The European migrant crisis,[n 2] or the European refugee crisis,[n 3] is a term given to a period beginning in 2015 when rising numbers of people arrived in the European Union (EU), travelling across the Mediterranean Sea or overland through Southeast Europe. It is part of a pattern of increased immigration to Europe from other continents which began in the late 20th century and which has encountered resistance in many European countries.
Immigrants from outside Europe include asylum seekers and economic migrants In some cases, immigration has been a cover for hostile agents, including Islamic State militants disguised as refugees or migrants.
The term “immigrant” is used by the European Commission to describe a person from a non-EU country establishing his or her usual residence in the territory of an EU country for a period that is, or is expected to be, at least twelve months. Most of the migrants came from Muslim-majority countries in regions south and east of Europe, including the Greater Middle East and Africa. By religious affiliation, the majority of entrants were Muslim (usually Sunni Muslim), with a small component of non-Muslim minorities (including Yazidis, Assyrians and Mandeans). According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, the top three nationalities of entrants of the over one million Mediterranean Sea arrivals between January 2015 and March 2016 were Syrian (46.7%), Afghan (20.9%) and Iraqi (9.4%).
Of the migrants arriving in Europe by sea in 2015, 58% were males over 18 years of age, 17% were females over 18 and the remaining 25% were under 18. The number of deaths at sea rose to record levels in April 2015, when five boats carrying almost 2,000 migrants to Europe sank in the Mediterranean Sea, with a combined death toll estimated at more than 1,200 people. The shipwrecks took place in a context of ongoing conflicts and refugee crises in several Asian and African countries, which increased the total number of forcibly displaced people worldwide at the end of 2014 to almost 60 million, the highest level since World War II.
Though the migrant crisis is mostly discussed in Europe, the top ten countries with the most refugees are Asian and African countries. Jordan, Turkey, and Pakistan are the top three biggest migrant destinations, while Lebanon, Iran, Ethiopia, Kenya, Uganda, the Democratic Republic of Congo, and Chad are the rest of the countries in the top 10 of the list. Six out of the top ten countries with the most refugees are Muslim-majority countries.
Between 2010 and 2013, around 1.4 million non-EU nationals, excluding asylum seekers and refugees arrived the EU each year by the normal channels, with a slight decrease after 2010.
Amid an upsurge in the number of sea arrivals in Italy from Libya in 2014, several European Union governments refused to fund the Italian-run rescue option Operation Mare Nostrum, which was replaced by Frontex’s Operation Triton in November 2014. In the first six months of 2015, Greece overtook Italy in the number of arrivals, becoming in the summer of 2015 the starting point of a flow of refugees and migrants moving through Balkan countries to Northern European countries, mainly Germany and Sweden.
Since April 2015, the EU has struggled to cope with the crisis, increasing funding for border patrol operations only in the Mediterranean, devising plans to fight migrant smuggling through initiatives such as the military Operation Sophia and proposing a new quota system both to relocate asylum seekers among EU states for processing of refugee claims to alleviate the burden on countries on the outer borders of the Union and to resettle asylum seekers who have been determined to be genuine refugees. Individual countries have at times re-introduced border controls within the Schengen Area and rifts have emerged between countries willing to allow entry of asylum seekers for processing of refugee claims and other countries trying to discourage their entry.
According to Eurostat, EU member states received over 1.2 million first-time asylum applications in 2015, more than double that of the previous year. Four states (Germany, Hungary, Sweden and Austria) received around two-thirds of the EU’s asylum applications in 2015, with Hungary, Sweden and Austria being the top recipients of asylum applications per capita. More than 1 million migrants crossed the Mediterranean Sea in 2015, sharply dropping to 364,000 in 2016. Numbers of arriving migrants fell again in 2017.
European Union members legally obliged to join Schengen at a future date
Countries with open borders
In the Schengen Agreement of 14 June 1985, 26 European countries (22 of the 28 European Union member states, plus four European Free Trade Association states) joined together to form an area where border checks on internal Schengen borders (i.e. between member states) are abolished and instead checks are restricted to the external Schengen borders and countries with external borders are obligated to enforce border control regulations. Countries may reinstate internal border controls for a maximum of two months for “public policy or national security” reasons.
The Dublin regulation determines the EU member state responsible to examine an asylum application to prevent asylum applicants in the EU from “asylum shopping”, where applicants send their applications for asylum to numerous EU member states to get the best “deal” instead of just having “safety countries”, or “asylum orbiting”, where no member state takes responsibility for an asylum seeker. By default (when no family reasons or humanitarian grounds are present), the first member state that an asylum seeker entered and in which they have been fingerprinted is responsible. If the asylum seeker then moves to another member state, they can be transferred back to the member state they first entered. This has led many to criticise the Dublin rules for placing too much responsibility for asylum seekers on member states on the EU’s external borders (like Italy, Greece 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, not effectively share responsibility. The reforms would attempt to create a burden-sharing system through several mechanisms. The proposal would introduce a “centralized automated system” to record the number of asylum applications across the EU, with “national interfaces” within each of the Member States. It would also present a “reference key” based on a Member State’s GDP and population size to determine its absorption capacity. When absorption capacity in a Member State exceeds 150% 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 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.
