European Migrant Crisis

Continental Europe

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. 

The simple truth is that refugees would not risk their lives on a journey so dangerous if they could thrive where they are

Melissa Fleming, UNHCR

Key Facts

More than 14,000

people died

1.8 million


Ongoing Since


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:

  • Greece: 7,496

  • Spain: 4,576

  • Italy: 2,553

  • Malta: 989

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

The Situation

Classification: Humanitarian crisis

Anti-migrant groups continue to have significant influence on Europe’s political landscape as migration numbers continue to flow.

Adviser’s suggestions:

  • 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
    African continent.

Similar Humanitarian Crises

  • Coming soon


The mass flow of people from the Middle East and Africa to Europe has led to a drastic change in the political landscape. Refugees have been forced into camps with little access to clean water or shelter. Violence and xenophobia against migrants has risen dramatically, and they are often are subject to abuse by the police.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

Human Rights Watch leads calls to shut down an overpopulated and poorly run migrant camp in Bosnia and Herzegovina. The IOM has warned that the camp could soon warrant a humanitarian crisis.
Italy has permitted the docking of a humanitarian rescue ship containing over 100 migrants.
The EU’s highest court claims that Hungary, Poland and the Czech Republic have broke EU law by refusing to host migrants entering Europe. The court, European Court of Justice, claims that in order to follow the EU’s principles of solidarity, member states must accept burden-sharing.
French authorities clear several migrant camps in Paris in what is described as the biggest of such operations in recent years. The number of migrants cleared is thought to be around 1,600.
Croatian authorities fire on a group of migrants attempting to illegally cross from Croatia into Slovenia, critically injuring at least one person.
Greek prime minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis announces the introduction of patrol boats in the attempt to prevent illegal human trafficking into the country. The prime minister also reiterates that the country would only accept selected migrants and shut the door on those not entitled to stay.
Following the rescue of several migrants off the coast of Libya, Italian authorities reversed an earlier decision to allow a rescue ship access to dock at the country’s ports.
UNHCR chief Filippo Grandi urges EU member states to respond to the migration strain impacting Greek. Commenting on some of the many migration camps in Greece, the Commissioner described the conditions as extremely disturbing. Grandi was also critical of the inactive response by EU member states in failing to take in refugees and said that “Europe has to get its act together”.
A vessel containing over 150 people sinks leaving over 50 people dead off the coast of Mauritania.
Turkish representatives have called on the EU to allocate additional funds to allow better protection for Syrian refugees in Turkey.
The Prime Minister of Greece, Kyriakos Mitsotakis has claimed that Greece has reached its limit on the capacity to host refugees following increasing refugee flows. The Prime Minister and other spokesmen from UN agencies have urged the EU for immediate assistance. EU member states still lack the will to respond and share the burden of refugee intakes.
Police fire tear gas at migrants protesting poor living conditions on the Greek island of Samos.
A boat containing over 65 people capsizes in Lake Van in Turkey leaving 7 people dead. Over 60 people are rescued and taken to hospital.
Data from Europe’s Border and Coastal Guard Agency, Frontex, shows that levels of irregular migration to European have fallen to lowest level since 2013. NGO rescue organisations have claimed that such statistics ignore the distress currently being caused to migrants in detention camps in Libya, of whom are subject to poor and inhumane conditions.
Amid increasing pressure to accommodate migrants in Greece, a boat capsizes off the Greek coast leaving 12 dead. Over 20 people are rescued.
France agrees to host 400 migrants from Greece.
Members of the Greek population protest against the overcrowded camps on the islands of Lesbos, Samos and Chios.
Amnesty International and other actors have condemned plans by the Greek government to install floating dams to deter migration from Turkey.

Over 90 migrants are intercepted off the English Chanel in what is recorded as the highest number of migrants in one day.

A UN official to Lebanon has warned that Europe could face a new wave of migration as the country struggles with social unrest.
Human Rights Watch leads calls for Italy to end all cooperation with the Libyan Coast Guard after claims of abuse and human rights violations of migrants in detention centres.
After proposing the creation of detention centres, in addition to a sea barrier defence against incoming migrants, Greece halts plans to install anti-immigration measures after facing backlash from its citizens.
The EU announces nearly $800 million in aid to prevent a new wave of migration from Turkey to Europe. Greece deploys military to help reinforce Greek-Turkish border.
EU ministers refuse to increase financial aid for the EU-Turkey migration deal. In response, Turkish president Erdogan threatens to ‘open the door’ and release thousands of migrants towards Europe. Greece reports clashes between migrants and police.

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
small misdemeanors.

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.”

More on this Crisis

Opportunities in the Crisis Index

If you have relevant knowledge of a particular region and are interested in being a Regional Crisis Adviser or Senior Correspondent (Crisis Index), please email our Crisis Index Coordinator at

Interested in becoming an Advisor or Senior Correspondent?

Advisors and Senior Correspondents are assigned to a sub-region in one of six regions: Africa, Americas, Asia and Pacific, Europe, Middle East and Global. For more information on the roles and responsibilities, click the button below.
Click Here