“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
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.
- 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, 2015 – The 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, 2015 – The 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.
- EU Member States Hungary and Bulgaria build fences and barriers along their borders to prevent illegal migrants from entering their territories. Before the end of 2015, Macedonia, Austria, Croatia, Slovenia, and Germany (though temporarily) will take similar steps to close or restrict access to their borders.
- 2 September, 2015 – Alan 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, 2015 – European 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 neighbouring 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, 2017 – The 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 and onwards – Migrants continue to arrive in Europe in record numbers putting further financial and ideological strains on the EU. Upon arrival, migrants often face insupportable living conditions in addition to prejudice and racism. 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.
How You Can Help:
- Call on EU leaders to take action and save lives through an Amnesty Internal campaign here: https://www.amnesty.org/en/get-involved/take-action/i-choose-to-save-lives/
- Donate to the European Migrant Crisis Fund through SOS Children’s Villages Canada here: https://www.soschildrensvillages.ca/emergency/european-migrant-crisis-633