In 2015, for the first time, the total number of refugees around the world stretched to over 65 million people. This amounts to nearly 25 people fleeing every single minute. Strikingly, over half of the total number of refugees in 2015 arrived predominately from 3 sole countries: Afghanistan, Somalia and Syria. The reasons for migration are varied, ranging from climate change to internal restraints in the host countries. Internal warfare is a key variable witnessing a recent upsurge in migration, particularly in the Middle East. Due to geographical restraints, many migrants and refugees have sought asylum within the European Union (EU); a region that has since struggled to cope with what is described as the biggest influx of people since World War Two. To reach Europe, however, refugees and migrants embark on perilous journeys through South-East Europe and over the Mediterranean. During 2015, almost 2,000 people died attempting to cross the Mediterranean, whilst in 2019 that number has already reached 555. The lack of cooperation and willingness to accept migrants amongst EU countries – illustrated recently (see timeline: 8 October 2019) in the overwhelming rejection of an EU deal to distribute migrants – moreover, has arguably contributed to this amount. Those that have arrived in Europe via the Mediterranean alone reached 1 million people in 2015, and despite being a lower number than in 2015, almost 150,000 people arrived during 2018. Whilst located all around Europe, countries such as Germany and Italy witnessed a spike in an influx of migrants and refugees. The sheer arrival of so many migrants and refugees has incited a growing trend of violence and anxiety throughout Europe. Described as a climate of xenophobia, Germany and Italy – countries with both high numbers of refugees and migrants – has witnessed a recent surge in far-right nationalist politics. In the current situation, despite some refusing to identify the situation as a ‘crisis’, many far-right groups have emerged to protest the arrival of foreign asylum seekers whilst several countries have imposed tighter border controls effectively preventing their arrival. The crisis has been further complicated by the spread of Covid-19, as many of the migrants lack access to healthcare and are forced to live in cramped conditions that can result in the spread of the disease.
Following economic uncertainty and political unrest around the world in the continuing fallout of the COVID-19 pandemic and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine leading to food shortages, migrant routes are filling to numbers unseen since the mid 2010’s, with right wing governments across Europe resurging along with it by bringing back anti-migrant rhetoric.
More than 14,000
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.
Asylum Applications: More than 4 million since 2014, with almost 600,000 applications in 2018.
Where they go: 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 2020 from the Mediterranean so far are:
Refugees Migrants Per Year:
- 165,000 (2014)
- 1,000,572 (2015)
- 390,456 (2016)
- 186,788 (2017)
- 144,209 (2018)
- 123,920 (2019)
- 99,475 (2020)
- 146,480 (2021)
Deaths/Missing Per Year:
- 3,538 (2014)
- 3,771 (2015)
- 5,096 (2016)
- 3,139 (2017)
- 2,227 (2018)
- 1,246 (2019)
- 1,051 (2020)
- 1,865 (2021)
The Key Actors
States have been tightening border security to limit the number of arrivals in their country. Some countries have imposed physical changes, such as Hungary of whom have erected barbed wire across its borders. Politically, other countries, such as Italy and Germany are witnessing popular anti-immigration groups and policies.
Classification: Humanitarian crisis
Anti-migrant groups continue to have significant influence on Europe’s political landscape as migration numbers continue to flow.
- The OWP advocates for the EU to play a more active role in tackling the root causes of mass migration. This can be done by allocating budget towards integration and language programs for migrants, awareness campaigns, and helping to aid development on the
Similar Humanitarian Crises
- Coming soon
Timeline of the crisis
A ship containing more than 300 Syrian refugees with 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. Italy calls for an expansion of the EU’s border patrol.
On the 21st April, the UNHCR confirms that more than 800 migrants are feared dead in the worst tragedy to take place so far in the Mediterranean Sea.
On the following day (22nd April), in protest of the ongoing migrant crisis, Amnesty International supporters place themselves into body bags on Brighton’s beach, starting the trend: “DontLetThemDown”. This was an attempt to force EU governments to act on the ongoing crisis.
Due to increasing pressure, the European Council forms a special meeting on the 23rd April and agrees: to fight traffickers, strengthen the EU presence at sea, prevent illegal migration flows, and reinforce internal solidarity and responsibility.
The EU authorises a military response to the ongoing crisis by proposing to attack smuggler vessels off the coast of Libya prior to the movement of migrants. This action is condemned by many human rights groups who declare that the militarisation of the migrant crisis would risk damaging the lives of migrants even more.
Hungary proposes a 13-foot anti-migrant fence across its southern borders, indicating its – and various other EU member states’ – stance towards the threat of migration. This action is condemned by NGOs and the EU.
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. This is welcomed more by countries like Italy, though less by countries such as Hungary.
Aylan 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.
In response to Aylan’s death, on the 12th September, tens of thousands of European migrant-supporters and activists take part in demonstrations 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.
On the 22nd September, the European Council announces a provisional decision to lessen the strain of migrants on Italy and Greece. They propose 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.
On the 7th October, the European Union Naval Force Mediterranean (EUNAVFOR Med.) launches Operation Sophia, intending to interrupt human traffickers and smugglers making use of Mediterranean waters.
On the 25th October, European leaders also 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.
The Valletta Summit on Migration takes place in Malta comprising discussions between European and African leaders about the migrant crisis. The terrorist attacks on Paris further forces European officials and governments to re-evaluate their positions on international migrants.
On the 15th December, the European Commission proposes a powerful EU Border and Coast Guard force to prevent the number of migrants reaching Europe.
Shortly following the European Commission’s plan, the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) on the 30th December draws attention to the severity of the migrant crisis by reporting that more than 1 million refugees and migrants have 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.
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 against migrants, with most of the attacks happening in Cologne.
On the 4th January, other countries in Europe that have received large amounts of asylum applications, such as Sweden of which received more than 150,000 asylum applications in 2015, impose border checks in the attempts to prevent the flow of migrants entering Europe.
A day after, on the 5th January, more than 35 people are found dead off Turkey’s coast, including children, thus echoing the pictures of Aylan Kurdi earlier in September 2015.
NATO agrees to send three ships into the Aegean Sea to help prevent the transit of migrants from Turkey to Greece. The agreement comes a month just after 35 people are found dead on Turkey’s coast.
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, encouraging Austria to begin barricading that border area.
Several Balkan states including Slovenia, Croatia, Serbia, and Macedonia, plan to implement stricter border controls as 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.
On 12th March, 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 keep the situation largely under control.
Following the events in France and Germany, evidence of a far-right resurgence presents itself on 13th March as members of the ‘Identitarian’ movement block roads leading from migrant camps to the centre of town in Calais; the nationalist party Alternative for Germany (AFG) also makes gains in the German state elections.
A deal between the EU and Turkey that effectively sends migrants back to Turkey comes into effect. The deal is hailed by European leaders as a way to reduce the amount of refugees coming to Europe.
On 15th April, in a sign of solidarity, and in aspiration for European cooperation, Pope Francis takes 12 Muslim refugees from Syria into the Vatican City.
On the 27th April, despite Pope Francis’ actions, Austria implements a controversial anti-immigrant law days after the country’s far-right ‘Freedom Party’ comes top in presidential elections. Under this law, Austria may declare the migrant crisis a state of emergency and reject asylum applications to the country.
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.
A migrant boat using the Egyptian coast as a new departure point capsizes killing more than a dozen people. The event broadens the approach of rescue missions, which previously had focused on the Libyan coast.
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.
More than 200 migrants are reported to have drowned in multiple shipwrecks in the Mediterranean.
Migrants clash with police as riots breakout in Bulgaria’s largest refugee centre.
UNHCR reports that 5,000 people have drowned trying to reach Europe in 2016, the highest number ever recorded.
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.
The UN criticises Hungary’s plans to detain migrants in camps, likening France’s Calais camp, on its border. This follows a growing surge of anti-immigration policies throughout Europe, such as the erection of fences across country borders.
