offering asylum to every Syrian caught by the police notwithstanding the Dublin Regulation: out of about 1,300 apprehended until 9 September, only 60 decided to apply for asylum in the Czech Republic, with the rest of them continuing to Germany or elsewhere.[215]

Czech President Miloš Zeman said that Ukrainian refugees fleeing War in Donbass should be also included in migrant quotas.[216] In November 2015, the Czech Republic started a program of medical evacuations of selected Syrian refugees from Jordan (400 in total). Under the program, severely sick children were selected for treatment in the best Czech medical facilities, with their families getting asylum, airlift and a paid flats in the Czech Republic after stating clear intent to stay in the country. However, from the initial 3 families that had been transported to Prague, one immediately fled to Germany. Czech Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka stated that this signals that quota system will not work either.[217]

On 7 September 2015, France announced that it would accept 24,000 asylum-seekers over two years; Britain announced that it would take in up to 20,000 refugees, primarily vulnerable children and orphans from camps in Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey; and Germany pledged US$6.7 billion to deal with the migrant crisis.[218][219] However, also on 7 September 2015, both Austria and Germany warned that they would not be able to keep up with the current pace of the influx and that it would need to slow down first.[220]

On 22 September 2015, European Union interior ministers meeting in the Justice and Home Affairs Council approved a plan to relocate 120,000 asylum seekers over two years from the frontline states Italy, Greece and Hungary to all other EU countries (except Denmark, Ireland and the United Kingdom which have opt-outs). The relocation plan applies to asylum seekers "in clear need of international protection" (those with a recognition rate higher than 75 percent, i.e. Syrians, Eritreans and Iraqis) – 15,600 from Italy, 50,400 from Greece and 54,000 from Hungary – who will be distributed among EU states on the basis of quotas taking into account the size of economy and population of each state, as well as the average number of asylum applications. The decision was taken by majority vote, with the Czech Republic, Hungary, Romania and Slovakia voting against and Finland abstaining. Since Hungary voted against the relocation plan, its 54,000 asylum seekers would not be relocated for now, and could be relocated from Italy and Greece instead.[221][222][223][224] Czech Interior Minister tweeted after the vote: "Common sense lost today."[225] Slovak Prime Minister Robert Fico is threatening legal action over EU's mandatory migrant quotas at European Court of Justice in Luxembourg.[226] On 9 October, the first 20 Eritrean asylum seekers were relocated by plane from Italy to Sweden,[227] following the EU prerequisite fingerprinting in Italy as the first member country of asylum registration.[228]

On 25 October 2015, the leaders of Greece and other states along Western Balkan routes to wealthier nations of Europe, including Germany, agreed to set up holding camps for 100,000 asylum seekers, a move which German Chancellor Merkel supported.[229]

On 12 November it was reported that Frontex had been maintaining combined asylum seeker and deportation hotspots in Lesbos, Greece since October.[230]

On 15 December 2015, the EU proposed taking over the border and coastal security operations at major migrant entry pressure points, via its Frontex operation.[231]

By September 2016 the quota system proposed by EU has been abandoned for the time being, after staunch resistance by Visegrád Group countries.[232][233]

By 9 June 2017, 22,504 people have been resettled through the quota system, with over 2000 of them being resettled in May alone.[234] All relevant countries participate in the relocation scheme with exception of Austria, Denmark, Czech Republic, Poland, and Hungary,[235] against whom the European commission has consequentially launched sanctions procedure only to the Czech Republic, Poland, and Hungary.[236]

Crime by immigrants

During 2015–16 New Year's Eve sexual assaults in Germany, a poster showing the title "Offering a Reward" in both German and Arabic in Cologne.

Historically, migrants have often been portrayed as a "security threat," and there has been much focus on the narrative that terrorists maintain networks amongst transnational, refugee, and migrant populations. This fear has been exaggerated into a modern-day Islamist terrorism Trojan Horse in which terrorists hide among refugees and penetrate host countries.[237] In the wake of November 2015 Paris attacks, Poland's European affairs minister-designate Konrad Szymański stated that he sees no possibility of enacting the EU refugee relocation scheme,[238] saying, "We'll accept [refugees only] if we have security guarantees."[239]

The attacks prompted European officials—particularly German officials—to re-evaluate their stance on EU policy toward migrants, especially in light of the ongoing European migrant crisis.[240][241] Many German officials believed a higher level of scrutiny was needed, and criticised the position of German Chancellor Angela Merkel, but the German Vice-Chancellor Sigmar Gabriel defended her stance, and pointed out that a lot of migrants were fleeing terrorism.[241]

In January 2016, 18 of 31 men suspected of violent assaults on women in Cologne on New Year's Eve were identified as asylum seekers, prompting calls by German officials to deport convicted criminals who may be seeking asylum;[242] these sexual attacks brought about a fresh wave of anti-immigrant protests across Europe.[243] Merkel used Wir schaffen das during the violence and crime by the immigrants in Germany, including the 2016 Munich shooting, the 2016 Ansbach bombing, and the Würzburg train attack.[244]

In 2016, according to the Italian daily newspaper La Stampa, officials from Europol conducted an investigation into the trafficking of fake documents for ISIL. They identified fake Syrian passports in the refugee camps in Greece that were destined to supposed members of ISIL, in order to avoid Greek government controls and make their way to other parts of Europe. Also, the chief of Europol said that a new task force of 200 counter-terrorism officers would be deployed to the Greek islands alongside Greek border guards in order to help Greece stop a "strategic" level campaign by ISIL to infiltrate terrorists into Europe.[245]

In October 2016 Danish immigration minister Inger Støjberg authorities reported 50 cases of suspected radicalised asylum seekers at asylum centres. The reports encompassed everything from adult Islamic State sympathisers celebrating terror attacks to violent children who dress up as IS fighters decapitating teddy bears. Støjberg expressed her consternation at asylum seekers ostensibly fleeing war yet simultaneously supporting violence. Asylum centres having detected radicalisation routinely report their findings to police. The 50 incidents were reported between 17 November 2015 and 14 September 2016.[246][247]

In February 2017, British newspaper The Guardian reported that ISIL was paying the smugglers fees of up to $2,000 USD to recruit people from refugee camps in Jordan and Lebanon child migrants in a desperate attempt to radicalize children for the group. The reports by counter-extremism thinktank Quilliam indicate that an estimated 88,300 unaccompanied children—who are reported as missing—were at risk of radicalization by ISIL.[248]

In December 2015, Hungary challenged EU plans to share asylum seekers across EU states at the European Court of Justice.[249] The border has been closed since 15 September 2015, with razor wire fence along its southern borders, particularly Croatia, and by blocking train travel.[250] The government believes that "illegal migrants" are job-seekers, threats to security and likely to "threaten our culture".[251] There have been cases of immigrants and ethnic minorities being attacked. In addition, Hungary has conducted wholesale deportations of refugees, who are generally considered to be allied with ISIL.[252] Refugees are outlawed and almost all are ejected.[252]

Crime on immigrants

There can be instances of exploitation at the hands of enforcement officials, citizens of the host country, instances of human rights violations, child labor, mental and physical trauma/torture, violence-related trauma, and sexual exploitation, especially of children, have been documented. [253]

On October, 2015 German refugee attack plot was foiled by German police which was a plot by neo-Nazis to attack a refugee center with explosives, knives, a baseball bat and a gun. Nazi magazines and memorabilia from the Third Reich, flags emblazoned with banned swastikas were found. According to prosecutor goal was "to establish fear and terror among asylum-seekers". The accused claimed to be either the members of Die Rechte, or anti-Islam group Pegida (Nügida). [254]

In November 2016, the Euro-Mediterranean Human Rights Monitor issued a report regarding the humanitarian situation of migrants into Greece. It hosts 16.209 migrants on its island and 33.650 migrants on the mainland, most of whom are women and children. Because of lack of water, medical care and security protection witnessed by the Euro- Med monitor team- especially with the arrival of winter, they are at risk of serious deterioration in health, mostly children and pregnant women. 1,500 refugees were, accordingly, moved into other places since their camps were deluged with snow, but relocation of the refugees always came too late after they lived without electricity and heating devices for too long. It also showed that there is a lack of access to legal services and security protection to the refugees and migrants in the camps; there is no trust between the resident and the protection offices, paving a path for some people to report crimes and illegal acts in the camps. In addition, the migrants are subject to regular xenophobic attacks, fascist violence, forced strip searches at the hands of residents and police and detention. The women living in the Athens settlements and the Vasilika, Softex and Diavata camps feel worried about their children as they may be subjected to sexual abuse, trafficking and drug use. As a result, some of the refugees and migrants commit suicide, burn property and protest. Finally, it clarified the difficulties the refugees face when entering into Greece; more than 16,000 people are trapped while waiting for deportation on the Greek islands of Lesvos, Chios, Samos, Leros and Kos, and the number of residents is double the capacity of the five islands.[255]

In August 2017 dozens of Afghani asylum seekers made a demonstration in a square in Stockholm against their pending deportations. They were attacked by a group of 15–16 men who threw fireworks at them. Three protesters were injured and one was taken to hospital. None were arrested.[256]

Profile of migrants

Countries of origin of asylum applicants in the EU and EFTA states between 1 January and 30 June 2015
This map shows the distribution of refugees and asylum seekers at the end of 2015 in the regions of Middle East, Africa and Europe while also showing the top 8 (data in millions) worldwide countries of origin of refugees (note that Turkey is out of scale, hosting 2.7 millions refugees while Palestinian refugees are not included; UNHCR data)
Nationalities of the Mediterranean sea arrivals to Greece and Italy in 2015, according to UNHCR data
Map of migrants' routes to North Africa and Europe from West Africa
Syrian refugees hosted in some Middle East countries (Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan, Iraq, and Egypt); only a small fraction of all Syrian refugees have been resettled anywhere in the world (data as of August 2015)
Countries of origin of asylum applicants (1 January – 30 June 2015), Distribution of refugees and asylum seekers at 2015[257] Nationalities of the Mediterranean sea arrivals in 2015 [152], Map of migrants' routes, Syrian refugees as of August 2015[258]

According to the UNHCR, the number of forcibly displaced people worldwide reached 59,500,000 at the end of 2014, the highest level since World War II,[259] with a 40 percent increase taking place since 2011. Of these 59.5 million, 19.5 million were refugees (14.4 million under UNHCR's mandate, plus 5.1 million Palestinian refugees under UNRWA's mandate), and 1.8 million were asylum-seekers. The rest were persons displaced within their own countries (internally displaced persons). The 14.4 million refugees under UNHCR's mandate were around 2.7 million more than at the end of 2013 (a 23 percent increase), the highest level since 1995. Among them, Syrian refugees became the largest refugee group in 2014 (3.9 million, 1.55 million more than the previous year), overtaking Afghan refugees (2.6 million), who had been the largest refugee group for three decades. Six of the ten largest countries of origin of refugees were African: Somalia, Sudan, South Sudan, the Democratic Republic of Congo, the Central African Republic and Eritrea.[25][260]

According to the UNHCR, the number of forcibly displaced people worldwide reached 65,600,000 at the end of 2016; the highest level since World War II. Of these 65,600,000, 22.5 million were refugees (17.2 million under UNHCR's mandate, plus 5.3 million Palestinian refugees under UNRWA's mandate). 2.8 million of the refugees were asylum seekers. The rest were persons displaced within their own countries (internally displaced persons). The 17.2 million refugees under UNHCR's mandate were around 2.9 million more than at the end of 2014, the highest level since 1992.

As of 2017, 55 percent of refugees worldwide came from three nations: South Sudan, Afghanistan, and Syria. Of all displaced peoples, 17 percent of them are being hosted in Europe. As of April 2018, 15,481 refugees have successfully arrived to the shores of Europe via sea within the first few months of the year alone. There was an estimated 500 that have died in this year alone. In 2015, there was a total of 1.02 million arrivals by sea. Since then, the influx has steadily decreased but is ongoing nonetheless.[261]

According to UNHCR data, 58 percent of the refugees and migrants arriving in Europe by sea in 2015 were men, 17 percent were women and 25 percent were children.[23][262] Of the asylum applications received in Sweden in 2015, 70 percent were by men (including minors).[263] Men search for a safe place to live and work before attempting to reunite later with their families.[264] In war-torn countries, men are also at greater risk of being forced to fight or of being killed.[265] Among people arriving in Europe there were also large numbers of women and unaccompanied children.[264] Europe has received a record number of asylum applications from unaccompanied child refugees in 2015, as they became separated from their families in war, or their family could not afford to send more than one member abroad. Younger refugees also have better chances of receiving asylum.[266]

According to UNHCR, the top ten nationalities of Mediterranean Sea arrivals in 2015 were Syria (49 percent), Afghanistan (21 percent), Iraq (8 percent), Eritrea (4 percent), Pakistan (2 percent), Nigeria (2 percent), Somalia (2 percent), Sudan (1 percent), the Gambia (1 percent) and Mali (1 percent).[23][262] Asylum seekers of seven nationalities had an asylum recognition rate of over 50 percent in EU States in the first quarter of 2015, meaning that they obtained protection over half the time they applied: Syrians (94 percent recognition rate), Eritreans (90 percent), Iraqis (88 percent), Afghans (66 percent), Iranians (65 percent), Somalis (60 percent) and Sudanese (53 percent). Migrants of these nationalities accounted for 90 percent of the arrivals in Greece and 47 percent of the arrivals in Italy between January and August 2015, according to UNHCR data.[267][268]

