European migrant crisis
The European migrant crisis, also known as the refugee crisis, is a period characterised by high numbers of people arriving in the European Union (EU) overseas from across the Mediterranean Sea or overland through Southeast Europe. In March 2019, the European Commission declared the migrant crisis to be at an end, although displaced people continued to arrive.
The migrant crisis was part of a pattern of increased forced migration to Europe from other continents which is said to have begun in 2014. At the peak of the crisis in 2015, The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) observed that the top three nationalities among over one million refugees arriving from the Mediterranean Sea were Syrian (46.7%), Afghan (20.9%) and Iraqi (9.4%). By 2019, the number of displaced arrivals to the Mediterranean had dropped to 129,663 people.
Many refugees that arrived in Italy and Greece came from countries where armed conflict was ongoing (Syrian Civil War, Afghanistan War, Iraqi conflict) or which otherwise were considered to be "refugee-producing" and for whom international protection is needed. The collapse of border controls during the Libyan Civil War (2014–2020) abetted human smuggling through Libya, with the Libya route used by huge numbers of people.
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. The number of deaths at sea rose to record levels in April 2015, when five boats carrying approximately 2,000 migrants to Europe sank in the Mediterranean Sea, with the combined death toll estimated at more than 1,200 people. The shipwrecks took place during conflicts and refugee crises in several Greater Middle Eastern 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.
The BBC used the term "migrant" to represent all the people on the move during this period in its review articles published in 2016 "Migrant crisis: Migration to Europe explained" and 2015 "Europe migrant crisis". According to the BBC, the crisis included people who had not yet applied for asylum, refugees, and economic migrants.
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).
Eurostat reported EU member states received over 1.2 million first-time asylum applications in 2015, more than twice as 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. More than 1 million migrants crossed the Mediterranean Sea in 2015, considerably dropping to 364,000 in 2016, before decreasing further in 2017. According to the UN, an estimated 362,000 refugees and migrants risked their lives crossing the Mediterranean Sea in 2016, with 181,400 people arriving in Italy and 173,450 in Greece. In the first half of 2017, over 105,000 refugees and migrants entered Europe.
Several serious accidents and deaths occurred in Europe as a result of migrant smuggling since 1997: two in the Mediterranean Sea due to the capsizing of crowded and unseaworthy migrant smuggling vessels, and some 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.
Causes of increased number of asylum seekers
Escaping from natural disasters
Escaping from conflicts or persecution
According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, most of the people who arrived in Europe in 2015 were refugees fleeing war and persecution in countries such as Syria, Afghanistan, Iraq and Eritrea: 84 percent of Mediterranean Sea arrivals in 2015 came from the world's top ten refugee-producing countries. Wars fueling the migrant crisis are the Syrian Civil War, 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, fled from indefinite military conscription and forced labour. Some ethnicities or religions are more represented among the migrants than others; for instance, Kurds made up 80 to 90 percent of all Turkish refugees in Germany in 2015-16.
Refugees coming from the Middle East tended to seek asylum in Europe. In 2015, over 80 percent of the refugees who arrived in Europe by sea came from Syria, Iraq, and Afghanistan. Routes in which these refugees face while attempting to arrive in Europe are usually extremely dangerous. The jeopardy to endure such routes supported the arguments behind certain refugees' preferential motivations of seeking asylum within European nations.
Below are the major regions of conflict that have resulted in the increase of asylum seekers in the European region.
Many refugees entering Europe originated from Syria. Refugees of the Syrian Civil War included citizens and permanent residents of Syria who had left the country since the start of the Syrian Civil War in 2011. By 2016 more than six million were internally displaced, and around five million (2016) had crossed into other countries, with most seeking asylum or placed in Syrian refugee camps established in Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan, Egypt, and EU. Detected illegal border crossings to the EU by Syrians numbered 78,887 in 2014, 594,059 in 2015, 88,551 in 2016, and 19,452 in 2017.
By May 2011, thousands of people had fled the country and the first refugee camps opened in Turkey. In March 2012, the UNHCR appointed a Regional Refugee Coordinator for Syrian Refugees, recognising the growing concerns surrounding the crisis. In March 2013, the number of Syrian refugees reached 1,000,000. By December 2017, the UNHCR counted 1,000,000 asylum applications for Syrian refugees in the European Union. By March 2018, UNHCR had counted nearly 5.6 million registered Syrian refugees worldwide.
Population of Syrian origin in Denmark by sex, yearly fourth quarter 2008-2017 (Statistics Denmark)
Syria-born persons in Sweden by sex, 2000-2016 (Statistics Sweden)
Anti-government forces were supported by external governments (including the US, UK and France) in an effort to topple the Syrian government via classified programs such as Timber Sycamore (begin: 2012 or 2013 end: 2017) that effectively delivered thousands of tons of weaponry to rebel groups.
Afghan refugees constitute the second-largest refugee population in the world. According to the UNHCR, there are almost 2.5 million registered refugees from Afghanistan. Most of these refugees fled the region due to war and persecution. The majority have resettled in Pakistan and Iran, though it became increasingly common to migrate further west to the European Union. Afghanistan faced over 40 years of conflict dating back to the Soviet invasion in 1979. Since then, the nation faced fluctuating levels of civil war amidst unending unrest. The increase in refugee numbers has been primarily attributed 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 fled Afghanistan. Most Afghan refugees, however, seek refuge in the neighboring nation of Pakistan. Increasing numbers, though, have committed to migrating to Turkey and the European Union.
Migration from Kosovo occurred in phases beginning from the second half of the 20th century. The Kosovo War (February 1998-June 1999) created a wave. On 19 May 2011, Kosovo established the Ministry of Diaspora. Kosovo also established the Kosovo Diaspora Agency (KDA) to support migrants. Migrants from Kosovo newly arriving in the EU, detected but not over an official border-crossing point, was around 21,000 in 2014 and 10,000 in 2015. At the same period detected illegal border crossings to the EU from Kosovo was 22,069 in 2014 and 23,793 in 2015.
In 2015 there was sudden surge, which Kosovo became helpless to stem. More than 30,000 caught in Hungary between September 2014 to February 2015, which was only 6,000 for the year 2013. This was 7% of the country's population. Kosovo’s president urge residents to stay while his top ally said “gates must be shut” to economic immigrants to Europe.
EU's management of the crisis
—Manfred Weber, leader of the European People's Party in the European Parliament.
The 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" as re-election does not drive the commissions vision.
Angela Merkel, German Chancellor, used some of her strongest language on the migrant crisis and 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. In response, she suspended the 'Dublin Rule' which forced Syrian refugees and asylum to stay in their first European country of contact. This subsequently allowed an influx of Syrian refugees into Germany and the wider EU.
Nicolas Sarkozy, president of the Republicans and former French president, compared the EU migrant plan to "mending a burst pipe by spreading water round the house while leaving the leak untouched". Sarkozy criticised Merkel's decision to allow tens of thousands of people to enter Germany, saying that it would attract even greater numbers of people to Europe, of which 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.
Italian Prime Minister and Secretary of the Italian Democratic Party Matteo Renzi said the EU should forge a single European policy on asylum. 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." 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.
According to The Wall Street Journal, the appeal of Eurosceptic politicians had increased.
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 [had] been seen getting off a boat onto Italian soil". In 2013, Farage had called on the UK government to accept more Syrian refugees, before clarifying that those refugees should be Christian due to the existence of nearer places of refuge for Muslims. Marine Le Pen, leader of the French far-right National Front and co-president of the former Europe of Nations and Freedom (EMF) group, accused Germany of looking to hire "slaves" by opening its doors to large numbers of asylum seekers at a debate in Germany whether there should be exceptions to the recently introduced minimum wage law for refugees. Le Pen also accused Germany of imposing its immigration policy on the rest of the EU unilaterally. Her comments were reported by the German and Austrian press; the online edition of Der Spiegel referred to them as "abstruse claims". The centre-right daily newspaper Die Welt wrote that she "exploit[ed] the refugee crisis for anti-German propaganda".
Geert Wilders, the leader of the Dutch Party for Freedom and a member of the former EMF known for his criticism of Islam, called the influx of people an "Islamic invasion" during a debate in the Dutch parliament and spoke of "masses of young men in their twenties with beards singing Allahu Akbar across Europe". He also dismissed the idea that people arriving in Western Europe via the Balkans are genuine refugees, and statedː "Turkey, Greece, Macedonia, Serbia are safe countries. If you flee them then you are doing it for benefits and a house."
After the migrant shipwreck on 19 April 2015, Italian Prime Minister Renzi held a telephone conversation with French President François Hollande and Maltese Prime Minister Joseph Muscat. 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" while Prime Minister Muscat said the 19 April shipwreck was the "biggest human tragedy of the last few years". Hollande described smugglers as "terrorists" who put migrant lives at risk. Aydan Özoğuz, the German government's representative for migration, refugees, and integration, said that emergency rescue missions should be restored as more migrants were likely to arrive as the weather turned warmer. "It was an illusion to think that cutting off Mare Nostrum would prevent people from attempting this dangerous voyage across the Mediterranean", she said. Federica Mogherini, High Representative of the EU for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, called for collective EU action ahead at a meeting in Luxembourg on Monday 20 April.
In a press conference, Renzi confirmed that Italy had called an "extraordinary European council" meeting as soon as possible to discuss the tragedy; various European leaders agreed with this idea. Then-Prime Minister of the United Kingdom David 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. He later confirmed that he would attend an emergency summit of European leaders on Thursday.
In 2016 the European Commission began reforming the Common European Asylum System (CEAS) which was initially designed to create a unified asylum system for the EU. In an attempt to create measures for safe and managed paths for legal migration to Europe, the European Commission created five components that sought to satisfy the minimum standards for asylum.
On 13 July 2016, the European Commission introduced the proposals to finalise the CEAS' reform. 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.
The 2013 Lampedusa migrant shipwreck involved "more than 360" deaths and led the Italian government to establish Operation Mare Nostrum, a large-scale naval operation that involved search and rescue, with migrants being brought aboard a naval amphibious assault ship. The Italian government ended the operation in 2014 amid an upsurge in the number of sea arrivals in Italy from Libya, citing the costs were too large for one EU state alone to manage; Frontex assumed the main responsibility for search and rescue operations under the name Operation Triton. The Italian government had requested additional funds from the EU to continue the operation but member states did not offer the requested support. 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". 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. In the first half of 2015, Greece overtook Italy in the number of arrivals and became the starting point of a flow of refugees and migrants moving through Balkan countries to Northern European countries, mainly Germany and Sweden in the summer of 2015 .
The Guardian and Reuters noted that doubling the size of Operation Triton would still leave the mission with fewer resources than Operation Mare Nostrum which had a budget thrice as large, four times the number of aircraft, and a wider mandate to conduct search and rescue operations across the Mediterranean Sea.
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. 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 the HMS Bulwark, two naval patrol boats, and three helicopters to join the Operation. On 5 May 2015 Irish Minister of Defence Simon Coveney announced that the LÉ Eithne would participate in the response to the crisis. Amnesty International immediately criticised the EU's 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".
On 18 May 2015, the European Union launched a new operation based in Rome, named EU Navfor Med, under the command of the Italian Admiral Enrico Credendino, to undertake systematic efforts to identify, capture and dispose of vessels used by migrant smugglers. The first phase of the operation launched on 22 June 2015 and involved naval surveillance detecting smugglers' boats and monitoring 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 used six EU warships. As of April 2016, the operation rescued more than 13,000 migrants at sea and arrested 68 alleged smugglers.