Turkish president Erdogan threatens to cancel EU-Turkey agreement on migration following fallout with EU member states.
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.
Amnesty International publishes a report condemning EU inaction as migrant deaths soar. John Dalhuisen, of Amnesty International, declares that 2017 could become the deadliest year for international migration yet, with 2,000 deaths already since January 2017.
Late in the month, the European Council extends Operation Sophia’s mandate until 31 December 2018.
On the 2nd August, Italy launches a new naval mission to combat human trafficking on the route from Libya to its own shores.
On the 28th August, representatives from the African Union (AU) and the EU meet in Paris to propose a deal that would see a £56m 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 £440m 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 legitimise 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, offering further criticism to the EU’s deal with Libya to prevent immigration.
Italian authorities impounded a migrant rescue ship in the Mediterranean Sea after they refused to give up migrants to Libyan government forces in fear that they would be abused.
The EU, under guidance from the UN, issued sanctions on the 14th June against human traffickers and smugglers operating in Libya. This is part of the EU’s larger aim to impose harsher measures against migrant smugglers to try and reduce illegal migration. The EU also discusses developing regional disembarkation platforms for people saved at sea.
EU member states agree on the 29th June to send €3 billion to Turkey to support Syrian refugees
EU leaders call upon the European Council to develop a set of measures to strengthen inter country cooperation in the fight against migrant smugglers.
The EU further criticises Austria’s right-wing government for not signing the recent UN Global Migration Pact.
On the 12th November, Bulgaria pulls out of UN global migration pact.
On the 21st November, Poland joins Bulgaria and pulls out of UN global migration pact claiming – in support of the conerns of Austria and Hungary – that the pact would only intensify problems with illegal immigration.
On the 16th December, Belgium’s far-right party Vlaams Belang protests the UN global migration pact, which turns violent and 90 people are arrested.
The rescue ship Aquarius – responsible for saving more than 10,000 migrants – ends its operations. A representative from the charity Medecins Sans Frontieres stated that the suspension of Aquarius’ activities was a dark day, claiming the Europe had not only failed to rescue migrants but had also sabotaged the attempts by other member states.
Frontex claims that the number of illegal migrants entering Europe had dropped to its lowest in 5 years, partially due to anti-immigration laws in countries closing their borders. It was highlighted that more migrants started to use the western Mediterranean route into Spain, witnessing a trend of people migrating from western-African countries such as Mali and Guinea.
On the 9th January, Malta formalises an agreement with EU member states to allocate 49 migrants of whom had been stranded on boats in the sea amid row on who would take them.
The leader of the Italian far-right group Five Star Movement blames France’s colonisation of Africa for the influx of migration to Europe. The French foreign ministry summoned the Italian envoy after accusing France of creating poverty in Africa and thus fuelling the migration crisis.
On the 29th January, as Paris struggles to handle the migration crisis, French police start the process of clearing migrant camps in the city which contain over 2,300 migrants.
Despite low arrivals of illegal immigration into Europe, Frontex argues that stronger border controls are needed. Executive Director Fabrice Leggeri stated that illegal immigration did not warrant a burning crisis.
On the 6th March, EU Commissioner Dimitris Avramopolos states that the European Migration Crisis is ‘over’, despite migration being still the main political talking point around Europe, including Brexit. The European Commission’s first vice-president, Frans Timmermans, has stated that, although migration levels are down from those witnessed in 2015, structural problems still persist.
In response to the EU Commission’s statement, the EU states that Operation Sophia’s mandate will be extended for 6 months but its maritime operations will cease. The initiative – created in 2015 to save more than 10,000 lives in the Mediterranean – will only utilise air patrols instead.
Further in response to the EU Commission’s comments, various charities have accused the EU of neglecting refugees at sea. A representative from Doctors Without Borders argued that people dying at sea served as the EU’s form of deterrence for migration.
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 at their ports.
Libya’s prime minister warns that Europe could witness a new surge of migrants and refugees following ongoing conflict in the country.
German chancellor Angela Merkel defends her open border policy which has seen more than 1 million refugees enter Germany since 2014.
More than 70 migrants are feared dead trying to reach the Mediterranean Sea from Tunisia. Marking the deadliest shipwreck of 2019 so far, the cause of migration is said to be from the ongoing conflict in Libya, thus potentially sparking a new wave of migration.
25 migrants from Iraq and Iran are rescued on their way to England. The incident highlights a resurge of migrants attempting to travel into Europe.
U.S president Donald Trump praises Hungary’s anti-immigration policy and criticises other EU member states for their open-border policies.
A week later, on the 21st May, far-right leadership in Italy demands militarised ports to prevent immigration.
In the attempts to curb on migration routes into Europe across the Balkans, Frontex deploys its first anti-immigration mission in a non-European Union country.
A new report from the IOM showed that almost 20,000 migrants and refugees have traversed the Mediterranean Sea to reach Europe in 2019 so far. The growing number of deaths – over 500 – illustrates the ongoing severity of the crisis.
The UK’s border force intercepts a record number of 75 migrants off the coast of Kent. Various MPs have quoted the ongoing rise of migrant numbers as signifying the severity of the migrant crisis in Europe.
The Libyan coastguard rescues over 150 illegal migrants attempting to cross the Mediterranean into Europe. The ongoing conflict in Tripoli is argued to play a role in the increase of migration towards Europe.
In a case filed towards the International Criminal Court (ICC), lawyers have attacked the EU’s deterrence-based anti-immigration policy beyond all reasonable doubt as leading to the deaths of over 12,000 migrants. Lawyers bringing the case forward to the ICC have argued that the EU’s anti-immigration stance has transformed the Mediterranean Sea into the world’s deadliest migration route.
Following the EU’s anti-immigration stance, aid charities, such as Doctors Without Borders, have urged EU member states to evacuate migrants living in unpleasant detention centres in Libya and to stop investing in the Libyan coastguard. Some migrants in Libyan detention centres are subject to torture and frequently have their human rights violated.
Carlotta Sami, spokeswoman for the UN’s refugee agency correlated the lack of NGO rescue boats with an increase in migrant deaths at sea, describing the probability of deaths as the highest ever recorded.
More than 200 migrants are intercepted off the coast of Libya by the Libyan coastguard. The intercepted migrants are given humanitarian aid and sent to refugee camps in Tripoli.
A rescue boat carrying migrants is held hostage by Italian authorities after the boat is refused entry to Italian ports. Sparking claims of criminalising humanitarian rescue, the rescue boat’s charity argues that European institutions have failed to safeguard people at sea.
The International Federation of the Red Cross demonstrates the inhuman conditions present in one of Bosnia’s refugee camps; labelled the ‘jungle camp’. Migrants are subjected to diseases and food shortages, both of which are increasing due to the constant rate of migrants arriving at the camp.
In what the UN is describing as a war crime, a Libyan detention camp holding migrants attempting to cross the Mediterranean into Europe was shelled by forces loyal to General Khalifa Haftar, according to the Libyan government. Reports also claim that fleeing migrants were fired on, prompting calls for Libya to shut down its migrant detention centres.
The Alan Kurdi rescue ship – named after the 3-year-old Syrian Kurdish refugee found dead on a Turkish coast – rescues over 44 migrants stranded in the Mediterranean Sea. Malta originally agreed to take in the migrants though later agreed a deal with the EU to relocate various migrants to other nations.
Italy closes one of the largest migrant centres in Europe which previously hosted more than 4,000 migrants. This follows the latest populist trend in Italy to reduce the number of migrants and refugees in the country.
Influenced by the airstrikes that hit a migrant detention centres in Tripoli, the IOM and UNHCR have called on Libya to end the process of detaining refugees and migrants rescued at sea. The UN agencies have argued that migrants should not be taken to Libya as a ‘safe port’, whereby EU NGO boats rescuing migrants at sea should not be penalised for saving lives. In additional, European powers are urged to provide more evacuation and resettlement places to support incoming migrants
Spain’s government approves 30m Euros in assistance to Morocco to help curb on migration. In total, Morocco has received 140m from EU funds to prevent migration.