Article 26 of the Schengen Convention says that carriers which transport people into the Schengen area shall if they transport people who are refused entry into the Schengen Area, be responsible to pay for the return of the refused people, and pay penalties. Further clauses on this topic are found in EU directive 2001/51/EC. This has had the effect that migrants without a visa are not allowed on aircraft, boats or trains going into the Schengen Area, so migrants without a visa have resorted to migrant smugglers. Humanitarian visas are in general not given to refugees who want to apply for asylum.
The laws on migrant smuggling ban helping migrants to pass any national border if the migrants are without a visa or other permission to enter. This has caused many airlines to check for visas and refuse passage to migrants without visas, including through international flights inside the Schengen Area. After being refused air passage, many migrants then attempt to travel overland to their destination country. According to a study carried out for the European Parliament, “penalties for carriers, who assume some of the control duties of the European police services, either block asylum-seekers far from Europe’s borders or force them to pay more and take greater risks to travel illegally”.
The foreign-born population residing in the EU in 2014 was 33 million people, or 7% of the total population of the 28 EU countries (above 500 million people). By comparison, the foreign-born population is 7.7% in Russia, 13% in the United States, 20% in Canada, 27% in Australia and 1.63% of the total population in Japan. Between 2010 and 2013, around 1.4 million non-EU nationals, excluding asylum seekers and refugees, immigrated into the EU each year using regular means, with a slight decrease since 2010.
Prior to 2014, the number of asylum applications in the EU peaked in 1992 (672,000), 2001 (424,000) and 2013 (431,000). In 2014 it reached 626,000. According to the UNHCR, the EU countries with the biggest numbers of recognised refugees at the end of 2014 were France (252,264), Germany (216,973), Sweden (142,207) and the United Kingdom (117,161). No European state was among the top ten refugee-hosting countries in the world.
Prior to 2014, the number of illegal border crossings detected by Frontex at the external borders of the EU peaked in 2011, with 141,051 total (sea and land combined).
According to the UNHCR, the number of forcibly displaced people worldwide during the refugee crisis reached 59.5 million at the end of 2014, the highest level since World War II, with a 40% increase taking place since 2011. Of these 59.5million, 19.5million were refugees (14.4million under UNHCR’s mandate, plus 5.1million Palestinian refugees under UNRWA’s mandate), and 1.8million were asylum-seekers. The rest were persons displaced within their own countries (internally displaced persons). The 14.4million refugees under UNHCR’s mandate were around 2.7million more than at the end of 2013 (+23%), the highest level since 1995. Among them, Syrian refugees became the largest refugee group in 2014 (3.9million, 1.55million more than the previous year), overtaking Afghan refugees (2.6million), who had been the largest refugee group for three decades. Six of the ten largest countries of origin of refugees were African: Somalia, Sudan, South Sudan, the Democratic Republic of Congo, the Central African Republic and Eritrea.
Developing countries hosted the largest share of refugees (86% by the end of 2014, the highest figure in more than two decades); the least developed countries alone provided asylum to 25% 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% of them applied for asylum in Germany or Serbia. The largest single recipient of new asylum seekers worldwide in 2014 was the Russian Federation, with 274,700 asylum requests.
Between 2007 and 2011, large numbers of migrants from the Middle East and Africa crossed between Turkey and Greece, leading Greece and the European Border Protection agency Frontex to upgrade border controls. In 2012, immigrant influx into Greece by land decreased by 95% after the construction of a fence on that part of the GreekTurkish frontier which does not follow the course of the Maritsa River. In 2015, Bulgaria followed by upgrading a border fence to prevent migrant flows through Turkey.
In 2008, Berlusconi’s government in Italy and Gaddafi’s government in Libya signed a treaty including cooperation between the two countries in order to stop irregular migration from Libya to Italy. This led to a policy of forcibly returning to Libya boat migrants intercepted by the Italian coast guard at sea. The cooperation collapsed following the outbreak of the Libyan civil war in 2011, and in 2012 the European Court of Human Rights ruled that Italy had violated the European Convention on Human Rights by returning migrants to Libya, as it exposed the migrants to the risk of being subjected to ill-treatment in Libya and violated the prohibition of collective expulsions.
Since 2011, and particularly since 2014, instability and the Second Civil War in Libya have made departures from the north-African country to Italy easier, with no central authority controlling Libya’s ports and dealing with European countries and migrant smuggling networks flourishing. The war could also have forced to leave many African immigrants residing in Libya, which used to be itself a destination country for migrants looking for better jobs. The 2013 Lampedusa migrant shipwreck involved “more than 360” deaths, leading the Italian government to establish Operation Mare Nostrum, a large-scale naval operation that involved search and rescue, with some migrants brought aboard a naval amphibious assault ship. In 2014, the Italian government ended the operation, calling the costs too large for one EU state alone to manage; Frontex assumed the main responsibility for search and rescue operations. The Frontex operation is called Operation Triton. 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 2.9million.
The Greek islands (Kos, Leros, Chios, for example) serve as main entry points into Europe for Syrian refugees.
The “European Migrant Crisis”, refers to an enormous and unprecedented wave both of refugees from the Syria, a flow that was immediately joined by a far larger number of economic migrants from the Near East and Africa.