Developing countries hosted the largest share of refugees (86 percent by the end of 2014, the highest figure in more than two decades); the least developed countries alone provided asylum to 25 percent of refugees worldwide.[25] Even though most Syrian refugees were hosted by neighbouring countries such as Turkey, Lebanon and Jordan, the number of asylum applications lodged by Syrian refugees in Europe steadily increased between 2011 and 2015, totaling 813,599 in 37 European countries (including both EU members and non-members) as of November 2015; 57 percent of them applied for asylum in Germany or Serbia.[269]

Origins, routes, motivations

Island groups of the Aegean Sea
Greek, Turkish and Bulgarian borders and the course of the Evros River (also known as Maritsa River)

The "European Migrant Crisis" refers to an enormous and unprecedented wave of both war refugees from the Syrian Civil War and economic migrants from the Near East and Africa.[270][page needed]

As of May 2017, Frontex (the European border and coast guard agency) identifies the following eight main routes on sea and on land used by irregular migrants to enter the EU:[271]

  • Western African route (Sea passage from West African countries, into the Canary Islands, i.e. territory of Spain)
  • Western Mediterranean route (Sea passage from North Africa to southern coast of Spain, also including the land route through the borders of Ceuta and Melilla.)
  • Central Mediterranean route (Sea passage from North Africa (particularly Egypt[272] and Libya) towards Italy and Malta across the Mediterranean Sea.) Most migrants taking to sea on this route do so on vessels operated by people smugglers. NGOs such as Save the Children, MSF and German organisation Sea Eye operate search-and-rescue ships in this area bringing migrants to Europe.[273]
  • Apulia and Calabria route (Sea passage of migrants from Turkey and Egypt who enter Greece and then cross the Ionian Sea towards southern Italy. Since October 2014 this has been classified by Frontex as a subset of the Central Mediterranean route.)
  • Albania–Greece circular route (Large number of illegal land border crossings whereby economic migrants from Albania cross into Greece for seasonal jobs and then return home.)
  • Western Balkan route (Land and sea route from the Greek-Turkish border, through North Macedonia and Serbia into Hungary, Romania or Croatia.[274] Mostly used by Asian immigrants (from Syria, Afghanistan and Iraq) but also used by large numbers of migrants from Western Balkan countries themselves, primarily Kosovo).
  • Eastern Mediterranean route (Passage used by migrants, mostly Asian, crossing from Turkey into EU via Greece, Bulgaria or Cyprus. Large portions of these migrants continue along the Western Balkan route towards Hungary or Romania.)
  • Eastern Borders route (The 6,000 km long land border between EU's eastern member countries and Russia, Belarus, Ukraine and Moldova.)

In addition:

  • An Arctic route (from Russia via to Sør-Varanger in Norway) had emerged by September 2015[275] and was becoming one of the fastest-growing routes to enter Western Europe by November 2015.[276] This route was closed for a while in 2016, after Russia and Norway decided to curb movement through Salla and Lotta for migrants, allowing only Russian, Norwegian and Belarusian citizens to access it.[277]

Economic migrants

Migrants from the Western Balkans (Kosovo, Albania, Serbia) and parts of West Africa (The Gambia, Nigeria) are more likely to be economic migrants, fleeing poverty and lack of jobs, many of them hoping for a better lifestyle and job offers, without valid claims to refugee status.[278][279] The majority of asylum applicants from Serbia, North Macedonia and Montenegro are Roma people who feel discriminated against in their countries of origin.[280]

Some argue that migrants have been seeking to settle preferentially in those national destinations offering more generous social welfare benefits and hosting more established Middle Eastern and African immigrant communities. Others argue that migrants are attracted to more tolerant societies with stronger economies, and that the chief motivation for leaving Turkey is that they are not permitted to leave camps or work.[281] A large number of refugees in Turkey have been faced with rather difficult living circumstances.[282] Thus, many refugees arriving in southern Europe continue their journey in attempts to reach northern European countries such as Germany, which are observed as having more prominent outcomes of security.[283] In contrast to Germany, historically a popular final destination for the EU migrants, France saw its popularity erode in 2015 among migrants seeking asylum.[284][285]

The influx from states like Nigeria and Pakistan is a mix of economic migrants and refugees fleeing from violence and war such as Boko Haram insurgency in north-east Nigeria and the War in North-West Pakistan.[286][287][288]

Escaping from conflicts – persecution

Refugees are people forced to flee their country of origin because of persecution, war, or violence.[289]

Ascertaining motivation is complex, but, according to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, most of the people arriving in Europe in 2015 were refugees, fleeing war and persecution[290] in countries such as Syria, Afghanistan, Iraq and Eritrea: according to UNHCR data, 84 percent of Mediterranean Sea arrivals in 2015 came from the world's top ten refugee-producing countries.[291] Wars fueling the crisis are the Syrian Civil War and the Iraq War, the War in Afghanistan, the War in Somalia and the War in Darfur. Refugees from Eritrea, one of the most repressive states in the world, flee from indefinite military conscription and forced labour.[286][292] Some ethnicities or religions from an originating country are more represented among the migrants than others, for instance Kurds make up 80 to 90 percent of all Turkish refugees in Germany.[293]

Refugees coming specifically from the Middle East have been attempting to seek asylum in Europe rather than in countries surrounding their own neighboring regions.[294] In 2015, over 80 percent of the refugees who arrived in Europe by sea, came from Syria, Iraq, and Afghanistan.[295] Routes in which these refugees face while attempting to arrive in Europe, are most often extremely dangerous.[296] The jeopardy to endure such routes also supports the arguments behind certain refugees' preferential motivations of seeking asylum within European nations.[297]

Major groups

Asylum seekers in percent / year[298]
Sort 2015 2016 2017
Syrian 29% 28% 16%
Undeclared 26% 28% 40%
Afghanistan 14% 15% 07%
Iraq 10% 11% 07%
Albanian 05% 02% 03%
Bangladesh 03%
Ivory Coast 02%
Eritrea 03% 03% 04%
Guinea 03%
Iran 02% 03% 03%
Kosovo 05%
Nigeria 02% 04% 06%
Pakistan 04% 04% 05%
Russia 02%
Turkey 02%


The greatest number of refugees fleeing to Europe originate from Syria.[citation needed] Their migration stems from severe socio-political oppression under President Bashar al-Assad. Civil war ensued with clashes between pro and anti-government groups. Anti-government forces were supported by external governments (including the US, UK and France[299]) in an effort to topple the Syrian government via classified programs such as Timber Sycamore that effectively delivered thousands of tons of weaponry to rebel groups.[300][301][302][303][304][305][306][307] In 2011, a group of Syrians displayed pro-democracy protests in the city of Daraa. Syrian President Bashar al-Assad responded with force and consequently, more protests were triggered nationwide against the Assad regime. By July 2011, hundreds of thousands of people were protesting against President Assad. An early violent crackdown was implemented to try to mitigate these uprisings—however, these measures were met with more unrest. By May 2011, thousands of people had already fled the country and the first refugee camps opened in Turkey. In March 2012, the UNHCR decided to appoint a Regional Refugee Coordinator for Syrian Refugees—recognising the growing concerns surrounding the crisis. Just a year later, in March 2013, the number of Syrian refugees reached 1,000,000. By December 2017, UNHCR counted 1,000,000 asylum applications for Syrian refugees in the European Union. As of March 2018, UNHCR has counted nearly 5.6 million registered Syrian refugees worldwide.[308]


Afghan refugees comprise the second-largest refugee population in the world.[309] According to the UNHCR, there are almost 2.5 million registered refugees from Afghanistan. Most of these refugees have fled the region due to war and persecution. The majority have resettled in Pakistan and Iran, but it is becoming increasingly common to migrate further west to the European Union. Afghanistan has faced nearly 40 years of conflict dating back to the Soviet invasion in 1979. Since then, the nation has faced fluctuating levels of civil war amidst unending unrest. The increase in refugee numbers has been credited primarily to the Taliban presence within Afghanistan. Their retreat in 2001, led to nearly 6 million Afghan refugees returning to their homeland. However, after civil unrest and fighting alongside the Taliban's return, nearly 2.5 million refugees have fled Afghanistan.[310] Most Afghan refugees, however, seek refuge in the neighboring nation of Pakistan. Increasing numbers, though, have committed to the strenuous migration to Turkey and the European Union.


"Syrian Refugees Welcome" rally in Vienna, 31 August 2015


 Austria – On 6 August 2015, Amnesty International Secretary General Heinz Patzelt inspected the refugee camp Bundesbetreuungsstelle in Traiskirchen where more than 4,800 migrants/refugees are housed. Medical expert Siroos Mirzaei from Amnesty International noted that the people had to wait for days in order to get medical help, this due to the vast number of people received over a short period of time. The report also stated that four doctors were present at the refugee camp and that showers and some hygienic facilities were in disrepair. Patzelt claimed, "Austria is currently violating human rights and should focus on unattended children and minors".[311]

Migrants in Austria, November 2015

On 27 August 2015, 71 migrants were found dead in an unventilated food truck near Vienna.[312] As an official response to this event, on 31 August 2015, Austria began inspections of vehicles for smuggled immigrants entering from across the border with Hungary, leading to vehicular backups of 19 km (12 mi) and trains stalled for hours.[75]

Late on 4 September 2015, Chancellor Werner Faymann of Austria, in conjunction with Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany, announced that migrants would be allowed to cross the border from Hungary into Austria and onward to Germany, and early on 5 September 2015, buses with migrants began crossing the Austro-Hungarian border.[313][314] Austria noted that 6,500 migrants had crossed the border by the afternoon of 5 September 2015, with 2,200 already on their way to Germany.[315][316]

On 14 September 2015, Austria followed Germany's suit and instituted border controls of its own at the border with Hungary.[317] Austrian authorities also deployed the Austrian Army to the border with Hungary.[318][319]

On 19 September 2015, Austria permitted entry to approximately 10,000 migrants from Slovenia and Hungary.[320] Austria has taken on the role of regulator of the flow of migrants destined for Germany by feeding, housing and providing them health care in transit.[321]

On 28 October 2015, Austria decided to build a fence along its border with Slovenia (that has a total length of 91 km[322]) to "be able to control the migrants in an orderly manner", said Minister of the Interior Johanna Mikl-Leitner.[323]

On 20 January 2016, Austria announced it would limit the number of asylum applicants to 37,500 in each of the next four years, compared to the 90,000 applications in 2015.[324] On 19 February 2016, Austria started putting a daily cap of 80 asylum seekers allowed to enter the country to apply for Austrian asylum, and a maximum of 3,200 allowed daily to transit towards other countries (de facto most of them to Germany). The EU's migration commissioner said the cap was incompatible with Austria's obligations under EU and international law.[325] The EU Council of Ministers' legal team however concluded that Austria's moves are not illegal.[326]

In February 2018, Austrian authorities planned to stop providing food and accommodation to rejected asylum applicants. The proposed legislation introduces penalties between €5000 to €15000 for those who remain in Austria with those refusing to leave to be detained. The applicant lying about his identity would face a €5000 fine.[327] According to the interior ministry, application from Afghans, Nigerians and Pakistanis had mainly been rejected.[327]

From April 2018, Austrian authorities would confiscate mobile phones of migrants in order to use its geographical data to verify how the migrant arrived to the country. If migrants are found to have entered via a country covered by the Dublin regulation, they will be sent there. To cover the cost of handling the application, 840 euro is demanded.[328]


 Bulgaria – Bulgaria built a fence along its border with Turkey to prevent migrants from crossing through its territory in order to reach other EU countries. The fence is equipped with infrared cameras, motion sensors and wire, and is monitored by the army.[329][330]


 Croatia – Croatia will receive 1,064[331] migrants in the next two years from 2015 according to the EU plan. Croatia was originally supposed to receive 505 migrants, but decided to accept more—which makes it the only country in the EU, along with Estonia, which has done so.[332] On 29 August 2015 a Croatian daily newspaper Jutarnji list published an interview with a "senior government official" who said that the Croatian Government formed an interdepartmental working group that is working on a plan on how to accept these migrants. Croatia will in October 2015 send its delegation to the migrants' camps in Italy and Greece, which will choose immigrants from Syria and Eritrea that Croatia will accept. Criteria for the selection will be: 1. any kind of connection to Croatia, such as family in Croatia or a diploma from one of the Croatian Universities (while Croatia was member of Yugoslavia, many foreigners from Non-Aligned Movement countries, especially Syrians, were coming to Croatia to study), 2. education in occupations that are in demand in Croatia, and 3. families with small children.[333] In addition, Croatia shares a land border with Serbia. Therefore, there is a risk of a strong inflow of migrants from Serbia considering that Hungary erected a fence on its border with Serbia. Nearly 80 percent of the border consists of the Danube river, but the problem is the 70 kilometers long so-called "Green Border" near Tovarnik. According to the Croatian Minister of Interior Ranko Ostojić "police in the area has enough people and equipment to protect Croatian border against illegal immigrants".[334] Croatian President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarović and First Deputy Prime Minister Vesna Pusić rejected the option of building a fence on Croatian border with Serbia.[335][336] Grabar-Kitarović has accused German Chancellor Angela Merkel of causing "chaos".[337] In expectancy of possible new migrant wave that might activate in winter of 2016, President Grabar-Kitarović stated on 21 September 2016 before the UN General Assembly that "if a new migrant wave reaches Croatian borders, Croatia would not let migrants pass through its territory" because Croatia needed to protect its territory, adding that it turned out that over 85 percent of them were economic migrants and not genuine refugees.[338]

Anti-immigration rally called "For our culture and safe country" in Prague, Czech Republic, 12 September 2015
Pro-migration rally in Prague, Czech Republic, 12 September 2015

Croatia, an EU member state since 2013, shares a land border (527 km) with Serbia and therefore experienced a strong inflow of migrants from Serbia after Hungary erected a fence on its border with Serbia. Nearly 80 percent of the border consists of the Danube River, but there is a 70 kilometer-long segment of land border in Syrmia, in the forests and fields near Tovarnik.[citation needed] Also, parts of the Croatia-Serbia border are known minefields, which represent a considerable threat. According to the Croatian Minister of Interior Ranko Ostojić, "police in the area have enough people and equipment to protect the Croatian border against illegal immigrants".[334] Croatian President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarović and First Deputy Prime Minister Vesna Pusić have so far rejected the option of building a fence along the Croatian border with Serbia.[335][336] Croatian Prime Minister Zoran Milanović said his country is ready to help refugees coming to Europe, insisting that people fleeing conflict should be given the right to remain in the EU.[339]

On 15 September 2015, Croatia started to experience the first major waves of refugees, who carved out a new route through Europe after Hungary sealed its borders.[274] On 15 September 2015, Hungary announced it would start arresting people crossing the border illegally, and as of early 16 September, Hungary had detained 519 people and pressed criminal charges against 46 for trespassing.[340] Thousands of migrants were subsequently led to pursue alternative routes through Croatia from Serbia.[340] After Hungary closed its border with Serbia on 15 September, migrants headed towards the Serbian town of Šid, less than 10 kilometers from the Croatian border. Several buses filled with migrants arrived on the Croatian border crossing of Tovarnik, where the Croatian Vukovar-Srijem County Care and Rescue teams as well as the Croatian Red Cross were on standby awaiting migrants.[341] On 17 September, as of 3:30 am, more than 5,000 migrants had arrived in Tovarnik.[342] Interior Minister Ranko Ostojić said Croatia was "absolutely full" by the evening of 17 September 2015, and Croatia decided to close its border with Serbia.[343] Train lines from Serbia via Croatia to Slovenia were closed until further notice.