Talks in Paris have resulted in a migrant resettlement plan between 8 EU countries. French President Macron, however, argued against providing EU funding for countries that do not share the burden, largely aimed at Italy. The resettlement plan is a solidarity mechanism against increasing migration to Europe.
The European Commission brings a legal case against Hungary’s anti-immigration legislation. The “Stop Soros” legislation is described as criminalising activities in support of asylum applications. Hungarian representatives have responded by arguing that the country is fully prepared to defend the legislation.
Representatives from Turkey have accused EU member states of abandoning the EU-Turkey migrant deal signed in 2016, which promised visa-free travel for Turkish nationals in return for migration control. The EU, however, according to Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu, has failed to deliver on such promises. Turkey currently hosts over 3 million migrants attempting to cross into Europe.
Two boats carrying 300 migrants capsized off the Libyan coast killing over 150 people. Although over half that amount had been successfully rescued, the incident has been described as the worst migrant tragedy to occur in 2019. UN representatives have furthered calls for EU member states to reinstall Mediterranean rescue missions.
Over 130 migrants are left stranded in Italy port after Italian authorities refused to let them disembark. Italian minister Matteo Salvini has stressed that the migrants would not be allowed to disembark until other European countries agreed to take them in. This incident follows French President Emmanuel Macron’s recent deal with EU member states to resettle migrants throughout Europe.
France, Germany, Ireland, Luxembourg and Portugal have agreed to take in more than 130 migrants stranded in Italy port. The migrants trapped were refused to disembark by Italian authorities until other countries in the EU agreed to take them in.
Von der Leyen, newly appointed head of the European Commission, has called for a new view on migration and suggested the enactment of a new EU migration deal. Von der Leyen urged for new procedures that are both effective and humane, noticing that migration is inherent in a globalised world.
More than 120 migrants have been stranded at sea for 8 days aboard the Spanish humanitarian vessel Open Arms. Italy has threatened a fine of £46,000 if the ship attempts to dock in Italian waters, whilst no European government has accepted responsibility of taking in the migrants. EU member states, such as Spain, have argued that there is no obligation to receive migrants.
The UN’s Refugee Agency (UNHCR) declares at least 40 migrants dead after boat capsizes off the coast of Libya. The UN also announces that following the deaths, almost 900 have lost their lives in 2019 attempting to cross the Mediterreanean. Vincent Cochetel of the UNHCR states that, “we must not simply accept these tragedies as inevitable”.
After more than 600 refugees arrived in Lesbos on 30th August 2019, Greek authorities have announced the start of an evacuation operation for the more than 1000 migrants currently residing in Lesbos. Greece has been struggling with the increase in migration, with the camp in Lesbos being hardly hit with overpopulation, violence and subsequent human rights violations.
French President Emmanuel Macron lead calls for a new system for redistributing migrants as they appear in Europe. The calls
echo a resurgence in migration to Europe, a reference to the continuous arrivals in an overcrowded camp in Lesbos.
EU Member States, notably Greece and Turkey, attempt to fix the degrading EU-Turkey deal to curb migration flows to Europe. German politicians have proposed increased EU funds for Turkey whilst Greece’s prime minister urges Turkey to take responsibility to control migration flows. The prime minister also accuses Turkey as exploiting the migration crisis in Europe to receive benefits from EU Member States.
Hundreds of migrants trapped on an overcrowded camp in the Greek island of Lesbos are transported by Greek authorities to reduce overcrowding in the country.
Turkish President Erdogan warns that he will flood Europe with Syrian migrants if EU member states oppose Turkish military advance against Kurdish forces.
Over 90 migrants are intercepted off the English Chanel in what is recorded as the highest number of migrants in one day.
An EU court ruled that the Czech Republic, Poland, and Hungary broke the European Union law when they refused to take in their quotas of migrants in 2015 as was mandated.
The governments of the Netherlands and Switzerland have pledged to aid Greece with the migrant crisis, with the Netherlands offering to set up a mobile clinic for migrants while Switzerland has agreed to take in 22 unaccompanied minors from the camps. Ten cities within the EU, including Amsterdam and Barcelona, have written to European Union leaders offering to shelter migrants trapped in camps on the border between Turkey and Greece.
A ship carrying migrants bound for Italy reportedly sank off the coast of Tunisia
sometime between June 4 th and June 5 th . Local authorities were alerted by fishermen
and have recovered 61 bodies thus far. Migrant sea crossings from Tunisia have risen
by 150% according to the United Nations Refugee Agency.
Greece’s Migration and Asylum Committee announced that they would be extending the
COVID-19 lockdown for refugee camps until July 5 th despite restrictions lifting in other
areas of the country. This leaves over the 120000 asylum seekers trapped in the camps
and unable to escape the poor living conditions there.
International NGO Oxfam recently condemned a new asylum law in Greece as being
“inhumane” after migrants were hit with a wave of deportations across Greece. The new
law reportedly aimed to shorten the asylum process so that deportations could be
carried out more quickly and to make it easier for applications to be rejected based on
Representatives from Pakistan, Iran, Afghanistan, and the UNCHR hosted a hosted a
high-profile event and called for stronger partnerships among countries in helping host
refugees from Afghanistan, one of the world’s longest-running displacement crises.
A Lebanese cargo ship recently rescued a group of 52 migrants at sea and was carrying
them to Italy, however they were denied port by both Italy and Malta. Both countries
refused to take the refugees in.
The Greek Government recently began to evict more than 1100 refugee patients who are under the care of Doctors Without Borders/Medecine Sans Frontiers. Many are those with serious medical conditions who need constant treatment and care. The government has thus far ignored calls from the organization to provide accommodations.
UN officials recently announced that they would be creating emergency shelters to
house refugees who lost were left homeless after a fire that destroyed thousands of
tents at a migrant camp. Officials reported that they are working quickly and expect to
be able to provide housing for all 12000 refugees.
At an international conference in Damascus, Syrian leader Bashar Al-Assad claimed
that he desires to see the return of the more than 5.5 million Syrian refugees to their
native country but stated that Western sanctions and governments are blocking his
efforts. The conference was boycotted by both the EU and the United States. It should
also be noted that many refugees fled for fear of their own safety from Assad’s own
government, which has been accused of a host of human rights violations ranging from
suppression of free speech, forces disappearances, and war crimes.
16 year-old Jeancy Kimbenga has accused the Greek government of forcibly returning
him to Turkish waters after reaching Greece by boat. Pushbacks, as they are called,
without consideration of circumstance and possibility of asylum application are illegal.
The government of Greece maintains that it does not resort to such measures,
operating only within the confines of international law. However, Jeancy and several
others reported that they landed on the island of Lesbos and managed to make some
headway inland before being captured by authorities, beaten by masked men, and then
forcibly driven out to sea before being left on life rafts to drift towards Turkish waters.
A recent EU report of migrant camps in the Aegean islands compiled by psychosocial support experts has found widespread mental health issues, with up to one in three refugees having contemplated suicide while at the camps. This coincides with a report by the International Rescue Committee that found that harsh measures imposed by the EU’s containment protocols have contributed to rising suicide attempts.
At the border to Croatia, thousands of migrants looking to cross are stuck in makeshift shelters as temperatures drop dangerously low, as much as -15 degrees Celsius. Officials have erected heated tents to alleviate the problem but as of yet have not been able to house all afflicted by the harsh weather.
Foreign Minister of Bosnia, Bisera Turkovic, declared recently that the EU should join Greece and Bosnia in tightening borders and preventing the arrival of refugees. Turkovic did not mention actions that might alleviate the suffering of migrants currently living in poor conditions at the border.
Following the forced diversion of Ryanair flight 4978, Lithuania has reported
that Belarus has allowed a large influx of migrants and refugees to flee over its border with Lithuania and enter the EU. In response, Lithuania has reported that it will be building a border wall to prevent the influx of
The EU recently denounced president Alexander Lukashenko and Belarus for
state-sponsored mass migration of asylum seekers into Lithuania. With a
potential humanitarian crisis unfolding due to the Taliban’s seizure of power
in Afghanistan, EU leaders have sought to shore up border security.