Refugees are people forced to flee their country of origin because of persecution, war, or violence.
According to the UNHCR, the number of forcibly displaced people worldwide reached 65,600,000 at the end of 2016; the highest level since World War II, with a 40% increase taking place since 2011. Of these 65,600,000, 22.5 million were refugees (17.2 million under UNHCR’s mandate, plus 5.3 million Palestinian refugees under UNRWA’s mandate). 2.8 million of the refugees were asylum seekers. The rest were persons displaced within their own countries (internally displaced persons). The 17.2 million refugees under UNHCR’s mandate were around 2.9 million more than at the end of 2014, the highest level since 1992. Among them, Syrian refugees became the largest refugee group in 2014 (3.9 million, 1.55 million more than the previous year), overtaking Afghan refugees (2.6 million), who had been the largest refugee group for three decades. Six of the ten largest countries of origin of refugees were African: Somalia, Sudan, South Sudan, the Democratic Republic of Congo, the Central African Republic and Eritrea. Developing countries hosted the largest share of refugees (86% by the end of 2014, the highest figure in more than two decades); the least developed countries alone provided asylum to 25% of refugees worldwide. Even though most Syrian refugees were hosted by neighboring countries such as Turkey, Lebanon and Jordan, the number of asylum applications lodged by Syrian refugees in Europe steadily increased between 201117. By December 2017, UNHCR had counted over 1,000,000 asylum applications in 37 European countries (including both EU members and non-members).
As of 2017, 55% of refugees worldwide came from three nations: South Sudan, Afghanistan, and Syria. Of all displaced peoples, 17% of them are being hosted in Europe. As of April 2018, 15,481 refugees have successfully arrived to the shores of Europe via sea within the first few months of the year alone. There was an estimated 500 that have died in this year alone. In 2015, there was a total of 1.02 million arrivals by sea. Since then, the influx has steadily decreased but is ongoing nonetheless.
The greatest number of refugees fleeing to Europe originate from Syria. Their migration stems from severe socio-political oppression under President Bashar al-Assad. In 2011, a group of Syrians displayed a pro-democracy protests in the city of Deraa. President Assad responded with force and consequently, more protests were triggered nationwide against the Assad regime. By July 2011, hundreds of thousands of people were protesting against President Assad. Early insurgency was put into affect to mitigate these uprisingshowever, these measures were met with more unrest. By May 2011, thousands of people has already fled the country and the first refugee camps opened in Turkey. In March 2012, the UNHCR decided to appoint a Regional Refugee Coordinator for Syrian Refugeesrecognising the growing concerns surrounding the crisis. Just a year later, in March 2013, the number of Syrian refugees reached 1,000,000. By December 2017, UNHCR counted 1,000,000 asylum applications for Syrian refugees in the European Union. As of March 2018, UNHCR has counted nearly 5.6 million registered Syrian refugees worldwide.
Afghan refugees comprise 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 have fled the region due to war and persecution. The majority have resettled in Pakistan and Iran, but it is becoming increasingly common to migrate further west to the European Union. Afghanistan has faced nearly 40 years of conflict dating back to the Soviet invasion in 1979. Since then, the nation has faced fluctuating levels of civil war amidst unending unrest. The increase in refugee numbers has been credited primarily to the Taliban presence within Afghanistan. Their retreat in 2001, led to nearly 6 million Afghan refugees returning to their homeland. However, after civil unrest and fighting alongside the Taliban’s return, nearly 2.5 million refugees have fled Afghanistan. Most Afghan refugees, however, seek refuge in the neighboring nation of Pakistan. Increasing numbers, though, have committed to the strenuous migration to Turkey and the European Union.
For long, economic migration has been a global issue. Such migration is pursued to in order to seek living conditions/standards and job opportunities that do not exist in the migrant’s country of origin. These migrants are termed “migrant workers” by the United Nations. According to the OECD, over the last ten years, migrants accounted for over 70% of the increase in Europe’s workforce. The OECD has reported that such immigration is actually crucial to the growing labor marketfilling 15% of the entries into the fastest growing occupations. Overall, the OECD has found that the inflow of migrants has not greatly disrupted any nation’s GDP.
In 2016, according to the daily, La Stampa, officials from Europol conducted an investigation into the trafficking of fake documents for ISIL. They have identified fake Syrian passports in the refugee camps in Greece that were destined to supposed members of ISIS, in order to avoid Greek government controls and make their way to other parts of Europe. Also, the chief of Europol said that a new task force of 200 counter terrorism officers will be deployed to the Greek islands alongside Greek border guards in order to help Greece stop a “strategic” level campaign by Islamic State to infiltrate terrorists into Europe.
In 2017, British newspaper The Guardian reported that ISIL is paying the smugglers fees of up to $2,000 USD to child migrants in a desperate attempt to radicalize children for the group. The reports by Quilliam, indicate that an estimated 88,300 unaccompanied childrenwho are reported as missingare at risk of radicalization by the Islamic State.
According to the International Organization for Migration (IOM), up to 3,072 people died or disappeared in 2014 in the Mediterranean while trying to migrate to Europe. Overall estimates are that over 22,000 migrants died between 2000 and 2014.
