In the latest years Europe has been
the destination for huge quantities of migrants, mostly coming from Africa and
Middle-East through the Mediterranean Sea or overland through Southest Europe. According
to UNHCR (UN High Commissioner for Refugees) most of these refugees come from
Syria (46.7 %), Afghanistan (20.9 %) and Iraq (9.4 %). In 2014 the total amount
of migrants directed to Europe standed at 500’000, while it more than doubled
in 2015. This growth caused several issues especially for Countries such Italy
and Greece which are the main destination for migrants coming by the sea. These
numbers do not only concern asylum seekers, many of them are economic migrants,
people searching for better life conditions, as well as some hostile agents,
such as Islamic State agents, often disguise as refugees or migrants.
During their trip leading to Europe, migrants have to face inhuman conditions,
smugglers violate any kind of human rights, making these trips incredibly
dangerous. In the first half of 2017, according to UNHCR, over 2’700 migrants
have been reported dying across the Mediterranean Sea, over 5’000 died in 2016
and about 3 thousands in 2015. These numbers peaked on April 2015 when five
boats carrying 2’000 sank, with a combined estimated toll of 1’200 deaths.
These risks do not end once landed in Europe, those moving irregularly have
been reported numerous kind of abuse, including being pushed back across
borders. With so many lives at risk, rescue-at-sea operations undertaken by all
actors must remain a priority. The number of same pathways leading to Europe
has increased, but these possibilities remain to narrow to offer a stable
alternative to risky irregular journeys for asylum seekers. Italy had launched
the “Operation Mare Nostrum”, but several EU countries refused to fund it,
causing its replacement with “Frontex’s Operation Triton” in November 2014,
which did not lead to any improvent in the matter. In the early 2015, Greece
overtook Italy as the first EU country of arrival, becoming the starting point
of a flow of refugees and migrants moving through Balkans countries to Northern
European countries, mainly Germany and Sweden.
The conflict in Syria
continues to be by far the biggest driver of migration. But the ongoing
violence in Afghanistan and Iraq, abuses in Eritrea, as well as poverty in
Kosovo, are also leading people to look for new lives elsewhere.
Although not all of those arriving in Europe choose to claim asylum,
many do. Germany received the highest number of new asylum applications in
2015, with more than 476,000.But far more people have arrived in the country –
German officials said more than a million had
been counted in Germany’s “EASY” system for counting and distributing
people before they make asylum claims.
moved into second place for asylum applications, as more migrants made the
journey overland through Greece and the Western Balkans. It had 177,130 applications by the end
Organization for Migration (IOM) estimates that more than 1,011,700 migrants arrived by sea
in 2015, and almost 34,900 by
This compares with 280,000 arrivals by land and sea
for the whole of 2014. The figures do not include those who got in undetected.
The EU’s external border force, Frontex, monitors the
different routes migrants use and numbers arriving at Europe’s borders and put
the figure crossing into Europe in 2015 at more than 1,800,000.
Most of those heading for Greece take the relatively
short voyage from Turkey to the islands of Kos, Chios, Lesvos and Samos – often
in flimsy rubber dinghies or small wooden boats.
According to the IOM, more than 3,770 migrants were
reported to have died trying to cross the Mediterranean in 2015.
Most died on the crossing from north
Africa to Italy, and more than 800 died in the Aegean crossing from Turkey to
The summer months are usually when most
fatalities occur as it is the busiest time for migrants attempting to reach
But in 2015, the deadliest month for
migrants was April, which saw a boat carrying about 800 people capsize in the
sea off Libya. Overcrowding is thought to have been one of the reasons for the
Although Germany has had the most asylum applications
in 2015, Hungary had the highest in proportion to its population, despite
having closed its border with Croatia in an attempt to stop the flow in
October. Nearly 1,800 refugees
per 100,000 of Hungary’s local population claimed asylum in 2015.
Sweden followed close behind with 1,667 per 100,000.
The figure for Germany was 587 and for the UK it was 60 applications for every 100,000 residents.
The EU average was 260.
in the EU have been rising because of the disproportionate burden faced by some
countries, particularly the countries where the majority of migrants have been
arriving: Greece, Italy and Hungary.
In September, EU
ministers voted by a majority to relocate 160,000 refugees EU-wide, but for now
the plan will only apply to those who are in Italy and Greece.
Another 54,000 were to be moved from Hungary, but the Hungarian government
rejected this plan and will instead receive more migrants from
Italy and Greece as part of the relocation scheme.
The UK has opted out of any plans for a quota system
but, according to Home Office figures, 1,000 Syrian refugees were resettled
under the Vulnerable Persons Relocation scheme in 2015. Prime Minister David
Cameron has said the UK will accept up to 20,000 refugees from Syria over the
next five years.
Although huge numbers have been applying for asylum,
the number of people being given asylum is far lower.
In 2015, EU countries offered
asylum to 292,540 refugees. In the same year, more than a million migrants
applied for asylum – although applying for asylum can be a lengthy procedure so
many of those given refugee status may have applied in previous years.