Lukashenko has stated that he will no longer hold back refugees due to
sanctions imposed by the EU.
Since the Taliban seized control of Afghanistan, many EU leaders are
worried about the onset of a new refugee crisis. Greece in particular has
stated that its border forces are on high alert to avoid, as government
spokesman Yannis Economou stated, “-a reliving of the scenes of 2015”
when a mass of refugees came into the EU from Syria and neighbouring
Poland has declared a state of emergency over the influx of migrants coming
into their borders from neighbouring Belarus, accusing the country of
engaging in “hybrid warfare” by funnelling migrants towards the borders of
the EU. This has been made worse by the recent events in Afghanistan,
which have displaced untold numbers of people and sparked fears that
another migrant crisis will unfold in Europe. Poland has already taken to
erecting border fortifications and military outposts along the border.
On Tuesday, 12 October, the Polish parliament passed a draft
bill that authorizes the creation of a border wall between Poland and Belarus. The cost of building the wall is estimated at over 1.6 billion zlotys (€353 million).
German authorities reported that the number of arriving
refugees seeking asylum via Poland and Belarus has increased
dramatically in the past few weeks. The German government
announced on Wednesday that it would take measures to curb
migration on the country’s eastern border.
On 1 November, German Police claimed that they have listed
over 5,000 unauthorized border crossings in October by
people arriving from Belarus. As of last weekend alone, German police said that there had been nearly 570 unauthorized people crossing from Belarus through Poland into Germany. Of the 570, a majority had Belarusian visas or entry stamps. Germany has accused Belarus of using the refugees to destabilize its borders
On 2 and 3 of November, Turkish security forces rescued over 400 refugees from the Aegean Sea after Greece pushed them back by building a 40-kilometer (25-mile) fence and security system. Of the nearly nearly 400 refugees, Turkish security forces noted that 258 of them were asylum seekers and 100 were irregular migrants. Turkey has promises to bolster its border defenses to prevent an influx and has no intention of become “Europe’s migrant storage unit.”
On 2 November, 350 Bulgarian troops were sent to Bulgaria’s
border with Turkey to “back up the border police.” The
Bulgarian Interior Ministry explained that over 6,500
refugees had already tried to illegally cross into Bulgaria this
year. As of recent, Bulgaria has built a fence along its border with Turkey and dispatched 400 soldiers to Bulgaria’s borders with Turkey and Greece to defend against illegal border crossings.
The situation at Poland and Belarus’ borders has worsened
significantly after a group of around 2,000 refugees entered
Poland illegally via Belarus on November 8; reports show
that several of the refugees managed to break through and
fought back against border control. “This is a challenge to the whole of the European Union,” Angela Merkel, Germany’s
Chancellor, commented on the situation. “And this is not a
migration crisis. This is the attempt of an authoritarian regime to try to destabilize its democratic neighbors.”
On the Greek island of Lesbos Pope Francis I has condemned the suffering of migrants in Europe a “shipwreck of civilization” that European governments need to address. The Pope said that conditions have not improved since he first visited the island in 2016, and decried the fear-mongering of politicians preying on the fears of their constituents by demonizing migrants.
UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi released a statement via the UN Refugee Agency that deplores the violence and mistreatment many migrants face when coming to Europe, and urged European governments to do more to protect refugees and asylum-seekers.
Though no fault of innocent Ukrainians trying to escape an unimaginably destructive war, Director of the Migration Policy Centre Andrew Geddes and coordinator of the Middle East and North Africa programme and the European Council on Foreign Relations Kelly Petillo have criticized the shift in policy that some European governments have enacted that was not afforded to many refugees from Asia and Africa.
The United Nations Children’s Fund, better known as UNICEF, reported that 4.3 million children of a total of 7.5 million child population have been displaced in Ukraine since Russia’s invasion.
The Ukrainian representative of the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees Karolina Lindholm Billing released a statement saying at least 10 million of Ukraine’s 44 million population has been displaced since the war began a month earlier. The statement summarizes the work the UNHCR is doing while noting the difficulties the situation brings as the number of refugees overwhelms their resources.
A month and a half into the conflict, more than 11 million Ukrainians have been displaced, with around 4.5 million fleeing abroad. According to the UNHCR, 2.5 million have fled to Poland, 650,000 have fled to Romania, 400,000 have fled to Moldova, with many others fleeing to other countries across Europe and around the world, including the United States and Canada.
The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees’s Assistant High Commissioner Gillian Triggs released a statement expressing gratitude for the huge amount of volunteer assistance for Ukrainian refugees, but warns neighboring governments to be vigilant about traffickers and other criminal elements who could prey on the vulnerable Ukrainian refugees, of whom the UNHCR notes are 90% women and children.
The UK’s “Homes for Ukraine” plan has received criticism from a number of rights groups as well as from the UNHCR over increasing reports of Ukrainian women being either paired up with single men looking to exploit them, or being forced to search for hosts themselves on unregulated social media sites. The UNHCR released a statement imploring UK authorities to amend their plan in order to ensure vulnerable Ukrainian women are paired with families or couples who can adequately support them. This is only the most recent criticism the UK government has faced in regards to its treatment of Ukrainian refugees.
UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson unveiled a deal with Rwanda to send illegal migrants coming into the UK to the east African nation, with the stated goal of mitigating human trafficking. A wide array of critics, from the UNHCR to British opposition parties to rights groups and immigration experts, have sharply criticized every aspect of this plan, including its high price (£120 million), the failure of similar schemes in the past, the poor human rights record of Rwanda, and the simple fact that the plan does nothing to address the root causes of human trafficking.
Frontex has said that the number of migrants attempting to enter the EU without authorization has reached more than 40,000 this year, the highest since 2016. This comes amidst growing political squabbling over the agency as a vote on its budget continues in the EU. Frontex has faced many criticisms, from being accused of lacking direction and accountability to even being called a terrorist organization by the Turkish Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu.
In an extensive report from a number of disease and immigration experts, including the Migrant Health Research Group, Institute for Infection and Immunity, and St George’s University of London, researchers note the critically low rates of vaccination and immunization in many migrant groups in Europe, from both COVID-19 as well as diseases like mumps and measles. The report calls on European governments to implement more initiatives to increase vaccination rates among their migrant populations, with suggestions including culturally sensitive outreach programs, improving education, literacy, and resources, and increasing safeguards so migrants feel safer coming to authorities.
Two boats carrying migrants, one coming from Libya and one from Lebanon, sank in the Mediterranean, leading to an unknown number of deaths, with several dozen confirmed while many remain missing. These boats were headed for Europe, along with dozens more this year leaving from North Africa and the Levant towards Italy, Greece, and other ports in Southern Europe.
Though incumbent President Emmanuel Macron won the Presidential elections by a sizeable margin, far-right anti-immigrant candidate Marie Le Pen won 40% of the votes cast in the election, 7% more than her last run in 2017. This percentage and her increase in votes from the last elections, around 3 million, are among the highest in the history of the far-right in France.
More than 8 million, around double their initial projection of 4.4 million in late February for the entire war, will likely flee Ukraine before the war ends, the UNHCR projects. This number, of whom the UNHCR says is 90% women and children, does not include the 7.7 million who are already internally displaced, a number that will also rise as the war continues.
After his office released a statement condemning the plan, UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi personally laid out his opposition to the UK’s plan to send asylum seekers to Rwanda, laying out specific points of concern and urging the UK’s government to reconsider. The High Commissioner said the plan, “undermines established international refugee protection law and practices,” and that “the UK’s intention to externalize its obligations to protect refugees and asylum seekers to other countries… run counter to the letter and spirit of the Refugee Convention, to which the UK is a party.”