In 2014, 283,532 migrants irregularly entered the European Union, mainly following the Central Mediterranean, Eastern Mediterranean and Western Balkan routes. 220,194 migrants crossed EU sea borders in the Central, Eastern and Western Mediterranean (a 266% 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% increase compared to 2013) arrived in Italy through Libya, whereas a minority (50,834, a 105% increase) arrived in Greece through Turkey. 62,000 applied for asylum in Italy, but most Syrians and Eritreans, who comprised almost half of the arrivals in Italy in 2014, did not stop in Italy, but continued their journey towards northern Europe, Germany and Sweden in particular.
In 2015, a shift took place, with Greece overtaking Italy as the primary point of arrival and surpassing in the first six months of 2015 the numbers for the whole of 2014: 67,500 people arrived in Italy, mainly coming from Eritrea (25%), Nigeria (10%) and Somalia (10%), whereas 68,000 arrived on the islands of Greece, mainly coming from Syria (57%) and Afghanistan (22%). In total, 137,000 migrants crossed the Mediterranean into Europe in the first six months of 2015.
As of 17 April 2015, the total number of migrants reaching the Italian coasts was 21,191 since 1 January 2015, with a decrease during the month of March due to bad weather conditions, and a surge since 10 April, bringing the total number of arrivals in line with the number recorded in the same period in 2014. However, the death toll in the first four months of 2014 was 96, compared with 500 in the same period in 2015; this number excluded the victims of the shipwrecks on 13 and 19 April.
In early August 2015, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees said that 250,000 migrants had arrived in Europe by sea so far in 2015, 124,000 in Greece and 98,000 in Italy. According to Frontex, July set a new record for a single month, with 107,500 migrants estimated to have entered the EU. Frontex detected 615,492 irregular entries into the EU in the third quarter of 2015 and 978,338 entries in the fourth quarter, bringing the total number of detections of irregular entries at EU sea and land external borders in 2015 to 1.82 million (872,938 in Greece, 764,038 in Hungary and Croatia and 153,946 in Italy), associated with an estimated one million individuals irregularly entering the EU (because most migrants following the Western Balkan route were double-counted when arriving in Greece and then when entering the EU for the second time through Hungary or Croatia).
According to IOM and UNHCR estimates, around one million migrants and refugees arrived in Europe till 21 December 2015, three to four times more than in 2014. Just 3% (34,215) came by land to Bulgaria and Greece; the rest came by sea to Greece, Italy, Spain, Cyprus and Malta. The vast majority arrived by sea in Greece (816,752); 150,317 arrived by sea in Italy, with a slight drop from 170,000 in 2014. Half of those crossing the Mediterranean were from Syria, 20% were from Afghanistan and 7% from Iraq. IOM estimated that a total of 3,692 migrants and refugees lost their lives in the Mediterranean in 2015 over 400 more than in 2014 of whom 2,889 in the Central Mediterranean and 731 in the Aegean sea.
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 the closing of the Western Balkan route by Macedonia and the entry into force of the EUTurkey deal on 20 March, the number of migrants arriving in Greece dropped to 26,460, less than half the figure recorded in February. Syrians, Afghans and Iraqis continued to account for the largest share of the migrants arriving in Greece. This downward trend continued in April, when only 2,700 migrants arrived in Greece, decreasing by 90% compared to the previous month.
Meanwhile, due to improved weather conditions, the number of mainly African migrants crossing the sea to Italy doubled between February and March, reaching nearly 9,600 in March 2016, compared to 2,283 in March 2015. In April, on the contrary, the number of migrants arriving in Italy (8,370) dropped by 13% compared to the previous month and by 50% 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, in one of the worst disasters since April 2015. More than 66,000 mostly African migrants have arrived in Italy since the start of 2016.
The mass influx of migrants into Europe was not seen favorably in many European Union countries. Many citizens disapproved of the EU’s handling of the migrant crisis, with 94% of Greeks and 88% of Swedes disapproving of the measures taken, among other countries with similar disapproval rates. This contributed to the creation and implementation of the EUTurkey Refugee Agreement, which was signed in March 2016. From that point on, the numbers of refugees entering Greece decreased. In February 2016, the last full month before the deal, 57,066 migrants arrived in Greece via the sea; from that point on, discounting March, the highest number of migrants reaching Greece via the sea was 3,650 (in April). While there is no direct connection to the implementation of the EUTurkey deal, the number of migrants arriving in Italy in that same time period has increased. From March 2016 to October 2016, 140,358 migrants have arrived in Italy via the sea, which averages out to roughly 20,051 migrants per month. Overall the number of migrants arriving into the EU has dropped, but the EU still is creating agencies and plans to mitigate the crisis. In addition to the EUTurkey Refugee Agreement, the European Border and Coast Guard Agency was launched on 6 October 2016.
Data released by the International Organization of Migration (IOM) for the third quarter of 2017 recorded 146,287 total arrivals to Europe, of which 137,771 were by sea. This is less than half the total recorded by the end of September 2016. The greatest decrease in influx was noted on the Eastern Mediterranean route. Despite an 86% drop in the number of migrant and refugee arrivals in September 2017 when compared to September 2016, Greece has observed a steady increase in the number of migrants from September 2016 till date. Further, while Italy also noted lower number of migrant arrival in 2017, there was a significant jump in the number of migrants reaching Spain, with over 16,000 having arrived in the country. Like Spain, the island-nation of Cyprus registered approximately an 8-fold increase in the number of migrants arriving last year and this year.
