Where they come from: North Africa – particularly Libya – and the Middle East.
Causes of migration: The effects of climate change, including drought, poverty and climate-induced violence has accelerated the number of people migrating to Europe. Internal warfare, particularly the Syrian civil war, and recently with the war in Libya.
Where they go and how many: Historically, Italy and Greece have served as the major entry points for migrants crossing the Mediterranean Sea. However, the number of migrants entering Italy has severely decreased in 2019, largely due to far-right anti-immigration policies. In response, there has been a growing surge of migrants taking the land route to Spain. According to the International Organization for Migration, the total number of arrivals in 2019 from the Mediterranean so far are:
· Greece: 10,060
· Spain: 9,567
· Serbia: 2,910
· Italy: 812
Deaths/missing:Over 18,000 have died crossing the Mediterranean since 2014, according to the International Organization for Migration. Recent statistics highlight that almost 6 migrants die crossing the Mediterranean every day, with 833 reported dead in 2019 alone.
Refugees/Migrants: Over 1.8 million migrants have entered Europe since 2014. A list of statistics from the International Organization for Migration and the UN’s Refugee Agency for each year are provided below:
· 165,000 (2014)
· 1,000,572 (2015)
· 390,456 (2016)
· 186,788 (2017)
· 144,209 (2018)
· 21,279 (2019)
Asylum applications: Statistics from the European Commission show that there have been over 4 million asylum applications in since 2014, with almost 600,000 applications in 2018.
Current Situation:Due to political instability in North Africa, the number of migrant deaths crossing the Mediterranean is increasing. Meanwhile, Europe has witnessed the emergence of far-right groups advocating anti-immigration policies. This is most noticeable in Italy where ports are completely closed to migrants.
have emerged in various countries to impede migrant passage through the Mediterranean. The nationalist League in Italy, for example, has prevented government-funded initiatives from integrating migrants. Germany, on the other hand, with its far-right group ‘Alternative for Germany’ has strongly advocated for anti-immigration policies. Some sources have also claimed that terrorists are using Europe’s recent crisis to smuggle operatives within the EU.
Timeline of the crisis
A ship containing more than 300 Syrian refugees, but no crew arrives at an Italian port. Prior to this event, United Nations (UN) agencies stressed that Europe had been turning a blind eye to the increasing number of migrants and asylum seekers travelling across the Mediterranean Sea.
The UN also reports this month that almost 300 migrants in the space of a week have drowned after attempting to cross the Mediterranean Sea. This prompts a degree of threat amongst EU coastal states.
In spite of the number of migrants drowning last month, the Italian coastguard are able to rescue more than 3000 migrants from February to March.
The UN’s International Organization for Migration (IOM) warns of an increasing surge of migrants from Libya, due to the country’s instability. This also witnesses Italy’s calls for an expansion of the EU’s border patrol.
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.
Ex-M16 head, Sir Richard Dearlove, warns of an increase in populism around Europe following the enactment of various anti-immigrant policies surrounding the migrant crisis. This is evident especially in Austria and Hungary.
On the 25th May, in a collaborative effort between the EU’s naval operation EUNAVFOR Med, Frontex and NGO boats, more than 5,600 migrants are rescued in the Mediterranean in the space of 2 days.
UNHCR reports 65 million refugees around the world, marking the highest level ever recorded. The UN also reported a link between the sheer number of migrants and refugees reaching Europe as contributing to a climate of xenophobia.
Shortly after UNHCR’s statement, the Italian coastguard rescues more than 4,500 migrants in the Mediterranean.
The UN Refugee Agency 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. This announcement arrives just 3 months after the UNHCR report a global standing of 65 million refugees.
On the same day, French authorities start the process of clearing the Calais migrant camp. The process results in the clashing between refugees in the camp and French police.
On 3rd February, EU leaders in Malta agree on a deal to reinforce the Libyan coastline via a $215 million investment. Human rights groups criticise the deal as not targeting the root causes of migration.
It is reported that throughout the year of 2016, almost 10 attacks were made on migrants every day. Such statistics reflect the ongoing surge of far-right nationalism and hate crime in Europe.
13th June, the EU imposes legal actions against various states, such as Hungary, for not taking in their share of migrants. The imposition of sanctions was an attempt by the EU to enforce a message of solidarity in the face of the migrant crisis.
Whilst not taking in a larger share of migrants, the UK government on the 21st June pledged £75 million to assist migrants stranded in the Mediterranean and in camps around Europe.
Italy hits back at EU member states for not sharing the burden of taking in migrants. The country threatens to cancel its maritime patrols if EU states do not comply.
On the 28th August, representatives from the African Union (AU) and the EU meet in Paris propose deal that would see a £56 million investment in African countries to prevent migration to Europe.
On the 6th September, the EU court rejects legal challenges by Hungary and Slovakia against the EU’s reallocation scheme. Since coming into effect in 2015, both countries have accepted less than a dozen migrants, thus prompting concern by other nations such as Italy of which endures the most burden.
Following the failure of the EU’s reallocation scheme in 2015, on 27th September a new 2-year plan is proposed to integrate 50,000 migrants into Europe with a budget of £440 million to support the programme.
The migrant crisis features as a prominent issue in the elections in Germany, Austria and other countries in Europe. This trend envisages the use of immigration to form and legitimist far-right parties.
The EU’s deal with Libya is criticised by the UN High Commissioner for Human Right’s chief, Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein as more than 20,000 migrants are detained in hangars. This reiterates concerns by various human rights groups that current deals do not target the root causes of migration.
On 11TH December, Amnesty International referred to the EU as being complicit in the torture of migrants as thousands of migrants in Libya are detained in poor conditions.
On 2nd February, more than 90 migrants drown off the coast of Libya, further criticising the EU deal with Libya to prevent immigration.
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.
Various charities criticise EU members states – Italy and Malta – for debating to send migrants back to Libya. This follows the latest trend of anti-immigration and far-right politics in the EU as various countries pull out of pro-migration agreements.
In the first week on April, new rules were agreed that provided Frontex with better capacity to provide faster support to member states. An increase of the EU’s external borders powers contradicts the earlier statement by the EU Commission that the migrant crisis was over.
On the 12th April, France agrees to take 20 migrants from an NGO rescue ship stranded on its 9th day at sea. Political instability around Europe continues as countries refuse to allow NGO ships to dock and disembark and their ports.
How can you 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