Around 3 million of the over 5 million refugees who have left Ukraine have fled to Poland, its neighbor to the northwest. Despite valiant, even unprecedented accommodation by Polish authorities and NGOs, after two full months of war the country is beginning to strain. Warsaw’s mayor describes the city, which has taken 300,000 refugees as being “full…we’re at capacity,” and many in Poland express concern in interviews with the LA Times of an anti-refugee backlash from the Polish government and population.
Head of Frontex Fabrice Leggeri has resigned after an investigation by the EU anti-fraud agency (OLAF) that found evidence of illegal migrant pushbacks, turning a blind eye to human rights abuses, and other undisclosed illegal activities. German Interior Ministry spokesperson Maximilian Kall described Leggeri’s departure as an opportunity for a “fresh start.”
The UNHCR reports that in 2021, 1,924 people died or went missing in the Mediterranean, and an additional 1,153 died or went missing on the Northwest African maritime route to the Canary Islands, an increase of 1,301 from 2020. A UNHCR spokesperson said that unsafe, overcapacity boats made fatalities more likely, while also noting that migrants were also at risk of other dangers, including extrajudicial killings, arbitrary detention, sexual and gender-based violence, and forced labour and marriage.
Members of the European Parliament, in a session where they renewed the budgets of several other European agencies, refused to sign off on Frontex’s continued funding in response to reports that the agency failed to uphold human rights standards in Europe. In response to former Head Fabrice Leggeri’s resignation earlier this week, Belgian MEP said, “The resignation of [Frontex] director last week does not address structural problems, nor the agency’s contribution to the Fortress Europe policy.” As the Guardian reports, the refusal is a delay that, “has no financial consequences for the agency,” but serves as, “a form of political censure that empowers MEPs to issue recommendations to its new director.”
In separate statements, Human Rights Watch and Medecins Sans Frontieres, known in English-speaking countries as Doctors Without Borders, petitioned both the Ukrainian and Lithuanian governments to release detained asylum-seekers. Human Rights Watch says that asylum-seekers detained near the frontlines of the fighting are in danger and being held arbitrarily, while Doctors Without Borders says that over 2500 asylum-seekers are being arbitrarily detained in Lithuania after crossing last year from Belarus.
The British law firm InstaLaw has opened a legal challenge to the UK Conservative Party’s plan to send asylum seekers to Rwanda, according to the Guardian, for breaking international law and running against the UN refugee convention that the UK is party too, as well as breaching British data protection law. InstaLaw is petitioning on behalf of an Iranian asylum seeker who was at risk of being deported to Rwanda, before the UK Home Office dropped their attempts.
Belgian State Secretary for Asylum and Migration Sammy Mahdi announced the introduction of a new biometric database for migrants to which all EU states would have access. This database will be in addition to the European Union’s Entry/Exit System (EES) being built this year with the same goal of cataloguing and storing data about migrants in EU nations, specifically for determining if migrants are overstaying their visas or if they entered without one.
The European Council on Refugees and Exiles released a report detailing its findings that the Maltese government has greatly decreased efforts to rescue migrant boats, an increasing number of pushback incidents, denial of entry for arbitrary reasons, and prolonged detention in unsafe holding areas, also noting the obstacles the Maltese government has enacted to prevent asylum-seekers from appealing their treatment or reaching lawyers and NGOs.
Judge acquits migrant Andrea Costa, the president of migration non-profit Baobab Experience, of charges of facilitating illegal immigration, considered a form of smuggling. Costa’s case is only the most recent in a long series of criminal cases brought by European governments against migrant activists, including Greece, France, Malta, and Italy, in a strategy described by migration expert Eleanor Paynter as the “criminalizing aid.”
In a referendum Swiss voters voted to increases its funds for Frontex, allowing the nation to remain in the EU’s immigration zone, despite the agency’s controversial human rights accusations. Though not an EU member, Switzerland is a part of the Schengen zone that allows for easier movement between European states, and if the vote had failed the Swiss faced potentially leaving the zone and harming relations with the EU.
Doctors Without Borders released a statement saying that over a 72-hour period from 9 May, the organization rescued over 400 migrants heading to Europe on boats in seven operations. The statement said that many were victims of sexual exploitation and abuse, and that almost half were children.
Francesco Rocca, President of the Red Cross, released a statement decrying the immigration policies of European countries that welcomed Ukrainians while abusing and decrying non-European migrants. Rocca said that, “those who are fleeing violence, those who are seeking protection, should be treated equally.” He continued by saying all people escaping from conflict around the world should receive the same empathy and accommodation being provided to Ukrainian refugees, as “the political, public and humanitarian response to the Ukraine crisis has shown what is possible when humanity and dignity comes first, when there is global solidarity.”
Along with a number of other official recommendations, the Council of Europe called upon European governments to provide greater legal, social, and economic protections to at risk migrant populations, in particular women and girls. The Council encouraged member states to acknowledge that, “women and girls are exposed to a continuum of violence that is specific to them because they are women, or which affects them disproportionately,” and in response these governments should, “take measures to enhance the ability of undocumented migrant women and girls to access their fundamental rights, and for those of them who are victims of violence against women or trafficking in human beings, to report the crimes without fear of removal.”
UN migration agency the International Organization for Migration and the European Union’s Humanitarian Aid wing, released a statement on Monday announcing their increased efforts to respond to provide assistance and aid to Yemeni people displaced by the ongoing war, including migrants and the communities that host them.
The UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi announced that after the flight of 8 million refugees fleeing the war in Ukraine, the number of people displaced by conflict and persecution tops a record 100 million. Grandi called this, “a record that should never have been set,” and hoped the world would see this as “a wake-up call to resolve and prevent destructive conflicts, end persecution, and address the underlying causes that force innocent people to flee their homes.” The UNHCR notes that the number of displaced people would make their group the 14th most populous country in the world.
Human Rights Watch accuses Bulgaria of regularly committing illegal migrant pushbacks. The organization implored the EU make sure they don’t happen again.
The Italian government opened a port in Sicily to the Ocean Viking rescue ship, which rescued 294 migrants in the Mediterranean over 10 days. But the charity SOS Mediterranee noted that opening the port took over a week and that migrants, many of whom were traumatized from the journey and required medical attention, were forced to wait at sea. Communications officer on the Ocean Viking criticized the delay, saying, “The wait of over a week for a port to disembark these people was senseless.”
European rights watchdog Statewatch released a report saying that Frontex has not met promised transparency goals and has continued to withhold requested documents, despite a similar complaint from Statewatch last year, and that Frontex was not in line with EU rules or past agreements. This comes after its caretaker head of Frontex, who took over after his predecessor resigned over rights abuses, says the agency is experiencing low morale and many in Frontex are refusing to work, saying that, “the agency is and was traumatized.”
Interior Minister of Cyprus Nicos Nouris claims that countries along migration routes in the south of Europe will see over 150,000 migrants by the end of this year. This number is around 30,000 more than last year, but still significantly less than the 2015 high that topped over 1 million. Nouris attributes this newest surge to the developing and worsening food crisis brought on by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
Human Rights Watch calls on the Polish government to end its violent tactics used against migrants attempting to enter from Belarus, including pushbacks and beatings. HRW notes that conditions in Belarus are much worse for migrants, and to violently force them to return violates EU law and is unnecessarily cruel.
UN High Commissioner for Refugees said that Mediterranean crossings have become more deadly this year compared to 2020 and 2021, estimating that around 3,231 migrants have died or gone missing this year. The agency noted that the number of deaths in the latter year are comparable with those of 2014, even though the number of migrants were significantly higher in 2014.
During meeting of EU member state interior ministers to discuss migration, a majority of EU states agreed on what they call a voluntary solidarity mechanism. The mechanism has been described by EU ministers as a plan to accept a larger number of refugees, including those rescued at sea. Though the agreement is non-binding and certain countries have already voiced their opposition to it, migration are at least tentatively optimistic at first and long overdue step towards more comprehensive migration reform in the EU.