As of 6 October 2015, 125,000 had entered Croatia in the space of three weeks.[344] Between mid-September and mid-October 2015, about 200,000 migrants had passed through Croatia, most moving on to Hungary.[135] On 17 October 2015, Hungary closed its border with Croatia to migrants, forcing diversion of migrants to Slovenia instead.[135] However, Slovenia, with a population of only two million, stated that it would only be able to admit 2,500 people per day, stranding thousands of migrants in Croatia as well as Serbia and North Macedonia, while new migrants continued to add to this backlog.[46][47]

In late December 2015, Slovenia put up a razor-wire fence on the border with western Croatian regions of Istria and Gorski kotar, of which the latter is a habitat of the lynx and the brown bear, which are both endangered and protected by law in Croatia. Local hunters have found deer killed by the fence. The WWF and the inhabitants of the regions from both sides of the border have protested against the decision to put up the razor-wire fence.[345][346][347]

On 9 March 2016, Croatia started implementing border restrictions on the border with Serbia, aiming to reinstate the Schengen rules.[348]

Czech Republic

 Czech Republic – Czech Republic will receive 4,306 refugees according to quotas accepted by the European Commission.[349] Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka said the European Commission had failed in solving the crisis and expressed disagreement with proposed quotas saying: "We reject the system of quotas. I do not consider it effective, I do not think it would help bring any solution. It makes no sense to discuss any numbers for now". He said Europe needs to complete what the European Council has agreed in the past and not to create new plans and proposals. He supports the idea of creating hotspots in Italy or Greece.[350] Czech President Miloš Zeman has expressed his dissatisfaction with the mass inflow of migrants to Europe on several occasions. In late August 2015 in an interview for radio "Frekvence 1" he said: "The reception of migrants from the Middle East and Northern Africa to the territory of Czech Republic brings with it three major risks – spread of infectious diseases, terrorism of the Islamic state and the creation of new ghettos." According to his opinion the majority of refugees are actually economic migrants that are not fleeing war. The President also thinks that migrants that are crossing Czech territory in order to go to Germany will stay in Czech Republic when Germany eventually stops accepting them, "which would then make Czech Republic to defend its boundaries with the police and army".[351]

Czech Deputy Prime Minister Andrej Babiš called for NATO intervention against human trafficking in the Mediterranean.[352] After talks with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg on migrant crisis issue Babiš said: "NATO is not interested in refugees, though Turkey, a NATO member, is their entrance gate to Europe and smugglers operate on Turkish territory".[353] Opposition TOP09's Miroslav Kalousek said that "confident and wealthy countries such as the Czech Republic should not be afraid to accept 3,000 refugees" and accused President Zeman of giving rise to hatred to refugees; however he also shares disagreement with proposed quotas.[354] Former Minister of Foreign Affairs Karel Schwarzenberg has said that accepting 80,000 refugees would be suitable.[355] Minister of Human Rights and Equal Opportunities Jiří Dienstbier said the country is able to accept 7,000 —15,000 refugees now and should express solidarity and help other countries facing the strongest influx of refugees without quotas.[356]


 Denmark – Denmark temporarily closed rail links with Germany in September to stop migrants from illegally entering the country, and the E45 Motorway due to migrants on the road.[357] Denmark used the second highest amount on asylum seekers among European nations in 2015, compared to GDP (0.47 percent of GDP, after Sweden at 0.5 percent, followed by Germany and Italy at 0.2 percent, with remaining lower).[358] This is expected to rise in 2016.[358] In December 2015, the Danish Government announced that it would introduce new laws that will allow confiscation of cash above 3,000 DKK (c. €402) and valuables worth more than 3,000 DKK from asylum seekers to pay the cost of their stay. Items of sentimental value (such as wedding rings, personal mobile phones and personal laptops) would not be taken.[359] In January 2016, the limit was changed to 10,000 DKK (c. €1,340) and the law was passed.[360][361] Similar laws already exist in Switzerland (limit 1,000 Swiss francs [c. €913]),[360] the Netherlands (limit €5,895)[362][363] and some federal states of Germany (limit varies, €750 in Bavaria and €350 in Baden-Württemberg).[364] The Danish law was condemned from several sides, including by the UNHCR,[361][365] and caused one Danish politician, Jens Rohde, to defect from the Venstre party to the Social Liberal Party.[366] The Danish Police said that this would be unenforceable[367] and a review two months after the law came into effect showed that there had been no confiscations.[368]

Starting on 6 September 2015, large groups of migrants who declined to apply for asylum in Germany started passing the Danish borders with the majority heading for Sweden.[369] Initially the Danish police attempted to register all migrants in accordance with EU rules, but many refused (instead wishing to seek asylum in Sweden), eventually resulting in a scuffle of about 50 people on 9 September at the Padborg rail station.[370][371]

On 9 September, Denmark suspended all rail and ferry links with Germany (reopened the following day). On the same day parts of the E45 motorway was closed for vehicles to avoid accidents as hundreds of migrants were walking along it in southern Jutland towards Sweden.[371] It was reopened a few hours later when the walking migrants exited the motorway.[372] After initial uncertainty surrounding the rules, it was decided that migrants wishing to continue to other Nordic countries and refusing to seek asylum in Denmark would be allowed to pass.[369] In the five weeks following 6 September alone, approximately 28,800 migrants passed the Danish borders. 3,500 of these applied for asylum in Denmark and the remaining continued to other Nordic countries.[373]

After Sweden introduced ID checks on the Danish border to prevent undocumented migrants from coming to Sweden, Denmark also reintroduced border controls on the Danish-German border in January 2016, wanting to avoid predicted accumulation of illegal migrants on their way to Sweden as one of the reasons for this decision.[374] As of December 2019, the border control remains.

In October 2017 the Danish migration agency Udlændingestyrelsen rejected over 600 asylum applications because the applicants had lied about their national identity in order to achieve preferential treatment.[375]


 France – On 23 September 2015, after the Czech Republic, Hungary, Romania and Slovakia voted against a plan to relocate asylum-seekers arriving in Greece, Italy and Hungary among other member states, French President François Hollande warned the four former Eastern Bloc countries against rejecting the EU mandatory migrant quotas: "Those who don't share our values, those who don't even want to respect those principles, need to start asking themselves questions about their place in the European Union."[376]

Migrants in Budapest railway station, with most heading to Germany, 4 September 2015
Sudanese migrants in Calais, October 2015

Migrants entering France illegally by train from Italy were returned to Italy by French police since border controls were introduced in July 2015.[377][378] Due to "poor housing", lower social benefits and a thorough asylum application process France is not commonly considered attractive enough to seek asylum in.[379] Thus many of them seek to enter the United Kingdom, resulting in camps of migrants around Calais, where one of the Eurotunnel entrances is located. During the summer of 2015, at least nine people died in attempts to reach Britain, including falling from, or being hit by trains, and drowning in a canal at the Eurotunnel entrance.[380] Migrants from the camps also attempt to enter trucks bound for the UK, with some truck drivers being threatened by migrants, and cargo being stolen or damaged.[381]

In response, a UK financed fence was built along the A 216 highway in Calais.[382][383] At the camp near Calais, known as the Jungle, riots broke out when authorities started to demolish the illegally constructed campsite on 29 January 2015.[384] Amid the protests, which included hunger strikes, thousands of refugees living in the camp were relocated to France's "first international-standard refugee camp" of La Liniere refugee camp in Grande-Synthe which replaced the predecessor encampment at Basroch refugee camp.[385][386]


A pro-migration demonstration in Helsinki, Finland, showing a sign saying Natsit & ISIS = samaa paskaa, Finnish for "Nazis & ISIS = the same shit".

 Finland – Many migrants arrived over the land border from Sweden. They were stopped from using ferries by carrier's responsibility rules. On 14 September, a former prime minister Matti Vanhanen noted that the government needed to regain control on who enters the country and to divert asylum seekers to special camps. He did not think that it would be appropriate that the asylum seekers could continue to freely move around.[387] Later on the same day, the Minister of the Interior Petteri Orpo, who is also a member of the National Coalition Party, noted that tightened border controls would be imposed on the northern border stations by the end of the week.[388] On 14 November 2015 Finnish prime minister Juha Sipilä noted that border controls need to be tightened and he expressed his concern that Schengen Agreement and freedom of movement was not working. He stressed, that border controls will be restored if Schengen agreement is not fixed. Furthermore, he noted, that Finnish National Bureau of Investigation will improve its cyber surveillance.[389] On the same day Finnish President Sauli Niinistö (elected from the National Coalition Party) was referred to have noted that national solutions needed to be formed if the Schengen agreement could not be repaired.[390] On 13 September 2015, it was reported that the local authorities had estimated the flow of 300 asylum seekers per day entering via the northern land border from Sweden into Tornio, which is the main route of migration flow into Finland.[391] The total number of asylum seekers for the year was reported to be over 2.6 times the total amount for the whole of the previous year.[392] During October 2015, 7,058 new asylum seekers arrived in Finland. In mid-October the number of asylum seekers entering Finland during 2015 reached 27,000, which is, in relation to the country's size, the fourth-largest in Europe.[393] In late November, the number passed 30,000, nearly ten-fold increase compared to the previous year.[394][395]

More than 60 percent of asylum seekers who arrived during 2015 came from Iraq.[396] In late October, The Finnish Immigration Service (Migri) changed its guidelines about areas in Iraq which are recognized as safe by the Finnish authorities,[396] putting Iraqi asylum seekers under closer scrutiny.[397] The Interior Minister Petteri Orpo estimated that two in three of recent asylum seekers come to Finland in hopes of higher standard of living. In November, the Permanent Secretary of the Interior Ministry stated that approximately 60 to 65 percent of the recent applications for asylum will be denied.[393]

In September, the processing time of an asylum application was estimated to be extended from normal six months up to two years.[398] In late November, the reception centers were reported to be running out of space, forcing the authorities resorting to refurbished shipping containers and tents to house new asylum seekers.[395] Interior Minister Petteri Orpo has announced that special repatriation centers would be established. These centers would be inhabited by the asylum seekers whose applications were declined. While he stressed that these camps would not be prisons, he described the inhabitants would be under strict surveillance.[399]

In January 2016, Yle, Finland's national public-broadcasting company, reported that a Russian border guard had admitted that the Federal Security Service was enabling migrants to enter Finland.[400]

In 2017, hundreds Muslim asylum seekers from Iraq and Afghanistan converted to Christianity after having had their first asylum application rejected by the Finnish Immigration Service (Migri), in order to re-apply for asylum on the grounds of religious persecution.[401]


 Germany – Junior coalition partner, Vice Chancellor Sigmar Gabriel said that Germany could take in 500,000 refugees annually for the next several years.[402] German opposition to the government's admission of the new wave of migrants has been an increasingly tense political debate, coupled with a rise in anti-immigration protests.[403] Pegida, an anti-immigration movement flourished briefly in late 2014, followed by a new wave of anti-immigration protests in the late summer of 2015.[404] Chancellor Angela Merkel insisted that Germany has the economic strength to cope with the influx of migrants and reiterated that there is no legal maximum limit on the number of migrants Germany can take.[405] In September 2015, enthusiastic crowds across the country welcomed arriving refugees and migrants.[406]

Horst Seehofer, leader of the Christian Social Union in Bavaria (the sister party of Merkel's Christian Democratic Union) and then Bavarian Minister President, attacked Merkel's policies in sharp language,[407] threatened to sue the government in the high court, and hinted that the CSU might topple Merkel.[citation needed] Many MPs of Merkel's CDU party also voiced dissatisfaction with Merkel. Seehofer criticised Merkel's decision to allow in migrants, saying that "we're now in a state of mind without rules, without system and without order because of a German decision."[408] Seehofer estimated as many as 30 percent of asylum seekers arriving in Germany claiming to be from Syria are in fact from other countries,[409] and suggested to reduce EU funding for member countries that reject mandatory refugee quotas.[410] The Bavarian Interior Minister Joachim Herrmann (CSU) accused the Berlin government of pushing its policy forward without consulting the federal states, which would have had to cope with the consequences.[407]

Meanwhile, Yasmin Fahimi, secretary-general of the Social Democratic Party, the junior partner of the ruling coalition, praised Merkel's policy allowing migrants in Hungary to enter Germany as "a strong signal of humanity to show that Europe's values are valid also in difficult times".[407] North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany's most populous state, was hiring more than 3,600 new teachers to manage the influx of an estimated 40,000 new refugee children in 2015.[411]

In November 2015, there were talks inside the governing coalition to stop family unification for migrants for two years, and to establish "Transit Zones" on the border and – for migrants with low chances to get asylum approved – to be housed there until their application is approved. The issues are in conflict between the CSU who favours those new measures and threaten to leave the coalition without them, and the SPD who opposes them. Merkel has agreed to the measures.[412] The November 2015 Paris attacks prompted reevaluation of German officials' stance on the EU's policy toward migrants.[413] There appeared to be a consensus among officials, with the notable exception of Angela Merkel herself, that a higher level of scrutiny was needed in vetting migrants with respect to their mission in Germany.[413] However, while not officially limiting the influx numerically, Merkel has tightened asylum policy in Germany.[414]

Migrants in Germany, October 2015

Germany's asylum practice is generally to be based on article 16a of its Basic Law, as well as international regulations like the Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees[415] Germany has been the most sought-after final destination in the EU migrant and refugee crisis.[416][417] Between January and December 2015, 1,091,894 arrivals of asylum seekers were registered in Germany's "EASY" system for the first distribution of asylum seekers among Germany's federal states; however, asylum applications in 2015 were only 476,649, because many asylum seekers had not formally applied for asylum yet or did not stop in Germany and moved on to other EU states.[418]

Further developments

Germany has a quota system to distribute asylum seekers among all German states.[419] In September 2015 however the federal states, responsible for accommodation, criticised the Government in Berlin for not providing enough help to them.[420]

The Interior Minister announced on 13 September 2015 the introduction of temporary controls on the southern border with Austria and explained the measure with reference to security concerns.[421] The restrictions incorporated a temporary suspension of rail travel from Austria and allowed spot checks on automobiles.[422][423] In September 2019, following the rise in the number of migrants reaching Italy after having been rescued from drowning by activists, Interior Minister Horst Seehofer said that Germany would accept one in four migrants previously rescued and brought to Italy.[424]

On 5 October, the German tabloid Bild claimed to possess a secret document stating that the number of asylum seekers would increase to 1.5 million by the end of 2015. This report was immediately disclaimed by the German ministry of the interior which restated its own estimate of 800,000 applicants.[425] Germany has followed a policy of treating migrants under 18 years of age as "children first and refugees second," giving them − according to the Convention on the Rights of the Child − mostly the same rights as German children.[426] In late October 2015, the small village of Sumte, population 102, was told by Lower Saxony officials that it would receive 750 asylum-seekers.[427]

In February 2016, the German government admitted that it had lost track of around 13 percent of the 1.1 million people registered as asylum seekers on arrival in 2015, because they never arrived at the refugee accommodation they were assigned. The German government said that probably many of the missing asylum seekers simply went to other European countries, while others continued to live illegally in Germany.[428] Merkel's immigration policies are being criticised in the Christian Social Union, e.g. by the CSU-chairman Horst Seehofer.[429]

In October 2016, Angela Merkel travelled to African countries Mali and Niger. The diplomatic visit took place in order to discuss how their governments could improve conditions which cause people to flee those countries and how illegal migration through and from these countries could be reduced.[430]

In November 2016 Germany security officials cracked down on the militant salafist organisation Die Wahre Religion as these preachers had targeted newly arrived migrants with their violent form of Islam.[431]

The migrant crisis has spurred right-wing electoral preferences across Germany with the Alternative for Germany (AfD) gaining 12% of the vote in the 2017 German federal election. These developments have prompted debates over the reasons for increased right-wing populism in Germany. Literature argues that the increased right-wing preferences are a result of the European migrant crisis which has brought thousands of people, predominantly from Muslim countries to Germany, and spurred a perception among a share of Germans that refugees constitute an ethnic and cultural threat to Germany.[432]


Migrants crossing the Aegean Sea from Turkey to the Greek island of Lesbos, January 2016
A group of Syrian refugees arrive by boat from Turkey to airport area of Mytilini, Lesvos island, Greece, 13 December 2015
Migrants at the Greece–North Macedonia border near Gevgelija, 24 August 2015

Migrants arrive from the Middle East making the 6-kilometre (4 mi) water crossing to the Greek islands of Chios, Kos, Lesbos, Leros, Kastellorizo, Agathonisi, Farmakonisi, Rhodes, Samos, Symi and other islands which are close to Turkey and are thus a quick and easy access border into Europe.[433][434][435][436] Some arrive via the Evros border crossing from Turkey. As of June 2015, 124,000 migrants had arrived into Greece, a 750 percent increase from 2014, mainly refugees stemming from the wars in Syria, Iraq, and Afghanistan. Greece appealed to the European Union for assistance, whilst the UNCHR European Director Vincent Cochetel said facilities for migrants on the Greek islands were "totally inadequate" and the islands in "total chaos".[437]

Frontex's Operation Poseidon, aimed at patrolling the Aegean Sea, is badly underfunded and undermanned, with only 11 coastal patrol vessels, one ship, two helicopters, two aircraft and a budget of €18 million.[438]

Human traffickers charge illegal immigrants $1,000 to $1,500 for the 25-minute boat ride from Bodrum, Turkey to Kos.[433] In August 2015, "hundreds" of boats made the crossing carrying illegal immigrants every night.[433] The migrants travel onward to Thessaloniki in the mainland of Greece and estimate that it will cost them €3,000 to €4,000 to reach Germany, and €10,000 or €12,000 to reach Britain.[433] Desperate migrants have fought brawls over places in boats leaving Bodrum for Kos.[439]

Airlines charge passengers usually less than $400 for oneway economy class tickets from Turkey to Germany or Britain,[440][441] but a rule in the Schengen Agreement requires airlines to check that all passengers have a visa or are exempt from visa.[442]

In September 2015, the photos of dead 3-year-old Alan Kurdi, who drowned when he and his family were in a small inflatable boat which capsized shortly after leaving Bodrum trying to reach the Greek island of Kos, made headlines around the world. Konstantinos Vardakis, the top EU diplomat in Baghdad, told The New York Times that at least 250 Iraqis per day had been landing on Greek islands between mid-August and early September 2015.[443]

On 27 January 2016, the European Commission accused Greece of neglecting its obligations under the Schengen agreement to carry out external border controls, saying that a visit by EU inspectors in November 2015 found that Greece was failing to identify and register arrivals properly, to fingerprint everyone and to check travel documents for authenticity and against security databases.[444] On 12 February, the EU gave Greece a three months deadline to fix its border controls, or other member states could be authorized to extend border controls for up to two years instead of the normal six months.[445]

On 11 February, NATO announced that it was going to deploy ships in the Aegean Sea to deter people smugglers taking migrants from Turkey to Greece, the first 3 ships being the Royal Canadian Navy's HMCS Fredericton (FFH 337), Turkish Naval Forces's TCG Barbaros (F-244) and German Navy's Bonn (A1413) from NATO's SNMG2. NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg said the mission would not be about "stopping or pushing back refugee boats", but about intelligence gathering and sharing information with Turkey and Greece, both NATO allies.[446]

On 1 March 2016, the Greek government asked the EU for €480 million in emergency funds to shelter 100,000 refugees.[447]

North Macedonia closed its border with Greece on 9 March 2016 where 12,000 to 13,000 migrants were stuck at Idomeni on the Greek side, while the total number of migrants throughout Greece are estimated to be more than 50,000.[448]

After the 2016 Turkish coup d'état attempt Greek authorities on a number of Aegean islands have called for emergency measures to curtail a growing flow of refugees from Turkey, the number of migrants and refugees willing to make the journey across the Aegean has increased noticeably. At Athens officials voiced worries that Turkish monitors overseeing the deal in Greece had been abruptly pulled out after the failed coup with little sign of them being replaced.[449] The Association of Greek Tourism Enterprises (SETE) warned about the prospect of another flare-up in the refugee/migrant crisis due to the Turkish political instability.[450]

In September 2016, Greek volunteers of the "Hellenic Rescue Team" and human rights activist Efi Latsoudi were awarded the Nansen Refugee Award by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) "for their tireless volunteer work" to aid refugees arriving in Greece during the 2015 refugee crisis.[451]

In December 2017, the Hellenic Rescue Team received the award "Mother Teresa" by the Harmony Foundation. The Greek team was rewarded for their "heroic actions" and their effort to save human lives while risking their own during the migrant and refugee crisis.[452]


 Hungary – Hungary has finished construction of the first phase of a fence on its southern border with Serbia in late August 2015, according to the Hungarian Ministry of Defence. The fence consists of three strands of NATO razor wire, and is 175 kilometers long. The next phase involves construction of a wire fence which will be approximately 4 meters high. In August, describing Hungary as, "under siege from human traffickers", Minister of the Prime Minister's Office János Lázár announced that the government would "defend this stretch of our borders with force", deploying 9,000 police to keep undocumented migrants out.[453]

Hungary's Prime Minister Viktor Orbán wrote in the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung: "Europe's response is madness. We must acknowledge that the European Union's misguided immigration policy is responsible for this situation".[454] Orbán also demanded an official EU list of "safe countries" to which migrants can be returned.[455] He said that "the moral, human thing is to make clear: 'Please don't come. Why do you have to go from Turkey to Europe? Turkey is a safe country. Stay there. It's risky to come'."[456] Hungary has adopted a list of countries deemed safe for transiting purposes. If an asylum seeker has passed through those countries, it is assumed that he could have found asylum there, and therefore he is not eligible for asylum in Hungary.[457] Speaking at United Nations General Assembly, Prime Minister Viktor Orbán called for "global quota" system to distribute refugees to all countries.[458]

Rescued male migrants are brought to southern Italian ports, 28 June 2015

Migrants taking the Western Balkan route cross into the Schengen Area first in Greece. In June 2015, Hungary said it was contemplating countermeasures against the influx of illegal immigrants from Serbia, a non-EU and non-Schengen state.[459]

On 17 June 2015, the Hungarian government announced the construction of a 4-metre-high (13 ft), 175-kilometre-long (109 mi) fence along its southern border with Serbia.[460][461] The European Commission warned EU members against steps that contravene EU obligations and urged members like Hungary to find other ways to cope with an inflow of illegal migrants.[462] The first phase of the construction was finished at the end of August and Prime Minister Viktor Orbán announced that it would be fully completed by the end of 2015.[463]

On 3 September 2015, Hungary's prime minister, Viktor Orbán, defended the country's management of the migrant situation internally, notwithstanding chaos at Budapest's main international rail station, while criticising Germany and Europe overall for not dissuading migrants from entering Europe.[464] On the same day, Hungarian police let migrants board a train in Budapest heading west, then stopped it in Bicske and tried to transport migrants to a registration camp there. The migrants refused to cooperate and remained on the train, which did not travel further west.[465]

Migrants in a hunger strike in front of the Budapest Keleti railway station, 3 September 2015

On 4 September 2015, about a thousand of the migrants at Railway Station East (Keleti Pályaudvar) set off by foot toward Austria and Germany.[466][467] On the same night, the Hungarian government decided to send buses to transport illegal migrants to Hegyeshalom, on the border with Austria.[468]

On 14 September 2015, it was reported that the Hungarian police were blocking the route from Serbia, and that the regular entry point was heavily manned with officers, soldiers and helicopters hovering above,[469] sealing this border with a razor wire[470][471] and detaining migrants crossing the border illegally with the threat of arrest and criminal charges.[471] On 15 September 2015, Hungary sealed its border with Serbia. Several hundred migrants broke the fence between Hungary and Serbia twice on Wednesday, 16 September, and threw chunks of concrete and water bottles over the fence. Hungarian police reacted with tear gas and water cannons at Horgoš 2 border crossing. Belgrade protested these actions. A 20-year-old Iraqi refugee was sentenced to deportation and one-year entry ban in Hungary, as well as €80 in court fees, according to the new law put into action a few days before.[472] On 18 September, Hungary started building another fence, this time along the border with Croatia, a fellow EU member state, but not part of the Schengen Area.[473] Within two weeks, tens of thousands of refugees crossed from Croatia into Hungary, most of whom went toward the Austrian border.[474]

On 16 October 2015, Hungary announced that it would close its green border with Croatia to migrants,[135] and since 17 October onward, thousands of migrants daily were diverted to Slovenia instead.[475]

On 9 March 2016 Hungary declared a state of emergency for the whole of the country, and was deploying 1500 soldiers to the borders.[476][477] In August 2017 the state of emergency was extended to March 2018.[478]


 Italy – Some Italian towns and cities have refused instructions from the national government to house migrants.[479] The Mafia Capitale investigation revealed that the Italian Mafia profits from the migrant crisis and exploits refugees.[480][481] Pope Francis thanked the Italian navy for migrant rescue effort.[482]

The murder of Ashley Ann Olsen in her Italian apartment by an illegal immigrant from Senegal rapidly acquired political significance in the context of the European migrant crisis. The police chief of Florence addressed safety worries, "assuring the public that Florence remained safe" in the wake of the Olsen murder.[483]