The EU sought 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. 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 entry routes through the Western Balkan experienced the highest intensity of border restrictions in the 2015 EU migrant crisis, according to The New York Times and other sources, and are as follows:
|Turkey||Greece||Greece||Greece built a razor-wire fence in 2012 along its short land border with Turkey. In September 2015, Turkish provincial authorities gave approximately 1,700 migrants three days to leave the border zone.|
|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.|
|Greece||North Macedonia||Macedonian||In November 2015, North Macedonia began erecting a fence along its southern border with Greece to channel the flow of migrants through an official checkpoint as opposed to limiting migrant influx. Beginning in November 2015, Greek police permitted only Syrians, Iraqis, and Afghans to cross into North Macedonia. In February, Macedonian soldiers began erecting a second fence meters away from the previous one.|
|Serbia||Hungary||Hungarian||Hungary built a 175-km (109-mi) razor-wire fence along its border with Serbia in 2015.|
|Croatia||Hungary||Hungary||Hungary built a 40-km (25-mi) razor-wire fence along its border with Croatia in 2015. On 16 October 2015, Hungary announced that it would close off its border to migrants entering from Croatia.|
|Croatia||Slovenia||Slovenia||Slovenia blocked transit from Croatia in September 2015 and pepper sprayed migrants trying to cross. Although Slovenia reopened the border on 18 October 2015, it restricted crossing to 2,500 migrants per day.|
|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.|
|Russia||Norway||On 25 January 2016, Russia closed its northern border checkpoint with Norway for asylum seekers being return to Russia. While the announcement was noted as closure of the border, it only considered returning asylum seekers and is only a 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 only applied to asylum seekers and lasted a couple of hours. On 27 December 2015, Finland closed its Russian border to cyclists and allegedly only enforced the rule at the Raja-Jooseppi and Salla checkpoints, as earlier more and more asylum seekers had crossed the border on bikes.|
|Austria||Germany||Germany placed temporary travel restrictions from Austria by rail in 2015 but 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.|
Article 26 of the Schengen Convention states that carriers which transport people who are refused into the Schengen area shall pay for both penalties and the return of the refused people. Further clauses on this topic are found in EU directive 2001/51/EC. This prevented migrants without a visa from being allowed on aircraft, boats, or trains entering the Schengen Area, and caused them to resort to migrant smugglers. Humanitarian visas are generally not given to refugees who want to apply for asylum.
The laws on migrant smuggling forbid helping migrants pass any national border if the migrants do not have 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 attempted 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".
It has been argued that the official policy (at least in some countries like Sweden) of free right to apply for asylum, is counteracted by the Carriers' responsibility, forcing refugees to use an illegal and dangerous route by using criminal smugglers, to exercise a right that many say should not be denied. A suggestion of humanitarian visas (refugees would be able to get an entry permission before travelling if have reason for asylum) has been turned down because of the number of people who would arrive.
On the paper the Carriers' responsibility law does not prevent the free right to asylum, because the penalty on airlines is not given if the person is actually granted asylum. But the airlines can't know who will be given asylum or not and do therefore block everyone without right to enter.
The International Organization for Migration (IOM) and the UN refugee agency, UNHCR urged to disembark the more than four hundred rescued migrants and refugees rescued in the Central Mediterranean Sea on board three vessels. The IOM also emphasized on the need of a regional agreement for the safe disembarkation of migrants and refugees amid COVID-19 pandemic.
Migration Partnership Framework
The Tampere Program started in 1999 outlines the EU's policy on migration and presents a certain openness towards freedom, security, and justice. It focuses on two issuesː the development of a common asylum system and the enhancement of external border controls. The externalization of borders with Turkey is essentially the transfer of border controls and management to foreign countries, which are in close proximity to EU countries. The EU's decision to externalize its borders puts significant pressure on non-EU countries to cooperate with EU political forces.
The Migration Partnership Framework introduced in 2016 implements greater resettlement of migrants and alternative legal routes for migration. Its goals align 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. By directing migrant flows to third countries, policies place responsibilities on third-world countries. States with insufficient resources are legally mandated to ensure the protection of migrants' rights, including the right to asylum. Destination states under border externalization strategies are responsible for rights violated outside their own territory. Fundamental rights of migrants can be impacted while externalizing borders; for example, child migrants are recognized to have special status under international law, though they are vulnerable to trafficking and other crimes while in transit.
Africa Agreement: Emergency Trust Fund
The Valletta Summit on Migration between European and African leaders was held in Valletta, Malta, on 11 and 12 November 2015 to discuss the migrant crisis. The summit resulted in the EU creating an Emergency Trust Fund to promote development in Africa, in return for African countries to help out in the crisis.
At a time of diplomatic tensions with the Hungarian government, Merkel publicly pledged that Germany would offer temporary residency to refugees. Combined with television footage of cheering Germans welcoming refugees and migrants arriving in Munich, large numbers of migrants were persuaded to move from Turkey up the Western Balkan route.
On 25 August 2015 The Guardian reported "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". Around 24 August 2015, Merkel decided to stop following the rule under the Dublin Regulation such that migrants "can apply for asylum only in the first EU member state they enter"; the Regulation actually holds that the migrant should apply for asylum in the first EU country where they were formally registered). Germany ordered its officers to process asylum applications from Syrians if they had come through other EU countries. On 4 September 2015, Merkel decided that Germany would admit the thousands of refugees who were stranded in Hungary and sent to the Austrian border under excessively hot conditions by Hungarian prime minister Orban. With that decision, she reportedly aimed to prevent disturbances at the German borders. Tens of thousands of refugees traveled from Hungary via Vienna into Germany in the days following 4 September 2015.
Analyst Will Hutton for the British newspaper The Guardian praised Merkel's decisions on migration policies on 30 August 2015: "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 (…)".
Turkey Agreement: Locating migrants to safe country
The EU proposed a plan to the Turkish government 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. 12 EU countries have national lists of safe countries of origin. The European Commission proposed one, common EU list designated as "safe" across all EU candidate countries (Albania, North Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia and Turkey), plus potential EU candidates Bosnia and Herzegovina and Kosovo. 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. International Law generated during the Geneva Convention states that a country is considered "safe" when there is a democratic system in a country and there is generally no persecution, no torture, no threat of violence, and no armed conflict.
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. On 12 November 2015, at the end of the Valletta 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. The €3 billion fund for Turkey was approved by the EU in February 2016.
In January 2016, the Netherlands proposed a plan that the EU take in 250,000 refugees a year from Turkey in return for Turkey closure of the Aegean sea route to Greece, which Turkey rejected. On 7 March 2016, the EU met with Turkey for another summit in Brussels to negotiate further solutions of the crisis. The original plan was to declare the Western Balkan route closed, but it was met with criticism from Merkel. Turkey countered the offer by demanding a further €3 billion in order to help them supply aid to 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 expedited talks of a possible accession of Turkey to the European Union. 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 for financial and political rewards.
On 20 March 2016, an agreement between the European Union and Turkey was enacted to discourage migrants from making the dangerous sea journey from Turkey to Greece. 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.
It was also agreed upon 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; they would preferably be the individuals who did not try to enter the EU illegally in the past. Allowed migrants would not exceed a maximum of 72,000 people. Turkish nationals would have access to the Schengen passport-free zone by June 2016 but would exclude non-Schengen countries such as the UK. The talks about 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. The talks were suspended in November 2016 after the 2016 Turkish coup d'état attempt. 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."
Migrants from Greece to Turkey were to be given medical checks, registered, fingerprinted, and bused to "reception and removal" centres. before being deported to their home countries. UNHCR director Vincent Cochetel claimed in August 2016 that parts of the deal were already suspended because of the post-coup absence of Turkish police at the Greek detention centres to oversee deportations.
The UNHCR said it was not a party to the EU-Turkey deal and would not be involved in returns or detention. 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 to implement the EU-Turkey deal because blanket expulsion of refugees contravened international law.
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.
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.
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. 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.
Changes in Schengen & Dublin
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 were restricted to and enforced on the external Schengen borders and countries with external borders. Countries may reinstate internal border controls for a maximum of two months for "public policy or national security" reasons.
The Dublin Regulation determines the EU member state responsible to examine an asylum application and 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"— 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 moves to another member state afterwards, they can be transferred back to the member state they first entered. This rule led many to criticise the Dublin Regulation 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.
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. 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 and not to effectively share responsibility. The reforms would attempt to create a burden-sharing system through several mechanisms. The proposal would introduce a "centralised automated system" to record the number of asylum applications across the EU, with "national interfaces" within each of the Member States. It would also present a "reference key" based on a Member State's GDP and population size to determine its absorption capacity. When the absorption capacity in a Member State exceeded 150 percent of its reference share, a "fairness mechanism" would distribute the excess number of asylum seekers across less congested Member States. If a Member State chooses not to accept the asylum seekers, it would contribute €250,000 per application instead as a "solidarity contribution". 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.
As most asylum seekers try to reach Germany or Sweden through other EU member states, many of which form the borderless Schengen area where internal border controls are abolished, enforcing the Dublin Regulation became increasingly difficult in the late summer of 2015, with some countries allowing asylum seekers to transit through their territories, renouncing the right to return them, 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, and gave EU member states the right to deport migrants to the first country of entry to the EU.
Countries responded in different ways:
- Hungary became overburdened by asylum applications and on 23 June 2015 it stopped receiving returned applicants who had crossed the borders to other EU countries and been detained there. Later in the year, migrants in southern Hungary started a hunger strike in protest against the closure of the green border with Serbia. Hungarian police used tear gas and a water cannon on the protesters after they threw stones and concrete at the riot police.
- On 24 August 2015, in accordance with article 17 of the Dublin III Regulations, Germany suspended the general procedure in regards to Syrian refugees and to process their asylum applications directly itself. The change in Germany asylum policy incited large numbers of migrants to move towards Germany, especially after Merkel stated that "there is no legal limit to refugee numbers". Meanwhile, Austria allowed unimpeded travel of migrants from Hungary to Germany through its own territory. Germany then established temporary border controls along its border with Austria to "limit the current inflows" and "return to orderly procedures when people enter the country" according to de Maizière. The Czech Republic reacted by increasing its 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 and patrolled the green border in cars and helicopters. Some Czech police officers were stationed within Austria in order to give advance warning if large numbers of migrants moved towards the Austrian–Czech borders. On 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.
- On 2 September 2015, the Czech Republic defied the Dublin Regulation and offered 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 they tried to reach Germany through the Czech Republic. On 7 September, Austria began phasing out special measures that had allowed tens of thousands of migrants to cross its territory and reinstated the Dublin Regulation.
- On 14 September, Austria established border controls along its border with Hungary and deployed police officers and the army there. Hungary also deployed army personnel along its border with Serbia and announced that in those who illegally enter Hungary would be arrested and face imprisonment before closing it. After Austrian chancellor Werner Faymann's made remarks likening Hungary's treatment of refugees to Nazi policies, Hungary started transporting refugees by bus directly to the border with Austria, where they were offloaded and tried to cross to Austria on foot.
Management of immigration
The table above summarizes the 1.7 million asylum applicants in 2015 costed €18 billion in maintenance costs in 2016, with the total 2015 and 2016 asylum caseload costing €27.3 billion (27.296 in € Mil.) in 2016. Sweden is observed to bear the heaviest cost.