Closure of segments of certain heavy-traffic routes such as the Central and Eastern Mediterranean is responsible for the marked decrease in the number of migrants from the Middle East in 2017. However, the Western Mediterranean route is still in full use to facilitate the growing number of illegal immigrants from Africa. Nigerians topped the list of illegal immigrants into Italy in 2017, forming 16% of the total number of arrivals there.
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%), Afghanistan (7%), Kosovo (6%), Eritrea (6%) and Albania
In 2014, decisions on asylum applications in the EU made at the first instance resulted in more than 160,000 asylum seekers being granted protection status, while a further 23,000 received protection status on appeal. The rate of recognition of asylum applicants was 45% at the first instance and 18% on appeal. The main beneficiaries of protection status, accounting for more than half of the total, were Syrians (68,300 or 37%), Eritreans (14,600 or 8%) and Afghans (14,100 or 8%).
Four states Germany, Sweden, Italy and France received around two-thirds of the EU’s asylum applications and granted almost two-thirds of protection status in 2014. Sweden, Hungary and Austria were among the top recipients of EU asylum applications per capita, when adjusted for their own populations, with 8.4 asylum seekers per 1,000 inhabitants in Sweden, 4.3 in Hungary and 3.2 in Austria.
In 2015, EU member states received 1,255,640 first time asylum applications, a number more than double that of the previous year. The highest number of first time applicants was registered in Germany (with 441,800 applicants, or 35% of all applicants in EU states), followed by Hungary (174,400, or 14%), Sweden (156,100, or 12%), Austria (85,500, or 7%), Italy (83,200, or 7%) and France (70,600, or 6%). 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 (with 362,800 applicants, or 29% of the total), Afghanistan (178,200, or 14%) and Iraq (121,500, or 10%), followed by Kosovo (5%), Albania (5%), Pakistan (4%), Eritrea (3%), Nigeria (2%) and Iran (2%).
333,350 asylum applicants were granted protection in the EU in 2015 following a positive decision on their asylum application. The main beneficiaries of protection status were citizens of Syria (50% of the total number of persons granted protection in the EU), Eritrea (8%), Iraq (7%), Afghanistan (5%), Iran (2%), Somalia (2%) and Pakistan (2%). The EU countries who granted protection to the highest number of asylum seekers were Germany (who granted protection to 148,200 people), Sweden (34,500), Italy (29,600) and France (26,000). The rate of recognition, i.e. the share of positive decisions in the total number of decisions, was 52% for first instance decisions in the EU and 14% for decisions on appeal. The citizenships with the highest recognition rates at first instance were Syria (97.2%), Eritrea (89.8%), Iraq (85.7%), Afghanistan (67%), Iran (64.7%), Somalia (63.1%) and Sudan (56%).
In the first three months of 2015, the number of new asylum applicants in the EU was 184,800, increasing by 86% if compared with the same quarter in the previous year but remaining stable if compared to the last quarter of 2014. More than half applied for asylum in Germany (40%) or Hungary (18%). The main nationalities of the applicants were Kosovo (48,875 or 26%), Syria (29,100 or 16%) and Afghanistan (12,910 or 7%). In the second quarter of 2015, 213,200 people applied for asylum in the EU, up by 15% compared with the previous quarter. 38% applied for asylum in Germany, followed by Hungary (15%) and Austria (8%). The main countries of citizenship of asylum seekers, accounting for more than half of the total, were Syria (21%), Afghanistan (13%), Albania (8%), Iraq (6%) and Kosovo (5%). In the third quarter of 2015 (JulySeptember), EU countries received 413,800 first time asylum applications, almost double the number registered in the previous quarter. Germany and Hungary were the top recipients, with 26% each of total applicants. One third of asylum seekers were Syrians (33%), followed by Afghans (14%) and Iraqis (11%). 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% of the total), Sweden (21%) and Austria (7%).
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% (140,915 decisions were positive, so that applicants were granted protection). The most successful applicants were Syrians (101,419 positive decisions, with a 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, whereas it rejected 9,524 applications (the proportion of positive decisions out of materially considered applications was 77%). The main beneficiaries of protection were Syrians (18,523 positive decisions, with a 100% recognition rate), Eritreans (6,542 positive decisions; 100% recognition rate) and Afghans (1,088 positive decisions; 74% recognition rate).
In 2016, according to Eurostat, most of the non EU28 asylum seekers in EU 28 originated from Syria. Syria, Afghanistan and Iraq together make 50% of the grand total.
The second quarter of 2017 recorded a 54% decrease in the number of first time asylum applicants as compared to the second quarter of 2016, and 11% fewer applicants than the first quarter of 2017 as well. The greatest number of applications were from Syria, Afghanistan and Nigeria, giving a clear indication of the current nodes of this crisis. However, the number of Syrians and Afghans continued to be less than that of the same time in 2016, suggesting that perhaps, the peak of this crisis has passed. Initially looking at the noticeably fewer number of both migrants and applications indicates that this crisis may be on the decline. But the increasing number of illegal immigrants from Africa simply suggests that the direction of the crisis is changing. While Germany recorded the highest number of first time applicants (over 49,000), Spain saw a 30% increase in the number of asylum seekers, along with Cyprus and Bulgaria.