Since 2014, thousands of migrants have been trying every month to cross the Central Mediterranean to Italy, risking their lives on unsafe boats including fishing trawlers.[484] Many of them are fleeing poverty-stricken homelands or war-torn countries and seeking economic opportunity within the EU.[485][486] Italy, and, in particular, its southern island of Lampedusa, receives enormous numbers of Africans and Middle-Easterners transported by smugglers and NGOs operating along the ungoverned coast of the failed state of Libya.[485][487]

Migrants arrived in Lampedusa

In 2014, 170,100 migrants arrived in Italy by sea, a 296 percent increase compared to 2013. 141,484 of the travellers ferried over from Libya. Most of the migrants had come from Syria, Eritrea, and various countries in West Africa.[488]

From January to April 2015, about 1600 migrants died on the route from Libya to Lampedusa, making it the deadliest migrant route in the world.[489] As a consequence of the April 2015 Libya migrant shipwrecks, the EU launched a military operation known as Operation Sophia. More than 13,000 migrants had been rescued from the sea in the course of the operation as of April 2016.[126]

There were 153,842 Mediterranean sea arrivals to Italy in 2015, 9 percent less than the previous year; most of the refugees and migrants came from Eritrea, Nigeria, and Somalia, whereas the number of Syrian refugees sharply decreased, as most of them took the Eastern Mediterranean route from Turkey to Greece.[490]

Eritrean migrants in Messina, October 2015

The first three months of 2016 saw an increase in the number of migrants rescued at sea being brought to southern Italian ports.[491][492][493] In April 2016, nearly 6,000 mostly sub-Saharan African migrants have landed in Italy in just four days.[494] In June 2016, over 10,000 migrants have been rescued in just four days.[495]

In 2016, 181,100 migrants arrived in Italy by sea.[496] In April 2017, more than 8,000 migrants were rescued near Libya and brought to Italy in just three days.[497] Based on UN-data, about 80,000 refugees were registered at Italian refugee centers in the first half of 2017, an increase of 14 percent compared to the same time period in 2016. In June 2017, 10,000 asylum seekers were picked up in the Mediterranean sea by the Italian coastguard and other naval vessels in just a couple of days. EU ambassador Maurizio Massari has expressed concern about the recent uptake of refugee arrivals on Italian's coastline, which would reach 200,000 in 2017. As a result, foreign aid vessels docking in Italian ports may no longer be able to do so because of stricter admission policies and exceeded limits in Italian asylum centers.[498] In February 2017 Italian government accepted to fund Libyan coastguard. Since then many migrants were forced to go back to Libya.[499]

In July 2017, Italy drew up a code of conduct for NGO rescue vessels delivering migrants to Italian ports. These rules include

  • Except in situations of imminent danger, not to enter the territorial waters of Libya.
  • Never to switch off the Automatic Identification System (AIS) and LRIT transponders if they are installed on the ship.
  • Not to signal human traffickers with flares or radio to coordinate with them when to send out their dinghies.
  • Not to transfer those rescued onto other vessels.
  • Commit to carrying a policeman to travel on board whenever requested in order to identify and prosecute human traffickers among the migrants.

Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International have criticised the code of conduct and some NGOs like MSF refused to sign. Italian authorities feared that rather than saving lives, the NGO operations encouraged more people to try the very dangerous passage facilitated by human traffickers.[500][501] NGO ships not behaving according to the code could be refused access to Italian ports.[500][501]

After the entry into force of the NGO code, in July 2017 arrivals decreased by 52.5 percent compared to the same month of 2016, from 23,552 to 11,183,[502] and in August 2017 arrivals decreased by 85 percent, form 21,294 to 3,914.[503] Also all NGO, except Sos Méditerranée, have withdrawn their ships from the Mediterranean.

From January to November 2017, some 114,600 migrants arrived in Italy by sea.[504] Approximately 5,000 African migrants were rescued in waters off the coast of Libya between 18–20 May 2017.[505]

Since 2013, the country took in over 700,000 migrants,[506] mainly from sub-Saharan Africa.[507]


 Latvia – Latvia decided to receive 250 migrants in the next two years according to the EU plan. National Alliance party expressed its disapproval of such decision. On 4 August 2015 around 250 activists gathered in Riga on a protest against Government's decision on receiving migrants.


 Lithuania – Lithuania decided to receive 325 migrants, although after the increase of migrant flow in August 2015, its government did not discount the possibility of accepting a greater number of migrants later in the same year.[508]


 Malta – Prime Minister Joseph Muscat called the crisis "an ugly period" for Europe, and said that Malta will take in 75 migrants from Italy and Greece.[509] He also called for a 'global system of refugee quotas'.[510]

Anti-immigration rally in Poland in 2015

Between 2008 and 2012, Malta received on average the highest number of asylum seekers compared to its national population: 21.7 applicants per 1,000 inhabitants.[511]:13 In 2011, most of these asylum applications were submitted by nationals of Somalia, Nigeria, Eritrea and Syria.[511]:26 In 2012, more than half of the requests were by Somalian nationals alone.[511]:45 In a 2013 news story, The Guardian reported, "Before Malta joined the EU in 2004, immigration levels were negligible. Because it is located close to north Africa, it has now become a gateway for migrants seeking entry to Europe."[512] Following the arrival of asylum seekers, Malta was unable to cope with accommodating asylum seekers in a manner which was congruent with EU standards on the reception of asylum seekers, particularly standards related to housing.[citation needed]

In 2015, very few migrants arrived in Malta compared to previous years, since most of those rescued were taken to Italy. In September, 78 migrants rescued by the Armed Forces of Malta refused to be brought to Malta.[513] They insisted on going to Italy, and were eventually taken there.[514]

Melilla and Ceuta (Spain)

Melilla and Ceuta, two autonomous Spanish cities on the north coast of Africa bordering Morocco, are the only EU territories to share a land border with an African country.[515] The number of undocumented migrants hoping to reach the EU via Melilla or Ceuta grew in 2014.[516] Between January and September 2015, only 100 people out of 3700 hopefuls have managed to cross the Melilla border fence, down from 2100 people from 19,000 attempts the previous year.[517] In October 2015, 165 people were rescued from fourteen attempts to cross the Strait of Gibraltar to reach Ceuta.[518]

In a report published on 17 November 2015, Amnesty International called on Spain to cease cooperation with Morocco on immigration matters because of alleged human rights abuses on the Melilla and Ceuta borders. Amnesty said it has "photographs, images and evidence" of "blows with sticks, feet and stones" on migrants attempting to get to Spain.[519] Other reports accuse Spain of using rubber bullets and tear gas to prevent migrants from reaching Spanish territory. The Spanish Government said that it has now banned its border guards from using rubber bullets to repel migrants.[520]

Migrants have been found trying to smuggle themselves into Ceuta and Melillia in cars and suitcases, including in March 2016, when migrants were discovered hiding in "impossibly small spaces" in a car at the Melilla border crossing, with some in the dashboard area and some under the back seat. According to the authorities, people are found hiding in cars almost every day.[521] Also, in May 2015, an 8-year-old boy from Ivory Coast was found in a suitcase being smuggled into Ceuta, when the police opened the case, they found him in a "terrible state".[522] And in December 2016, one migrant was found in a suitcase, carried by a Moroccan woman, trying to get into Ceuta.[523] On 1 January 2017, there was an attempt by 1100 migrants to cross the Ceuta border fence. 50 Moroccans and five Spanish border guards prevented them from crossing the fence, but one border guard lost an eye during the attempt.[523]


The number of migrants crossing from Russia into Norway increased from a handful in the first half of 2015 to 420 asylum seekers crossing by bicycle in September 2015 alone.[275] As of 11 December 2015 over 4,000 migrants had crossed the Northern border, and the Norwegian government vowed to send all migrants with Russian residence visa back to Russia even if they were from countries experiencing conflicts such as Afghanistan.[524][525] In 2016, 5,500 asylum-seekers illegally entered Norway from Russia.[526][527] Norway began sending migrants back to conflict-torn countries of origin, such as Afghanistan, defying Amnesty International. The number of migrants returned from Europe to Afghanistan between 2015–16 nearly tripled from 3290 to 9460.[528] Because it is illegal to drive from Russia to Norway without proper legal permission, and crossing on foot is prohibited, the migrants make the crossing on bicycles.[529][530] It was in 2016 decided that a barrier will be located at the Storskog border crossing.[526] It will be built of steel and will stand 660 feet (200 m) long and 11 feet (3.4 m) to 12 feet (3.7 m) high.[526] Norwegian officials aim to complete the barrier before winter temperatures harden the ground.[526]

In 2018, Statistics Norway reported that of recently arrived migrants from Syria there was a high proportion (67 percent) with only basic education (Norwegian: Grunnskole).[531]


 Slovakia – Government of Slovakia stated that it would help with migration into Europe by receiving 200 migrants according to the EU plan, but on condition that the migrants are Christians.[81] Slovak Prime Minister Robert Fico said: "I have only one question: who bombed Libya? Who caused problems in North Africa? Slovakia? No!" The Prime Minister proposed temporary refuge in his country for 500 migrants who have submitted requests for asylum in Austria, whose accommodation for refugees is overfilled, but as for 200 migrants that Slovakia will receive according to the EU plan, requires that these 500 are Christians as well. On 15 September 2015, Fico was reported saying that all crossing the border illegally would be detained.[532] Fico rejected European Commission plan to distribute migrants among EU member states, saying: "As long as I am prime minister, mandatory quotas will not be implemented on Slovak territory."[533] S&D Group leader has proposed to suspend Fico's SMER party from the Party of European Socialists (PES).[534]


Migrants in Slovenia, November 2015

Slovenia established temporary controls on the otherwise unsupervised border with Hungary in the north east on 17 September 2015, following Germany and Austria's similar actions.[535] On 18 September, Slovenia experienced the first larger and largely illegal border crossing occurrences, coming mostly from Croatia, already overwhelmed by the large influx of migrant groups.

On the evening of 18 September, the Slovenian riot police were forced to use pepper spray on a bridge at the Harmica border to prevent migrants and activists from illegally crossing the border from Croatia.[536]

By midday of 19 September, the country had registered around 1500 migrants, with all of them being accommodated in temporary reception camps or asylum centres. The largest traffic was seen at Obrežje border crossing, Dobova border crossing and Brežice. Prime Minister Miro Cerar visited the reception centre in Brežice on Saturday, stressing that Slovenia had the situation under control, while criticising the Croatian government for being uncooperative.[537]

large group of migrants moving along a road, being directed by the army and police
Arrival of migrants in Dobova, Slovenia

There were also various humanitarian and non-governmental organisations aiding the migrants on the border, coming mostly from Slovenia, Croatia and Austria.[538]

From 18 October, the country began receiving large numbers of refugees, which soon exceeded the upper admission limit of 2,500. On 22 October, the police reported 12,600 migrant arrivals in 24 hours, reportedly a record, and more than Hungary had received in any one day. The Slovenian government also passed a law giving the army more powers and asked the EU for aid. The latter responded by sending the commissioner for migration to Slovenia, and announcing a "mini EU summit".[539] On the same day the Slovenian government accused the Croatian police of leading migrants through cold waters in an effort to bypass the Slovene controls by crossing the green border, and released a night time thermovision video apparently showing the events on the preceding night.[540][541]

By 24 October, Slovenia had reported more than 56,000 total migrant arrivals.[542]

On 10 November, Prime Minister Cerar announced that Slovenia would impose temporary technical hurdles to control migrants, but that the country would not close border crossings.[543] On 11 November, Slovenian military personnel began the construction of the fence consisting of razor wire.[544] The Austrian minister of the interior Johanna Mikl-Leitner expressed full support for the Slovenian government's action on the border with Croatia.[545]

On 23 February 2016, German press noted that Slovenia decided to deploy army on the border facing Croatia, to assist the police. It was noted, that the bill did not approve military action, however noting that the army was still authorized to use force in the case of emergency.[546]


From 2000 until at least 2016, dealing with irregularly arriving migrants on the Spanish Canary Islands, Spain developed a purportedly efficient plan to manage that inflow, consisting in four aspects:

  • Strengthening bilateral ties and close cooperation with local actors in all origin and transit countries
  • Bilateral partnership agreements with those countries
  • Security, intelligence and policy strategies and joint actions
  • Legal avenues and resettlement policies through agreements with those countries.[547]

In 2017, Spain saw a huge increase in the number of asylum applicants, fast catching up to Italy and Greece in terms of popularity as a destination country, with nearly 8300 people trying to enter in the first half of this year itself.[citation needed]

The International Organization for Migration recorded a 217 percent increase in the first seven months of 2017 compared with the same period in 2016, when more than 8,000 arrived throughout the year.[548] Authorities believe that Spain is ill-equipped to handle the surging numbers of migrants. Reports of women and children being kept in inhumane conditions have surfaced, pushing governments and organizations to devise short-term policies to help curb the pressure.[citation needed] Several deaths were recorded in 2017 on a daily basis, both at the destination and during the journey, but this does not deter migrants, who are more economic migrants than war refugees, coming mostly from Western African nations such as Gambia, Guinea, Senegal etc.[548]


During all of 2015, migration authorities reported 500 cases of suspected terrorism links or war criminals to Swedish Security Service.[549] Twenty individuals were denied asylum in 2015 due to war crimes.[549]

In November 2015, Sweden reintroduced border controls for arrivals, including the Öresund Bridge. This did not have so much effect on the inflow of asylum seekers, since they had the right to apply for asylum once they were on Swedish ground. In December 2015, Sweden passed a temporary law that allows the government to oblige all transport companies to check that their passengers carry valid photographic identification before border crossing. The new law came into effect on 21 December 2015 and is valid until 21 December 2018.[550] The government decided that the new rules will apply from 4 January 2016 until 4 July 2016. The new law led to the mandatory train change and passage through border control at Copenhagen Airport station for travellers between Copenhagen and Sweden, and with a reduction in service frequency.[551]