Quota system (relocation)
The escalation in April 2015 of shipwrecks of migrant boats in the Mediterranean led EU leaders to reconsider their policies on border control and migrant processing. On 20 April the European Commission proposed a 10-point plan that included the European Asylum Support Office deploying teams in Italy and Greece to asylum applications together. Merkel proposed a new system of quotas to distribute non-EU asylum seekers across the EU member states.
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. Luxembourg Foreign Minister Jean Asselborn 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. Orbán criticised the European Commission, warning that "tens of millions" of migrants could come to Europe, whom Asselborn declared to be "ashamed" of. 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".
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. 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.
Czech President Miloš Zeman said that Ukrainian refugees fleeing the War in Donbass should be also included in migrant quotas. In November 2015, the Czech Republic started a program of medical evacuations of 400 selected Syrian refugees from Jordan. 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 flat in the Czech Republic after stating their clear intent to stay in the country. However, from the first three families that had been transported to Prague, one immediately fled to Germany. Czech Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka said that this signals that quota system will not work either.
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. However, both Austria and Germany also 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.
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 opted out). 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 the economy and population of each state, as well as the average number of asylum applications. The decision was made 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. Czech Interior Minister tweeted after the vote: "Common sense lost today." Slovak Prime Minister Robert Fico threatened legal action over EU's mandatory migrant quotas at European Court of Justice in Luxembourg. On 9 October, the first 20 Eritrean asylum seekers were relocated by plane from Italy to Sweden, and were fingerprinted in Italy.
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 Merkel supported.
By September 2016 the quota system proposed by EU was abandoned after staunch resistance by Visegrád Group countries.
By 9 June 2017, 22,504 people were resettled through the quota system, with over 2000 of them being resettled in May alone. All relevant countries participated in the relocation scheme except Austria, Denmark, Czech Republic, Poland, and Hungary. The European commission had consequentially launched sanctions against the Czech Republic, Poland, and Hungary.
In September 2017, the European Court of Justice dismissed the legal actions brought by Slovakia and Hungary against the EU quota system. The European Court of Justice stated that the quota program was "necessary to respond effectively and swiftly to an emergency situation characterized by a sudden inflow of displaced persons."
Crime by immigrants
Although it was stated that terrorists were exploiting refugee sea and land routes to enter Europe, acts of terrorism in Europe between 2014 and 2020, led many governments to take a tough stance on refugees. For example, in the wake of November 2015 Paris attacks, Poland's European affairs minister-designate Konrad Szymański stated that he did not see it possible to enact the EU refugee relocation scheme, unless there were security guarantees for accepting refugees, implying that refugees were responsible for the Paris attacks, when they were not.
During 2015, foreign fighters who had joined the Islamic state travelled with the migration flow back to Europe. In the January 2016-April 2017 period, four asylum seekers were involved in terrorist incidents, but none who had been granted refugee status. Most of the terrorist attacks in Europe in the period were carried out by citizens of European countries.
The November 2015 Paris attacks prompted European officials—particularly German officials—to re-evaluate their stance on EU policy toward migrants. Many German officials believed a higher level of scrutiny was needed, and criticised Merkel's stance, but the German Vice-Chancellor Sigmar Gabriel defended her position and pointed out that a lot of migrants were fleeing terrorism.
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; these sexual attacks brought about a new wave of anti-immigrant protests across Europe. Merkel said "wir schaffen das" during the violence and crime by German immigrants, including the 2016 Munich shooting, the 2016 Ansbach bombing, and the Würzburg train attack.
In 2016, the Italian daily newspaper La Stampa reported that 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 for supposed members of ISIL to avoid Greek security and make their way to other parts of Europe. The chief of Europol also 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.
In October 2016 Danish immigration minister Inger Støjberg reported 50 cases of suspected radicalised asylum seekers at asylum centres. The reports ranged from adult Islamic State sympathisers celebrating terror attacks to violent children who dress up as IS fighters decapitating teddy bears. Støjberg expressed her frustration at asylum seekers ostensibly fleeing war yet simultaneously supporting violence. Asylum centres that detected radicalisation routinely reported their findings to police. The 50 incidents were reported between 17 November 2015 and 14 September 2016.
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 in a desperate attempt to radicalize children for the group. The reports by counter-extremism think tank Quilliam indicated that an estimated 88,300 unaccompanied children—who are reported as missing—were at risk of radicalization by ISIL.
Crime against 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.
In October, a plot by neo-Nazis to attack a refugee center with explosives, knives, a baseball bat, and a gun was foiled by German police. Nazi magazines and memorabilia from the Third Reich, flags emblazoned with banned swastikas were found. According to the prosecutor the 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).
In November 2016, the Euro-Mediterranean Human Rights Monitor issued a report in regards to the humanitarian situation of migrants into Greece. It hosted 16,209 migrants on its island and 33,650 migrants on the mainland, most of whom were women and children. Because of the lack of water, medical care and security protection witnessed by the Euro- Med monitor team- especially with the arrival of winter, they were at risk of serious health deterioration. 1,500 refugees were 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 showed that there was a lack of access to legal services and protection for the refugees and migrants in the camps; there was no trust between the residents and the protection offices. In addition, migrants were subject to regular xenophobic attacks, fascist violence, forced strip searches at the hands of residents and police, and detention. Women living in the Athens settlements and the Vasilika, Softex and Diavata camps felt 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 committed suicide, burned property and protested. The report clarified the difficulties the refugees face when entering into Greece; more than 16,000 people were trapped while awaiting deportation on the Greek islands of Lesbos, Chios, Samos, Leros and Kos, which is twice the capacity of the five islands.
In August 2017 dozens of Afghan asylum seekers demonstrated 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. No one was arrested.
Support systems by local communities and NGOs
There are a number of support systems that aid the integration of refugees and asylum seekers in their host country. United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, working with partners, is providing a broad range of support and assistance in Europe for refugees and asylum-seekers. These efforts include humanitarian and cash assistance, provision of accommodation and support to improve reception conditions, prevention and response to sexual and gender-based violence, protection monitoring and interventions, engaging with refugee communities to enhance their participation and including their voice in their voice in the response, identification and support to persons with specific needs, including separated and unaccompanied children, and referral to appropriate services. The Voice of Young Refugees in Europe provide a support and educational network for young refugees. Many refugees arrive in Europe with a great diversity of skills, experience and specialisations that could make tangible contributions to the EU workforce. In the UK, the Refugee Council organisation provides support and advice to refugees and asylum seekers. The Building Bridges Partnership in the UK was set up to support refugee health professionals re-qualify in the UK. Other organisations include Transitions, a social enterprise that provides advice and helps refugees find placements depending on their qualifications and skills.
Profile of migrants
According to the UNHCR, the number of forcibly displaced people worldwide reached 59,500,000 by the end of 2014, with a 40 percent increase 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 refugees under UNHCR's mandate increased by approximately 2.7 million (23%) compared to the end of 2013, 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 refugees originated from were African: Somalia, Sudan, South Sudan, the Democratic Republic of Congo, the Central African Republic, and Eritrea.
In 2016, the UNHCR reported 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 which were asylum seekers. The rest were internally displaced persons. The 17.2 million refugees under UNHCR's mandate increased by 2.9 million compared to the end of 2014, and is the highest number of refugees 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 hosted in Europe. As of April 2018, 15,481 refugees successfully arrived in Europe via sea within the first few months of the year alone. There was an estimated 500 that have died. In 2015, there was a total of 1.02 million arrivals by sea. Since then, there is still an influx, albeit steadily decreasing.
UNHCR data reported 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. Of the asylum applications received in Sweden in 2015, 70 percent were by men (including minors), as men search for a safe place to live and work before attempting to reunite later with their families. In war-torn countries, men are also at greater risk of being forced to fight or killed. Among people arriving in Europe there were also large numbers of women and unaccompanied children. Europe 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.
UNHCR noted 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). Asylum seekers of seven nationalities had an asylum recognition rate of over 50 percent in EU states in the first quarter of 2015, which meant 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.
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. 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.
Origins and routes
- 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 which also includes the land route through the borders of Ceuta and Melilla)
- Central Mediterranean route (Sea passage from North Africa (particularly Egypt and Libya) towards Italy and Malta across the Mediterranean Sea). Most migrants taking this route board vessels operated by people smugglers. NGOs such as Save the Children, MSF, and the German organisation Sea Eye operate search-and-rescue ships in this area to bring migrants to Europe.
- Apulia and Calabria route (Sea passage from Turkey and Egypt who enter Greece before crossing 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 where economic migrants from Albania cross into Greece for seasonal jobs before returning home.)
- Western Balkan route (Land and sea route from the Greek-Turkish border to Hungary via North Macedonia and Serbia, Romania or Croatia. Mostly used by Greater Middle Eastern immigrants (from Syria, Afghanistan and Iraq) but also by large numbers of migrants from Western Balkan countries, primarily Kosovo).
- Eastern Mediterranean route (Passage used primarily by Greater Middle Eastern migrants crossing from Turkey into the 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.)
Another route was added:
- The Arctic route (from Russia via to Sør-Varanger in Norway) emerged by September 2015 and became one of the fastest-growing routes to enter Western Europe by November 2015. This route was temporarily closed in 2016 after Russia and Norway decided to limit movement through Salla and Lotta for migrants, and allowed only Russian, Norwegian and Belarusian citizens to access it.
Migrants from the Western Balkans (Kosovo, Albania, Serbia) and parts of West Africa (The Gambia, Nigeria) were more likely to be economic migrants, who were fleeing poverty and job scarcity, many of whom hoped for a better lifestyle and job offers without valid claims to refugee status. The majority of asylum applicants from Serbia, North Macedonia and Montenegro are Roma people who felt discriminated against in their countries of origin.
Some argue that migrants have been seeking to settle preferentially in national destinations that offer more generous social welfare benefits and host 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. A large number of refugees in Turkey have been faced with difficult living circumstances; 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. In contrast to Germany, France's popularity eroded in 2015 among migrants seeking asylum after being historically considered a popular final destination for the EU migrants.
The influx from states like Nigeria and Pakistan is a mix of economic migrants and refugees fleeing from violence and war such as the Boko Haram insurgency in northeastern Nigeria and the War in North-West Pakistan.
Perspectives of refugees and asylum seekers
British Somali poet Warsan Shire's poem 'Home' has become a popular depiction of the refugee experience amongst refugees and asylum seekers, particularly the line “You have to understand...no one puts their children in a boat, unless the water is safer than the land.”
Death of Alan Kurdi
Images of the body of a 3-year-old Syrian boy named Alan Kurdi (after he drowned on 2 September 2015) are widely believed to have shifted public opinion on the 'European migrant crisis' as well as the opinions of world leaders. Kurdi and his family were Syrian refugees, and 3-year-old Alan passed away alongside his brother and mother - only his father survived the journey, telling CNN "[e]verything I was dreaming of is gone. I want to bury my children and sit beside them until I die." Kurdi's body was photographed by Turkish journalist Nilüfer Demir.
Pegida, a far right political movement, was founded in Dresden in October 2014 with the stated goal was to curb immigration. The organization accused authorities of failure to enforce immigration laws. On 9 January 2016 about 1,700 people joined a 'PEGIDA' demonstration. Following the demonstrations representatives of Pegida, including Pegida Austria, Pegida Bulgaria, and Pegida Netherlands published their Fortress Europe on 23 January 2016. The English-language document stated that it is duty to stand up against "political Islam, extreme Islamic regimes and their European collaborators." During this period a far-right position Eurabia went mainstream, which was a far-right Islamophobic conspiracy theory, involving globalist entities allegedly led by French and Arab powers, to Islamise and Arabise Europe, thereby weakening its existing culture and undermining a previous alignment with the U.S. and Israel.