In a data visualization map created by the association, the World Economic Forum shows the number of Ukrainian refugees that have fled the country since the war began. This includes 3.5 million to Poland, 961,000 to Romania, 644,000 to Hungary, around 450,000 to Moldova and Slovakia, and notable over 919,000 to Russia itself, though this last number includes ethnic Russians who have emigrated from the Donbas as well as Ukrainians forcibly removed from Ukraine and sent in “humanitarian” columns to Russia.
The European NGO described EU government as in a “race to the bottom,” noting that illegal pushbacks and a lack of safe routes have sharply increased the death toll amongst migrants and asylum seekers. The association cites Poland, Lithuania, and Greece as notable examples, while calling on the entire EU to end migrant pushbacks and substantively reform their migration policy.
UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders Mary Lawlor says that in Greece, humanitarians, activists, and human rights defenders documenting the mistreatment of migrants are subject to smear campaigns by the government and often treated like criminals due to hostility towards migrants and those who help them.
Human Rights Watch has insisted that the Spanish and Moroccan governments investigate the deaths of at least 24 migrants on 24 June at the Melilla-Morocco Border and hold those responsible accountable.
After months of reports from NGOs, humanitarian organizations, and migrant rights groups, an EU migration official has told the Greek government they must end violent pushbacks and deportations or lose key funding from the EU.
After issuing a condemnation of pushbacks, rights abuses, and illegal detention by the Lithuanian government on 27 June, Amnesty International called the EU’s ruling of Lithuanian national migration law as incompatible with EU law a “milestone decision” in EU migration policy. The court struck down the Lithuanian laws and upheld many of Amnesty International’s policy suggestions regarding ending detention centers and other reforms.
Strongman populist president of Hungary Viktor Orban, as well as those of his government, continued to make antisemitic conspiracy theories that Jewish billionaire George Soros is fomenting the waves of migration facing Europe in an apparent attempt to replace Europeans.
21 Malian people, including 3 children, drowned off the coast of Libya during a migrant crossing headed for Europe, while the remaining 61 were taken back to Libya. These are only the latest in an increasingly deadly year for the dangerous migrant crossing from Libya to southern Europe.
According to an investigation compiling the reports of hundreds of migrant officials from the UK, Belgium, France, the Netherlands, and Germany, up to 10,000 migrants were smuggled across the English Channel in the last 18 months, being done by a single smuggling operation.
Balkan Insight, otherwise known as BIRN, has accused Frontex of purusing a long term policy of expanding mass surveillance at Europe’s borders, including not just criminals but witnesses and victims of crimes.
The European Court of Human Rights ruled against the government of Greece in a case where 11 migrants drowned off the coast of Greece. Specifically, the court ruled that Greek authorities violated Articles 2 and 3, which protectsss the rights to life and which prohibits inhuman or degrading treatment respectively, of the European Convention on Human Rights, ordering the government to pay €330,000 to victims.
The European Union and the government of Morocco released a statement that they will expand their cooperation to combat smuggling, following the deaths of 23 migrants in Spanish Melilla. This accord was written between EU commissioner for home affairs Ylva Johansson and the Interior Ministers of Spain and Morocco Fernando Grande-Marlaska and Abdelouafi Laftit.
Frontex executive director Aija Kalnaja says that the food crisis evolving from the disruptions to global supply chains caused by the war in Ukraine is already precipitating a huge way of migrants from Africa and Asia. EU Home Affairs Commissioner Ylva Johansson also urged that the EU needs to be proactive in dealing with this potential wave, rather than reacting after the crisis has come.
British Member of Parliament and chair of the home affairs committee Diana Johnson said that there is “no clear evidence” that the government of Boris Johnson’s policy of sending illegal migrants to Rwanda has deterred migrants from attempting to reach the UK. The report from the committee says this increase may be due to the plan encouraging migrants to move now before the crossing will be difficult in the future, as well as stating that 166 people have died or gone missing.
An independent report done by Chief Inspector of Borders and Immigration David Neal has found that the response of UK immigration officials has been inefficient and clearly shows they are overwhelmed by Channel crossings, describing the organization and data collection systems of immigration officials as “inexcusably awful,” and criticizing the Home Office for its slow response to Neal’s report.
Following a visit to Poland and Belarus, UN Special Rapporteur on the Human Rights of Migrants Feilpe González Morales noted the markedly dissimilar response to Ukrainian refugees compared to non-European migrants in Poland, and urged the government there to end its policies of violent pushbacks against refugees coming from Belarus.
Upon being returned to Lebanon after being prevented from applying for asylum, two Syrian refugees are filing a case against the government of Cyprus in the European Court of Human Rights over its pushback policies in an effort to end the deadly practice.
Nigerian ambulant salesman Alika Ogorchukwu was killed by an Italian man on the streets of Civitanova Marche. The motive remains unknown, but thousands have taken to the streets to protest the violence, including many from the Nigerian and sub-Saharan African community of the city.
Humanitarian organization World Vision released a report titled, “Warm Welcomes, Lurking Tensions,” warning of misinformation and xenophobic messaging being spread about Ukrainian refugees in Romania, Moldova, Poland and across central eastern Europe, saying, “children may face risks such as verbal and physical abuse between refugee and host communities, human trafficking and more as early as February 2023.”
NGOs in central Europe are reporting that Ukrainian refugees of Roman communities are being disproportionally mistreated by host countries, who deny that they are Ukrainian, placing them in substandard accommodations and denying them some of the aid set aside for Ukrainian refugees.
UNHCR reports that dozens of migrants remaining missing after a boat capsized off the Greek island of Rhodes. Though 29 people have been rescued, rescue operations continue in search of the remaining passengers as fear of rising death toll grows.
EU border agency Frontex stated that nearly three times the number of migrants have crossed through the Western Balkans than were recorded in July last year, while the central Mediterranean saw an increase of 44% compared to the first seven months of last year.
13 migrants have been sentenced in a Moroccan court to two and a half years in prison following a mass attempt to cross from Morocco to the Spanish enclave of Melilla. The Moroccan Association for Human Rights described Wednesday’s ruling as a “very harsh verdict which shows how the judiciary was mobilized in the service of migration policies at the expense of asylum-seeking migrants.”
Climate and migration experts warn of fresh waves of climate-induced migration from areas unprepared for climate change towards cities and across borders in the coming years, and urged politicians to prepare for this sooner rather than later.
In an interview with the Associated Press, UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi noted the successes of European governments in accommodating Ukrainian refugees, while criticizing the comparative poor treatment of other migrants and refugees from Asia and Africa, saying “if that’s possible for such a large number of people, and since that has proven so effective, why not use some of these approaches also for other people that are coming to knock at Europe’s doors?
Lithuanian Minister of Interior Agnė Bilotaitė stated the government’s intention to install monitoring systems along its border with Belarus by the end of the year during a visit to the newly constructed border wall separating the two nations. Tensions between the EU member states of Lithuania and Poland and their Russian aligned neighbor Belarus have been percolating for months, with the former two accusing the latter of flying in migrants and sending them to their western and northern borders.
AFP and Human Rights Watch report that EU border agencies are assisting Libyan patrol forces in intercepting and detaining migrants traveling to Europe, despite accusations that migrants face abuse, extortion, torture, and even death in Libyan detention centers.
Human Rights Watch said Frontex used a drone to provide information that “facilitates interceptions and returns to Libya … [despite] overwhelming evidence of torture and exploitation of migrants and refugees.”
The New Humanitarian claims EU courts in Greece and other border states are prosecuting asylum seekers and refugees with laws intended for smugglers to get harsher sentences, criticising hasty investigations and noting that when many of these smuggling cases are brought before higher courts with proper legal representation, the cases are often overturned or dismissed.
Lebanese politician and Member of Parliament Ashraf Rifi appealed to EU nations like Italy and Malta to assist in locating and rescuing a migrant ship that left Lebanon a week earlier and whose location has since become unknown.
EU states of Greece and Lithuania announce they will be expanding their respective border barriers meant to keep migrants out, with Greece extending a steel fence along their border with Turkey while Lithuania will continue building their border wall with Belarus, with both criticizing their respective neighbors for weaponizing migrants against them.
Five suspected smugglers have been arrested by EU officials in Belgium for allegedly using private jets to smuggle refugees and migrants from Turkey into cities like Rome and Brussels for €10,000. The plan apparently involved providing migrants from Iraq and Syria with false diplomatic papers from Caribbean countries, book them flights from Turkey to those Caribbean countries with a stopover in Europe, then declare their refugee status once in Europe.
UNHCR representative to Italy Chira Cardoletti announced via Twitter that six Syrian refugees, three of them children, were found dead along with 26 malnourished survivors on a migrant boat that arrived in Italy.
At least 86 migrants died after their migrant ship bound for Cyprus sunk of the coast of Syria. The survivors were transported to and given medical attention in northern Syria, but dozens still remain unaccounted for.
The Migration Affairs Minister of Greece Notis Mitarachi called on the EU to change its migrant movement laws that keep many asylum-seekers in border states to be more in line with laws adopted for Ukrainian refugees that allowed them to move throughout the EU, accusing the current arrangement of treating border states like “parking lots.”
With the victory of the staunchly right-wing Brothers of Italy party and their presidential candidate Giorgia Meloni, experts have noted the platform championed by this bloc appears highly hostile to migrants and asylum seekers, many of whom seek passage into Italy as a relatively easy EU country to cross into Europe from. Immigration experts speaking with the New Humanitarian predicted more pushbacks and port closures, as well as potential repeats of last months’ violent attacks on migrants in Italy.
Following a high-profile chase between Czech police and a van of migrants that resulted in warning shots, Czech border agencies say they are going to be increasing their security around the Slovak border, a move that echoes a similar increase in border security from neighboring Austria.
During a news conference with Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic and Austrian Chancellor Karl Nehammer, Hungarian strongman Viktor Orbán announced new measures the three countries will take to stem the flow of asylum seekers and migrants into the EU. These efforts will include increasing border security along Serbia’s border with North Macedonia, as well as deporting illegal migrants and creating areas outside the bloc’s borders to submit asylum requests.
UK Prime Minister Liz Truss wrote an op-ed in The Times, stating her goal to urge unity over energy security and migration at the first European Political Community (EPC) summit, where she will meet with the 27 leaders of the European Union and 17 leaders from the continent currently outside the bloc. Truss said she was proud of the work done in the UK to accommodate Ukrainian refugees, but called for more action on crime and illegal people smuggling.
The International Organization for Migration and officials from the EU held their ninth-annual EU-IOM Strategic Cooperation Meeting, with IOM releasing a statement summarizing the work accomplished during the meeting. The statement noted that the main topics were the continuing Ukrainian refugees fleeing Russia’s invasion, as well as the effect of climate change on migration and displacement.
After initially suspending the search due to poor weather conditions, Greek border officials are resuming their search for bodies and survivors from two migrant boats that sunk off the coast of Greece, leaving at least 22 asylum seekers confirmed dead.
UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi condemned Russia’s indiscriminate campaign of air and missile strikes against cities and civilian infrastructure across Ukraine, and expressed his fear that these attacks will prompt more displacement as homes are destroyed and infrastructure needed to keep Ukrainians safe in the winter is damaged.
Greek border patrol officials said they rescued 92 immigrants, all men and naked and some with injuries, along the Evros river that serves as the border between Greece and Turkey. Greek and EU officials are investigating the situation, while Greek Migration Minister Notis Mitarachi sharply criticized Turkey, who has yet to release any statement.
Following previous discussions between Hungary, Austria, and Serbia, the EU Home Affairs Commissioner Ylva Johansson met with ministers from Hungary, Austria, and Czechia to discuss the migrant route coming through Serbia that they say is affecting them. Politico also said that European Commission Vice-President Margaritis Schinas “is also expected to debrief ministers about his recent tour of Western Balkan capitals, including Belgrade.” Blame is being placed on Serbia’s lax visa policy that allows people from many countries ability to travel into Serbia without a visa, where they can then travel north into the EU.
Human Rights Watch released a report claiming Turkey illegally and arbitrarily deported hundreds of asylum seekers back into Syria from February to July of this year, with the watchdog organization accusing Turkey of violating international law, and that Turkish officials are attempting to simply push Syrian refugees into northern Syria without justification. HRW then called on the EU to reconsider their funding of Turkish border efforts.
Serbia has maintained a visa-free travel policy with a number of nations, including Burundi, Cuba, India, and others, which allows people from these countries to travel to Serbia without a visa, and then they can travel north and west into the EU. Serbian officials say they are changing Burundi’s travel status to require travelers from there to have visa, but a Serbian human rights lawyer Nikola Kovacevic says this route of migration represents a tiny fraction of migrants coming through Serbia, and that most still come via land.
Politico claims to have seen a draft document currently in the works by Czech officials to reform the EU’s migrant policy to allow for the voluntary relocation of migrants around the EU by its member states. In what Politico quotes as, “flexible solidarity,” member states will be able to decide whether to take in asylum seekers or offer financial help to countries facing a migration influx. The plan has yet to be officially brought before EU representatives in Brussels.
Greek officials off the island of Evia continue their search for the dozens still missing from the sinking of a migrant ship. So far 10 men have been rescued, but Greek coast guard spokesman Nikos Kokkalas said as many as 68 people were on the boat according to survivors.
Nearly 1,000 migrants stuck in the Mediterranean as Italy’s right-wing interior ministry refuses to answer pleas from humanitarian groups to open their ports to three ships of migrants. New Italian Interior Minister Matteo Piantedosi has laid the groundwork for refusing humanitarian vessels in Italian ports while telling other countries to open theirs instead.
In a statement, the European Commission called on its member states to open their ports “at the nearest place of safety” for the final migrant ship still stranded in the Mediterranean, noting the danger of the passengers onboard and stating, “the legal obligation to rescue and to ensure the safety of life at sea is clear and unequivocal, irrespective of the circumstances that lead people to be in a situation of distress.”
Without an explanation for its change in policy, the Italian government has allowed three of the four migrant ships stranded in the Mediterranean, with the fourth, the Ocean Viking, headed for France following calls from the European Commission and international rights groups. But following Italy’s Prime Minister prematurely stating France would take the ship before the government had confirmed, the French government registered its frustration with their Italian counterparts, with French ministers calling their refusal, “unacceptable,” and “incomprehensible,” warning of a rift in relations.
The French and British governments are reportedly set to agree on increased joint efforts to stem migrant crossings across the English Channel. According to the Telegraph, the deal will see a larger number of French officials and volunteers stopping boats in the Channel.
The four EU member states of Italy, Greece, Malta, and Cyprus released a joint statement that called on other EU countries to provide more assistance with migrants and asylum seekers, following Italy’s several day standoff over the Ocean Viking migrant ship and France’s subsequent withdrawal from the solidarity mechanism meant to allow migrants from border nations traveling to other EU states.
The governments of Austria, Hungary, and Serbia, the former two being EU member states, met in Belgrade to affirm their agreed upon border policies, including reducing the amount of free entries into Serbia and constructing more border barriers along Serbia’s border with North Macedonia. Austrian Chancellor Karl Nehammer went so far as to say, “The EU’s asylum system has failed.”
Senior EU officials, including European Commission vice-president Margaritas Schinas, appealed to members states to set aside disagreements and comply with EU migration policies as diplomatic fallout from Italian-French rift continues.
Hundreds of migrants from around the world are waiting for a chance to meet with Belgian refugee officials, but are being forced to wait for days without health services, shelter, or rights in Belgium as Belgian officials are overwhelmed with numbers. International and Belgian NGOs warn of the dire conditions those waiting face.
A plan drawn up earlier in the year to extend the EU’s Schengen Zone to Croatia, Romania and Bulgaria has been called into question as Austrian Interior Minister Gerhard Karner said he would veto expanding the Schengen zone to include Romania and Bulgaria, though still supporting Croatia’s entry, citing a surge in migration through the Western Balkans.