On the first day of border controls this led to a reduction in the number of migrants arriving to southern Sweden from the previous hundreds to some dozens.[552] Within hours of Swedish border control becoming effective, Denmark in turn created a border control between Denmark and Germany.[553] The migration pattern also changed with the majority of those arriving by ferry from Germany to Trelleborg instead of by train to Hyllie station,[552] bypassing the border control between Denmark and Germany.[553] Migrants then started taking taxis in greater numbers over the Öresund Bridge in order to evade identification.[554] Three days later, a Danish cab driver was arrested for human trafficking near the Øresund Bridge.[555] In January 2016 newspaper Sydsvenskan reported that the migration flow had led to an increase of MRSA infections in southernmost Skåne province where many migrants are received, from 160 cases in 2005 to more than 635 cases in 2015.[556] In January 2016 interior minister Anders Ygeman said that Sweden was rejecting about 45 percent of asylum applications, which meant that around 60,000–80,000 of the 160,000 asylum-seekers who applied for asylum in 2015 could be deported in coming years.[557][558]

According to the National Board of Health and Welfare in 2016, an estimated 20 to 30 percent of asylum seekers suffered from mental disorders.[559]

Of the 162 000 who migrated to Sweden in 2015, by May 2016 only 500 had found employment, where employment constituted more than 1 hour of work per week or state-subsidised schemes.[560]

In late June 2016 the Swedish parliament voted for more restrictive policy with a large majority in favour. As a result, residence permits will be temporary and immigration of family members will be curtailed, along with higher demands of proof to be able to support immigrating relatives. These measures are to be valid for three years.[561] The law applies retroactively on everyone who arrived 24 November onwards and came into effect 20 July 2016. These measures puts Sweden in line with the minimum line of requirements mandated by the EU.[562] Thirty individuals were denied asylum January–June 2016 due to war crimes.[549]

In August 2016 four workers at asylum centres for refugee children were reported to have been infected by tuberculosis and health services reported a marked increase in tuberculosis infections due to the crisis.[563] In 2015 an increase of 22 percent on the previous year was noted, this was largely attributed to an increased inflow of migrants over that year.[564] 90 percent of people infected with tuberculosis were born abroad.[564]

In October 2016 a leaked internal memo from the cabinet showed that spending cuts to all public services had become necessary due to the escalating costs of the migration crisis.[565]

In January 2017 police described gangs of recently arrived youth making the central shopping mall of Gothenburg unsafe at night with muggings and violence over drug trade between gangs of Moroccan, Afghani and Syrian origin. Police work is made difficult by the Swedish Migration Agency which has neglected to identify arriving migrants leading to an arrested individual's fingerprint matching a handful of identities. When offered help from social services the youth declined and preferred a life on the streets supporting themselves with crime.[566]

In May 2017 border police reported that it had been possible to verify the identities of 77 migrants from Morocco using fingerprint matches checked against the Moroccan fingerprint database. It was found that out of the 77, 65 had lied about their identity and of the 50 claiming to be underage, all but two were adult.[567]

In May 2017 the Swedish National Board of Forensic Medicine started aiding the Swedish Migration Agency with determining the age of migrants claiming to be under 18. The first batch of 518 investigations indicated that 442 were likely adult. Of the 442, 430 were men and 12 women.[568]

Up until 2017, the Swedish Migration Agency awarded temporary residence permits also to people considered war criminals and security threats. This allowed these individuals to claim welfare benefits and healthcare from the state of Sweden.[569]

In Falkenberg, the municipality created gender segregated housing for unaccompanied minors, as the boys would sexually harass the girls and the girls did previously not dare to go out into the communal areas of the accommodations without wearing the veil. With the segregated housing, the girls were able to make better use of the facilities.[570]

In June 2017, the Supreme Administrative Court of Sweden (HFD) ruled that illegal immigrants, such as those who stay in hiding after their asylum applications had been rejected in order to evade deportation, had no right to welfare benefits. A woman was denied welfare benefits (sv:socialbidrag) by the council of Vännäs and she took the council to court. The first instance (sv:förvaltningsrätten) ruled in the woman's favour, but the council took the case to the highest court HFD which ruled in favour of the council.[571]

In July 2017 Swedish Radio reported that few recently arrived migrants who have low education are willing to improve their schooling; about 3 to 4 percent are taking classes two years after receiving a residence permit. Migrants are not generally aware that in order to find steady employment in the job market of Sweden, completed secondary education is a frequent requirement.[572]

In September 2017 staff at the Swedish Migration Agency reported rising levels of death threats and harassment from migrants applying for residence. The nature of the threats changed with staff members being sought out at their homes or receiving threatening messages on private phones or in social media.[573]

In November 2017, Swedish Public Employment Service statistics showed that of the 24 034 recently arrived migrants in Stockholm, 9 324 were women of whom 3 percent had found non-subsidised employment and 14 710 were men, of whom 7 percent had found non-state-subsidised employment.[574]

In March 2018, researcher Pernilla Andersson Joona at Stockholm University found that 50 percent of recently arrived migrants had less than the Swedish 9-year basic education (Swedish: grundskolekompetens).[575]


 Sweden – As of 26 November, Sweden had received 146,000 asylum seekers in 2015, with a record of 39,000 applications in October. Most asylum seekers were Afghan, followed by Syrians and Iraqis.[576] In the beginning of November, the authorities warned they could no longer offer housing to all asylum seekers and on 12 November temporary border control was enacted (on the Swedish side) which reduced the number of migrants somewhat (migrants could still apply for asylum).[576] On 26 November 2015, Prime Minister Stefan Löfven said the system for welcoming migrants was about to collapse and that the cabinet would propose major new restrictions and measures to reduce the inflow of migrants. He called on other European countries to take more responsibility.[577] The government in December decided to introduce "carrier's responsibility" for trains and buses on the Öresund bridge which would introduce Swedish de facto border controls on the Danish side.[578]

In 2016, there were reports that multiple sexual harassment incidents had been reported at the We Are Sthlm festival over the course of several years.[579]

As a non-EU member country but full participant in the Schengen Agreement, the Swiss Confederation was directly affected by the migrant crisis with most of the refugees arriving from Italy at border crossings in the Southern cantons of Ticino and Valais. In the crisis year 2015, almost 40,000 asylum seekers were applying for refugee status. In 2016, this number dropped by 31 percent, and in the first quarter of 2017 by another 57 percent, compared to the same time period in 2016. Most of the asylum seekers arriving in Switzerland originate from Eritrea (49 percent), followed by Afghanistan (30 percent) and Syria. Despite relative restrictive admission policies, and increased patrolling of illegal border crossings, the Swiss have attempted to admit refugees throughout the course of the migrant crisis, and distributed those asylum seekers to the appropriate cantons and city states.

Refugees first receive a temporary residence permit "N" valid for 6 months while they await approval of their status. Asylum seekers who are not admitted but cannot return to their home country because of health or safety considerations receive a residence permit "F" that allows them to stay in Switzerland. Persons receiving a "B" permit are admitted refugees according to the Geneva Convention with a full residence allowance for 12 months and possible extensions. Almost 50 percent of the asylum seekers receive residence permits or are allowed to stay, and about 10 percent of those rejected can be placed in another Schengen country.

With 3.4 asylum seekers per 1000 inhabitants in 2016, Switzerland processed more asylum applications than the European average at 2.5, Germany at the top of the list with almost 10 asylum seekers/1000. About 2.5 percent of asylum seekers in Switzerland are employed; the numbers are higher at 30 percent for those with temporary permits and at 24 percent for admitted refugees.[580]

In 2016, 85.8 percent of refugees in Switzerland received welfare payments.[581]


 Portugal – In the next two years, Portugal is willing to offer shelter to 1,500 of the refugees flooding into Europe from the Mediterranean Sea. A source has told Diário de Notícias that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs has already presented its counter-proposal to the European Commission (EC), which wanted Portugal to absorb 2,400 refugees.[582]


 Romania – The European Commission asked Romania to accept 6,351 refugees under an EU quota scheme. The EurActiv reported that "Romanian Prime Minister Victor Ponta said that his country will request admission to the EU's Schengen borderless area if mandatory quotas to accept refugees are decided by the Union".[583]


 United Kingdom – British Home Secretary Theresa May said that it was important to help people living in war zone regions and refugee camps, "not the ones who are strong and rich enough to come to Europe".[584] British UKIP politician Nigel Farage stated that the exodus from Libya had been caused by NATO military intervention, approved by David Cameron and Nicolas Sarkozy, in the civil war in Libya.[585]


 Poland – In 2015, just before the parliamentary elections that were to happen that year, government officials with then Prime Minister Ewa Kopacz stated that the country was ready to take 2,000 refugees.[586] However, after the Law and Justice party won the elections, the rhetoric was changed. Both the government of Poland and President Andrzej Duda rejected the European Union's proposal of compulsory migrant quotas, the latter stating: "I won't agree to a dictate of the strong. I won't back a Europe where the economic advantage of the size of a population will be a reason to force solutions on other countries regardless of their national interests".[587]


Total monthly Mediterranean Sea arrivals in the EU, 2014–2016, according to UNHCR's data
Asylum applicants in EU and EFTA states, January–December 2015. The height of the bars indicate the number of asylum applicants per country. Colours indicate the percentage of asylum applicants in relation to the population.
Refugee and migrant deaths in the Mediterranean Sea, 2011–2016, according to the UNHCR
Mediterranean Sea Arrivals[290]]] Asylum applicants in EU and EFTA states in 2015, Deaths in the Mediterranean Sea[290]



According to the International Organization for Migration (IOM), up to 3,072 people died or disappeared in 2014 in the Mediterranean while trying to migrate to Europe.[40] Overall estimates are that over 22,000 migrants died between 2000 and 2014.[588][589]

In 2014, circa 252,000 new migrants arrived "irregularly" in the European Union, often coming from Syria, Somalia or Eritrea, often having travelled oversea from Libya.[40] 220,194 migrants crossed EU sea borders in the Central, Eastern and Western Mediterranean (a 266 percent increase compared to 2013). Half of them had come from Syria, Eritrea and Afghanistan.[590]

Of those arriving in Southern Europe in 2014, the vast majority (170,664, a 277 percent increase compared to 2013) arrived in Italy through Libya, whereas a minority (50,834, a 105 percent increase) arrived in Greece through Turkey.[591] 62,000 applied for asylum in Italy, but most Syrians and Eritreans, who comprised almost half of the arrivals in Italy in 2014, did not stop in Italy but instead continued moving towards northern Europe, in particular Germany and Sweden.[592]


Number of migrants in Hungary per week, May–September 2015

IOM and UNHCR estimated that 1,005,504 migrants and refugees arrived in Europe from 1 January to 21 December 2015, three to four times more than in 2014.[593] Just 3 percent (34,215) came by land to Bulgaria and Greece; the rest came by sea to Greece, Italy, Spain, Cyprus and Malta. The vast majority arrived by sea in Greece (816,752); 150,317 arrived by sea in Italy, with a slight drop from 170,000 in 2014. Half of those crossing the Mediterranean were from Syria, 20 percent were from Afghanistan and 7 percent from Iraq. IOM estimated that a total of 3,692 migrants and refugees lost their lives in the Mediterranean in 2015 – over 400 more than in 2014 – of whom 2,889 in the Central Mediterranean and 731 in the Aegean sea.[594][595]

In 2015, a shift took place, with Greece overtaking Italy as the primary point of arrival and surpassing in the first six months of 2015 the numbers for the whole of 2014: 67,500 people arrived in Italy, mainly coming from Eritrea (25 percent), Nigeria (10 percent) and Somalia (10 percent), whereas 68,000 arrived on the islands of Greece, mainly coming from Syria (57 percent) and Afghanistan (22 percent).[596] In total, 137,000 migrants crossed the Mediterranean into Europe in the first six months of 2015.[597]

From 1 January to 17 April 2015, 21,191 migrants reached the Italian coast, with a decrease during the month of March due to bad weather conditions, and a surge since 10 April, bringing the number of arrivals in line with the number recorded in the same period in 2014. However, the death toll in the first four months of 2014 was 96, compared with 500 in the same period in 2015; this number excluded the victims of the shipwrecks on 13 and 19 April.[598][599][600]

In early August 2015, the UNHCR said that 250,000 migrants had arrived in Europe by sea so far in 2015, 124,000 in Greece and 98,000 in Italy.[601] According to Frontex, July set a new record for a single month, with 107,500 migrants estimated to have entered the EU.[602]

Frontex detected 615,492 illegal EU-border-crossings in the third quarter of 2015 and 978,338 in the fourth quarter,[603] bringing the number of detections of illegal EU-border-crossings in 2015 to 1.82 million (872,938 in Greece, 764,038 in Hungary and Croatia and 153,946 in Italy). However, there were in 2015 only an estimated one million individuals irregularly entering the EU: most migrants following the Western Balkan route were double-counted as 'illegally crossing an EU border', first when arriving in Greece, and again when entering the EU for the second time through Hungary or Croatia.[604]


In January and February 2016, over 123,000 migrants landed in Greece, compared to about 4,600 in the same period of 2015.[605] In March, following the closing of the Western Balkan route by North Macedonia and the entry into force of the EU–Turkey deal on 20 March, the number of migrants arriving in Greece dropped to 26,460, less than half the figure recorded in February. Syrians, Afghans and Iraqis continued to account for the largest share of the migrants arriving in Greece.[606] This downward trend continued in April, when only 2,700 migrants arrived in Greece, decreasing by 90 percent compared to the previous month.[607]