In 2015, members of the far-right, anti-immigration group Britain First organised protest marches. According to a 2015 analysis, Islamophobic groups in Britain were capitalizing on public concerns following the Paris attacks and ongoing refugee crisis; 24 different far-right groups were also attempted to provoke a cultural civil war. Other groups included Pegida UK and Liberty GB. Liberty GB was an anti-immigration political party. Liberty GB's chairman was Paul Weston who writes about impending civil war against Muslims and "white genocide" in Britain. These groups used the theory of the Great Replacement, which French intellectual Bernard-Henri Lévy dismissed as a "junk idea", in their messaging.
On 25 December 2015, a Muslim prayer hall was raided in Ajaccio, an act which French Prime Minister Manuel Valls said was "an unacceptable desecration". The raiders had assumed that a recent crime in the town had been carried out by the immigrant population of the town. The 2015 Corsican protests continued couple more days, as hundreds defied protest ban. Another riot in the same year, the 2015 Geldermalsen riot, was ignited after the town council's decision to establish an asylum centre for 1,500 asylum seekers in the Dutch town of Geldermalsen. Protests and subsequent violence in Chemnitz on 26 August following reignited tensions in Germany surrounding immigration to Germany. Alternative for Germany, a far-right German nationalist party, won more than 25% of the vote in the state of Saxony.
Responses to right-wing positions included Birlikte, a series of semi-annual rallies and corresponding cultural festivals against right-wing extremist violence in Germany. Birlikte events comprised a mixture of speeches and multi-cultural music performances.
On 12 September 2015, tens of thousands of people took part in a "day of action" in several European cities in support of refugees and migrants. At the same day, rallies against migrants took place in some eastern European countries.
On 18 February 2017, tens of thousands of demonstrators [carrying signs reading "Enough excuses, welcome them now"] marched after Ada Cola's [mayor] call for more immigrants at the protest "Volem acollir".
Surveys on immigration
The Pew study links the anti-immigrant rhetoric of the right-wing parties across the continent and the heated debate over the UK’s decision to exit the European Union to the surge of refugees into Europe. There were sharp and deep ideological divides among the public over their views of minorities and diversity represented by these immigrants. Negative attitudes toward immigrants were tied to a belief that these groups do not wish to participate in their society.
A study published by Pew Research Center on 11 July 2016 concluded that "Europeans fear [that a] wave of refugees means more terrorism, fewer jobs". Half of the population in Italy and Sweden blame crime on immigrants.
A study published by Pew Research Center in 2016 concluded that Half of the respondents felt that immigrants would take away jobs and social benefits; Hungarians, Poles, Greeks, Italians and French identify losing jobs and social benefits as their first concern.
In a 2016 poll, refugees, unemployment, and refugees taking away jobs were the issues that ordinary Finns were most concerned about. The original study in Finland found that immigration was a marginal concern in the early 2010s, however the economy was a concern since the neighboring Soviet Union, significant export market, collapsed in the 1990s. The original study found that around 30% believe that uncontrolled immigration was a problem. This ratio was 40% under the age of 25, people who were often looking for jobs themselves. More women than men consider it a problem.
The debate on the Muslim immigrants moved into the center of European discourse. Muslim immigration presented as a cultural threat to the future of Europe, using the argument "Muslim immigration is an incompatible ontological category predicated on culture [they don't share our values!]." Public discourse [across Western Europe] concentrated on Muslims and Islam with a wide spectrum claim that Islam is incompatible with the values of Europe. EU states such as Slovakia have openly rejected to accept the refugees either because they do not want the Brussels to impose immigration policies and/or because they simply do not want Muslims or non-Europeans in their communities. A study released by the European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights found out that almost 40% of Muslims (focused on first- and second-generation immigrants) surveyed reported discrimination in their daily life.
A study published in 2016 by Royal Institute of International Affairs surveyed 10,000 people in ten European states found that 55% agreed with the statement that ‘all further migration from mainly Muslim countries should be stopped’, with the strongest support for this sentiment coming from Austria, Poland, Hungary, France and Belgium A study published by Pew Research Center in 2016 concluded that attitudes towards migrants were deeply connected to individual values and people who have a more negative view of Muslims are also much more concerned about the threat [refugees leaving Iraq and Syria are a major threat to their country].
|Public anxiety over immigration|
|Source: Chatham House|
|Public anxiety over immigration|
|Source: European Social Survey Round 7|
The public perception of the migrant crisis from the Hungarian point of view characterized as anti-immigration since 2015. Muslim immigrants are perceived as a symbolic threat to the dominant—mostly Christian—Western culture and [specifically in the Hungarian context] asylum seekers with a Christian background are more welcomed than those with a Muslim background.
The 2016 United Kingdom European Union membership referendum took place on 23 June 2016. The UK voted to leave the European Union by 51.89% to 48.11% for Remain. According to opinion polls, the motivation for leaving the EU was a belief that doing so would be "more likely to bring about a better immigration system, improved border controls, a fairer welfare system, better quality of life, and the ability to control our own laws." In the same poll, 33% of the public stated that leaving the EU "offered the best chance for the UK to regain control over immigration and its own borders".
The migration crisis was one of the defining issues in the Leave campaign. Whilst Vote Leave argued that the UK should leave the EU for predominantly economic reasons, the arguments of Leave.EU were based upon controlling immigration. This gave a sharper focus to the slogan “taking back control” solidifying opposition to the EU and European human rights law, as both were perceived as a barrier to immigration control. The crisis created the image of a Union unable to handle the situation, and "Leave" campaigners noted Turkey's application to join the EU thus raising the prospect of Turkish citizens gaining freedom of movement.
Theresa May, then Home Secretary, declared that Britain should withdraw from the European convention on human rights (ECHR) irrespective of the EU referendum result. Addressing an audience at the Institute of Mechanical Engineers, she staked out her position. Although she was against Brexit as a method of regulating immigration, she was supportive of the UK being able to control its own policy regarding refugees:
"The ECHR can bind the hands of parliament, adds nothing to our prosperity, makes us less secure by preventing the deportation of dangerous foreign nationals—and does nothing to change the attitudes of governments like Russia’s when it comes to human rights . . . it isn’t the EU we should leave but the ECHR and the jurisdiction of its court."
Hungarian migrant referendum
The 2016 Hungarian migrant quota referendum announced by the Third Orbán Government was about the EU migrant relocation plan. It was commonly referred to as the "quota referendum" in the Hungarian media. In September 2015, the Justice and Home Affairs Council at the EU's interior ministers meeting approved to relocate 1,294 refugees from other member states to Hungary. The referendum question was "Do you want the European Union to be able to mandate the obligatory resettlement of non-Hungarian citizens into Hungary even without the approval of the National Assembly?" The result of the referendum was to reject the plan, with 3,362,224 'No' votes (98.4%) and 56,163 'Yes' votes (1.6%). The voter turnout was 40.4%, which was short of the required 50% threshold stated in the constitution. Government declared result is binding "politically and legally", but the opposition said it was invalid. Mr Orban told EU, it should take a note of the result.
On 6 August 2015, Amnesty International Secretary General Heinz Patzelt inspected the refugee camp Bundesbetreuungsstelle in Traiskirchen where more than 4,800 migrants and refugees are housed. Medical expert Siroos Mirzaei from Amnesty International noted that people had to wait for days to get medical help due to the vast number of people received over a short period of time. The report also stated that only four doctors were present at the refugee camp and showers and other hygienic facilities were in disrepair. Patzelt claimed, "Austria [was] violating human rights and should focus on unattended children and minors".
On 27 August 2015, 71 migrants were found dead in an unventilated food truck near Vienna. Austria officially responded by inspecting vehicles for smuggled immigrants entering from Hungary on 31 August 2015, leading to vehicular backups that extended 19 kilometres (12 mi) and train delays for hours.
Late on 4 September 2015, Chancellor Faymann of Austria, in conjunction with Chancellor Merkel of Germany, announced that migrants would be allowed to cross the border from Hungary into Austria and onward to Germany. Buses carrying migrants began crossing the Austro-Hungarian border on 5 September 2015. Austria reported that 6,500 migrants had crossed the border by the afternoon of 5 September 2015, with 2,200 already on their way to Germany.
On 14 September 2015, Austria followed Germany's example; it instituted border controls of its own and deployed the Austrian Armed Forces to its border with Hungary.
On 19 September 2015, Austria permitted entry to approximately 10,000 migrants arriving from Slovenia and Hungary. Austria took on the role of regulator for the flow of migrants destined for Germany by feeding, housing and providing them health care in transit.
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. 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 (primarily to Germany). The EU's migration commissioner said the cap was incompatible with Austria's obligations under EU and international law. The EU Council of Ministers' legal team however concluded that Austria's moves are not illegal.
In February 2018, Austrian authorities stopped providing food and accommodation to rejected asylum applicants. The proposed legislation introduced penalties between €5000 to €15000 to those who remained in Austria with those refusing to leave to be detained. According to the interior ministry, application from mainly Afghans, Nigerians and Pakistanis were rejected.
From April 2018, Austrian authorities confiscated mobile phones of migrants in order to use its geographical data to verify how migrants arrived to the country. If migrants were found to have entered via a country covered by the Dublin regulation, they were sent there. To cover the cost of handling the application, 840 euro is demanded.
Bulgaria built a fence along its border with Turkey to prevent migrants from crossing through its territory to reach other EU countries. The fence is equipped with infrared cameras, motion sensors and wire, and is monitored by the army.
Croatia received 1,064 migrants in 2015–2017 according to the EU plan. Croatia was originally supposed to receive 505 migrants, but decided to accept more—making it the only country in the EU, along with Estonia, to have done so. On 29 August 2015 the 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 worked on a plan to accept migrants. Croatia sent its delegation to the migrants' camps in Italy and Greece in October 2015 to choose immigrants from Syria and Eritrea that Croatia will accept. Criteria for the selection were:
- any kind of connection to Croatia, such as family in Croatia or a diploma from one of the Croatian Universities (while Croatia was a member of Yugoslavia, many foreigners from Non-Aligned Movement countries, especially Syrians, came to Croatia to study);
- education in occupations that are in demand in Croatia; and
- families with small children.
Croatia shares a land border with Serbia. As such, there was a risk of a strong influx of migrants from Serbia as Hungary erected a fence on its border with Serbia. Nearly 80 percent of the 527 km Serbia-Croatia border consists of the Danube, with the remaining 70 kilometers in Syrmia dubbed the "Green Border". 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". Croatian President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarović and First Deputy Prime Minister Vesna Pusić rejected the proposal to build a fence on the Croatian border with Serbia. Grabar-Kitarović accused Merkel of causing "chaos". Grabar-Kitarović anticipated a possible new migrant wave that might have come in the winter of 2016 and stated on 21 September 2016 before the UN General Assembly that "if a new migrant wave reache[d] 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. 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.
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. On 15 September 2015, Hungary declared it would start arresting people crossing the border illegally, and as of 16 September 2015, Hungary had detained 519 people and pressed criminal charges against 46 for trespassing. Thousands of migrants were subsequently led to pursue alternative routes through Croatia from Serbia. 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 and the Croatian Red Cross were on standby awaiting migrants. On 17 September 2015, more than 5,000 migrants arrived in Tovarnik; Ostojić said Croatia was "absolutely full" by the evening. Croatia decided to close its border with Serbia and train lines from Serbia via Croatia to Slovenia were closed until further notice.