The human rights NGO Border Violence Monitoring Network released a lengthy report that includes video evidence and over 1,000 testimonies from migrants reporting pushbacks and excessive violence being used by EU member state border officials. One statistic found that only 5% of all testimonies reported experiencing or seeing no excessive violence by border officials
Human Rights Watch sharply condemned the practice of violent and illegal pushbacks of migrants at EU state borders, and called on EU leaders to withhold funding for countries where documented evidence of pushbacks are available.
Human Rights Watch called Frontex “complicit” in migrant abuses perpetrated by Libyan coast guard officials by assisting Libya in interceptiing migrant boats crossing the Mediterranean Sea for southern Europe, and using its aerial surveillance technology to help Libyan forces locate migrant boats, rather than other rescue organizations or merchant ships also patrolling the Mediterranean.
While speaking before the Italian Parliament, PM Giorgia Miloni claimed Italy was bearing the majority of the EU’s migration, saying, “I don’t think it’s a solution to say that Italy should be the only port of disembarkation in the EU and then for every 100,000 people who come in, other countries take 30…I do not think Italy should do alone what others are not willing to do.” This despite the fact that, as Reuters points out, France, Germany, Austria, and Spain all received thousands more asylum applications than Italy in September.
On the occasion of International Migrant day, the European Commission released something of a summary of the EU’s migration policy, saying ”Every year, around 2 to 3 million people from all over the world come legally to the EU to work or study. At the same time, every year thousands seek to reach the EU in irregular and unsafe ways, using deadly routes. Since 2014, more than 50,000 migrants have lost their lives on migratory routes across the world.” The statement ended with a call for unity among EU states.
The United Kingdom’s High Court ruled that the government’s policy drawn up by Boris Johnson to deport migrants to Rwanda is lawful and in line with UN Refugee Conventions. The decision is likely to be appealed, with a lawyer representing migrants at risk of deportation, Sophie Lucas, saying, “it is deeply distressing to have this prospect of being removed to a country where they have no connection, and where their fundamental rights may not be respected.”
Spanish prosecutors have dropped their investigation into the conduct of Spanish police and border patrol officers during the deadly June incident at the Spanish-Moroccan border that saw 20 migrants killed, saying there was no evidence of criminal misconduct.
An Ocean Viking vessel from rescue charity SOS Mediterranée pulled in rubber boats off the coast of Libya that contained over 113 people, including 30 unaccompanied children, and the group saying now the vessel is waiting for a place to disembark.
Italy’s right wing government has approved a number of changes to their migration laws that will increase and widen penalties for violations of their new rescue restrictions. Reuters added that, according to a document from the office of Interior Minister Matteo Piantedosi, only around 10% of those who arrived in Italy in 2022 were brought ashore by NGO boats.
A new Italian cabinet decree that says migrant rescue ships must request a port and sail to it immediately after a rescue, rather than remaining at sea to look for other migrant boats in distress, as is the current practice. 17 rescue charities released a joint statement decrying the law, saying, “NGOs are already overstretched due to the absence of a state-run SAR operation, and the decreased presence of rescue ships will inevitably result in more people tragically drowning at sea.”
Mohammad Hanad Abdi, a Somali migrant sentenced to 142 years in prison in 2021 for people smuggling following a boat crash in the Mediterranean, was ordered by a Greek appeals court to be released after his sentence was reduced to 8 years, and further reduced for time served. International migrant activists decried Abdi’s arrest in the first place and celebrated his release, as Abdi’s appeal said he had only been driving the boat when it sank after its Turkish smuggler fled.
A Greek court on the Aegean island of Lesbos rejected a case brought against 17 foreigners and 7 Greeks regarding their work in rescusing and aiding migrants, with charges that included espionage and forgery. The case began in 2018, and several of its defendants still face a variety of other charges.
Frontex reported that 330,000 unauthorized entries occurred in EU nations in 2022, the highest since 2016. Around 47% of these entries were through the western Balkans, while crossings made through the dangerous boat routes of the Mediterranean were 50% more than 2021.
The newly appointed Executive Director of Frontex Hans Leijtens, replacing the previous director who resigned following accusations of pushbacks and misconduct, promised EU citizens Frontex will be turning over a new leaf. He reiterated that, “pushbacks by Frontex officers are not legal. They are forbidden,” and promised, “there is nothing secret about Frontex, and that “we can’t do our work when we are not trusted.”
Greek Citizens’ Protection Minister Takis Theodorikakos told a group of EU, as well as Swiss and UK, ambassadors that Greece intends its current 27 km border wall with Turkey an additional 35 km, and calling for “solidarity” among member states over migration, continuing, “the task [of protecting the border] needs the support … of European public opinion, the European Union itself and its constituent members individually.”
Ylva Johansson, European Commissioner for Home Affairs, presented data on migrants returned to countries outside of the EU in 2021, the most recent year with complete data, which showed that of 342,100 migrants removed, 24% of that number were actually removed from the EU. Johansson said the Commission is making it a priority to increase that percentage, by “ensur[ing] that Member States join forces and that there is seamless coordination and coherence among all actors, to ensure that collective efforts focus on the return to identified third countries in line with political priorities.”
Austrian Interior Minister Gerhard Karner called upon the European Commission during an informal meeting of European Interior Ministers to provide more support to border members with dealing with migration, saying, “it is necessary, if you look at the figures from last year and also the current ones, that we continue to be consistent on the asylum brake, and that, “we have many countries on the external border that need help, and we want to support these countries as well”,
Ahead of a special summit being held by EU leaders to discuss migration policy, as well as upcoming elections in 2024 across the bloc, politicians have been laying blame for the crisis on each other. France continues to vocally oppose Italy’s migrant ship policy that redirects them to France, Austrian officials accuse Hungary of allowing migrants unrestricted to cross their border, Hungarian Prime Minister Orban called for more border protections despite EU Commission deemphasizing fences and wire, and Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte accused Bulgaria of allowing migrants across its border for a 50 euro bribe.
The Greek Coast Guard confirmed that three migrants are confirmed dead and eleven are believed missing after rubber migrant ship sank off the coast of the Greek island of Lesbos.
Human Rights Watch condemned a deal made by the European Commission and the Libyan government that handed over a search and rescue vessel to Libyan authorities, “intended for abusive Libyan Coast Guard forces and promised four more, without any apparent attempt to vet the human rights practices of the coast guard, thus making the EU more complicit in human rights abuses in the Mediterranean.”
The Irish Taoiseach, the head of government, Leo Varadkar made statements in Brussels ahead of meetings with other European leaders regarding both Ukrainian refugees and irregular migration from outside of Europe, saying, “Just like Ireland, European countries are experiencing a big increase in the number of people coming from outside Europe on an irregular basis and we have to work together to manage that issue as best we can,” and that, “we need to be fair and firm and hard…we need to be fair with refugees…we also need to be firm with people who come to Ireland with a false story or false pretences,” and, “we also need to be hard with human traffickers because we should decide who enters our country.”
International charity Save the Children released a report stating that 8,4,68 people died during attempted crossings from North Africa and the Middle East across the Mediterranean.
The UN International Organization for Migration confirmed that a rubber migrant ship sank on its way to Europe, with 73 of its 80 passengers having died or are missing and presumed dead.
Six Bulgarians have been charged with human trafficking after a truck was found outside of the capital of Sofia with 52 migrants inside, 18 of whom died in the cramped conditions before being rescued.
In their annual report, the EU Agency for Asylum says that, not including Ukrainian refugees, it received 966,000 applications for asylum in the EU in 2022, up 50% from 2021 and the highest since 2016.
In a conference that included Austria, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Czechia, Denmark, Estonia, Greece, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, Poland, Romania and Slovakia, leaders demanded more funding for EU border states and Frontex, as well as “more possibilities for accelerated procedures followed by rejections in case of unfounded asylum applications.”
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