Origins and motivations
Ascertaining motivation is complex, but, according to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, most of the people arriving in Europe in 2015 were refugees, fleeing war and persecution in countries such as Syria, Afghanistan, Iraq and Eritrea: according to UNHCR data, 84% of Mediterranean Sea arrivals in 2015 came from the world’s top ten refugee-producing countries. According to UNHCR, the top ten nationalities of Mediterranean Sea arrivals in 2015 were Syria (49%), Afghanistan (21%), Iraq (8%), Eritrea (4%), Pakistan (2%), Nigeria (2%), Somalia (2%), Sudan (1%), the Gambia (1%) and Mali (1%). Asylum seekers of seven nationalities had an asylum recognition rate of over 50% in EU States in the first quarter of 2015, meaning that they obtained protection over half the time they applied: Syrians (94% recognition rate), Eritreans (90%), Iraqis (88%), Afghans (66%), Iranians (65%), Somalis (60%) and Sudanese (53%). Migrants of these nationalities accounted for 90% of the arrivals in Greece and 47% of the arrivals in Italy between January and August 2015, according to UNHCR data. Wars fueling the crisis are the Syrian Civil War and the Iraq War, the War in Afghanistan, the War in Somalia and the War in Darfur. Refugees from Eritrea, one of the most repressive states in the world, flee from indefinite military conscription and forced labour. Some ethnicities or religions from an originating country are more represented among the migrants than others, for instance Kurds make up 80 to 90 percent of all Turkish refugees in Germany.
Migrants from the Western Balkans (Kosovo, Albania, Serbia) and parts of West Africa (The Gambia, Nigeria) are more likely to be economic migrants, fleeing poverty and lack of jobs, many of them hoping for a better lifestyle and job offers, without valid claims to refugee status. The majority of asylum applicants from Serbia, Macedonia and Montenegro are Roma people who feel discriminated against in their countries of origin. The influx from states like Nigeria and Pakistan is a mix of economic migrants and refugees fleeing from violence and war such as Boko Haram insurgency in north-east Nigeria and the War in North-West Pakistan.
According to UNHCR data, 58% of the refugees and migrants arriving in Europe by sea in 2015 were men, 17% were women and 25% were children. Of the asylum applications received in Sweden in 2015, 70% were by men (including minors). 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 of being killed. Among people arriving in Europe there were also large numbers of women and unaccompanied children. Europe has received a record number of asylum applications from unaccompanied child refugees in 2015, as they became separated from their families in war, or their family could not afford to send more than one member abroad. Younger refugees also have better chances of receiving asylum.
Some argue that migrants have been seeking to settle preferentially in those national destinations offering more generous social welfare benefits and hosting more established Middle Eastern and African immigrant communities. Others argue that migrants are attracted to more tolerant societies with stronger economies, and that the chief motivation for leaving Turkey is that they are not permitted to leave camps or work. A large number of refugees in Turkey have been faced with rather 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, historically a popular final destination for the EU migrants, France saw its popularity erode in 2015 among migrants seeking asylum.
Refugees coming specifically from the Middle East have been attempting to seek asylum in Europe rather than in countries surrounding their own neighboring regions. In 2015, over 80% of the refugees whom arrived in Europe by sea, came from Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan. Routes in which these refugees face while attempting to arrive in Europe, are most often extremely dangerous. The jeopardy to endure such routes also supports the arguments behind certain refugees’ preferential motivations of seeking asylum within European nations.
In September 2015 Europol estimated there were 30 000 suspected migrant smugglers, which rose to 55 000 in 2016 and a further 10 000 more in 2017. Of the smugglers, 63% are from Europe of which 45% are from Balkan countries, 14% from the Middle East, 13% from Africa and 9% from Eastern Asia.
As of May 2017, Frontex (the European border and coast guard agency) identifies the following eight main routes on sea and on land used by irregular migrants to enter the EU:
Frontex tracks and publishes data on numbers of illegal crossings along the main six routes twice a year. The following table shows the data for the period up to and including the year 2015:
On 27 August 2015, 71 migrants were found dead in an unventilated food truck near Vienna. As an official response to this event, on 31 August 2015, Austria began inspections of vehicles for smuggled immigrants entering from across the border with Hungary, leading to vehicular backups of 19km (12mi) and trains stalled for hours.
Late on 4 September 2015, Chancellor Werner Faymann of Austria, in conjunction with Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany, announced that migrants would be allowed to cross the border from Hungary into Austria and onward to Germany, and early on 5 September 2015, buses with migrants began crossing the Austro-Hungarian border. Austria noted that 6,500 migrants had crossed the border by the afternoon of 5 September 2015, with 2,200 already on their way to Germany.
On 14 September 2015, Austria followed Germany’s suit and instituted border controls of its own at the border with Hungary. Austrian authorities also deployed the Austrian Army to the border with Hungary.
On 19 September 2015, Austria permitted entry to approximately 10,000 migrants from Slovenia and Hungary. Austria has taken on the role of regulator of the flow of migrants destined for Germany by feeding, housing and providing them health care in transit.