On 6 October 2015, 125,000 entered Croatia over the course of three weeks. Between mid-September and mid-October 2015, about 200,000 migrants had passed through Croatia, with most moving on to Hungary. On 17 October 2015, Hungary closed its border with Croatia to migrants, forcing migrants to be diverted to Slovenia instead. However, Slovenia stated that it would only be able to admit 2,500 people per day with its population of only two million, stranding thousands of migrants in Croatia as well as Serbia and North Macedonia, while new migrants continued to add to the backlog.
In late December 2015, Slovenia erected a razor-wire fence on the border of the 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 found deer killed by the fence, which led the WWF and the inhabitants of the regions from both sides of the border to protest against the decision to put up the razor-wire fence.
On 9 March 2016, Croatia started implementing border restrictions on the border with Serbia in an attempt to reinstate the Schengen rules. Since November 2016, Human Rights Watch (HRW) and, using video documentary evidence, notes that Croatia has been found to have forced refugees back to Serbia and Bosnia-Herzegovina in remote border locations, in contravention of the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights and the 1951 Refugee Convention, and subject them to extreme violence, including: pummelling people with fists, kicking them, making them run gauntlets between lines of police officers. Refugees also speak of forced stripping down to their underwear, beatings with branches, torture with stun guns, sexual abuse and torn-out toenails at the hands of masked Croatian police officers. Photos from aid organisations show refugees with bleeding lacerations, broken arms, knocked-out teeth and dark red marks on their backs. Human rights violations related to accommodation of LGBT migrants were also noted by various service providers from NGOs in the Balkans.
Although Croatia's foreign minister Gordan Grlić-Radman denies "all accusations of incorrect behaviour at the border", former director of police and interior minister Ranko Ostojić notes that video footage from Der Spiegel (in co-operation with Lighthouse Reports) suggests the masked policemen are retired police officers who are now part of the reserves; Jack Sapoch, from Border Violence Monitoring Network and a member of an NGO operating in Bosnia, says there is a spectrum of Croatian forces working along the border; "According to our research, these uniforms are consistent with those worn by the Croatian ministry of the interior's intervention police units, who are deployed to the border from police stations all over the country." The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), the Council of Europe's Commissioner for Human Rights, and other nongovernmental organisations have echoed HRW's concerns. The European Commission has been accused of coverup with regard to these crimes, as the European Union agreed to give Croatia €6.8m to strengthen its border protection programmes with non-EU countries; Croatian ministers say that money was handed over to the UN High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) and the Croatian Law Centre, although neither organisation says it received any money.
Cyprus has the highest number of migrants per capita in 2021, according to country's interior ministry. Cyprus also started to build barbed wire on buffer zone between Cyprus and Northern Cyprus. The country also accused by human rights organisations about its unimproved treatment on migrants.
The Czech Republic received 4,306 refugees according to quotas accepted by the European Commission. Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka said the European Commission had failed in solving the crisis and disagreed 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 needed to complete what the European Council had agreed upon in the past and to refrain from creating new plans and proposals. He supported the idea of creating hotspots in Italy or Greece. Czech President Miloš Zeman expressed his dissatisfaction with the mass influx of migrants to Europe on several occasions; in late August 2015, he said in an interview for radio station "Frekvence 1": "The reception of migrants from the Middle East and Northern Africa to the territory of Czech Republic [brought] 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 who are not fleeing war. Zeman also believed that migrants crossing Czech territory 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".
Czech Deputy Prime Minister Andrej Babiš called for NATO intervention against human trafficking in the Mediterranean. After talks with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg on the migrant crisis issue he said: "NATO is not interested in refugees, though Turkey, a NATO member, is their entrance gate to Europe and smugglers operate on Turkish territory". Miroslav Kalousek from the opposition party TOP 09 said that "confident and wealthy countries such as the Czech Republic should not be afraid to accept 3,000 refugees" and accused Zeman of inciting hatred against refugees, though he also disagreed with proposed quotas. Former Minister of Foreign Affairs Karel Schwarzenberg said that accepting 80,000 refugees would be suitable. Minister of Human Rights and Equal Opportunities Jiří Dienstbier said the country was able to accept 7,000 to 15,000 refugees and should express solidarity and help other countries facing the strongest influx of refugees without quotas.
Denmark temporarily closed rail links with Germany and the E45 Motorway in September to stop migrants from illegally entering the country. Denmark had 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), which rose in 2016. In December 2015, the Danish government announced that it would introduce a new law that would allow the government to confiscate cash above 3,000 DKK (roughly €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. In January 2016, the limit was changed to 10,000 DKK (roughly €1,340) before the law passed. Similar laws already existed in Switzerland (limit 1,000 Swiss francs (roughly €913)), the Netherlands (limit €5,895) and some federal states of Germany (limit varies, €750 in Bavaria and €350 in Baden-Württemberg). The law was condemned from several sides, including the UNHCR, and caused Danish politician Jens Rohde to defect from the Venstre party to the Social Liberal Party. The Danish police said that this could not be enforced and a review two months after the law came into effect showed that there had been no confiscations.
On 6 September 2015, large groups of migrants who declined to apply for asylum in Germany began passing the Danish borders, with most heading for Sweden. Initially the Danish police attempted to register all migrants in accordance with EU rules, but many refused, resulting in a fight of about 50 people on 9 September at the Padborg rail station.
On 9 September 2015, Denmark suspended all rail and ferry links with Germany for one day. On the same day parts of the E45 motorway was closed to vehicles to avoid accidents as hundreds of migrants were walking along it in southern Jutland towards Sweden; it was reopened a few hours later. After initial uncertainty surrounding the rules, Denmark decided that migrants continuing onwards to other Nordic countries and refusing to seek asylum in Denmark would be allowed to pass. In the five weeks following 6 September alone, approximately 28,800 migrants passed the Danish borders. 3,500 of them applied for asylum in Denmark and the rest continued to other Nordic countries.
When Sweden introduced ID checks at the Danish border to prevent undocumented migrants from coming to Sweden, Denmark reintroduced border controls on the Danish-German border in January 2016 to avoid an accumulation of illegal migrants on their way to Sweden. The border control remains as of December 2019.
Many migrants arrived over the land border from Sweden. They were stopped from using ferries by carrier's responsibility rules. On 14 September, former prime minister Matti Vanhanen noted that the government needed to regain control on who was entering the country and divert asylum seekers to special camps. He did not think that it would be appropriate for asylum seekers to continue freely moving around. On the same day, the Minister of the Interior Petteri Orpo, a member of the National Coalition Party, noted that tighter border controls would be imposed on the northern border stations by the end of the week. On 14 November 2015 Finnish prime minister Juha Sipilä noted that border controls needed to be tightened and expressed his concern that the Schengen Agreement and freedom of movement was not working. He stressed that border controls would be restored if the Schengen agreement was not amended. He also stated that the Finnish National Bureau of Investigation will improve its cyber surveillance. On the same day Finnish President Sauli Niinistö (elected from the National Coalition Party) noted that national solutions needed to be made if the Schengen agreement could not enforced again. On 13 September 2015, local authorities reported a daily estimate of 300 asylum seekers entering via the northern land border from Sweden into Tornio, which is the main route of migration flow into Finland. The total number of asylum seekers for the year was reported to be over 2.6 times the total amount for the whole of 2014. 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 the fourth-largest number in Europe in terms of country size. In late November, the number passed 30,000.
More than 60 percent of asylum seekers who arrived during 2015 came from Iraq. In late October, the Finnish Immigration Service (Migri) changed its guidelines about areas in Iraq which are recognized as safe by the Finnish authorities and put Iraqi asylum seekers under closer scrutiny. Orpo estimated that two in three asylum seekers came to Finland in hopes of a 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 were to be denied.
In September, the processing time of an asylum application was estimated to have extended from six months to two years. In late November, the reception centers were reported to be running out of space, which forced authorities to resort to refurbished shipping containers and tents to house new asylum seekers. Orpo announced that special repatriation centers would be established. These centers would be inhabited by denied asylum seekers. While he stressed that these camps would not be prisons, he described the inhabitants would be under strict surveillance.
In January 2016, Yle, Finland's national public-broadcasting company, reported that a Russian border guard had admitted that the Russian Federal Security Service was enabling migrants to enter Finland.
In 2017, hundreds of Muslim asylum seekers from Iraq and Afghanistan converted to Christianity after having had their first asylum application rejected by the Finnish Immigration Service (Migri) to re-apply for asylum on the grounds of religious persecution.
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 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."
Migrants entering France illegally by train were returned to Italy by French police when border controls were introduced in July 2015. Due to "poor housing", lower social benefits, and a thorough asylum application process, France is not considered attractive enough to seek asylum in. As such many of them tried to enter the United Kingdom, resulting in camps of migrants around Calais where one of the Eurotunnel entrances is located. In the summer of 2015, at least nine people died in attempts to reach Britain, including falling from trains, being hit by trains, or drowning in a canal at the Eurotunnel entrance. Migrants from the camps also attempted to enter trucks bound for the UK, with some truck drivers being threatened by migrants, and cargo being stolen or damaged.
In response, a UK-financed fence was built along the A-216 highway in Calais. At the camp near Calais, known as the Jungle, riots broke out when authorities began demolishing the illegally constructed campsite on 29 January 2015. Amid the protests, which included hunger strikes, thousands of refugees living in the camp were relocated to France's "first international-standard refugee camp" at the La Liniere refugee camp in Grande-Synthe which replaced the previous Basroch refugee camp.
Junior coalition partner, Vice Chancellor Sigmar Gabriel said that Germany could take in 500,000 refugees annually for the next several years. German opposition to the government's admission of the new wave of migrants was strong and coupled with a rise in anti-immigration protests. 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. Merkel insisted that Germany had 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. In September 2015, enthusiastic crowds across the country welcomed arriving refugees and migrants.
Horst Seehofer, leader of the Christian Social Union in Bavaria (CSU)—the sister party of Merkel's Christian Democratic Union—and then-Bavarian Minister President, attacked Merkel's policies, threatened to sue the government in high court, and hinted that the CSU might topple Merkel. Many MPs from Merkel's CDU party also voiced dissatisfaction with Merkel. Seehofer criticised Merkel's decision to allow in migrants, saying that "[they were] in a state of mind without rules, without system and without order because of a German decision." Seehofer estimated as many as 30 percent of asylum seekers arriving in Germany claiming to be from Syria are in fact from other countries, and suggested to reduce EU funding for member countries that rejected mandatory refugee quotas. 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.
Meanwhile, Yasmin Fahimi, secretary-general of the Social Democratic Party (SPD), 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". 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.
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 favoured those new measures and threatened to leave the coalition without them, and the SPD who opposes them; Merkel agreed to the measures. The November 2015 Paris attacks prompted a reevaluation of German officials' stance on the EU's policy toward migrants. There appeared to be a consensus among officials, with the exception of Merkel, that a higher level of scrutiny was needed in vetting migrants with respect to their mission in Germany. However, while not officially limiting the influx numerically, Merkel tightened asylum policy in Germany.
Germany's asylum practice is generally based on article 16a of its Basic Law, as well as international regulations like the Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees Germany has been the most sought-after final destination in the EU migrant and refugee crisis. 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, there were only 476,649 asylum applications in 2015, because many asylum seekers had not formally applied for asylum yet or did not stop in Germany and moved on to other EU states.
Germany has a quota system to distribute asylum seekers among all German states, but in September 2015 the federal states, responsible for accommodation, criticised the government in Berlin for not providing enough help to them.
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. The restrictions incorporated a temporary suspension of rail travel from Austria and allowed spot checks on automobiles. 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.
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. 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. In late October 2015, the small village of Sumte, population 102, was told by Lower Saxony officials that it would receive 750 asylum-seekers.
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 many of the missing asylum seekers probably went to other European countries, while others continued to live illegally in Germany. Merkel's immigration policies were criticised by CSU's Seehofer.
In October 2016, Merkel travelled to Mali and Niger. The diplomatic visit took place to discuss how their governments could improve conditions which caused people to flee those countries and how illegal migration through and from these countries could be reduced.
In November 2016 Germany security officials cracked down on the militant salafist organisation Die Wahre Religion as their preachers targeted newly arrived migrants with their violent form of Islam.
The migrant crisis 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 prompted debates over the reasons for increased right-wing populism in Germany. Literature argued 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.
The German Federal Office for Migration has recently prioritized the newly adopted Orderly Return Law (Geordnete- Rückkehr-Gesetz). The Orderly Return Law is a second round of legal actions taken when the person of foreign origin is denied citizenship and is then obligated to leave. The law allows for detention of the asylum seeker when they do not cooperate with law enforcement in the deportation process. Due to this law, the law enforcement authority given the responsibility for carrying out the deportations are given the right to access the asylum seekers apartments without any preexisting judicial orders. Given this authority, law enforcement is also subject to the responsibility of bringing the person to be deported to the airport or border for the purpose of deportation. The scope of the law is to increase the proportion of successful deportations to 188,000 (double what was previously possible). In reality in 2019, 22.097 individuals were deported from Germany.
In a research report posted by the German Federal Office for Migration and Refugees, the StarthilfePlus program found that most refugees, who had opted to go back with BAMF assistance, wished to return to their homelands, rejoining their friends and family. In support of this, Germany has given financial assistance to those wishing to return as a means of helping them with economic uncertainties they may face during the transition. When this support has been given to those who accepted the financial aid, there was a 70% satisfaction rate with their lives at their place of origin.
Migrants arriving from the Middle East made a 6-kilometre (4 mi) water crossing to the Greek islands of Chios, Kos, Lesbos, Leros, Kastellorizo, Agathonisi, Farmakonisi, Rhodes, Samos, Symi and other islands close to Turkey, which acts as a quick and accessible border into Europe. Some arrived via the Evros border crossing from Turkey. As of June 2015, 124,000 migrants had arrived in Greece, a 750 percent increase from 2014, constituted mainly of refugees stemming from the wars in Syria, Iraq, and Afghanistan. Greece appealed to the European Union for assistance while the UNCHR European Director Vincent Cochetel said facilities for migrants on the Greek islands were "totally inadequate" and the islands were in "total chaos".
Frontex's Operation Poseidon, aimed at patrolling the Aegean Sea, was underfunded and undermanned, with only 11 coastal patrol vessels, one ship, two helicopters, two aircraft, and a budget of €18 million.
Human traffickers charged illegal immigrants $1,000 to $1,500 for the 25-minute boat ride from Bodrum, Turkey to Kos. In August 2015, "hundreds" of boats carried illegal immigrants across every night. The migrants travelled onward to Thessaloniki in the mainland of Greece with a monetary estimate of €3,000 to €4,000 to reach Germany, and €10,000 to €12,000 to reach Britain. Desperate migrants brawled over places in boats leaving Bodrum for Kos.
Airlines charged passengers usually less than $400 for one-way economy class tickets from Turkey to Germany or Britain, but a rule in the Schengen Agreement required airlines to check that all passengers have a visa or are exempted from carrying one.
In September 2015, photos of the deceased 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 worldwide. 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.
On 27 January 2016, the European Commission accused Greece of neglecting its obligations under the Schengen agreement to carry out external border controls, reporting that a visit by EU inspectors in November 2015 found that Greece failed to identify and register arrivals properly, to fingerprint everyone, and to check travel documents for authenticity and against security databases. On 12 February, the EU gave Greece a three-month 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 standard six months.
On 11 February, NATO announced that it would deploy ships in the Aegean Sea to deter smugglers taking migrants from Turkey to Greece; the first 3 ships were 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 NATO allies Turkey and Greece.
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 were estimated to be more than 50,000.
After the 2016 Turkish coup d'état attempt Greek authorities on a number of Aegean islands called for emergency measures to curtail a growing influx of refugees from Turkey; the number of migrants and refugees willing to make the journey across the Aegean had increased noticeably. At Athens officials voiced concerns that Turkish monitors overseeing the deal in Greece abruptly pulled out after the failed coup with little sign of them being replaced. The Association of Greek Tourism Enterprises (SETE) warned about the prospect of another flare-up in the refugee/migrant crisis due to the political instability in Turkey.
In September 2016, Greek volunteers of the "Hellenic Rescue Team" and human rights activist Efi Latsoudi were awarded the Nansen Refugee Award by the UNHCR "for their tireless volunteer work" in helping refugees arrive in Greece during the 2015 refugee crisis.
In December 2017, the Hellenic Rescue Team received the "Mother Teresa" award from the Harmony Foundation. They were rewarded for their "heroic actions" and effort to save human lives while risking their own during the migrant and refugee crisis.
Hungary finished phase one of the construction 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 spanning 175 kilometers long. The next phase involved building a wire fence approximately 4 meters high. In August, Minister of the Prime Minister's Office János Lázár described Hungary as being "under siege from human traffickers" and announced that the government would "defend this stretch of [their] borders with force", deploying 9,000 police to keep out undocumented migrants.
Hungary's Prime Minister 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". Orbán also demanded an official EU list of "safe countries" to which migrants can be returned. 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'". Hungary adopted a list of countries deemed safe for transiting purposes: if an asylum seeker had passed through those countries, it is assumed that they could have found asylum there, and therefore would be ineligible for asylum in Hungary. Orbán spoke at the United Nations General Assembly and called for a "global quota" system to distribute refugees to all countries.
Migrants taking the Western Balkan route crossed 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.
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. 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 influx of illegal migrants. The first phase of the construction was completed at the end of August and Orbán announced that it would be fully completed by the end of 2015.
On 3 September 2015, 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. On the same day, Hungarian police allowed migrants aboard a train in Budapest heading west before stopping it in Bicske. The police tried to transport migrants to a registration camp there, but the migrants refused to cooperate and remained on the train, which did not travel further west.
On 4 September 2015, about a thousand of the migrants at Railway Station East (Keleti Pályaudvar) set off by foot toward Austria and Germany. On the same night, the Hungarian government decided to send buses to transport illegal migrants to Hegyeshalom, on the border with Austria.
On 14 September 2015, Hungarian police reportedly blocked the route from Serbia and heavily manned the regular entry point with officers, soldiers, and helicopters. They sealed the border with razor wire and detained migrants crossing the border illegally with the threat of arrest and criminal charges. 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 2015, and threw chunks of concrete and water bottles over the fence. Hungarian police retaliated 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 a 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. On 18 September, Hungary started building another fence along the border with Croatia, a fellow EU member state, but not part of the Schengen Area. Within two weeks, tens of thousands of refugees crossed from Croatia into Hungary, most of whom went to the Austrian border.
In December 2015, Hungary challenged the EU's plans to share asylum seekers across EU states at the European Court of Justice. The border closed 15 September 2015, with razor wire fence along its southern borders, particularly Croatia, and travel by train was blocked. The government believed that "illegal migrants" are job-seekers, threats to security, and likely to "threaten our culture". 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. Refugees are outlawed and almost all are ejected.
Some Italian towns and cities disobeyed instructions from the national government to house migrants. The Mafia Capitale investigation revealed that the Italian Mafia profited from the migrant crisis and exploited refugees. Pope Francis thanked the Italian navy for their migrant rescue effort.
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 concerns and "assur[ed] the public that Florence remained safe" in the wake of the Olsen murder.
Since 2014, thousands of migrants have tried every month to cross the Central Mediterranean to Italy, risking their lives on unsafe boats including fishing trawlers. Many of them were fleeing poverty-stricken homelands or war-torn countries and sought economic opportunity within the EU. Italy, and, in particular, its southern island of Lampedusa, received enormous numbers of Africans and Middle-Easterners transported by smugglers and NGOs operating along the ungoverned coast of the failed state of Libya.
In 2014, 170,100 migrants arrived in Italy by sea, a 296 percent increase compared to 2013. 141,484 of the travellers were ferried over from Libya. Most of the migrants had come from Syria, Eritrea, and various countries in West Africa.
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. 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.
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.
The first three months of 2016 saw an increase in the number of migrants rescued at sea being brought to southern Italian ports. In April 2016, nearly 6,000 mostly sub-Saharan African migrants landed in Italy in four days. In June 2016, over 10,000 migrants were rescued in four days.
In 2016, 181,100 migrants arrived in Italy by sea. In April 2017, more than 8,000 migrants were rescued near Libya and brought to Italy in three days. 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 when 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 a couple of days. EU ambassador Maurizio Massari expressed concern about the uptake of refugee arrivals on Italy's coastline, which would have reached 200,000 in 2017. As a result, foreign aid vessels docking in Italian ports were no longer able to do so because of stricter admission policies and exceeded limits in Italian asylum centers. In February 2017 the Italian government funded Libyan coast guard; since then more migrants were forced to go back to Libya.
In July 2017, Italy drew up a code of conduct for NGO rescue vessels delivering migrants to Italian ports. These rules included:
- A prohibition from entering the territorial waters of Libya, except in situations of imminent danger.
- A prohibition from switching off the Automatic Identification System (AIS) and LRIT transponders if they are installed on the ship.
- A prohibition from signaling human traffickers with flares or radio to coordinate with them when to send out their dinghies.
- A prohibition from transferring those rescued onto other vessels.
- A commitment to having a policeman to travel on board whenever requested in order to identify and prosecute human traffickers among the migrants.
The Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International 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 use the dangerous passage facilitated by human traffickers. NGO ships disobeying the code could be refused access to Italian ports.
After the NGO code was enforced, arrivals decreased by 52.5 percent in July 2017 when compared to the same month in 2016 (from 23,552 to 11,183 arrivals), and in August 2017 arrivals decreased by 85 percent (from 21,294 to 3,914). All NGOs except for Sos Méditerranée withdrew their ships from the Mediterranean.
Latvia decided to receive 250 migrants for two years according to the EU plan, which the National Alliance party disapproved. On 4 August 2015 around 250 activists gathered in Riga to protest against the government's decision on receiving migrants.
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.
Between 2008 and 2012, Malta received the highest number of asylum seekers on average compared to its national population: 21.7 applicants per 1,000 inhabitants.:13 In 2011, most of these asylum applications were submitted by Somalian, Nigerian, Eritrean, and Syrian nationals;:26 in 2012, more than half of the requests were by Somalian nationals alone.: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." 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.
In 2015, fewer migrants arrived in Malta compared to previous years as most of those rescued were taken to Italy. Malta's Prime Minister, Joseph Muscat, called the crisis "an ugly period" for Europe, and said that Malta would take in 75 migrants from Italy and Greece. He also called for a "global system of refugee quotas". In September, 78 migrants rescued by the Armed Forces of Malta refused to be brought to Malta, and were taken to Italy.
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. 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 visas back to Russia even if they were from countries experiencing conflicts such as Afghanistan. In 2016, 5,500 asylum-seekers illegally entered Norway from Russia. Norway defied Amnesty International and sent migrants back to conflict-torn countries of origin, such as Afghanistan. The number of migrants returned from Europe to Afghanistan between 2015–16 nearly tripled from 3290 to 9460. Because it is illegal to drive from Russia to Norway without proper legal permission, and crossing on foot is prohibited, migrants made the crossing on bicycles. In 2016 the Norwegian government planned a barrier located at the Storskog border crossing. It is made of steel and stands 660 feet (200 m) long and 11 feet (3.4 m) to 12 feet (3.7 m) high. Norwegian officials aimed to complete the barrier before winter temperatures hardened the ground.
The government of Slovakia stated that it would help with migration into Europe by receiving 200 migrants according to the EU plan on the condition that the migrants were Christians. Slovakian 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 submitted requests for asylum in Austria, whose accommodation for refugees was overfilled, but like the 200 migrants that Slovakia would receive according to the EU plan, he required that these 500 were also Christian. On 15 September 2015, Fico was reported saying that all persons found crossing the border illegally would be detained. He rejected the European Commission's 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." The S&D Group leader has proposed to suspend Fico's SMER party from the Party of European Socialists (PES).
Slovenia established temporary controls on the otherwise unsupervised border with Hungary to the northeast on 17 September 2015, following Germany and Austria's similar actions. On 18 September, Slovenia experienced the first of many illegal border crossings, coming mostly from Croatia, which was already overwhelmed by the large influx of migrant groups.
By midday of 19 September, the country had registered around 1,500 migrants, with all of them being accommodated in temporary reception camps or asylum centres. The largest traffic was seen at the 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.
On 18 October 2015, 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, more than Hungary had ever received. The Slovenian government 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 announced a "mini EU summit". 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 allegedly showing the events the night before.
On 10 November, Cerar announced that Slovenia would impose temporary technical hurdles to control migrants, but that the country would not close border crossings. On 11 November, Slovenian military personnel began building a razor wire fence. The Austrian minister of the interior Johanna Mikl-Leitner expressed full support for the Slovenian government's action on the border with Croatia.
On 23 February 2016, German media noted that Slovenia decided to deploy its army on the border with Croatia to assist the police. The bill did not approve military action, but authorised the army to use force in case of an emergency.
From 2000 until at least 2016, Spain developed a purportedly efficient plan to manage irregularly arriving migrants on the Spanish Canary Islands; it consisted of four aspects:
- Strengthening bilateral ties and close cooperation with local actors in all origin and transit countries
- Establishing bilateral partnership agreements with those countries
- Security, intelligence and policy strategies and joint actions
- Legal avenues and resettlement policies through agreements with those countries.
In 2017, Spain saw a large increase in the number of asylum applicants and was 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 the year.
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 migrants arrived throughout the year. Authorities believed that Spain was ill-equipped to handle the surging numbers of migrants. Deaths were recorded daily in 2017, both at the destination and during the journey.
Melilla and Ceuta
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. The number of undocumented migrants hoping to reach the EU via Melilla or Ceuta grew in 2014. Between January and September 2015, only 100 people out of 3700 managed to cross the Melilla border fence, down from 2100 people from 19,000 attempts the previous year. In October 2015, 165 people were rescued from fourteen attempts to cross the Strait of Gibraltar to reach Ceuta.
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 had "photographs, images and evidence" of "blows with sticks, feet and stones" on migrants attempting to get to Spain. Other reports accused 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.
In May 2015, an 8-year-old boy from the Ivory Coast was found in a suitcase being smuggled into Ceuta. When the police opened the case, they found him in a "terrible state". In December 2016, one migrant was found in a suitcase, carried by a Moroccan woman, trying to get into Ceuta. 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.
On 18 May 2021, more than 6,000 migrants crossed the border into the Spanish enclave of Ceuta in an unprecedented influx. The Spanish government in Ceuta said 50 additional Guardia Civil agents and 150 national police officers would be deployed to maintain security in the city. The crossings came amid tensions between Spain and Morocco over Polisario Front leader Brahim Ghali's hospital treatment in Spain. Moreover, Spain deployed the Army in Ceuta to control the border with Morocco while immigrants continued to arrive in the face of the permissiveness of the Moroccan police. At least one migrant was reported dead while trying to cross the border in Melilla. In the meantime, the mayor-president of Ceuta Juan Jesús Vivas called the event an "invasion" and announced the suspension of the vaccination campaign against COVID-19 for the next day as the city was experiencing an "state of emergency atmosphere". In addition, Spanish Minister of Foreign Affairs Arancha González Laya summoned the Moroccan ambassador, who was later recalled to Rabat for consultations. In retaliation, Morocco closed its border with Spain following the escalation of diplomatic tensions generated by the massive influx of migrants into Ceuta.
As of 26 November 2015, 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. 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) to reduce the number of migrants, though they could still apply for asylum. 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 influx of migrants. He called on other European countries to take more responsibility. In December the government introduced "carrier's responsibility" for trains and buses on the Öresund bridge which would introduce Swedish border controls on the Danish side.
In 2016, there were reports that multiple sexual harassment incidents occurred at the We Are Sthlm festival over the course of several years. During all of 2015, migration authorities reported 500 cases of suspected terrorism links or war criminals to Swedish Security Service. Twenty individuals were denied asylum in 2015 due to war crimes.
In November 2015, Sweden reintroduced border controls for arrivals, including the Öresund Bridge. This did not reduce the number of asylum seekers as they had the right to apply for asylum once they were on Swedish ground. In December 2015, Sweden passed a temporary law that allowed the government to oblige all transport companies to check that their passengers carried valid photographic identification before crossing the border. The new law came into effect on 21 December 2015 and was valid until 21 December 2018. It led to the mandatory train change and passage through border control at Copenhagen Airport station for travellers between Copenhagen and Sweden; service frequency was reduced.
On the first day of border control the number of migrants arriving to southern Sweden was reduced from the hundreds to dozens. Within hours of Swedish border control becoming effective, Denmark created a border control between Denmark and Germany. The migration pattern also changed with the majority of those arriving by ferry from Germany to Trelleborg instead of by train to Hyllie station, which bypassed the border control between Denmark and Germany. Migrants started taking taxis in greater numbers over the Öresund Bridge to evade identification. Three days later, a Danish cab driver was arrested for human trafficking near the Øresund Bridge. In January 2016 the newspaper Sydsvenskan reported that the rate of migration led to an increase of MRSA infections in Skåne province where many migrants are received: from 160 cases in 2005 to more than 635 cases in 2015. 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 the coming years.
According to the Swedish National Board of Health and Welfare in 2016, an estimated 20 to 30 percent of asylum seekers suffered from mental disorders.
In late June 2016 the Swedish parliament voted for more restrictive policy with a large majority in favour. As a result, residence permits were temporary and immigration of family members were curtailed, along with higher demands of proof to be able to support immigrating relatives. These measures were valid for three years. The law applied retroactively on everyone who arrived on 24 November 2015 at the earliest and came into effect 20 July 2016. These measures put Sweden in line with the minimum line of requirements mandated by the EU. Thirty individuals were denied asylum January–June 2016 due to war crimes.
In August 2016 four workers at asylum centres for refugee children were reported to have been infected by tuberculosis and health services reported an increase in tuberculosis infections due to the crisis. In 2015 an increase of 22 percent of cases from the previous year was noted; this was largely attributed to an increased influx of migrants over that year. 90 percent of people infected with tuberculosis were born abroad.
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 deals between gangs of Moroccan, Afghan, and Syrian origin. Police work was made difficult by the Swedish Migration Agency which 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.
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 adults.
In May 2017 the Swedish National Board of Forensic Medicine started aiding the Swedish Migration Agency in determining the age of migrants claiming to be underage. The first batch of 518 investigations indicated that 442 were likely adults. Of the 442, 430 were men and 12 women.
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.
In Falkenberg, the municipality created gender-segregated housing for unaccompanied minors, as the boys would sexually harass the girls and the girls previously did not dare to go out into the communal areas of the accommodations without wearing the veil. With segregated housing, the girls were able to make better use of the facilities.
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.
In July 2017 Swedish Radio reported that few recently-arrived migrants who had low education were 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.
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 when staff members were being stalked or received threatening messages on private phones or social media.
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.
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).
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 2015, almost 40,000 asylum seekers applied for refugee status. Compared to 2015, this number dropped by 31 percent in 2016 and 70 percent in the first quarter of 2017. Most of the asylum seekers arriving in Switzerland come 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 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 received a temporary residence permit "N" valid for 6 months while they waited for 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 of 2.5. 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.
In 2016, 85.8 percent of refugees in Switzerland received welfare payments.
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. However, after the Law and Justice party won the elections, the rhetoric changed. Both the government of Poland and President Andrzej Duda rejected the European Union's proposal of compulsory migrant quotas. Duda stated: "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".
Portugal willing to offer shelter to 1,500 of the refugees coming to Europe from the Mediterranean Sea. A source told Diário de Notícias that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs had already presented its counter-proposal to the European Commission (EC), which wanted Portugal to take in 2,400 refugees.
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".
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". British UKIP politician Nigel Farage stated that the exodus from Libya was caused by the civil war in Libya due to NATO military intervention approved by David Cameron and Nicolas Sarkozy. UK media began reporting a new "unfolding crisis" of people attempting to cross the Channel in small boats in August 2020. The UK's response to this has been criticised as chaotic. Home Secretary Priti Patel reportedly considered making the Channel crossing "unviable" (though it was not specified what this entailed), as well as sending asylum seekers to a volcanic island in the South Atlantic.
According to the International Organization for Migration (IOM), up to 3,072 people died or disappeared in the Mediterranean Sea while trying to migrate to Europe in 2014. Overall, it is estimated that over 22,000 migrants died between 2000 and 2014.
In 2014, around 252,000 new migrants arrived "irregularly" in the European Union, often coming from Syria, Somalia or Eritrea, often having travelled oversea from Libya. 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.
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. 62,000 applied for asylum in Italy, but most Syrians and Eritreans, who constituted almost half of the arrivals in Italy in 2014, did not stop in Italy but instead continued moving towards northern Europe, particularly to Germany and Sweden.
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. 3 percent (34,215) arrived to Bulgaria and Greece by land; the rest arrived in Greece, Italy, Spain, Cyprus and Malta by sea. 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 the migrants 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 died in the Central Mediterranean and 731 died in the Aegean sea.
In 2015, Greece overtook Italy as the primary point of arrival and surpassed 2014's numbers in the first six months of 2015: 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). In total, 137,000 migrants crossed the Mediterranean into Europe in the first six months of 2015.
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 to 500 in the same period in 2015; this number excluded the victims of the shipwrecks on 13 and 19 April.
Frontex detected 615,492 illegal EU-border-crossings in the third quarter of 2015 and 978,338 in the fourth quarter, bringing the number of observed 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, in 2015 there were 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.
In January and February 2016, over 123,000 migrants landed in Greece, compared to about 4,600 in the same period of 2015. In March, following North Macedonia's closure of the Western Balkan route and the enforcement of the EU–Turkey deal on 20 March, the number of migrants arriving in Greece decreased 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. This downward trend continued in April when only 2,700 migrants arrived in Greece, a 90 percent decrease when compared to the previous month.
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. In April, the number of migrants arriving in Italy (8,370) dropped by 13 percent compared to the previous month and by 50 percent when compared to the same month in 2015; despite this, Italy exceeded the totals for Greece for the first time since June 2015. 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.
The mass influx of migrants into Europe was not seen as favourable in many EU countries. Many citizens disapproved of how EU handled 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. These findings contributed to the creation and implementation of the EU–Turkey Refugee Agreement, which was signed in March 2016; the numbers of refugees entering Greece decreased afterwards. In February 2016, 57,066 migrants arrived in Greece from the sea. From that point on, discounting March, the highest number of migrants reaching Greece by sea was 3,650 in April. 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 increased. From March 2016 to October 2016, 140,358 migrants arrived in Italy by sea and averaged 20,051 migrants per month. 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.
Data released by the IOM for the third quarter of 2017 recorded a total of 146,287 arrivals to Europe, of which 137,771 were by sea, which 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 observed a steady increase in the number of migrants from September 2016. While Italy also noted lower numbers of arriving migrants in 2017, there was a significant jump in the number of migrants reaching Spain, with over 16,000 having arrived in the country. In 2017, ease of access via the West Mediterranean route had boosted migrant numbers from Africa, with preference being given to Spain over Italy or Greece as a landing point.
Closure of segments of some traffic-heavy 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 was 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 and formed 16 percent of arrivals there.
In 2017, approximately 825,000 persons acquired citizenship of a member state of the European Union, down from 995,000 in 2016. The largest groups were Moroccan, Albanian, Indian, Turkish and Pakistani nationals.
On 7 October 2018 at least 10 migrants are believed to have died in a boat off the coast of Morocco. Helena Maleno, founder of the group Walking Borders, told the reporters the migrants constantly appealed for help from Spain and Morocco before they died.
In August 2019, more than 270 Europe-bound migrants were rescued by the Libyan coast guard from Tripoli's Mediterranean coast; they were travelling in four different boats. According to a UN report, more than 45,000 migrants had reached Europe by sea by August, of whom 859 had reportedly died in transit. In September 2019, the Libyan Cost Guard intercepted another 108 Europe-bound migrants off the Mediterranean coast; 13 were women, and seven children. On 8 October, Italian authorities rescued 22 Europe-bound migrants from a boat carrying around 50 people. At the time of the rescue, the bodies of 13 women were also allegedly found, and it was later revealed that others were still missing. On 16 October, Italian authorities found the bodies of at least 12 people who had died in the incident. In November, Italian coast guards rescued 149 Europe-bound migrants after their boat capsized. Italian coast guards found five dead bodies afterwards and confirmed that the death toll from the incident totalled at least 18.
In late September 2020, Cyprus authorities were reported to have abandoned 200 migrant workers at sea without fuel and food. The migrants alleged that their asylum claims were ignored and were instead beaten in some cases by the Greek Cypriot marine police officers. The United Nations peacekeepers reported that during their rescue in Lebanon, at least 13 people had either died or been lost at sea.
|Source Eurostat: EU 27; EU28.|
|Source Eurostat ·|
|Rest of the world|
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.
In 2014, decisions on asylum applications in the EU made in 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, 37 percent), Eritreans (14,600, 8 percent) and Afghans (14,100, 8 percent).
Four countries – Germany, Sweden, Italy and France – received around two-thirds of the EU's asylum applications and granted almost two-thirds of the applicants 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.
In 2015, EU member states received 1,255,640 first-time asylum applications, 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, 14 percent), Sweden (156,100, 12 percent), Austria (85,500, 7 percent), Italy (83,200, 7 percent) and France (70,600, 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, 14 percent), and Iraq (121,500, 10 percent), followed by Kosovo (5 percent), Albania (5 percent), Pakistan (4 percent), Eritrea (3 percent), Nigeria (2 percent), and Iran (2 percent).
333,350 asylum applicants were granted protection in the EU in 2015 after their asylum applications were accepted. 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—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).
From January to March 2015, the number of new asylum applicants in the EU was 184,800, an 86 percent increase when compared with the same quarter in the previous year. 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). In the second quarter of 2015, 213,200 people applied for asylum in the EU, a 15 percent increase 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). From July to September 2015, EU countries received 413,800 first-time asylum applications, almost double the number registered from April to June 2015. 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). 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).
In August 2015, the German government announced that it expected to receive 800,000 asylum applications by the end of the year. 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 applicants were granted protection). The most successful applicants were Syrians (101,419 positive decisions; 96% recognition rate), Eritreans (9,300 positive decisions; 92.1% recognition rate) and Iraqis (14,880 positive decisions; 88.6% recognition rate).
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). In 2015, Sweden granted protection to 32,631 asylum applicants and rejected 9,524 applications (a 77% approval rate). The main beneficiaries of protection were Syrians (18,523 positive decisions; 100% recognition rate), Eritreans (6,542 positive decisions; 100% recognition rate) and Afghans (1,088 positive decisions; 74% recognition rate).
|EU28 Asylum applicants by origin, in 2016|
|Source: Eurostat, série migr_asyappctza|
The second quarter of 2017 recorded a 54 percent decrease in the number of first-time asylum applicants compared to April–June 2016, and 11 percent fewer applicants than January–March 2017. The greatest number of applications were from Syria, Afghanistan, and Nigeria. However, the number of Syrians and Afghans was less than that of the same time in 2016, suggesting that the peak of this crisis had passed. The increasing number of illegal immigrants from Africa suggests that the direction of the crisis changed. 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.
Migrant arrivals versus "illegal" border crossings
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). These include the crossings of people rescued at sea and brought to land by EU citizens. The total number of illegal EU external border crossings can be higher than the number of migrants newly illegally arriving in the EU in a year, especially for the years 2015 and 2016 (see table below). News media sometimes misrepresent these figures as given by Frontex.
|Migrants from Greater Middle East 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|
|2014||231,000||around 21,000||around 252,000||9,000||around 22,000||283,000|
|2015||1,049,000||around 10,000||around 1,059,000||9,000||around 754,000||1,822,000|
In September 2015, Europol estimated there were 30,000 suspected migrant smugglers, which rose to 55,000 in 2016 and increased to 65,000 in 2017. 63 percent of smugglers were from Europe, 14 percent from the Middle East, 13 percent from Africa, nine percent from Asia excluding the Middle East and one percent from the Americas.
Frontex tracks and publishes data on numbers of crossings along the main six routes twice a year. The following table shows the data for the period up to and including the year 2016:
|Main migration routes into the European Union||Border crossings (land and sea)|
|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|
In September 2015, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg identified "a need for immediate measures, border, migrant, the discussion about quotas, so on – this is [sic] civilian issues, addressed by the European Union." 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."
The Russian Federation released an official statement on 2 September 2015 reporting 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.
The International Organization for Migration claimed that deaths at sea increased ninefold after the end of Operation Mare Nostrum. 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".
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."
In July 2013, Pope Francis visited the island of Lampedusa on his first official visit outside of Rome. He prayed for both living and dead migrants and denounced their traffickers. He expressed his concern about the loss of life and urged EU leaders to "act decisively and quickly to stop these tragedies from recurring".
Former U.S. President Barack Obama praised Germany for taking a leading role in accepting refugees. 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.
In a report released in January 2016, Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) denounced the EU response to the refugee crisis in 2015 and said 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".
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." He also claimed that criminals, extremists and fighters were hiding in the flow of migrants.
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."
In June 2016, exiled Cuban journalist Carlos Alberto Montaner suggested that France could establish a refugee state in French Guiana.
On 18 June 2016, United Nations chief Ban Ki-moon also called for international support and praised Greece for showing "remarkable solidarity and compassion" towards refugees. The lack of action of UNESCO in this area was the subject of controversy. Some scholars, like António Silva, blamed UNESCO for not denouncing 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 of contributing 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.
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. González also demanded that Greece improve measures to protect asylum seekers. Asylum seekers who succeeded in crossing the border were allegedly detained and searched, with all material possessions confiscated before being sent back to Turkey. The report noted that manhandling of the migrants resulted in deaths and serious injuries in the past.
On 23 September 2020, The European Commission presented its “New Pact on Migration and Asylum” – a series of legislative proposals on the EU’s approach to migration and asylum. The Commission’s proposals include possible screening at external borders and an alternative solidarity mechanism that offers States not willing to relocate asylum-seekers the option of contributing in other ways, such as managing the return of people denied asylum or funding reception centres in frontline states. The proposal also outlines a more coordinated approach to search-and-rescue at sea that would involve relocating those rescued to other States and ruling out the criminalization of NGO rescue vessels.
According to Reuters, most Libyan migrants departed in vessels operated by people smugglers. As of September 2018, one in five migrants attempting to cross the Mediterranean Sea from Libya either drowned or disappeared.
In August 2017 the Libyan Coast Guard issued a declaration that NGO search and rescue vessels must stay outside of a zone running 360 km (190 nautical miles) from the Libyan coast unless they were given express permission to enter. This zone is 10 nautical miles smaller than the Libyan Exclusive Economic Zone, The coast guard statement criticised the NGO vessels for approaching the Libyan coastline to a distance of as short as ten to thirteen nautical miles, which is inside the Libyan territorial waters. As a result, NGOs MSF, Save the Children and Sea Eye suspended their operations after clashes with the Libyan Coast Guard after the latter asserted its sovereignty of its waters by firing warning shots.
In a report ordered by UNHCR and authored by the Cardiff School of Journalism, an analysis was done on media reports in five European countries: Spain, Italy, United Kingdom, Germany and Sweden. From 2014 to the early months of 2015, UNHCR and other humanitarian organisations 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:
- 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.
Press coverage of German migration policies
Analyst Naina Bajekal for the United States' magazine Time in September 2015 suggested that the German decision to allow Syrian refugees to apply for asylum in Germany even if they had reached Germany through other EU member states in August 2015, led to increased numbers of refugees from Syria and other regions – Afghanistan, Somalia, Iraq, Ukraine, Congo, South Sudan etc. – endeavouring to reach (Western) Europe.
In March 2016, the UK's Daily Telegraph said that Merkel's 2015 decisions concerning migration represented an "open door policy", which it claimed was "encouraging migration into Europe that her own country is unwilling to absorb" and as damaging the EU, "perhaps terminally".
- African immigration to Europe
- Death of Alan Kurdi
- Demographics of Europe
- Emigration from Africa
- EU Malta Declaration
- Free movement protocol
- Illegal immigration
- Immigration to Greece
- List of migrant vessel incidents on the Mediterranean Sea
- Migrants' African routes
- Petra László tripping incident
- With Open Gates
- Wir schaffen das
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The media focused on the similarities of the two images to draw attention to the 'refugee crisis' in the West as opposed to inciting sympathy for refugees.
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|Wikimedia Commons has media related to European migrant crisis.|
- Main migratory routes into the EU, updated by Frontex
- Sea arrivals to Southern Europe, updated by UNHCR
- Missing migrants project, data on arrivals by sea and fatalities by IOM
- BBC News, EU migration: Crisis in graphics, 18 February 2016
- Europe's migration crisis, graphics by Reuters
- Interactive map and graphic showing the flow of asylum seekers to European countries over time
- Europe's Migration Crisis, backgrounder by the Council on Foreign Relations
- European Migrant Crisis Timeline
- Europe's Refugee Conundrums
- Refugee Roads – Documenting a bicycle tour along the Balkan route
- Europe's Refugee Crisis Was Made in America