Meanwhile, due to improved weather conditions, the number of mainly African migrants crossing the sea to Italy doubled between February and March, reaching nearly 9,600 in March 2016, compared to 2,283 in March 2015.[608][606] In April, on the contrary, the number of migrants arriving in Italy (8,370) dropped by 13 percent compared to the previous month and by 50 percent compared to the same month in 2015; despite this, Italy exceeded the totals for Greece for the first time since June 2015.[607] On 16 April, a shipwreck of a large boat between Libya and Italy was reported, in which as many as 500 people may have died, in one of the worst disasters since April 2015.[609]

The mass influx of migrants into Europe was not seen favorably in many European Union countries. Many citizens disapproved of the EU's handling of the migrant crisis, with 94 percent of Greeks and 88 percent of Swedes disapproving of the measures taken, among other countries with similar disapproval rates.[610] This contributed to the creation and implementation of the EU–Turkey Refugee Agreement, which was signed in March 2016. From that point on, the numbers of refugees entering Greece decreased. In February 2016, the last full month before the deal, 57,066 migrants arrived in Greece via the sea; from that point on, discounting March, the highest number of migrants reaching Greece via the sea was 3,650 (in April).[611] While there is no direct connection to the implementation of the EU–Turkey deal, the number of migrants arriving in Italy in that same time period has increased. From March 2016 to October 2016, 140,358 migrants arrived in Italy via the sea, averaging to 20,051 per month.[612] Overall the number of migrants arriving into the EU dropped, but the EU still worked to create agencies and plans to mitigate the crisis. In addition to the EU–Turkey Refugee Agreement, the European Border and Coast Guard Agency was launched on 6 October 2016.[613]


Data released by the International Organization of Migration (IOM) for the third quarter of 2017 recorded 146,287 total arrivals to Europe, of which 137,771 were by sea. This is less than half the total recorded by the end of September 2016. The greatest decrease in influx was noted on the Eastern Mediterranean route. Despite an 86 percent drop in the number of migrant and refugee arrivals in September 2017 when compared to September 2016, Greece has observed a steady increase in the number of migrants from September 2016 till date. Further, while Italy also noted lower number of migrant arrival in 2017, there was a significant jump in the number of migrants reaching Spain, with over 16,000 having arrived in the country. Like Spain, the island-nation of Cyprus registered approximately an 8-fold increase in the number of migrants arriving last year and this year.[608][614]

Closure of segments of certain heavy-traffic routes such as the Central and Eastern Mediterranean is responsible for the marked decrease in the number of migrants from the Middle East in 2017. However, the Western Mediterranean route is still in full use to facilitate the growing number of illegal immigrants from Africa. Nigerians topped the list of illegal immigrants into Italy in 2017, forming 16 percent of arrivals there.[614]

In February 2017 Italian government accepted to fund Libyan coastguard. Since then many migrants were forced to go back to Libya.[499]

In 2017, approximately 825,000 persons acquired citizenship of a member state of the European Union, down from 995,000 in 2016.[615] The largest groups were nationals of Morocco, Albania, India, Turkey and Pakistan.[616]


On 7 October 2018 at least 10 migrants are believed to have died in a boat off the coast of Morocco.[617] Helena Maleno founder of the group Walking Borders told the reporters the migrants constantly appealed for help from Spain and Morocco before they died.[618]


In August 2019, more than 270 Europe-bound migrants were rescued by the Libyan coastguard from Tripoli's Mediterranean coast; they were travelling in four different boats, and included 18 women and two children.[619] According to a UN report, more than 45,000 migrants had reached Europe by sea by August, of whom 859 had reportedly died on the way.[620] In September 2019, Libya's coastguard intercepted another 108 Europe-bound migrants of the Mediterranean coast; 13 were women, and seven children.[621] On 8 October, Italian authorities rescued 22 Europe-bound migrants from a boat carrying about 50 people. At the time of this rescue, the bodies of 13 women were also reportedly found, and it later emerged that others were still missing. On 16 October, Italian authorities found the bodies of at least 12 people who had died in the incident.[622] In November, Italian coast guards rescued 149 Europe-bound migrants after their boat capsized. Italian coastguards later found five dead bodies and confirmed that the death toll from the incident was at least 18.[623]

Asylum applications

Extra EU 28 Asylum applicants by year
Source Eurostat: EU 27;[624] EU28.[625]
Extra EU 28 Asylum applicants by year and sex
Source Eurostat[626] · [627]
Number of extra EU 28 asylum applicants[628]
Year 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012 2013 2014 2015 2016 2017 2018
EU28 225,150 263,835 259,400 309,040 335,290 431,090 626,960 1,322,825 1,259,955 712,235 647,165
Germany 26,845 32,910 48,475 53,235 77,485 126,705 202,645 476,510 745,155 222,560 184,180
France 41,840 47,620 52,725 57,330 61,440 66,265 64,310 76,165 84,270 99,330 120,425
Greece 19,885 15,925 10,275 9,310 9,575 8,225 9,430 13,205 51,110 58,650 66,965
Italy 30,140 17,640 10,000 40,315 17,335 26,620 64,625 83,540 122,960 128,850 59,950
Spain 4,515 3,005 2,740 3,420 2,565 4,485 5,615 14,780 15,755 36,605 54,050
United Kingdom - 31,665 24,335 26,915 28,800 30,585 32,785 40,160 38,785 34,780 38,840
Netherlands 15,250 16,135 15,100 14,590 13,095 13,060 24,495 44,970 20,945 18,210 24,025
Belgium 15,165 21,615 26,080 31,910 28,075 21,030 22,710 44,660 18,280 18,340 22,530
Sweden 24,785 24,175 31,850 29,650 43,855 54,270 81,180 162,450 28,790 26,325 21,560
Switzerland 16,520 15,900 15,425 23,615 28,400 21,305 23,555 39,445 27,140 18,015 15,160
Austria 12,715 15,780 11,045 14,420 17,415 17,500 28,035 88,160 42,255 24,715 13,710
Cyprus 3,920 3,200 2,875 1,770 1,635 1,255 1,745 2,265 2,940 4,600 7,765
Finland 3,670 4,910 3,085 2,915 3,095 3,210 3,620 32,345 5,605 4,990 4,500
Poland 8,515 10,590 6,540 6,885 10,750 15,240 8,020 12,190 12,305 5,045 4,110
Ireland 3,855 2,680 1,935 1,290 955 945 1,450 3,275 2,245 2,930 3,670
Denmark 2,350 3,720 5,065 3,945 6,045 7,170 14,680 20,935 6,180 3,220 3,570
Slovenia 255 190 240 355 295 270 385 275 1,310 1,475 2,875
Norway 14,395 17,125 10,015 8,990 9,675 11,930 11,415 31,110 3,485 3,520 2,660
Bulgaria 745 855 1,025 890 1,385 7,145 11,080 20,365 19,420 3,695 2,535
Luxembourg 455 480 780 2,150 2,050 1,070 1,150 2,505 2,160 2,430 2,335
Romania 1,175 960 885 1,720 2,510 1,495 1,545 1,260 1,880 4,815 2,135
Malta 2,605 2,385 175 1,890 2,080 2,245 1,350 1,845 1,930 1,840 2,130
Czech Republic 1,645 1,235 775 750 740 695 1,145 1,515 1,475 1,445 1,690
Portugal 160 140 155 275 295 500 440 895 1,460 1,750 1,285
Croatia - - - - - 1,075 450 210 2,225 975 800
Iceland 70 35 40 75 115 125 170 345 1,125 1,085 775
Hungary 3,175 4,665 2,095 1,690 2,155 18,895 42,775 177,135 29,430 3,390 670
Lithuania 520 450 495 525 645 400 440 315 430 545 405
Latvia 55 60 65 340 205 195 375 330 350 355 185
Slovakia 895 805 540 490 730 440 330 330 145 160 175
Liechtenstein 20 280 105 75 70 55 65 150 80 150 165
Estonia 15 40 35 65 75 95 155 230 175 190 95
Total 256,155 297,175 284,985 341,795 373,550 464,505 662,165 1,393,875 1,291,785 735,005 669,025


According to Eurostat, EU member states received 626,065 asylum applications in 2014, the highest number since the 672,000 applications received in 1992. The main countries of origin of asylum seekers, accounting for almost half of the total, were Syria (20 percent), Afghanistan (7 percent), Kosovo (6 percent), Eritrea (6 percent) and Albania[629]

In 2014, decisions on asylum applications in the EU made at the first instance resulted in more than 160,000 asylum seekers being granted protection status, while a further 23,000 received protection status on appeal. The rate of recognition of asylum applicants was 45 percent at the first instance and 18 percent on appeal. The main beneficiaries of protection status, accounting for more than half of the total, were Syrians (68,300 or 37 percent), Eritreans (14,600 or 8 percent) and Afghans (14,100 or 8 percent).[630]

Four states – Germany, Sweden, Italy and France – received around two-thirds of the EU's asylum applications and granted almost two-thirds of protection status in 2014. Sweden, Hungary and Austria were among the top recipients of EU asylum applications per capita, when adjusted for their own populations, with 8.4 asylum seekers per 1,000 inhabitants in Sweden, 4.3 in Hungary and 3.2 in Austria.[416][417][631]


In 2015, EU member states received 1,255,640 first time asylum applications, a number more than double that of the previous year. The highest number of first time applicants was registered in Germany (with 441,800 applicants, or 35 percent of all applicants in EU states), followed by Hungary (174,400 or 14 percent), Sweden (156,100 or 12 percent), Austria (85,500 or 7 percent), Italy (83,200 or 7 percent) and France (70,600 or 6 percent). Compared with the population, the highest number was registered in Hungary (with 17.7 asylum seekers per 1,000 inhabitants), Sweden (16), Austria (10), Finland (5.9) and Germany (5.4). The three main countries of citizenship of asylum applicants, accounting for more than half of the total, were Syria (362,800 or 29 percent), Afghanistan (178,200 or 14 percent) and Iraq (121,500 or 10 percent), followed by Kosovo (5 percent), Albania (5 percent), Pakistan (4 percent), Eritrea (3 percent), Nigeria (2 percent) and Iran (2 percent).[61]

Number of first time asylum applications received by the top ten recipients in the EU-28, January–December 2015. The top ten recipients account for more than 90 percent of the asylum applications received in the EU-28.[632]

333,350 asylum applicants were granted protection in the EU in 2015 following a positive decision on their asylum application. The main beneficiaries of protection status were citizens of Syria (50 percent of persons granted protection in the EU), Eritrea (8 percent), Iraq (7 percent), Afghanistan (5 percent), Iran (2 percent), Somalia (2 percent) and Pakistan (2 percent). The EU countries who granted protection to the highest number of asylum seekers were Germany (who granted protection to 148,200 people), Sweden (34,500), Italy (29,600) and France (26,000). The rate of recognition, i.e. the share of positive decisions in the total number of decisions, was 52 percent for first instance decisions in the EU and 14 percent for decisions on appeal. The citizenships with the highest recognition rates at first instance were Syria (97.2 percent), Eritrea (89.8 percent), Iraq (85.7 percent), Afghanistan (67 percent), Iran (64.7 percent), Somalia (63.1 percent) and Sudan (56 percent).[633]

In the first three months of 2015, the number of new asylum applicants in the EU was 184,800, increasing by 86 percent if compared with the same quarter in the previous year but remaining stable if compared to the last quarter of 2014. More than half applied for asylum in Germany (40 percent) or Hungary (18 percent). The main nationalities of the applicants were Kosovo (48,875 or 26 percent), Syria (29,100 or 16 percent) and Afghanistan (12,910 or 7 percent).[634] In the second quarter of 2015, 213,200 people applied for asylum in the EU, up by 15 percent compared with the previous quarter. 38 percent applied for asylum in Germany, followed by Hungary (15 percent) and Austria (8 percent). The main countries of citizenship of asylum seekers, accounting for more than half of the total, were Syria (21 percent), Afghanistan (13 percent), Albania (8 percent), Iraq (6 percent) and Kosovo (5 percent).[635] In the third quarter of 2015 (July–September), EU countries received 413,800 first time asylum applications, almost double the number registered in the previous quarter. Germany and Hungary were the top recipients, with 26 percent each of total applicants. One third of asylum seekers were Syrians (33 percent), followed by Afghans (14 percent) and Iraqis (11 percent).[636] In the fourth quarter of 2015, there were 426,000 first time applicants, mainly Syrians (145,130), Afghans (79,255) and Iraqis (53,585). The top recipients were Germany (38 percent), Sweden (21 percent) and Austria (7 percent).[267]

In August 2015, the German government announced that it expected to receive 800,000 asylum applications by the end of the year.[637] Data released by Germany's Federal Office for Migration and Refugees (BAMF) in January 2016 showed that Germany received 476,649 asylum applications in 2015, mainly from Syrians (162,510), Albanians (54,762), Kosovars (37,095), Afghans (31,902), Iraqis (31,379), Serbians (26,945), Macedonians (14,131), Eritreans (10,990) and Pakistanis (8,472). In 2015, Germany made 282,762 decisions on asylum applications; the overall asylum recognition rate was 49.8 percent (140,915 decisions were positive, so that applicants were granted protection). The most successful applicants were Syrians (101,419 positive decisions, with a 96 percent recognition rate), Eritreans (9,300 positive decisions; 92.1 percent recognition rate) and Iraqis (14,880 positive decisions; 88.6 percent recognition rate).[638][639]

