European Migrant Crisis

“Europe is frightened that an influx of foreigners    will erode European values. But what values will           there be to uphold if we abandon our duty to          protect those less fortunate than ourselves?”
– Patrick Kingsley



              Migrants leave countries in the                           Middle East, South Asia, and North                    Africa to settle throughout Europe


               1.7 million since 2014


               More than 12,000 since 2014

      Asylum Seekers:

               2.5 million in 2015 and 2016

     Primary Threats:

              Migrants face drowning, human                         trafficking, sexual assault, extortion,                 malnutrition, and poor living                                conditions en route and upon                              arrival in the EU



The European Migrant crisis describes a period, beginning in 2015, which has seen a spike in the number of refugees and migrants, coming especially from countries like Syria, Afghanistan and Libya, seeking to settle in European (EU) countries. The crisis has most directly impacted the migrants and refugees who face difficult and dangerous journeys through South-East Europe or over the Mediterranean. It has also, however, incited violence and anxiety throughout Europe with far-right groups emerging to protest the arrival of foreign asylum seekers and migrants.

                 Key Actors:

  • European Union countries have been clamping down and increasing security along their borders to reduce the numbers of migrant arrivals
  • NGOs like the UN and Amnesty International (AI) have called for EU governments to admit more migrants and protect migrant lives. Meanwhile, the task of patrolling the Mediterranean and rescuing abandoned or drowning migrant groups has fallen almost exclusively onto the shoulders of NGOs
  • Far right groups like Génération Identitaire (GI) have emerged to further impede migrant passage through the Mediterranean
  • Frontex – the EU’s external border force responsible for monitoring the different routes migrants use and numbers arriving at Europe’s borders.


  • January-June 2015 – Over the course of 9 recorded incidents, EU Member States report to have intercepted at least 1780 migrants and refugees en route to Europe while as many as 1500 are thought to have died
  • 3 March 2015 – Italian coastguard rescues almost 1000 migrants within 24 hour period
  • 18 April 2015The death of at least 650 migrants en route from Libya to Italy marks the highest single-incident death toll to date after a boat with 700 migrants on board capsizes off the Italian coast. Only 28 migrants survive.
  • 23 April 2015The European Council holds a special meeting to address the migrant crisis. The Council resolves to 1) fight traffickers, 2) strengthen the EU presence at sea, 3) prevent illegal migration flows, and 4) reinforce internal solidarity and responsibility.
  • May 2015 – The European Commission meets to address the migrant crisis. The Commission proposes a relocation scheme which would spread the total number of migrants throughout European nations, thereby lessening the strain on countries like Italy which receive the most asylum seekers.
  • June 2015 – The UN Refugee Agency reports the arrival of 63 000 migrants in Greece and 62 000 in Italy since January 2015
    • The first of a series of clashes between migrants and European police takes place in Calais, France. Similar confrontations take place in Macedonia, Denmark, Hungary, and Corsica before the end of 2015.
  • 25-26 June 2015 – The European Council meets again to relocate and resettle migrants “from the frontline Member States like Italy and Greece to other Member States, to “promotes readmission of irregular migrants to countries of origin and transit,” and to create “a true partnership between European and African countries, working together to tackle illegal migration in an integrated way.”
  • July -December 2015 – Over this six month period, 567 migrants are known to have died and almost 6000 to have been intercepted en route to Europe over land or at sea.
  • 2 September 2015Alan Kurdi, a three year old Syrian child of Kurdish descent, drowns crossing the Mediterranean. A photograph of the boy’s body washed up on the Turkish coast makes international headlines and becomes emblematic of the migrant’s plight.
  • 12 September 2015 – Tens of thousands of European migrant-supporters and activists take part in demonstration across Europe, calling on EU nations to open their doors to international refugees. Simultaneous demonstrations against mass immigration take place in Warsaw, Prague, and Bratislava.
  • 22 September 2015 – The European Council publishes a provisional decision to lessen the strain of migrants on Italy and Greece. They adopt the decision to relocate “120 000 persons in clear need of international protection.” The Czech Republic, Hungary, Romania, and Slovakia oppose the decision, but the decision passes.
  • 7 October 2015 – The European Union Naval Force Mediterranean (EUNAVFOR Med.) launches Operation Sophia, intending to interrupt human traffickers or smugglers making use of Mediterranean waters.
  • 25 October 2015 – European leaders meet in Brussels and agree to implement measures to continue the exchange of information, manage migration flows together, impede human trafficking or smuggling, and support refugees by providing shelter and the opportunity for rest.
  • 11-12 November 2015 – The Valletta Summit on Migration takes place in Malta comprising discussions between European and African leaders on the subject of the migrant crisis.
  • 13 November 2015European officials and governments re-evaluate their positions on international migrants following an Islamist terrorist attack on Paris which leaves 130 civilians dead.
  • 30 December 2015 – The UN Refugee Agency (UNHRC) draws attention to the migrant crisis, reports that more than 1 million refugees and migrants has arrived in Europe by way of the Mediterranean in 2015. According to UN statistics, 3 771 individuals have died or been lost at sea over the course of that same period.
  • 1 January 2016 – Germany faces a period of intense upheaval and makes international headlines after dozens of sexual assaults, thefts, and at least 5 rapes are recorded throughout Germany, with a majority of the attacks happening in Cologne.
  • January 2016 Tensions rise in Sweden, Denmark, and France as attacks both by and against immigrant populations make national and international headlines in the wake of Germany’s New Year’s attacks.
  • February 2016 – Bulgaria and Austria take steps to strictly tighten or close their borders to migrants; Belgium and Norway look to implement new measures to control the influx of migrants from neighboring EU countries.
  • 11 February 2016 – NATO agrees to send three ships into the Aegean Sea to help prevent the transit of migrants from Turkey to Greece.
  • 29 February 2016 – Violent clashes erupt between migrants, “No Borders” protestors, and police in France when authorities make moves to demolish the “Calais Jungle” migrant camp. Similar clashes erupt in April and again in May, leading Austria to begin barricading that border area.
  • March 2016 – Several Balkan states including Slovenia, Croatia, Serbia, and Macedonia, plan to implement stricter border controls; Hungary declares a state of emergency over the pressure of migrants continuing to arrive at its borders; further protests occur in Calais, this time initiated by citizens of the region concerned over recent activities.
  • 12 March 2016 – 3 000 protesters amass in Berlin to oppose Germany’s open door policy on migration. 1 000 counter-protestors meet them. Despite several small confrontations, police are able to keep the situation largely under control.
  • 12-13 March 2016 – Evidence of a far-right resurgence presents itself as members of the Identitarian movement block roads leading from migrant camps to the center of town in Calais; the nationalist party Alternative for Germany (AFG) makes gains in the German state elections.
  • April 2016 – Further clashes and protests in Greece throughout the month and along the Greece-Macedonia border; Switzerland, Austria, and Norway take steps to stem the flow of migrants, prepare to implement various policies should migrant numbers swell.
  • 15 April 2016 – Migrants clash with a group of European vigilantes in Paris.
  • 16 April 2016 – Pope Francis makes a gesture of welcome to refugees by taking three migrant families into Vatican City.
  • 4 May 2016 – The European Commission endeavours to increase and guarantee the “fairness” of its asylum system.
  • May 2016 –Clashes between migrants and police in Belgium and Slovakia.
  • 26 October 2016 – The UN Refugee Agency (UNHRC) declares 2016 to have been the deadliest year on record for migrants attempting to cross the Mediterranean, reporting at least 3 800 missing or dead.
  • 6 July 2017 – Amnesty International (AI) publishes a report condemning EU inaction as migrant death tolls soar. John Dalhuisen, of AI, declares that 2017 could become the deadliest year for international migrant yet “if the second half of this year continues as the first and urgent action is not taken.” AI reported 2 000 deaths already since January 2017.
  • 25 July 2017 – The European Council extends Operation Sophia’s mandate until 31 December 2018.
  • 2 August 2017 – Italy launches a new naval mission to combat human trafficking on the route from Libya to its own shores.
  • 6 September 2017The BBC reports that only 27 695 migrants have been relocated under the EU quota deal since 2015; The European Court of Justice overrules objections made by Hungary and Slovakia concerning the 2015 migrant relocation deal.
  • 11 September 2017 – The International Organization for Migration (IOM) publishes a study on “Improving Data on Missing Migrants. The study records 22 5000 migrant deaths and disappearances since 2014.
  • October 2017 The migrant “crisis” features as a prominent issue in elections in Germany, Austria, and throughout the EU.
  • February 2018 – French President Emmanuel Macron’s government introduces a bill that would accelerate the expulsion of migrants who do not qualify for asylum and make illegal border crossings a criminal offense punishable by one year in jail and a fine.
  • 18 March 2018 – Italy impounded a migrant rescue ship in the Mediterranean Sea after they refused to give up migrants to Libyan government forces in fear they would be abused.
  • May 2018 – Germany approves legislation to reintroduce family reunifications for refugees with subsidiary protections. This measure will allow more than 1,000 family members of migrants to enter the country by August 2018
  • 14 June 2018 – The EU—under guidance from the UN—sanctions human traffickers and smugglers operating in Libya
  • 28 June 2018 – EU leaders agree to impose harsher measures against migrant smugglers to try and reduce illegal migration. They also discuss developing regional disembarkation platforms for people saved at sea.
  • 29 June 2018 – EU member states agree to send €3 billion to Turkey to support Syrian refugees
  • 18 October 2018 – EU leaders call upon the European Council to develop a set of measures to strengthen inter country cooperation in the fight against migrant smugglers


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