On 28 October 2015, Austria decided to build a fence along its border with Slovenia (that has a total length of 91km) to “be able to control the migrants in an orderly manner”, said Minister of the Interior Johanna Mikl-Leitner.
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 (de facto most of them to Germany). The EU’s migration commissioner said the cap was incompatible with Austria’s obligations under EU and international law. The EU Council of Ministers’ legal team however concluded that Austria’s moves are not illegal.
In February 2018, Austrian authorities planned to stop providing food and accommodation to rejected asylum applicants. The proposed legislation introduces penalties between 5 000 to 15 000 euros for those who remain in Austria with those refusing to leave to be detained. The applicant lying about his identity would face a 5 000 euro fine. According to the interior ministry, application from Afghans, Nigerians and Pakistanis had mainly been rejected.
From April 2018, Austrian authorities would confiscate mobile phones of migrants in order to use its geographical data to verify how the migrant arrived to the country. If migrants are found to have entered via a country covered by the Dublin regulation, they will be sent there. To cover the cost of handling the application, 840 euro is demanded.
Croatia, an EU member state since 2013, shares a land border (527km) with Serbia and therefore experienced a strong inflow of migrants from Serbia after Hungary erected a fence on its border with Serbia. Nearly 80% of the border consists of the Danube River, but there is a 70 kilometer-long segment of land border in Syrmia, in the forests and fields near Tovarnik. Also, parts of the Croatia-Serbia border are known minefields, which represent a considerable threat. According to the Croatian Minister of Interior Ranko Ostoji, “police in the area have enough people and equipment to protect the Croatian border against illegal immigrants”. Croatian President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovi and First Deputy Prime Minister Vesna Pusi have so far rejected the option of building a fence along the Croatian border with Serbia. Croatian Prime Minister Zoran Milanovi 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 announced it would start arresting people crossing the border illegally, and as of early 16 September, Hungary had detained 519 people and pressed criminal charges against 46 for trespassing. 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 id, less than 10 kilometers from the Croatian border. Several buses filled with migrants arrived on the Croatian border crossing of Tovarnik, where the Croatian Vukovar-Srijem County Care and Rescue teams as well as the Croatian Red Cross were on standby awaiting migrants. On 17 September, as of 3:30am, more than 5,000 migrants had arrived in Tovarnik. Interior Minister Ranko Ostoji said Croatia was “absolutely full” by the evening of 17 September 2015, and Croatia decided to close its border with Serbia. Train lines from Serbia via Croatia to Slovenia were closed until further notice.
As of 6 October 2015, 125,000 had entered Croatia in the space of three weeks. Between mid-September and mid-October 2015, about 200,000 migrants had passed through Croatia, most moving on to Hungary. On 17 October 2015, Hungary closed its border with Croatia to migrants, forcing diversion of migrants to Slovenia instead. However, Slovenia, with a population of only two million, stated that it would only be able to admit 2,500 people per day, stranding thousands of migrants in Croatia as well as Serbia and Macedonia, while new migrants continued to add to this backlog.
In late December 2015, Slovenia put up a razor-wire fence on the border with western Croatian regions of Istria and Gorski kotar, the latter of which is a habitat of the lynx and the brown bear, both of which are endangered and protected by law in Croatia. Local hunters have found deer killed by the fence. The WWF and the inhabitants of the regions from both sides of the border have protested against the decision to put up the razor-wire fence.
On 9 March 2016, Croatia started implementing border restrictions on the border with Serbia, aiming to reinstate the Schengen rules.
Starting on 6 September 2015, large groups of migrants who declined to apply for asylum in Germany started passing the Danish borders with the majority heading for Sweden. Initially the Danish police attempted to register all migrants in accordance with EU rules, but many refused (instead wishing to seek asylum in Sweden), eventually resulting in a scuffle of about 50 people on 9 September at the Padborg rail station.
On 9 September, Denmark suspended all rail and ferry links with Germany (reopened the following day). On the same day parts of the E45 motorway was closed for vehicles to avoid accidents as hundreds of migrants were walking along it in southern Jutland towards Sweden. It was reopened a few hours later when the walking migrants exited the motorway. After initial uncertainty surrounding the rules, it was decided that migrants wishing to continue to other Nordic countries and refusing to seek asylum in Denmark would be allowed to pass. In the five weeks following 6 September alone, approximately 28,800 migrants passed the Danish borders. 3,500 of these applied for asylum in Denmark and the remaining continued to other Nordic countries.
After Sweden introduced ID checks on the Danish border to prevent undocumented migrants from coming to Sweden, Denmark also reintroduced border controls on the Danish-German border in January 2016, wanting to avoid predicted accumulation of illegal migrants on their way to Sweden as one of the reasons for this decision.
In October 2016 Danish immigration minister Inger Stjberg authorities reported 50 cases of suspected radicalised asylum seekers at asylum centres. The reports encompassed everything from adult Islamic State sympathisers celebrating terror attacks to violent children who dress up as IS fighters decapitating teddy bears. Stjberg expressed her consternation at asylum seekers ostensibly fleeing war yet simultaneously supporting violence. Asylum centres having detected radicalisation routinely report their findings to police. The 50 incidents were reported between 17 November 2015 until 14 September 2016.