Sweden received 162,877 asylum applications in 2015, mainly from Syrians (51,338), Afghans (41,564), Iraqis (20,857), Eritreans (7,231) and Somalis (5,465).[263] In 2015, Sweden granted protection to 32,631 asylum applicants, whereas it rejected 9,524 applications (the proportion of positive decisions out of materially considered applications was 77 percent). The main beneficiaries of protection were Syrians (18,523 positive decisions, with a 100 percent recognition rate), Eritreans (6,542 positive decisions; 100 percent recognition rate) and Afghans (1,088 positive decisions; 74 percent recognition rate).[640]


In 2016, according to Eurostat, most of the non EU28 asylum seekers in EU 28 originated from Syria. Syria, Afghanistan and Iraq together make 50 percent of the grand total.[641]


The second quarter of 2017 recorded a 54 percent decrease in the number of first time asylum applicants as compared to the second quarter of 2016, and 11 percent fewer applicants than the first quarter of 2017 as well. The greatest number of applications were from Syria, Afghanistan and Nigeria, giving a clear indication of the current nodes of this crisis. However, the number of Syrians and Afghans continued to be less than that of the same time in 2016, suggesting that perhaps, the peak of this crisis has passed. Initially looking at the noticeably fewer number of both migrants and applications indicates that this crisis may be on the decline. But the increasing number of illegal immigrants from Africa simply suggests that the direction of the crisis is changing. While Germany recorded the highest number of first time applicants (over 49,000), Spain saw a 30 percent increase in the number of asylum seekers, along with Cyprus and Bulgaria.[267]

Illegal border crossings

Migrants along the Western Balkan route crossing from Serbia into Hungary, 24 August 2015

In September 2015, Europol estimated there were 30 000 suspected migrant smugglers, which rose to 55 000 in 2016 and a further 10 000 more in 2017. Of the smugglers, 63 percent are from Europe, 14 percent from the Middle East, 13 percent from Africa and 9 percent from Eastern Asia.[642]

Frontex tracks and publishes data on numbers of illegal crossings along the main six routes twice a year. The following table shows the data for the period up to and including the year 2015:

Main migration routes into the European Union Illegal border crossings (land and sea)
2006 2007 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012 2013 2014 2015 2016
Western African route 31,600 12,500 9,200 2,250 200 340 170 250 275 874 671
Western Mediterranean route N/A N/A 6,500 6,650 5,000 8,450 6,400 6,800 7,840 7,164 10,231
Central Mediterranean route N/A N/A 39,800 11,000 4,500 64,300 15,900 40,000 170,760 153,946 181,459
Apulia and Calabria route N/A N/A N/A 807 2,788 5,259 4,772 5,000
Circular Albania–Greece route N/A N/A 42,000 40,000 35,300 5,300 5,500 8,700 8,840 8,932 5,121
Western Balkan route N/A N/A N/A 3,090 2,370 4,650 6,390 19,950 43,360 764,038 130,261
Eastern Mediterranean route N/A N/A 52,300 40,000 55,700 57,000 37,200 24,800 50,830 885,386 182,277
Eastern Borders route N/A N/A 1,335 1,050 1,050 1,050 1,600 1,300 1,270 1,920 1,349
Totals N/A N/A N/A 104,847 106,908 146,349 77,932 106,800 283,175 1,822,260 500,248
Source: Frontex

Illegal border crossings by nationality

Detected illegal border crossings to the EU by nationality
Country 2014 2015 2016 2017 2018
 Afghanistan 267,485 54,366 7,576 12,666
 Algeria 3,331 5,140 7,443 6,411
 Bangladesh 4,527 13,098 9,445 9,384
 Eritrea 34,586 40,349 21,349
 Gambia 8,725 8,874 12,927 8,353
 Guinea 2,156 5,174 15,985 13,160 6,011
 Iran 468 24,673
 Iraq 2,109 101,275 32,068 10,177 10,114
 Ivory Coast 2,000 5,010 14,300 12,913
 Kosovo 22,069 23,793
 Mali 10,567 6,526 10,270 7,789 4,998
 Morocco 3,085 12,966 6,836 11,279 13,269
 Nigeria 8,706 23,605 37,811 18,309
 Pakistan 4,115 43,310 17,973 10,015
 Somalia 7,676 17,694
 Syria 78,887 594,059 88,551 19,452 14,378
 Tunisia 1,061 1,368 6,520 5,229
 Turkey 591 1,060 2,957 8,412
Unknown 309 556,345 103,925 1,503 26,203
Other 92,948 72,958 77,772 57,920 42,423
Total 282,933 1,822,177 511,146 204,750 150,114
Source: Frontex[b]

Deaths and incidents

Several serious accidents and deaths have occurred in Europe as a result of migrant smuggling, both in the Mediterranean Sea, due to the capsizing of crowded and unseaworthy migrant smuggling vessels, and on European soil, due to the use of standard cargo trucks by smugglers to transport illegal migrants. The vast majority of deaths occurred while persons were being illegally smuggled across the Mediterranean and Aegean Seas. More than 34,000 migrants and refugees have died trying to get to Europe since 1993.[647]

International Reactions

The United Nations predicted that one million migrants should reach Europe by 2016[648] and warned on 25 September 2015 that worsening conditions in Iraq would produce many more migrants.[649]

In September 2015, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg identified "a need for immediate measures, border, migrant, the discussion about quotas, so on – this is civilian issues, addressed by the European Union."[650] Czech Deputy Prime Minister Andrej Babiš said in reaction, "According to the NATO chief, the problem of refugees is a problem of the EU and the border protection and the fight against people smugglers is in the power of particular EU member states."[353]

The Russian Federation released an official statement on 2 September 2015 that the United Nations Security Council was working on a draft resolution to address the European migrant crisis, likely by permitting the inspection of suspected migrant ships.[651]

The International Organization for Migration claimed that deaths at sea increased ninefold after the end of Operation Mare Nostrum.[652] Amnesty International condemned European governments for "negligence towards the humanitarian crisis in the Mediterranean" which they say led to an increase in deaths at sea.

In April 2015, Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch criticised the funding of search and rescue operations. Amnesty International said that the EU was "turning its back on its responsibilities and clearly threatening thousands of lives".[653][654]

Australian PM Tony Abbott said the tragedies were "worsened by Europe's refusal to learn from its own mistakes and from the efforts of others who have handled similar problems. Destroying the criminal people-smugglers was the centre of gravity of our border control policies, and judicious boat turnbacks was the key."[655]

In July 2013, Pope Francis visited the island of Lampedusa on his first official visit outside of Rome. He prayed for migrants, living and dead and denounced their traffickers.[656] He expressed his concern about the loss of life and urged EU leaders to "act decisively and quickly to stop these tragedies from recurring".[657]

Lebanon's Education Minister Elias Bou Saab told British Prime Minister David Cameron that "as many as 2% of the refugees could be jihadis belonging to ISIS".[658]

Former U.S. President Barack Obama praised Germany for taking a leading role in accepting refugees.[659] During his April 2016 visit to Germany, Obama praised German Chancellor Angela Merkel for being on "the right side of history" with her open-border immigration policy.[660]

In a report released in January 2016, Médecins Sans Frontières denounced the EU response to the refugee crisis in 2015, saying that policies of deterrence and a chaotic response to the humanitarian needs of those who fled actively worsened the conditions of refugees and migrants and created a "policy-made humanitarian crisis". According to MSF, obstacles placed by EU governments included "not providing any alternative to a deadly sea crossing, erecting razor wire fences, continuously changing administrative and registration procedures, committing acts of violence at sea and at land borders and providing completely inadequate reception conditions in Italy and Greece".[661]

In March 2016, NATO General Philip Breedlove stated, "Together, Russia and the Assad regime are deliberately weaponizing migration in an attempt to overwhelm European structures and break European resolve. .. These indiscriminate weapons used by both Bashar al-Assad, and the non-precision use of weapons by the Russian forces – I can't find any other reason for them other than to cause refugees to be on the move and make them someone else's problem."[662] He also claimed that criminals, extremists and fighters were hiding in the flow of migrants.[663]

Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev said: "It's quite simply stupid to open Europe's doors wide and invite in everyone who wants to come to your country. European migration policy is a total failure, all that is absolutely frightening."[664]

In June 2016, exiled Cuban journalist Carlos Alberto Montaner suggested that France could establish a refugee state in French Guiana.[665]

On 18 June 2016, United Nations chief Ban Ki-moon praised Greece for showing "remarkable solidarity and compassion" towards refugees and he also called for international support.[666][667] The lack of action of UNESCO in this area, until now, is subject of a controversy. Some scholars, as António Silva,[668] blame this UN institution not to denounce racism against war refugees in Europe with the same vigor as the vandalism against ancient monuments perpetrated by fundamentalists in the Middle East. They also accuse the organization to contribute to the emerging process of fetishization of the cultural heritage, forgetting that it should be used primarily as an instrument in the fight against racism, as openly declared the authors of the constitutive charter of the institution in 1945.[citation needed]

On 23 March 2020, UN Special Rapporteur, Felipe González warned Greece to end the violation of the rights of asylum seekers at the Turkey-Greece border. The rapporteur also demanded that Greece improve measures to protect asylum seekers. Asylum seekers who succeed in crossing the border are allegedly detained and searched, with all material possessions confiscated, before being sent back to Turkey. The manhandling of the migrants has resulted in deaths and serious injuries in the past, according to the report.[669] [670]


According to Reuters, most migrants setting sail from Libya did so in vessels operated by people smugglers.[273] As of September 2018, one in five migrants attempting to cross the Mediterranean Sea from Libya has either drowned or disappeared.[671]

In August 2017 the Libyan Coast Guard issued a declaration that NGO search and rescue vessels must stay outside a zone running 360 km (190 nautical miles) from the Libyan coast unless given express permission to enter.[672] This zone is 10 nautical miles less than the Libyan Exclusive Economic Zone, The coast guard statement criticised the NGO vessels from approaching the Libyan coastline to a distance of as little as 10–13 nautical miles, which is inside the Libyan territorial waters.[672] As a result, NGOs MSF, Save the Children and Sea Eye suspended their operations after clashes where the Libyan coastguard asserted its sovereignty of its waters by firing warning shots.[273]

Press coverage

In a report ordered by UNHCR and authored by the Cardiff School of Journalism, analysis was made of media reports in five European countries: Spain, Italy, United Kingdom, Germany and Sweden. In the period 2014 to the early months of 2015, UNHCR and other humanitarian launched a series of large media advocacy exercises. Significant discrepancies were noted in the response to the campaign in other media for the same period. Differences included:

  • There differences in the kind of sources journalists used for their articles, such as domestic or foreign politicians, citizens or NGOs.
  • The language used: Germany and Sweden overwhelmingly used terms refugee or asylum seeker while Italy and UK preferred the term migrant. In Spain, the dominant term was immigrant.
  • The reasons given for the increase in refugee flows.
  • Suggested solutions.
  • The predominant themes: threats to welfare systems and cultural threats were most prevalent in Italy, Spain and Britain while humanitarian themes were more frequent in Italian coverage.
  • Overall the Swedish press was most positive towards the arrivals, while UK press was both the most negative and the most polarised.[673]

Press coverage of German migration policies

Analyst Naina Bajekal for the United States' magazine Time in September 2015 suggested that the German decision, late August 2015, to allow Syrian refugees to apply for asylum in Germany even if they had reached Germany through other EU member states, has led to increased numbers of refugees from Syria and other regions – Afghanistan, Somalia, Iraq, Ukraine, Congo, South Sudan etc. – endeavouring to reach (Western) Europe.[674]

An analyst for the British newspaper The Daily Telegraph in March 2016 labeled the decisions of the German Chancellor Angela Merkel in 2015 concerning migration policies as "open door policy" and "welcoming refugees", which he condemned as "encouraging migration into Europe that her own country is unwilling to absorb" and as damaging the EU, "perhaps terminally".[675]

Future expectations

While data recorded by various bodies and organizations including the UNHCR, IOM and Frontex shows that the overall numbers of immigrants entering Europe has significantly decreased, suggesting that the peak of the crisis has passed, ease of access via the West Mediterranean route has boosted migrant numbers from Africa, with preference being given to Spain over Italy or Greece as a landing point.[676]

Michael Møller, Director of the United Nations office in Geneva, said: "Young people all have cellphones and they can see what's happening in other parts of the world, and that acts as a magnet." In August 2017, various world leaders, including Angela Merkel and Emmanuel Macron, met in Paris to devise policies that would combat this situation. Since poverty and lack of education are the biggest push factors prompting migration from Africa to the EU, obstacles like perilous journeys and harsh living conditions at the destination are unlikely to deter African migrants.[citation needed]The crisis is experiencing a lull after the first explosion, and is soon headed toward the next stage of illegal immigration.

Klaus Schwab, founder and executive chairman of the World Economic Forum, claimed that the refugee crisis could be the precursor of something bigger, saying As the crash in commodities prices spreads economic woe across the developing world, Europe could face a wave of migration that will eclipse today's refugee crisis. Look how many countries in Africa, for example, depend on the income from oil exports, Schwab said in an interview ahead of the WEF's 46th annual meeting, in the Swiss resort of Davos. Now imagine 1 billion inhabitants, imagine they all move north.[677]

See also


  1. ^ Data for the rest of the year 2015 can be found in the Eurostat Asylum quarterly report.[1]
  2. ^ Data for all countries in 2014 as well as Nigeria, Ivory Coast, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Gambia for 2014 to 2017 is extracted from Frontex 2018 report.[643] The unknown cell for 2014 and Eritrea form 2014 to 2016 is extracted from the 2017 report.[644] Data for Iran, Kosovo and Somalia is extracted from the 2016 report.[645] The rest of data is extracted from the 2019 report.[646] The Other row is adjusted accordingly.


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