In October 2017 the Danish migration agency Udlndingestyrelsen rejected over 600 asylum applications because the applicants had lied about their national identity in order to achieve preferential treatment.
Migrants entering France illegally by train from Italy were returned to Italy by French police since border controls were introduced in July 2015. Due to “poor housing”, lower social benefits and a thorough asylum application process France is not commonly considered attractive enough to seek asylum in. Thus many of them seek to enter the United Kingdom, resulting in camps of migrants around Calais, where one of the Eurotunnel entrances is located. During the summer of 2015, at least nine people died in attempts to reach Britain, including falling from, or being hit by trains, and drowning in a canal at the Eurotunnel entrance. Migrants from the camps also attempt to enter trucks bound for the UK, with some truck drivers being threatened by migrants, and cargo being stolen or damaged.
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 started to demolish 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” of La Liniere refugee camp in Grande-Synthe which replaced the predecessor encampment at Basroch refugee camp.
On 13 September 2015, it was reported that the local authorities had estimated the flow of 300 asylum seekers per day entering via the northern land border from Sweden into Tornio, which is the main route of migration flow into Finland. The total number of asylum seekers for the year was reported to be over 2.6 times the total amount for the whole of the previous year. During October 2015, 7,058 new asylum seekers arrived in Finland. In mid-October the number of asylum seekers entering Finland during 2015 reached 27,000, which is, in relation to the country’s size, the fourth-largest in Europe. In late November, the number passed 30,000, nearly ten-fold increase compared to the previous year.
More than 60% 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, putting Iraqi asylum seekers under closer scrutiny. The Interior Minister Petteri Orpo estimated that two in three of recent asylum seekers come to Finland in hopes of higher standard of living. In November, the Permanent Secretary of the Interior Ministry stated that approximately 6065% of the recent applications for asylum will be denied.
In September, the processing time of an asylum application was estimated to be extended from normal six months up to two years. In late November, the reception centers were reported to be running out of space, forcing the authorities resorting to refurbished shipping containers and tents to house new asylum seekers. Interior Minister Petteri Orpo has announced that special repatriation centers would be established. These centers would be inhabited by the asylum seekers whose applications were declined. While he stressed that these camps would not be prisons, he described the inhabitants would be under strict surveillance.
In January 2016, Yle, Finland’s national public-broadcasting company, reported that a Russian border guard had admitted that the Federal Security Service was enabling migrants to enter Finland.
In 2017, hundreds Muslim asylum seekers from Iraq and Afghanistan converted to Christianity after having had their first asylum application rejected by the Finnish Immigration Service (Migri), in order to re-apply for asylum on the grounds of religious persecution.
Germany has been the most sought-after final destination in the EU migrant and refugee crisis. Thousands of migrants continued to pour into Germany from Austria as of 6 September 2015. Germany’s asylum practice is to be based on article 16a of her Basic Law. After the development of the migrant crisis Germany decided to use the derogation possibility of article 17 of the Dublin III Regulation for humanitarian reasons. According to The Wall Street Journal, this “unilateral” open-arms policy triggered both a domestic and an international backlash. However, Germany immediately began to deploy a quota system to distribute asylum seekers among all German states. In September 2015 the federal states, responsible for accommodation, reached the brink of their capacities and criticised the Government in Berlin for its “inconsiderate” approach to the crisis.
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.
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 “only”. 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 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 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 along with the wave of terrorist attacks brought about a fresh wave of anti-immigrant protests across Europe.
Between January and December 2015, 1,091,894 arrivals of asylum seekers were registered in Germany’s “EASY” system for the first distribution of asylum seekers among Germany’s federal states; however, asylum applications in 2015 were only 476,649, because many asylum seekers had not formally applied for asylum yet or did not stop in Germany and moved on to other EU states.
In February 2016, the German government admitted that it had lost track of around 13 per cent of the 1.1 million people registered as asylum seekers on arrival in 2015, because they never arrived at the refugee accommodation they were assigned. The German government said that probably many of the missing asylum seekers simply went to other European countries, while others continued to live illegally in Germany. Merkel’s immigration policies are being criticised in the Christian Social Union, e.g. by the CSU-chairman Horst Seehofer.
In October 2016 Angela Merkel travelled to African countries Mali and Niger. The diplomatic visit took place in order to discuss how their governments could improve conditions which cause people to flee those countries and how illegal migration through and from these countries could be reduced.
In November 2016 Germany security officials cracked down on the militant salafist organisation Die Wahre Religion as these preachers had targeted newly arrived migrants with their violent form of Islam.
In January 2017 it was reported by Deutsche Welle that welfare authorities in Braunschweig had been targeted in 300 cases of migrant fraud as individuals registered many identities in order to receive multiple welfare payouts. Each case of migrant fraud averaged thousands of euros of loss, with the most prolific fraudster having registered 12 identities. The majority of the cases concerned Sudanese migrants. Authorities had at times been overwhelmed by registering 2000 migrants per day and normal checks like fingerprints are now retroactively required. One BAMF official allegedly accepted bribes and kickbacks for asylum and 18,000 asylum approvals were now in question. The Bremen office was stripped of its authority to grant asylums; 13 other offices were being investigated on suspicion of similar irregularities.
Originally posted here: