European migrant crisis

Asylum applications in EU and EFTA states between January 1 and June 30, 2015 according to Eurostat data.
A small boat in water, with land on the horizon behind. Many people are on its outside in orange life jackets, some carrying inner tubes as well. A few are in the water swimming toward the camera. In the foreground a man in a red and back wetsuit has his hand out to them.
Syrian and Iraqi immigrants getting off a boat from Turkey on the Greek island of Lesbos.

The European migrant crisis[n 1] or European refugee crisis[n 2] began in 2015, when a rising number of refugees and migrants[10] made the journey to the European Union (EU) to seek asylum, travelling across the Mediterranean Sea or through Southeast Europe. They came from areas such as Western and South Asia, Africa,[11][12] and the Western Balkans.[13] According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, the top three nationalities of the over one million Mediterranean Sea arrivals in 2015 were Syrian (49%), Afghan (21%) and Iraqi (8%). Of the refugees and migrants arriving in Europe by sea in 2015, 58% were men, 17% women and 25% children.[14][15] The phrases "European migrant crisis" and "European refugee crisis" became widely used in April 2015, when five boats carrying almost 2,000 migrants to Europe sank in the Mediterranean Sea, with a combined death toll estimated at more than 1,200 people.

The shipwrecks took place in a context of ongoing conflicts and refugee crises in several Asian and African countries, which increased the total number of forcibly displaced people worldwide at the end of 2014 to almost 60 million, the highest level since World War II.[16][17] Amid an upsurge in the number of sea arrivals in Italy from Libya in 2014, several European Union governments refused to fund the Italian-run rescue option Operation Mare Nostrum, which was replaced by Frontex's Operation Triton in November 2014. In the first six months of 2015, Greece overtook Italy as the first EU country of arrival, becoming, in the summer 2015, the starting point of a flow of refugees and migrants moving through Balkan countries to northern European countries, mainly Germany and Sweden. Since April 2015, the European Union has struggled to cope with the crisis, increasing funding for border patrol operations in the Mediterranean, devising plans to fight migrant smuggling, launching Operation Sophia and proposing a new quota system to relocate and resettle asylum seekers among EU states and alleviate the burden on countries on the external borders of the Union. Individual countries have at times reintroduced border controls within the Schengen Area, and rifts have emerged between countries willing to accept asylum seekers and others trying to discourage their arrival.

According to Eurostat, EU member states received 626,000 asylum applications in 2014, the highest number since the 672,000 applications received in 1992,[18] and granted protection status to more than 185,000 asylum seekers.[19] The number of asylum applications doubled to 1,221,855 in 2015.[20] Four states (Germany, Sweden, Italy, and France) received around two-thirds of the EU's asylum applications and granted almost two-thirds of protection status in 2014; while Sweden, Hungary, and Austria were among the top recipients of EU asylum applications per capita.[21][22]


Schengen Area and Dublin Regulation

Main articles: Schengen Area and Dublin Regulation
  European Union members legally obliged to join Schengen at a future date

In the Schengen Agreement, 26 European countries (22 of the 28 European Union member states, plus four European Free Trade Association states) joined together to form an area, where border checks on internal Schengen borders (i.e. between member states) are abolished, and instead checks are restricted to the external Schengen borders and countries with external borders are obligated to enforce border control regulations. Countries may reinstate internal border controls for a maximum of two months for "public policy or national security" reasons.[23]

The Dublin regulation determines the EU member state responsible to examine an asylum application to prevent asylum applicants in the EU from "asylum shopping", where applicants send their applications for asylum to numerous EU member states, or "asylum orbiting", where no member state takes responsibility for an asylum seeker. By default (when no family reasons or humanitarian grounds are present), the first member state that an asylum seeker entered and in which they have been fingerprinted is responsible. If the asylum seeker then moves to another member state, they can be transferred back to the member state they first entered. This has led many to criticise the Dublin rules for placing too much responsibility for asylum seekers on member states on the EU’s external borders (like Italy, Greece and Hungary), instead of devising a burden-sharing system among EU states.[24][25][26]

Carrier's responsibility

Article 26 of the Schengen Convention[27] says that carriers which transport people into the Schengen area shall, if they transport people who are refused entry into the Schengen Area, pay for the return of the refused people, and pay penalties. Further clauses on this topic are found in EU directive 2001/51/EC.[28] This has had the effect that migrants without a visa are not allowed on aircraft, boats or trains going into the Schengen Area, so migrants without a visa have resorted to migrant smugglers .

The laws on migrant smuggling ban helping migrants to pass any national border if the migrants are without a visa or other permission to enter. This has caused many airlines to check for visas and refuse passage to migrants without visas, including international flights inside the Schengen Area. This has forced migrants to travel overland to their destination country.

Statistics on the EU's foreign-born population prior to 2015

Main article: Immigration to Europe
Immigration of non-EU nationals (green),[29] asylum applicants (orange)[30] and illegal border-crossings (blue)[31] in the European Union, 2010–2014

The foreign-born population residing in the EU in 2014 amounts to 33 million people, or 7% of the total population of the 28 EU countries (above 500 million people). By comparison, the foreign-born population is 1.63% of the total population in Japan,[32] 7.7% in Russia,[33] 13% in the United States, 20% in Canada and 27% in Australia. Between 2010 and 2013, around 1.4 million non-EU nationals, excluding asylum seekers and refugees, immigrated into the EU each year using regular means, with a slight decrease since 2010.[29]

Prior to 2014, the number of asylum applications in the EU peaked in 1992 (672,000), 2001 (424,000), and 2013 (431,000). In 2014 it reached 626,000.[18] According to the UNHCR, the EU countries with the biggest numbers of recognised refugees at the end of 2014 were France (252,264), Germany (216,973), Sweden (142,207) and the United Kingdom (117,161). No European state was among the top ten refugee-hosting countries in the world.[16]

Prior to 2014, the number of illegal border crossings detected by Frontex at the external borders of the EU peaked in 2011, with 141,051 sea and land irregular arrivals.[34]

Global refugee crisis

Top ten countries of origin (red) and asylum (green) of refugees worldwide at the end of 2014, according to UNHCR data (excluding Palestine refugees under UNRWA mandate).[16]

According to the UNHCR, the number of forcibly displaced people worldwide reached 59.5 million at the end of 2014, the highest level since World War II,[35] with a 40% increase taking place since 2011. Of these 59.5 million, 19.5 million were refugees (14.4 million under UNHCR's mandate, plus 5.1 million Palestinian refugees under UNRWA's mandate), and 1.8 million were asylum-seekers. The rest were persons displaced within their own countries (internally displaced persons). The 14.4 million refugees under UNHCR's mandate were around 2.7 million more than at the end of 2013 (+23%), the highest level since 1995. Among them, Syrian refugees became the largest refugee group in 2014 (3.9 million, 1.55 million more than the previous year), overtaking Afghan refugees (2.6 million), who had been the largest refugee group for three decades. Six of the ten largest countries of origin of refugees were African: Somalia, Sudan, South Sudan, the Democratic Republic of Congo, the Central African Republic and Eritrea.[16][36]

Developing countries hosted the largest share of refugees (86% by the end of 2014, the highest figure in more than two decades); the least developed countries alone provided asylum to 25% of refugees worldwide.[16] Even though most Syrian refugees were hosted by neighbouring countries such as Turkey, Lebanon and Jordan, the number of asylum applications lodged by Syrian refugees in Europe steadily increased between 2011 and 2015, totalling 813,599 in 37 European countries (including both EU members and non-members) as of November 2015; 57% of them applied for asylum in Germany or Serbia.[37] The largest single recipient of new asylum seekers worldwide in 2014 was the Russian Federation, with 274,700 asylum requests, 99% of them lodged by Ukrainians fleeing from the war in Donbass;[16] Russia was followed by Germany, the top recipient of asylum applications within the European Union, with 202,645 asylum requests, 20% of them from Syria.[18]

Background to the crisis in Greece and Italy

Greek, Turkish, and Bulgarian borders and the course of the Maritsa River

Between 2007 and 2011, large numbers of undocumented migrants from the Middle East and Africa crossed between Turkey and Greece, leading Greece and the European Border Protection agency Frontex to upgrade border controls.[38] In 2012, immigrant influx into Greece by land decreased by 95% after the construction of a fence on that part of the Greek–Turkish frontier which does not follow the course of the Maritsa River.[39] In 2015, Bulgaria followed by upgrading a border fence to prevent migrant flows through Turkey.[40][41]

Since 2011, and particularly since 2014, instability and the Second Civil War in Libya have made departures from the north-African country to Italy easier, with no central authority controlling Libya’s ports and dealing with European countries, and migrant smuggling networks flourishing. The war could also have forced to leave many African immigrants residing in Libya, which used to be itself a destination country for migrants looking for better jobs.[42] The 2013 Lampedusa migrant shipwreck involved "more than 360" deaths, leading the Italian government to establish Operation Mare Nostrum, a large-scale naval operation that involved search and rescue, with some migrants brought aboard a naval amphibious assault ship.[43] In 2014, the Italian government ended the operation, calling the costs too large for one EU state alone to manage; Frontex assumed the main responsibility for search and rescue operations. The Frontex operation is called Operation Triton.[44] The Italian government had requested additional funds from the EU to continue the operation but member states did not offer the requested support.[45] The UK government cited fears that the operation was acting as "an unintended 'pull factor', encouraging more migrants to attempt the dangerous sea crossing and thereby leading to more tragic and unnecessary deaths".[46] The operation consists of two surveillance aircraft and three ships, with seven teams of staff who gather intelligence and conduct screening/identification processing. Its monthly budget is estimated at €2.9 million.[44]



Sea and land arrivals to the EU

Sea and land arrivals to the EU
in 2014 by nationality[47]
 Syria 79,169
 Eritrea 34,586
Unspecified sub-Saharan nationals 26,341
 Afghanistan 22,132
 Kosovo* 22,069
 Mali 10,575
 Albania 9,323
 The Gambia 8,730
 Nigeria 8,715
 Somalia 7,676
Others 54,216
Total 283,532

According to the International Organization for Migration (IOM), up to 3,072 people died or disappeared in 2014 in the Mediterranean while trying to migrate to Europe.[48] Overall estimates are that over 22,000 migrants died between 2000 and 2014.

In 2014, 283,532 migrants irregularly entered the European Union, mainly following the Central Mediterranean, Eastern Mediterranean and Western Balkan routes.[48][49][50] 220,194 migrants crossed EU sea borders in the Central, Eastern and Western Mediterranean (a 266% increase compared to 2013). Half of them had come from Syria, Eritrea and Afghanistan.[47]

Of those arriving in Southern Europe in 2014, the vast majority (170,664, a 277% increase compared to 2013) arrived in Italy through Libya, whereas a minority (50,834, a 105% increase) arrived in Greece through Turkey.[51] 62,000 applied for asylum in Italy, but most Syrians and Eritreans, who comprised almost half of the arrivals in Italy in 2014, did not stop in Italy, but continued their journey towards northern Europe, Germany and Sweden in particular.[52]


In 2015, a shift took place, with Greece overtaking Italy as the primary point of arrival and surpassing in the first six months of 2015 the numbers for the whole of 2014: 67,500 people arrived in Italy, mainly coming from Eritrea (25%), Nigeria (10%) and Somalia (10%), whereas 68,000 arrived on the islands of Greece, mainly coming from Syria (57%) and Afghanistan (22%).[53] In total, 137,000 migrants crossed the Mediterranean into Europe in the first six months of 2015.[54]

As of 17 April 2015, the total number of migrants reaching the Italian coasts was 21,191 since 1 January 2015, with a decrease during the month of March due to bad weather conditions, and a surge since 10 April, bringing the total number of arrivals in line with the number recorded in the same period in 2014. However, the death toll in the first four months of 2014 was 96, compared with 500 in the same period in 2015; this number excluded the victims of the devastating shipwrecks on 13 and 19 April.[55][56]

Mediterranean sea arrivals to Greece (green) and Italy (orange) from January to December 2015, according to UNHCR data.[57]

In early August 2015, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees said that 250,000 migrants had arrived in Europe by sea so far in 2015, 124,000 in Greece and 98,000 in Italy.[58] According to Frontex, July set a new record for a single month, with 107,500 migrants estimated to have entered the EU.[59] 190,000 people were detected by Frontex crossing the EU sea and land borders in August, 267,000 in September,[60][61] 276,000 in November,[62] and 214,700 in December, bringing the total number of refugees and migrants detected by Frontex at EU external borders in 2015 to 1.83 million (880,000 in Greece, 764,000 in Hungary and Croatia and 157,000 in Italy, although a large number of migrants following the Western Balkan route were double-counted when arriving in Greece and then when entering the EU for the second time through Hungary or Croatia).[63]

According to IOM and UNHCR estimates, around one million migrants and refugees arrived in Europe till 21 December 2015, three to four times more than in 2014.[64] Just 3% (34,215) came by land to Bulgaria and Greece; the rest came by sea to Greece, Italy, Spain, Cyprus and Malta. The vast majority arrived by sea in Greece (816,752); 150,317 arrived by sea in Italy, with a slight drop from 170,000 in 2014. Half of those crossing the Mediterranean were from Syria, 20% were from Afghanistan and 7% from Iraq. IOM estimated that a total of 3,692 migrants and refugees lost their lives in the Mediterranean in 2015 - over 400 more than in 2014 - of whom 2,889 in the Central Mediterranean and 731 in the Aegean sea.[65][66]

Asylum applications

Countries of origin of asylum applicants in the EU and EFTA States between 1 January and 30 June 2015

According to Eurostat, EU member states received 626,715 asylum applications in 2014, the highest number since the 672,000 applications received in 1992. For comparison, the first 9 months of 2015 showed 812,705 applications.[67] The main countries of origin of asylum seekers, accounting for almost half of the total, were Syria (20%), Afghanistan (7%), Kosovo (6%), Eritrea (6%) and Serbia (5%).[18]

In 2014, decisions on asylum applications in the EU made at the first instance resulted in more than 160,000 asylum seekers being granted protection status, while a further 23,000 received protection status on appeal. The rate of recognition of asylum applicants was 45% at the first instance and 18% on appeal. The main beneficiaries of protection status, accounting for more than half of the total, were Syrians (68,300 or 37%), Eritreans (14,600 or 8%) and Afghans (14,100 or 8%).[19]

Four states – Germany, Sweden, Italy and France – received around two-thirds of the EU's asylum applications and granted almost two-thirds of protection status in 2014. Sweden, Hungary and Austria were among the top recipients of EU asylum applications per capita, when adjusted for their own populations, with 8.4 asylum seekers per 1,000 inhabitants in Sweden, 4.3 in Hungary and 3.2 in Austria.[21][22][68]

Number of first time asylum applications received by the top ten recipients in the EU-28, January–September 2015. The top ten recipients account for more than 90% of the total asylum applications received in the EU-28.[69]

In the first three months of 2015, the number of new asylum applicants in the EU was 184,800, increasing by 86% if compared with the same quarter in the previous year but remaining stable if compared to the last quarter of 2014. More than half applied for asylum in Germany (40%) or Hungary (18%). The main nationalities of the applicants were Kosovo (48,875 or 26%), Syria (29,100 or 16%) and Afghanistan (12,910 or 7%).[70] In the second quarter of 2015, 213,200 people applied for asylum in the EU, up by 15% compared with the previous quarter. 38% applied for asylum in Germany, followed by Hungary (15%) and Austria (8%). The main countries of citizenship of asylum seekers, accounting for more than half of the total, were Syria (21%), Afghanistan (13%), Albania (8%), Iraq (6%) and Kosovo (5%).[71] In the third quarter of 2015 (July–September), EU countries received 413,800 first time asylum applications, almost double the number registered in the previous quarter. Germany and Hungary were the top recipients, with 26% each of total applicants. One third of asylum seekers were Syrians (33%), followed by Afghans (14%) and Iraqis (11%).[72][73] In December 2015, new Eurostat statistics showed that as of November 2015, at least 1,001,910 had so far claimed asylum in one of the 28 EU member states in 2015.[74]

In August 2015, the German government announced that it expected to receive 800,000 asylum applications by the end of the year.[75] Data released by Germany’s Federal Office for Migration and Refugees (BAMF) in January 2016 showed that Germany received 476,649 asylum applications in 2015, mainly from Syrians (162,510), Albanians (54,762), Kosovars (37,095), Afghans (31,902), Iraqis (31,379), Serbians (26,945), Macedonians (14,131), Eritreans (10,990) and Pakistanis (8,472). In 2015, Germany made 282,762 decisions on asylum applications; the overall asylum recognition rate was 49.8% (140,915 decisions were positive, so that applicants were granted protection). The most successful applicants were Syrians (101,419 positive decisions, with a 96% recognition rate), Eritreans (9,300 positive decisions; 92.1% recognition rate) and Iraqis (14,880 positive decisions; 88.6% recognition rate).[76][77]

Sweden received 162,877 asylum applications in 2015 (the highest per capita number in Europe), mainly from Syrians (51,338), Afghans (41,564), Iraqis (20,857), Eritreans (7,231) and Somalis (5,465).[78] In 2015, Sweden granted protection to 32,631 asylum applicants, whereas it rejected 9,524 applications (the proportion of positive decisions out of materially considered applications was 77%). The main beneficiaries of protection were Syrians (18,523 positive decisions, with a 100% recognition rate), Eritreans (6,542 positive decisions; 100% recognition rate) and Afghans (1,088 positive decisions; 74% recognition rate).[79]

Origins and motivations

Nationalities of the Mediterranean sea arrivals to Greece and Italy in 2015, according to UNHCR data[57]

Ascertaining motivation is complex, but most of the migrants are refugees, fleeing war and persecution in countries such as Syria, Afghanistan, Iraq and Eritrea: according to UNHCR data, 84% of Mediterranean Sea arrivals in 2015 came from the world's top ten refugee-producing countries.[80] According to UNHCR, the top ten nationalities of Mediterranean Sea arrivals in 2015 were Syria (49%), Afghanistan (21%), Iraq (8%), Eritrea (4%), Pakistan (2%), Nigeria (2%), Somalia (2%), Sudan (1%), the Gambia (1%) and Mali (1%).[14][15] Asylum seekers of seven nationalities had an asylum recognition rate of over 50% in EU States in the first quarter of 2015, meaning that they obtained protection over half the time they applied: Syrians (94% recognition rate), Eritreans (90%), Iraqis (88%), Afghans (66%), Iranians (65%), Somalis (60%) and Sudanese (53%). Migrants of these nationalities accounted for 90% of the arrivals in Greece and 47% of the arrivals in Italy between January and August 2015, according to UNHCR data.[73][81] Wars fueling the crisis are the Syrian civil war and the Iraq war, the war in Afghanistan, the war in Somalia, and the war in Darfur. Refugees from Eritrea, one of the most repressive states in the world, flee from indefinite military conscription and forced labour.[11][82]

Migrants being stopped at the Greek–Macedonian border near Gevgelija by the Macedonian Police, 24 August 2015

Migrants from the Western Balkans (Kosovo, Albania, Serbia) and parts of West Africa (The Gambia, Nigeria) and South Asia (Bangladesh, Pakistan) are more likely to be economic migrants, fleeing poverty and lack of jobs, many of them hoping for a better lifestyle and job offers, without valid claims to refugee status.[83][84][85] The majority of asylum applicants from Serbia, Macedonia and Montenegro are Roma people who feel discriminated against in their countries of origin.[13] The influx from states like Nigeria and Pakistan is mixed, made up in part of economic migrants and in part of refugees fleeing from violence and war (like the Boko Haram insurgency in north-east Nigeria and the war in North-West Pakistan).[11][86][87]

According to UNHCR data, 58% of the refugees and migrants arriving in Europe by sea in 2015 were men, 17% were women and 25% were children.[14][15] Of the asylum applications received in Sweden in 2015, 70% were by men (including minors).[88] Men search for a safe place to live and work before attempting to reunite later with their families.[89] In war-torn countries, men are also at greater risk of being forced to fight or of being killed.[90] Among people arriving in Europe there were, however, also large numbers of women and children, including unaccompanied children.[89] Europe has received a record number of asylum applications from unaccompanied child refugees in 2015, as they became separated from their families in war, or their family could not afford to send more than one member abroad. Younger refugees also have better chances of receiving asylum.[91]

Some argue that migrants have been seeking to settle preferentially in those national destinations offering more generous social welfare benefits and hosting more established Middle Eastern and African immigrant communities. Others argue that migrants are attracted to more tolerant societies with stronger economies, and that the chief motivation for leaving Turkey is that they are not permitted to leave camps or work.[92] In contrast to Germany, historically a popular final destination for the EU migrants, France saw its popularity erode in 2015 among migrants seeking asylum.[93][94]

Migrant routes, development, and responses in individual countries

As of August 2015, Frontex recognises the following general routes on sea and on land used by irregular migrants to enter the EU:[95]

Migrants along the Balkan route crossing from Serbia into Hungary, 24 August 2015

In addition, an Arctic route had emerged by September 2015[97] and was becoming one of the fastest-growing routes to enter Western Europe by November 2015.[98]


Wien Westbahnhof railway station on 5 September 2015: migrants on their way to Germany

On 27 August 2015, 71 migrants were found dead in an unventilated food truck near Vienna. As an official response to this tragedy, on 31 August 2015, Austria began inspections of vehicles for smuggled immigrants entering from across the border with Hungary, leading to vehicular backups of 19 km (12 mi) and trains stalled for hours.[99]

Late on 4 September 2015, Chancellor Werner Faymann of Austria, in conjunction with Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany, announced that migrants would be allowed to cross the border from Hungary into Austria and onward to Germany, and early on 5 September 2015, buses with migrants began crossing the Austro-Hungarian border.[100][101] Austria noted that 6,500 migrants had crossed the border by the afternoon of 5 September 2015, with 2,200 already on their way to Germany.[102][103]

On 14 September 2015, Austria followed Germany's suit and instituted border controls of its own at the border with Hungary.[104] Austrian authorities also deployed the Austrian Army to the border with Hungary.[105][106]

On 19 September 2015, Austria permitted entry to approximately 10,000 migrants from Slovenia and Hungary.[107] Austria has taken on the role of regulator of the flow of migrants destined for Germany by feeding, housing, and providing them health care in transit.[108]

On 28 October 2015, Austria decided to build a fence along its border with Slovenia to "be able to control the migrants in an orderly manner", told Minister of the Interior Johanna Mikl-Leitner.[109]


Marking of a minefield left over from Croatian War of Independence, typically seen in minefields in Croatia

Croatia, an EU member state, shares a land border with Serbia and is therefore at risk for a strong inflow of migrants from Serbia considering that Hungary erected a fence on its border with Serbia. Nearly 80% of the border consists of the Danube River, but there is a 70 kilometer-long segment of land border in Srem, in the forests and fields near Tovarnik. Also, parts of the Croatia-Serbia border are known minefields, which represent a considerable threat. According to the Croatian Minister of Interior Ranko Ostojić, "police in the area have enough people and equipment to protect the Croatian border against illegal immigrants".[110] Croatian President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarović and First Deputy Prime Minister Vesna Pusić have so far rejected the option of building a fence along the Croatian border with Serbia.[111][112] Croatian Prime Minister Zoran Milanović said his country is ready to help refugees coming to Europe, insisting that people fleeing conflict should be given the right to remain in the EU.[113]

On 15 September 2015, Croatia started to experience the first major waves of refugees of the Syrian Civil War. First Syrian refugees cross Croatia-Serbia border, carving out potential new route through Europe after Hungary seals borders.[96] On 15 September 2015, Hungary announced it would start arresting people crossing the border illegally, and as of early 16 September, Hungary had detained 519 people and pressed criminal charges against 46 for trespassing.[114] Thousands of migrants were subsequently led to pursue alternative routes through Croatia from Serbia.[114] After Hungary closed its border with Serbia on 15 September, migrants headed towards the Serbian town of Šid, less than 10 kilometers from the Croatian border. Several buses filled with migrants arrived on the Croatian border crossing of Tovarnik, where the Croatian Vukovar-Srijem County Care and Rescue teams as well as the Croatian Red Cross were on standby awaiting migrants.[115] On 17 September, as of 3:30 AM, more than 5,000 migrants had arrived in Tovarnik.[116] Interior Minister Ranko Ostojić said Croatia is "absolutely full" by the evening of 17 September 2015, and Croatia decided to close its border with Serbia.[117] Train lines from Serbia via Croatia to Slovenia were closed until further notice.

As of 6 October 2015, 125,000 entered Croatia in the space of three weeks.[118] Between mid-September and mid-October 2015, about 200,000 migrants had passed through Croatia, most moving on to Hungary.[119] On 17 October 2015, Hungary closed its border with Croatia to migrants, forcing diversion of migrants to Slovenia instead.[119] However, Slovenia, with a population of only two million, stated that it would only be able to admit 2,500 people per day, stranding thousands of migrants in Croatia as well as Serbia and Macedonia, while new migrants continued to add to this backlog.[120][121]

In late December 2015, Slovenia put up a razor-wire fence on the border with western Croatian regions of Istria and Gorski kotar, the latter of which is a habitat of the lynx and the brown bear, both of which are endangered and protected by law in Croatia. Local hunters have found deer having been killed by the fence. The WWF and the inhabitants of the regions from both sides of the border have protested against the decision to put up the razor-wire fence.[122][123][124]


Starting on 6 September 2015, large groups of migrants who declined to apply for asylum in Germany started passing the Danish borders with the majority heading for Sweden.[125] Initially the Danish police attempted to register all migrants in accordance with EU rules, but many refused (instead wishing to seek asylum in Sweden), eventually resulting in a scuffle of about 50 people on 9 September at the Padborg Rail Station.[126][127] On 9 September, Denmark suspended all rail and ferry links with Germany (reopened the following day). On the same day parts of the E45 motorway was closed for vehicles to avoid accidents as hundreds of migrants were walking along it in southern Jutland towards Sweden.[127] It was reopened a few hours later when the walking migrants exited the motorway.[128] After initial uncertainty surrounding the rules, it was decided that migrants wishing to continue to other Nordic countries and refusing to seek asylum in Denmark would be allowed to pass.[125] In the five weeks following 6 September alone, approximately 28,800 migrants passed the Danish borders. 3,500 of these applied for asylum in Denmark and the remaining continued to other Nordic countries.[129] After Sweden introduced ID checks on the Danish border to prevent undocumented migrants from coming to Sweden, Denmark also reintroduced border controls on the Danish-German border in January 2016, citing fear of accumulation of illegal migrants on their way to Sweden as one of the reasons for this decision.[130]


See also: Calais jungle

Migrants entering France illegally by train from Italy were returned to Italy by French police since border controls were introduced in July 2015.[131][132] France has been perceived as "unwelcoming" and having a poor job market by migrants.[133] Thus many of them seek to enter the United Kingdom, resulting in camps of migrants around Calais, where one of the Eurotunnel entrances is located. During the summer of 2015, at least nine people died in attempts to reach Britain, including falling from, or being hit by trains, and drowning in a canal at the Eurotunnel entrance.[134] Migrants from the camps also attempt to enter trucks bound for the UK, with some truck drivers being threatened by migrants, and cargo being stolen or damaged.[135] In response, a UK financed fence was built along the A 216 highway in Calais.[136][137] In January 2016, a bus carrying Scottish high school students through Calais was damaged as it passed through an incident between the French police and migrants near Calais.[138]


The Finnish press was reporting on 13 September 2015 that the local authorities had estimated the flow of 300 asylum seekers per day entering via the northern land border from Sweden into Tornio.[139] The total number of asylum seekers for the year was reported to be over 2.6 times the total amount for the whole of the previous year.[140] During October 2015, 7,058 new asylum seekers arrived in Finland. In mid-October the number of asylum seekers entering Finland during 2015 reached 27,000, which is, in relation to the country's size, the fourth-largest in Europe.[141] In late November, the number passed 30,000, nearly ten-fold increase compared to the previous year.[142] In September, The Finnish Immigration Service (Migri) estimated that processing time of an asylum application may be extended from normal six months up to two years.[143] In late November, the reception centers were reported to be rapidly running out of space, forcing the authorities resorting to refurbished shipping containers and tents to house new asylum seekers.[142][144] The Interior Minister Petteri Orpo estimated that two in three asylum seekers come to Finland in hopes of higher standard of living. In November, the Permanent Secretary of the Interior Ministry stated that approximately 60-65% of the recent applications for asylum will be denied.[141] More than 60% of asylum seekers who arrived during 2015 came from Iraq.[145] In late October, The Finnish Immigration Service (Migri) changed its guidelines about areas in Iraq which are recognized as safe by the Finnish authorities,[145] putting Iraqi asylum seekers under closer scrutiny.[146] In late November, it was reported that more than 700 Iraqis had voluntarily canceled their asylum applications during September and October. According to the officials of Migri, some of the Iraqi asylum seekers have had erroneous assumptions about the country's asylum policy.[145]

On 22 November 2015 it was reported that Finland had appealed to Russia with a proposal to prohibit the crossings at some of the land borders by bicycle.[147][148] On 27 December 2015, it was reported that Finland had blocked access for people to cross over two Russian border crossings (Raja-Jooseppi and Salla) by bicycles. Many asylum seekers were reported to have earlier crossed the border by bicycles.[149]

On 3 December, the Interior Minister Petteri Orpo announced that special repatriation centers would be established. These centers would be inhabited by the asylum seekers whose applications were declined. While he stressed that these camps would not be prisons, he still described that the inhabitants would be under strict surveillance.[150]

On 4 December 2015, Finland reportedly closed one of its northern border checkpoints before the scheduled time along the Finnish–Russian border. According to Russian media, due to the closure, asylum seekers could not enter the country.[151]

On 12 December 2015, Finnish Interior Minister Petteri Orpo announced that if the external borders of EU cannot be fixed, then Schengen, Dublin and in a way whole EU is under serious threat. Further he noted that Finland has imprisoned two asylum seekers, suing them for 11 cases of murder. According to Orpo, because of the failure in registering asylum seekers on the external borders, they can travel all the way to Finland via northern Sweden. He noted that border controls have been improved in harbors, airports and on land border crossings with Sweden.[152][153][154]

On 2 January 2016 it was reported, that Finland had issued a command for the Finnlines ferry crossing from Germany to Finland to refuse boarding asylum seekers without visa. German NGOs criticized the decision, and it was still unclear how it could be enforced, especially as a direct visa from Germany to Finland is not available.[155]

On 23 January 2016 it was reported, that Finnish Foreign Minister Timo Soini concluded that "closing the eastern border is possible". He stated that if an asylum seeker does not have need for protection, their money will be taken away and themselves deported.[156] As Finland was struggling with a declining economy and increasing unemployment, he noted that the funding of police forces, border control and securing the people "needs to be organized".[157]


Migrants waiting for their entry to Germany
Migrants arriving in Munich

Germany has been the most sought-after final destination in the EU migrant and refugee crisis.[21][22] Thousands of migrants continued to pour into Germany from Austria as of 6 September 2015. Germany's asylum practice is to be based on article 16a of her Basic Law.[158] After the development of the migrant crisis Germany decided to use the derogation possibility of article 17 of the Dublin III Regulation for humanitarian reasons.[159] According to The Wall Street Journal, this "unilateral" open-arms policy[160] triggered both a domestic and an international backlash.[161] However, Germany immediately began to deploy a quota system to distribute asylum seekers among all German states.[162] In September 2015 the federal states, responsible for accommodation, reached the brink of their capacities and criticised the Government in Berlin for its inconsiderate approach to the crisis.[163]

Protesters gather outside Cologne Cathedral after New Year's Eve sexual assaults in Germany, January 2016

The Interior Minister announced on 13 September 2015 the introduction of temporary controls on the southern border with Austria and explained the measure with reference to security concerns.[164] The restrictions incorporated a temporary suspension of rail travel from Austria and allowed spot checks on automobiles.[165][166] On 5 October the German tabloid Bild claimed to possess a secret document stating that the number of asylum seekers would increase to 1.5 million by the end of 2015. This report was immediately disclaimed by the German ministry of the interior which restated its own estimate of 800,000 applicants "only".[167] Germany has followed a policy of treating migrants under 18 years of age as "children first and refugees second," giving them − according to the Convention on the Rights of the Child − the same rights as German children.[168] In late October 2015, the small village of Sumte, population 102, was told by Lower Saxony officials that it would receive 750 asylum-seekers.[169] In January 2016, 18 of 31 men suspected of violent assaults on women in Cologne on New Year’s Eve were identified as asylum seekers, prompting calls by German officials to deport convicted criminals who may be seeking asylum;[170] these sexual attacks brought about a fresh wave of anti-immigrant anxiety and protest across Europe.[171]

Between January and December 2015, 1,091,894 arrivals of asylum seekers were registered in Germany’s “EASY” system for the first distribution of asylum seekers among Germany’s federal states; however, asylum applications in 2015 were only 476,649, because many asylum seekers had not formally applied for asylum yet or didn’t stop in Germany and moved on to other EU states.[172]


Island groups of the Aegean Sea

Migrants arrive from the Middle East making the 6-kilometre (4 mi) water crossing to the Greek islands of Chios, Kos and Lesbos, which are close to Turkey and are thus a quick and easy access border into Europe.[173][174][175] As of June 2015, 124,000 migrants had arrived into Greece, a 750% increase from 2014, mainly refugees stemming from the wars in Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan. Greece appealed to the European Union for assistance, whilst the UNCHR European Director Vincent Cochetel said facilities for migrants on the Greek islands were "totally inadequate" and the islands in "total chaos".[176]

Frontex's Operation Poseidon, aimed at patrolling the Aegean Sea, is badly underfunded and undermanned, with only 11 coastal patrol vessels, one ship, two helicopters, two aircraft and a budget of €18 million.[177]

Human traffickers charge illegal immigrants $1,000 to $1,500 for the 25-minute boat ride from Bodrum, Turkey to Kos.[173] In August 2015, "hundreds" of boats made the crossing carrying illegal immigrants every night.[173] The migrants travel onward to Thessaloniki in the mainland of Greece and estimate that it will cost them €3,000 to €4,000 to reach Germany, and €10,000 or €12,000 to reach Britain.[173] Desperate migrants have fought brawls over places in boats leaving Bodrum for Kos.[178]

In September 2015, the photos of dead 3-year-old Alan Kurdi, who drowned when he and his family were in a small inflatable boat which capsized shortly after leaving Bodrum trying to reach the Greek island of Kos, made headlines around the world. Konstantinos Vardakis, the top EU diplomat in Baghdad, told The New York Times that at least 250 Iraqis per day had been landing on Greek islands between mid-August and early September 2015.[179]


Number of migrants in Hungary per week, May–September 2015
Migrants in Hungary on their march towards Austria

Migrants taking the Balkans route cross into the Schengen Area first in Greece. In June 2015, Hungary said it was contemplating countermeasures against the influx of illegal immigrants from Serbia, a non-EU and non-Schengen state.[180]

On 17 June 2015, the Hungarian government announced the construction of a 4-metre-high (13 ft), 175-kilometre-long (109 mi) fence along its southern border with Serbia.[181][182] Although Hungary acted in accordance with the Schengen Agreement that obligates countries with external Schengen borders to protect it from illegal crossing and exercise border checks, the European Commission warned EU members against steps that contravene EU obligations and urging members like Hungary to find other ways to cope with an inflow of illegal migrants.[183] The first phase of the construction was finished at the end of August and Prime Minister Viktor Orbán announced that it would be fully completed by the end of 2015.[184]

On 3 September 2015, Hungary's prime minister, Viktor Orbán, defended the country's management of the migrant situation internally, notwithstanding chaos at Budapest's main international rail station, while criticising Germany and Europe overall for not dissuading migrants from entering Europe.[185] On the same day, Hungarian police let migrants board a train in Budapest heading west, then stopped it in Bicske and tried to transport migrants to a registration camp there. The migrants refused to cooperate and remained on the train, which did not travel further west.[186]

On 4 September 2015, about a thousand of the migrants at Railway Station East (Keleti Pályaudvar) set off by foot toward Austria and Germany.[187][188] On the same night, the Hungarian government decided to send buses to transport illegal migrants to Hegyeshalom, on the border with Austria.[189]

On 14 September 2015, it was reported that the Hungarian police was blocking the route from Serbia, and that the regular entry-point was heavily manned with officers, soldiers and helicopters hovering above,[190] sealing this border with a razor wire[191][192] and detaining migrants crossing the border illegally as of 12 am on 15 September 2015 with the threat of arrest and criminal charges.[192] On the Hungarian side, volunteers were seen giving handouts showing a map with alternate routes through Croatia marked, created by the administrators of the Facebook group "Avoid Hungary – Migration news". This has, in turn, resulted in Croatian Facebook commenters urging the migrants to be careful when crossing the Croatia–Serbia border, due to a large number of still active landmines not yet removed since the 1990s' War of Independence.[193] Meanwhile, on 15 September 2015, Hungary sealed its border with Serbia. Several hundred migrants broke the fence between Hungary and Serbia twice on Wednesday, 16 September, and threw chunks of concrete and water bottles over the fence. Hungarian police reacted with tear gas and water cannons at Horgoš 2 border crossing. Belgrade protested these actions but the Serbian police did nothing to stop the violence. A 20-year-old Iraqi refugee has been sentenced to deportation and one-year entry ban in Hungary, as well as €80 in court fees, according to the new law put into action a few days ago.[194] On 18 September, Hungary started building another fence, this time along the border with Croatia, a fellow EU member state, but not part of the Schengen Area.[195] Within two weeks, tens of thousands of refugees crossed from Croatia into Hungary, most of whom went toward the Austrian border.[196]

On 16 October 2015, Hungary announced that it would close its border with Croatia to migrants,[119] and since 17 October onward, thousands of migrants daily were diverted to Slovenia instead.[197]


Migrants arriving in Italy by sea, 1997–2015[198]

Since 2014, thousands of migrants have been trying every month to cross the Central Mediterranean to Italy, risking their lives on unsafe boats including fishing trawlers.[199] Many of them are fleeing poverty-stricken homelands or war-torn countries and seeking economic opportunity within the EU.[200][201] Italy, and, in particular, its southern island of Lampedusa, receives enormous numbers of Africans and Middle-Easterners transported by smugglers operating along the ungoverned coast of the failed state of Libya.[200][202]

Migrants arrived in Lampedusa

In July 2013, Pope Francis visited the island on his first official visit outside of Rome. He prayed for migrants, living and dead, and denounced their traffickers.[203] In October 2013, a disaster occurred; a boat carrying over 500 migrants, mostly from Eritrea and Somalia, sank off the coast of Lampedusa with the deaths of at least 300 people.[204][205] Sicily's regional parliament declared a state of emergency.[206]

In 2014, 170,100 migrants arrived in Italy by sea, a 296% increase compared to 2013. 141,484 of the travellers ferried over from Libya. Most of the migrants had come from Syria, Eritrea and various countries in West Africa.[207]

From January to April 2015, about 1600 migrants died on the route from Libya to Lampedusa, making it the deadliest migrant route in the world.[208] There were 153,842 Mediterranean sea arrivals to Italy in 2015, 9% less than the previous year; most of the refugees and migrants came from Eritrea, Nigeria and Somalia, whereas the number of Syrian refugees sharply decreased, as most of them took the Eastern Mediterranean route to Greece.[209]


Rescued migrants near Malta, October 2013

Between 2008 and 2012, Malta received on average the highest number of asylum seekers compared to its national population: 21.7 applicants per 1,000 inhabitants.[210]:13 In 2011, most of these asylum applications were submitted by nationals of Somalia, Nigeria, Eritrea and Syria.[210]:26 In 2012, more than half of the requests were by Somalian nationals alone.[210]:45 In a 2013 news story, The Guardian reported, "Before Malta joined the EU in 2004, immigration levels were negligible. Because it is located close to north Africa, it has now become a gateway for migrants seeking entry to Europe."[211]

In 2015, very few migrants arrived in Malta compared to previous years, since most of those rescued were taken to Italy. In September, 78 migrants rescued by the Armed Forces of Malta refused to be brought to Malta.[212] They insisted on going to Italy, and were eventually taken there.[213]

Melilla and Ceuta (Spain)

Melilla and Ceuta, two autonomous Spanish cities on the north coast of Africa bordering Morocco, are the only EU territories to share a land border with an African country.[214] The number of undocumented migrants hoping to reach the EU via Melilla or Ceuta grew in 2014.[215] Between January and September 2015, only 100 people out of 3700 hopefuls have managed to cross the Melilla border fence, down from 2100 people from 19,000 attempts the previous year.[216] In October 2015, 165 people were rescued from fourteen attempts to cross the Strait of Gibraltar to reach Ceuta.[217] In a report published on 17 November 2015, Amnesty International called on Spain to cease cooperation with Morocco on immigration matters because of alleged human rights abuses on the Melilla and Ceuta borders. Amnesty said it has "photographs, images and evidence" of "blows with sticks, feet and stones" on migrants attempting to get to Spain.[218]

The Russian Federation/Norway

Border crossing between Russia and Norway near Kirkenes

The number of migrants crossing from the Russian Federation into Norway increased from a handful in the first half of 2015 to 420 asylum seekers crossing by bicycle in September 2015 alone.[97] As of 11 December 2015 over 4,000 migrants/refugees has crossed the Northern border and the right-wing Norwegian government vowed to send all migrants with Russian residence visa back to Russia even if they were from countries experiencing conflicts such as Afghanistan.[219]


Migrants in Slovenia, 23 October 2015

Slovenia established temporary controls on the otherwise unsupervised border with Hungary in the north east on 17 September 2015, following Germany and Austria's similar actions.[220] On 18 September, Slovenia experienced the first larger and largely illegal border crossing occurrences, coming mostly from Croatia, already overwhelmed by the large influx of migrant groups.

On the evening of 18 September, the Slovenian riot police used pepper spray on a bridge at the Harmica border to prevent migrants and activists from crossing the border from Croatia.[221]

By midday of 19 September, the country had registered around 1500 migrants, with all of them being accommodated in temporary reception camps or asylum centres. The largest traffic was seen at Obrežje border crossing, Dobova border crossing and Brežice. Prime Minister Miro Cerar visited the reception centre in Brežice on Saturday, stressing that Slovenia had the situation under control, while criticising the Croatian government for being uncooperative.[222]

large group of migrants moving along a road, being directed by the army and police
Arrival of migrants in Dobova, Slovenia

There were also various humanitarian and non-governmental organisations aiding the migrants on the border, coming mostly from Slovenia, Croatia and Austria.[223]

On 18 October 2015, Slovenia began restricting admission to 2,500 migrants per day, stranding migrants in Croatia as well as Serbia and Macedonia.[120][121]

From 18 October, the country began receiving large numbers of refugees, which soon exceeded the upper admission limit of 2,500. On 22 October, the police reported 12,600 migrant arrivals in 24 hours, reportedly a record, and more than Hungary had received in any one day. The Slovenian government also passed a law giving the army more powers and asked the EU for aid. The latter responded by sending the commissioner for migration to Slovenia, and announcing a "mini EU summit".[224] On the same day the Slovenian government accused the Croatian police of leading migrants through cold waters in an effort to bypass the Slovene controls by crossing the green border, and released a night time thermovision video apparently showing the events on the preceding night.[225][226]

By 24 October, Slovenia had reported more than 56,000 total migrant arrivals.[227]

On 10 November, Prime Minister Cerar announced that Slovenia would impose temporary technical hurdles to control migrants, but that the country would not close border crossings.[228] On 11 November, Slovenian military personnel began the construction of the fence consisting of razor wire.[229] The Austrian minister of the interior Johanna Mikl-Leitner expressed full support for the Slovenian government's action on the border with Croatia.[230]


In November 2015, Sweden reintroduced border controls for arrivals, including the Öresund Bridge. This did not have so much effect on the inflow of asylum seekers, since they had the right to apply for asylum once they were on Swedish ground. In December 2015, Sweden passed a temporary law that allows the government to oblige all transport companies to check that their passengers carry valid photographic identification before border crossing. The new law came into effect on 21 December 2015 and is valid until 21 December 2018.[231] The government decided that the new rules will apply from 4 January 2016 until 4 July 2016. The new law led to the mandatory train change and passage through border control at Copenhagen Airport station for travellers between Copenhagen and Sweden, and with a reduction in service frequency.[232] On the first day of border controls this led to a reduction in the number of migrants arriving to southern Sweden from the previous hundreds to some dozens.[233] Within hours of Swedish border control becoming effective, Denmark in turn created a border control between Denmark and Germany.[234] The migration pattern also changed with the majority of those arriving by ferry from Germany to Trelleborg instead of by train to Hyllie station,[233] bypassing the border control between Denmark and Germany.[234] Migrants then started taking taxis in greater numbers over the Öresund Bridge in order to evade identification.[235] Three days later, a Danish cab driver was arrested for human trafficking near the Øresund Bridge.[236] In January 2016 newspaper Sydsvenskan reported that the migration flow had led to an increase of MRSA infections in southernmost Skåne province where many migrants are received, from 160 cases in 2005 to more than 635 cases in 2015.[237]


The vast majority of migrants and refugees entering Europe by sea in 2015, nearly half million by September, arrived from Turkey, according to the United Nations.[238] Turkish officials attempting to deter migration facilitated by smugglers have detained 57,000 travellers and over 100 human traffickers in 2015 through September.[238]

Triggers of the summer 2015 crisis

Concert “Voices for Refugees” at the Heldenplatz in Vienna, Austria, 3 October 2015

Factors cited as immediate triggers or causes of the sudden and massive increase in migrant numbers in the summer of 2015 along the Eastern Mediterranean and Western Balkan route (Turkey-Greece-Macedonia-Serbia-Hungary) include:

Closure of green borders

The entry routes through the Balkans have experienced the greatest intensity of border restrictions in the 2015 EU migrant crisis, according to The New York Times[242] and other sources, as follows:

From To Situation
Turkey Greece Greece built a razor-wire fence in 2012 along its short land border with Turkey.[242] In September 2015, Turkish provincial authorities gave approximately 1,700 migrants three days to leave the border zone.[243]
Turkey Bulgaria As a result of Greece's diversion of migrants to Bulgaria from Turkey, Bulgaria built its own fence to block migrants crossing from Turkey.[242]
Greece Macedonia In August 2015, a police crackdown on migrants crossing from Greece failed in Macedonia, causing the police to instead turn their attention to diverting migrants north, into Serbia.[242] However, in November 2015, Macedonia began erecting a fence along its southern border with Greece, with the intention of channeling the flow of migrants through an official checkpoint as opposed to limiting the inflow of migrants.[244] Beginning in November 2015, Greek police forces permitted only Syrians, Iraqis, and Afghans to cross into Macedonia.[245] In February, Macedonian soldiers began erecting a second fence meters away from the previous one.[246]
Serbia Hungary Hungary built a 175-km (109-mi) razor-wire fence along its border with Serbia in 2015.[242]
Croatia Hungary Hungary built a 40-km (25-mi) razor-wire fence along its border with Croatia in 2015.[242] On 16 October 2015, Hungary announced that it would close off its border with Croatia to migrants.[119]
Croatia Slovenia Slovenia blocked transit from Croatia in September 2015,[242] pepper spraying migrants trying to cross.[247] Although re-opening the border, by 18 October 2015, Slovenia restricted crossing to 2,500 migrants per day.[121]
Hungary Austria Austria planned to put border controls into effect along its border with Hungary in September 2015, and officials said the controls could stay in effect under European Union rules for up to six months.[242]
Slovenia Austria
Russia Norway On 25 January, it was reported that Russia closed its northern border checkpoint with Noway for asylum seekers to return to Russia.[248] While the announcement was noted as closure of the border, it apparently was considering only returning asylum seekers, thus only partial closure of the border.
Russia Finland On 4 December, Finland temporarily closed one of its land border crossings by lowering the border gate and blocking the road with a car. The closure was reported to only apply for asylum seekers and lasted only a couple of hours.[151] On 27 December 2015, Finland closed its Russian border for people riding on bicycles, reportedly enforcing the rule only on Raja-Jooseppi and Salla checkpoints. Earlier, more and more asylum seekers had crossed the border on bikes.[149]
Austria Germany Germany placed temporary travel restrictions from Austria by rail in 2015[242] but has imposed the least onerous restrictions for migrants entering by the Western Balkans route in 2015, in the context that Chancellor Angela Merkel had insisted that Germany will not limit the number of refugees it accepts.[242]


Several serious accidents and deaths have occurred in Europe as a result of migrant smuggling, both in the Mediterranean Sea, due to the capsizing of crowded and unseaworthy migrant vessels, and on European soil, due to the use of standard cargo trucks by smugglers to transport migrants.


European Union

After the migrant shipwreck on 19 April 2015, Italy's Premier Matteo Renzi spoke by telephone to French President François Hollande and to Maltese Prime Minister Joseph Muscat.[249][250] They agreed to call for an emergency meeting of European interior ministers to address the problem of migrant deaths. Renzi condemned human trafficking as a "new slave trade"[251] while Prime Minister Muscat said 19 April shipwreck was the "biggest human tragedy of the last few years". Hollande described people traffickers as "terrorists" who put migrant lives at risk. The German government's representative for migration, refugees and integration, Aydan Özoğuz, said that with more migrants likely to arrive as the weather turned warmer, emergency rescue missions should be restored. "It was an illusion to think that cutting off Mare Nostrum would prevent people from attempting this dangerous voyage across the Mediterranean", she said.[252][253][254][254] Federica Mogherini, High Representative of the EU for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, called for collective EU action ahead of a meeting in Luxembourg on Monday 20 April.[255][256]

In a press conference, Renzi confirmed that Italy had called an "extraordinary European council" meeting as soon as possible to discuss the tragedy,[257] various European leaders agreed with this idea.[258][259] Cameron tweeted on 20 April that he "supported" Renzi's "call for an emergency meeting of EU leaders to find a comprehensive solution" to the migrant crisis in the Mediterranean.[260] He later confirmed that he would attend an emergency summit of European leaders on Thursday.[261]

On 20 April 2015, the European Commission proposed a 10-point plan to tackle the crisis:[262]

Border patrol operations

Further information: Operation Triton and EU Navfor Med

The Guardian and Reuters noted that doubling the size of Operation Triton would still leave the mission with fewer resources than the previous Italian-run rescue option (Operation Mare Nostrum) whose budget was more than 3 times as large, had 4 times the number of aircraft[263] and had a wider mandate to conduct search and rescue operations across the Mediterranean Sea.[264]

On 23 April 2015, a five-hour emergency summit was held and EU heads of state agreed to triple the budget of Operation Triton to €120 million for 2015–2016.[265] EU leaders claimed that this would allow for the same operational capabilities as Operation Mare Nostrum had had in 2013–2014. As part of the agreement the United Kingdom agreed to send HMS Bulwark, two naval patrol boats and three helicopters to join the Operation.[265] On 5 May 2015 it was announced by the Irish Minister of Defence Simon Coveney that the LÉ Eithne would also take part in the response to the crisis.[266] Amnesty International immediately criticised the EU response as "a face-saving not a life-saving operation" and said that "failure to extend Triton's operational area will fatally undermine today's commitment".[267]

On 18 May 2015, the European Union decided to launch a new operation based in Rome, called EU Navfor Med, under the command of the Italian Admiral Enrico Credendino,[268] to undertake systematic efforts to identify, capture and dispose of vessels used by migrant smugglers.[269] The first phase of the operation, launched on 22 June, involved naval surveillance to detect smugglers' boats and monitor smuggling patterns from Libya towards Italy and Malta. The second phase, called "Operation Sophia", started in October, and was aimed at disrupting the smugglers' journeys by boarding, searching, seizing and diverting migrant vessels in international waters. The operation uses six EU warships.[270][271] The EU seeks to increase the scope of EU Navfor Med so that a third phase of the operation would include patrols inside Libyan waters in order to capture and dispose of vessels used by smugglers.[272][273][274] Land operations on Libya to destroy vessels used by smugglers had been proposed, but commentators note that such an operation would need a UN or Libyan permit.

Relocation and resettlement of asylum seekers

The European Parliament has voted in favour of a migrant quota system to make sure that asylum seekers are distributed more equally across member states.[275]

The escalation in April 2015 of shipwrecks of migrant boats in the Mediterranean led European Union leaders to reconsider their policies on border control and processing of migrants.[276] On 20 April the European Commission proposed a 10-point plan that included the European Asylum Support Office deploying teams in Italy and Greece for joint processing of asylum applications.[277] Also in April 2015 German chancellor Angela Merkel proposed a new system of quotas to distribute non-EU asylum seekers around the EU member states.[278]

In September 2015, as thousands of migrants started to move from Budapest to Vienna, Germany, Italy and France demanded asylum-seekers to be shared more evenly between EU states. Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker proposed to distribute 160,000 asylum seekers among EU states under a new migrant quota system to be set out. Jean Asselborn, the Luxembourg foreign minister, called for the establishment of a European Refugee Agency, which would have the power to investigate whether every EU member state is applying the same standards for granting asylum to migrants. Viktor Orbán, the prime minister of Hungary, criticised the European Commission warning that "tens of millions" of migrants could come to Europe. Asselborn declared to be ashamed of Orbán.[279][280] German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier said that EU members reluctant to accept compulsory migrant quotas may have to be outvoted: "if there is no other way, then we should seriously consider to use the instrument of a qualified majority".[281]

Leaders of the Visegrád Group (Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, Slovakia) declared in a September meeting in Prague that they will not accept any compulsory long-term quota on redistribution of immigrants.[282] Czech Government Secretary for European Affairs commented that "if two or three thousand people who do not want to be here are forced into Czech Republic, it is fair to assume that they will leave anyway. The quotas are unfair to the refugees, we can't just move them here and there like a cattle." According to the Czech interior minister Milan Chovanec, from 2 September 2015, Czech Republic was offering asylum to every Syrian caught by the police notwithstanding the Dublin Regulation: out of about 1,300 apprehended until 9 September, only 60 decided to apply for asylum in Czech Republic, with the rest of them continuing to Germany or elsewhere.[283] Czech President Miloš Zeman said that Ukrainian refugees fleeing War in Donbass should be also included in migrant quotas.[284] In November 2015, the Czech Republic started a program of medical evacuations of selected Syrian refugees from Jordan (400 in total). Under the program, severely sick children were selected for treatment in the best Czech medical facilities, with their families getting asylum, airlift and a paid flats in the Czech Republic after stating clear intent to stay in the country. However, from the initial 3 families that had been transported to Prague, one immediately fled to Germany. Czech Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka stated that this signals that quota system will not work either.[285]

On 7 September 2015, France announced that it would accept 24,000 asylum-seekers over two years; Britain announced that it would take in up to 20,000 refugees, primarily vulnerable children and orphans from camps in Jordan, Lebanon, and Turkey; and Germany pledged US$6.7 billion to deal with the migrant crisis.[286][287] However, also on 7 September 2015, both Austria and Germany warned that they would not be able to keep up with the current pace of the influx and that it would need to slow down first.[288]

National governments' position in the European Union Justice and Home Affairs Council majority vote to relocate 120,000 refugees:
  Non-EU state

On 22 September 2015, European Union interior ministers meeting in the Justice and Home Affairs Council approved a plan to relocate 120,000 asylum seekers over two years from the frontline states Italy, Greece and Hungary to all other EU countries (except Denmark, Ireland and the United Kingdom which have opt-outs). The relocation plan applies to asylum seekers "in clear need of international protection" (those with a recognition rate higher than 75%, i.e. Syrians, Eritreans and Iraqis) – 15,600 from Italy, 50,400 from Greece and 54,000 from Hungary – who will be distributed among EU states on the basis of quotas taking into account the size of economy and population of each state, as well as the average number of asylum applications. The decision was taken by majority vote, with the Czech Republic, Hungary, Romania, and Slovakia voting against and Finland abstaining. Since Hungary voted against the relocation plan, its 54,000 asylum seekers would not be relocated for now, and could be relocated from Italy and Greece instead.[289][290][291][292] Czech Interior Minister tweeted after the vote: "Common sense lost today."[293] Slovak Prime Minister Robert Fico is threatening legal action over EU's mandatory migrant quotas at European Court of Justice in Luxembourg.[294] On 9 October, the first 20 Eritrean asylum seekers were relocated by plane from Italy to Sweden,[295] following the EU prerequisite fingerprinting in Italy as the first member country of asylum registration.[296]

On 25 October 2015, the leaders of Greece and other states along Balkan routes to wealthier nations of Europe, including Germany, agreed to set up holding camps for 100,000 asylum seekers, a move which German Chancellor Merkel supported.[297]

In the wake of November 2015 Paris attacks, Poland's European affairs minister designate Konrad Szymański stated that he sees no possibility of enacting the EU refugee relocation scheme,[298] saying, "We'll accept [refugees only] if we have security guarantees."[299] The attacks prompted European officialsparticularly German officialsto re-evaluate their stance on EU policy toward migrants, especially in light of the ongoing European migrant crisis.[300][301] Many German officials believed a higher level of scrutiny was needed, and criticised the position of German Chancellor Angela Merkel, but the German Vice-Chancellor Sigmar Gabriel defended her stance, and pointed out that a lot of migrants were fleeing terrorism.[301]

On 12 November it was reported that Frontex was maintaining combined asylum seeker and deportation hotspots in Lesbos, Greece since October.[302]

On 15 December 2015, the EU proposed taking over border and coastal security operations at major migrant entry pressure points, via its Frontex operation.[303]

EU "Safe countries of origin" list

12 EU countries have national lists of so-called safe countries of origin. The European Commission is proposing one, common EU list designating as ‘safe’ all EU candidate countries (Albania, Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia and Turkey), plus potential EU candidates Bosnia and Herzegovina and Kosovo.[304] The list would allow for faster returns to those countries, even though asylum applications from nationals of those countries would continue to be assessed on an individual, case-by-case basis.[304]

On 12 November 2015, at the end of a two-day summit in Malta, EU officials announced an agreement to offer Turkey 3 billion euros over two years to manage the more than 2 million refugees from Syria who had sought refuge there, in return for curbing migration through Turkey into the EU, described as the most ambitious effort yet at stemming the tide of migrants entering Europe.[305]

Valletta Summit on Migration

Between 11 and 12 November 2015, a summit between European and African leaders was held in Valletta, Malta, to discuss the migrant crisis. The summit resulted in the EU setting up an Emergency Trust Fund to promote development in Africa, in return for African countries to help out in the crisis.[306]

Effects on Dublin and Schengen rules

Main articles: Dublin Regulation and Schengen Area

Under the Dublin Regulation, an asylum seeker has to apply for asylum in the first EU country they entered, and, if they cross borders to another country after being fingerprinted, they can be returned to the former. As most asylum seekers try to reach Germany or Sweden through the other EU countries in order to apply for asylum there, and as 22 EU countries form the borderless Schengen area where internal border controls are abolished, enforcement of the Dublin Regulation became increasingly difficult during late summer 2015, with some countries allowing asylum seekers to transit through their territories and other countries renouncing the right to return them back or reinstating border controls within the Schengen Area to prevent them from entering.

Refugees strike in front of the Budapest Keleti railway station, 3 September 2015

EU member states

'Syrian Refugees Welcome' rally in Vienna, 31 August 2015

 Austria – On 6 August 2015, Amnesty International Secretary General Heinz Patzelt inspected the refugee camp Bundesbetreuungsstelle in Traiskirchen where more than 4,800 refugees are housed while nearly 1,500 of them are sleeping outdoors. Medical expert Siroos Mirzaei from Amnesty International noted that the people had to wait for days in order to get medical help. The report also states that only four doctors are present at the refugee camp and that showers and toilets are in a dreadful condition. Mirzaei speaks about "floating excrement". According to Patzelt, "Austria is currently violating human rights and should focus on unattended children and minors".[325]

 Bulgaria – Bulgaria built a fence along its border with Turkey to prevent migrants from crossing through its territory in order to reach other EU countries. The fence is equipped with infrared cameras, motion sensors and wire, and is monitored by the army.[326][327]

 Croatia – Croatia will receive 1,064[328] migrants in the next two years according to the EU plan. Croatia was originally supposed to receive 505 migrants, but decided to accept more—which makes it the only country in the EU, along with Estonia, which has done so.[329] On 29 August 2015 a Croatian daily newspaper Jutarnji list published an interview with a "senior government official" who said that the Croatian Government formed an interdepartmental working group that is working on a plan on how to accept these migrants. Croatia will in October 2015 send its delegation to the migrants' camps in Italy and Greece, which will choose immigrants from Syria and Eritrea that Croatia will accept. Criteria for the selection will be: 1. any kind of connection to Croatia, such as family in Croatia or a diploma from one of the Croatian Universities (while Croatia was member of Yugoslavia, many foreigners from Non-Aligned Movement countries, especially Syrians, were coming to Croatia to study), 2. education in occupations that are in demand in Croatia, and 3. families with small children.[330] In addition, Croatia shares a land border with Serbia. Therefore, there is a risk of a strong inflow of migrants from Serbia considering that Hungary erected a fence on its border with Serbia. Nearly 80% of the border consists of the Danube river, but the problem is the 70 kilometers long so-called "Green Border" near Tovarnik. According to the Croatian Minister of Interior Ranko Ostojić "police in the area has enough people and equipment to protect Croatian border against illegal immigrants".[110] Croatian President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarović and First Deputy Prime Minister Vesna Pusić rejected the option of building a fence on Croatian border with Serbia.[111][112] Grabar-Kitarović has accused German Chancellor Angela Merkel of causing "chaos".[331]

Anti-immigration rally called "For our culture and safe country" in Prague, Czech Republic on 12 September 2015. According to the poll, over 70% of Czechs reject migration from the Middle East and Africa.[332]
Pro-migration rally in Prague, Czech Republic on 12 September 2015.

 Czech Republic – Czech Republic will receive 4,306 refugees according to quotas accepted by the European Commission.[333] Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka said the European Commission had failed in solving the crisis and expressed disagreement with proposed quotas saying: We reject the system of quotas. I do not consider it effective, I do not think it would help bring any solution. It makes no sense to discuss any numbers for now. He said Europe needs to complete what the European Council has agreed in the past and not to create new plans and proposals. He supports the idea of creating hotspots in Italy or Greece.[334] Czech President Miloš Zeman has expressed his dissatisfaction with the mass inflow of migrants to Europe on several occasions. In late August 2015 in an interview for radio "Frekvence 1" he said: "The reception of migrants from the Middle East and Northern Africa to the territory of Czech Republic brings with it three major risks – spread of infectious diseases, terrorism of the Islamic state and the creation of new ghettos." According to his opinion the majority of refugees are actually economic migrants that are not fleeing war. The President also thinks that migrants that are crossing Czech territory in order to go to Germany will stay in Czech Republic when Germany eventually stops accepting them, "which would then make Czech Republic to defend its boundaries with the police and army".[335]

Czech Deputy Prime Minister Andrej Babiš called for NATO intervention against human trafficking in the Mediterranean.[336] After talks with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg on migrant crisis issue Babiš said: "NATO is not interested in refugees, though Turkey, a NATO member, is their entrance gate to Europe and smugglers operate on Turkish territory".[337] Opposition TOP09's Miroslav Kalousek said that confident and wealthy countries such as the Czech Republic should not be afraid to accept 3,000 refugees and criticised President Zeman of giving rise to hatred to refugees, however he also shares disagreement with proposed quotas.[338] Former Minister of Foreign Affairs Karel Schwarzenberg has said that accepting 80,000 refugees would be suitable.[339] Minister of Human Rights and Equal Opportunities Jiří Dienstbier said the country is able to accept 7,000 —15,000 refugees now and should express solidarity and help other countries facing the strongest influx of refugees without quotas.[340]

 Denmark – Denmark temporarily closed rail links with Germany in September to stop migrants from illegally entering the country, and the E45 Motorway due to migrants on the road.[341] Denmark used the second highest amount on asylum seekers among European nations in 2015, compared to GDP (0.47% of GDP, after Sweden at 0.5%, followed by Germany and Italy at 0.2%, with remaining lower).[342] This is expected to rise in 2016.[342] In December 2015, the Danish Government announced that it would introduced new laws that will allow confiscation of cash above 3,000 DKK (c. 402 euros) and valuables worth more than 3,000 DKK from asylum seekers to pay the cost of their stay. Items of sentimental value (such as wedding rings, personal mobile phones and personal laptops) would not be taken.[343] In January 2016, the limit was changed to 10,000 DKK (c. 1,340 euros) and the law was passed.[344][345] Similar laws already exist in Switzerland (limit 1,000 Swiss francs [c. 913 euros]),[344] the Netherlands (limit 5,895 euros)[346][347] and some federal states of Germany (limit varies, 750 euros in Bavaria and 350 euros in Baden-Württemberg).[348] The Danish law was condemned from several sides, including by the UNHCR,[345][349] and caused one Danish politician, Jens Rohde, to defect from the Venstre party to the Social Liberal Party. The Danish Police said that this would be unenforceable.[350]

 Finland – Many migrants arrived over the land border from Sweden. They were stopped from using ferries by carrier's responsibility rules. On 14 September, a former prime minister Matti Vanhanen noted that the government needed to regain control on who enters the country and to divert asylum seekers to special camps. He did not think that it would be appropriate that the asylum seekers could continue to freely move around.[351] Later on the same day, the Minister of the Interior Petteri Orpo, who is also a member of the National Coalition Party, noted that tightened border controls would be imposed on the northern border stations by the end of the week.[352] On 14 November 2015 Finnish prime minister Juha Sipilä noted that border controls need to be tightened and he expressed his concern that Schengen Agreement and freedom of movement was not working. He stressed, that border controls will be restored if Schengen agreement won't be fixed. Furthermore, he noted, that Finnish National Bureau of Investigation will improve its cyber surveillance.[353] On the same day Finnish President Sauli Niinistö (elected from the National Coalition Party) was referred to have noted that national solutions needed to be formed if the Schengen agreement could not be repaired.[354]

 France – On 23 September, after the Czech Republic, Hungary, Romania, and Slovakia voted against a plan to relocate asylum-seekers arriving in Greece, Italy, and Hungary among other member states, French President François Hollande warned former Eastern Bloc countries against rejecting the EU mandatory migrant quotas: "Those who don't share our values, those who don't even want to respect those principles, need to start asking themselves questions about their place in the European Union."[355]

Migrants in Budapest railway station, with most heading to Germany, 4 September 2015

 Germany – Junior coalition partner, Vice Chancellor Sigmar Gabriel said that Germany could take in 500,000 refugees annually for the next several years.[356] German opposition to the government's admission of the new wave of migrants has been an increasingly tense political debate, coupled with a rise in anti-immigration protests.[357] Pegida, an anti-immigration movement flourished briefly in late 2014, followed by a new wave of anti-immigration protests in the late summer of 2015.[358] Chancellor Angela Merkel insisted that Germany has the economic strength to cope with the influx of migrants and reiterated that there is no legal maximum limit on the number of migrants Germany can take.[359] In September 2015, enthusiastic crowds across the country welcomed arriving refugees and migrants.[360]

Horst Seehofer, leader of Christian Social Union in Bavaria, the sister party of Merkel's Christian Democratic Union attacked Merkel policies in sharp language, threatened to sue the government in the high court, and hinted that the CSU might topple Merkel. Many MPs of Merkel's CDU party also voiced dissatisfaction with Merkel. Meanwhile, Yasmin Fahimi, secretary-general of the Social Democratic Party, the junior partner of the ruling coalition, praised Merkel's policy allowing migrants in Hungary to enter Germany as "a strong signal of humanity to show that Europe's values are valid also in difficult times".[361] North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany's most populous state, was hiring more than 3,600 new teachers to manage the influx of an estimated 40,000 new refugee children in 2015.[362] CSU leader and Bavarian State Premier Horst Seehofer criticised Merkel's decision to allow in migrants: "We’re now in a state of mind without rules, without system and without order because of a German decision."[363] The German Interior Ministry estimates as many as 30% of asylum seekers arriving in Germany claiming to be from Syria are in fact from other countries,[364] and suggested to reduce EU funding for member countries that reject mandatory refugee quotas.[365]

In November 2015, there were talks inside the governing coalition to stop family unification for migrants for two years, and to establish "Transit Zones" on the border and - for migrants with low chances to get asylum approved - to be housed there until their application is approved. The issues are in conflict between the CSU who favours those new measures and threaten to leave the coalition without them, and the SPD who opposes them. Merkel has agreed to the measures.[366] The November 2015 Paris attacks prompted reevaluation of German officials' stance on the EU's policy toward migrants.[367] There appeared to be a consensus among officials, with the notable exception of Angela Merkel herself, that a higher level of scrutiny was needed in vetting migrants with respect to their mission in Germany.[367] However, while not officially limiting the influx numerically, Merkel has tightened asylum policy in Germany.[368]

Migrants crossing illegally into Hungary underneath the unfinished Hungary–Serbia border fence, 25 August 2015

 Hungary – Hungary has finished construction of the first phase of a fence on its southern border with Serbia in late August 2015, according to the Hungarian Ministry of Defence. The fence consists of three strands of NATO razor wire, and is 175 kilometers long. The next phase involves construction of a wire fence which will be approximately 4 meters high. In August, describing Hungary as, "under siege from human traffickers", Minister of the Prime Minister's Office János Lázár announced that the government would "defend this stretch of our borders with force", deploying 9,000 police to keep undocumented migrants out.[369]

Hungary's Prime Minister Viktor Orbán wrote in the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung: "Europe’s response is madness. We must acknowledge that the European Union's misguided immigration policy is responsible for this situation."[370] Orbán also demanded an official EU list of "safe countries" to which migrants can be returned.[371] He said that "the moral, human thing is to make clear: ‘Please don’t come. Why do you have to go from Turkey to Europe? Turkey is a safe country. Stay there. It’s risky to come.’"[372] Hungary has adopted a list of countries deemed safe for transiting purposes. If an asylum seeker has passed through those countries, it is assumed that he could have found asylum there, and therefore he is not eligible for asylum in Hungary.[373] Speaking at United Nations General Assembly, Prime Minister Viktor Orbán called for "global quota" system to distribute refugees to all countries.[374]

Rescued migrants are brought to southern Italian ports, 28 June 2015

 Italy – Some Italian towns and cities have refused instructions from the national government to house migrants.[375] The Mafia Capitale investigation revealed that the Italian Mafia profits from the migrant crisis and exploits refugees.[376][377] Pope Francis thanked the Italian navy for migrant rescue effort.[378]

 Latvia – Latvia decided to receive 250 migrants in the next two years according to the EU plan. National Alliance party expressed its disapproval of such decision. On 4 August 2015 around 250 activists gathered in Riga on a protest against Government's decision on receiving migrants.

 Lithuania – Lithuania decided to receive 325 migrants, although after the increase of migrant flow in August 2015, its government did not discount the possibility of accepting a greater number of migrants later in the same year.[379]

 Malta – Prime Minister Joseph Muscat called the crisis "an ugly period" for Europe, and said that Malta will take in 75 migrants from Italy and Greece.[380] He also called for a 'global system of refugee quotas'.[381]

 Poland – Government officials stated that the country is ready to take 2,000 refugees.[382] Polish President Andrzej Duda rejected the European Union's proposal of compulsory migrant quotas, saying: "I won’t agree to a dictate of the strong. I won’t back a Europe where the economic advantage of the size of a population will be a reason to force solutions on other countries regardless of their national interests".[383]

 Portugal – In the next two years, Portugal is willing to offer shelter to 1,500 of the refugees flooding into Europe from the Mediterranean Sea. A source has told Diário de Notícias that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs has already presented its counter-proposal to the European Commission (EC), which wanted Portugal to absorb 2,400 refugees.[384]

 Romania – The European Commission asked Romania to accept 6,351 refugees under an EU quota scheme. The EurActiv reported that "Romanian Prime Minister Victor Ponta said that his country will request admission to the EU's Schengen borderless area if mandatory quotas to accept refugees are decided by the Union".[385]

 Slovakia – Government of Slovakia stated that it would help with migration into Europe by receiving 200 migrants according to the EU plan, but on condition that the migrants are Christians.[386] Slovak Prime Minister Robert Fico said: "I have only one question: who bombed Libya? Who caused problems in North Africa? Slovakia? No!" The Prime Minister proposed temporary refuge in his country for 500 migrants who have submitted requests for asylum in Austria, whose accommodation for refugees is overfilled, but as for 200 migrants that Slovakia will receive according to the EU plan, requires that these 500 are Christians as well. On 15 September 2015, Fico was reported saying that all crossing the border illegally would be detained.[387] Fico rejected European Commission plan to distribute migrants among EU member states, saying: "As long as I am prime minister, mandatory quotas will not be implemented on Slovak territory."[388] S&D Group leader has proposed to suspend Fico's SMER party from the Party of European Socialists (PES).[389]

 Sweden As of 26 November, Sweden had received 146,000 asylum seekers in 2015, with a record of 39,000 applications in October. Most asylum seekers were Afghan, followed by Syrians and Iraqis.[390] In the beginning of November, the authorities warned they could no longer offer housing to all asylum seekers and on 12 November temporary border control was enacted (on the Swedish side) which reduced the number of migrants somewhat (migrants could still apply for asylum).[390] On 26 November 2015, Prime Minister Stefan Löfven said the system for welcoming migrants was about to collapse and that the cabinet would propose major new restrictions and measures to reduce the inflow of migrants. He called on other European countries to take more responsibility.[391] The government in December decided to introduce "carrier's responsibility" for trains and buses on the Öresund bridge which would introduce Swedish de facto border controls on the Danish side.[392]

 United Kingdom – British Home Secretary Theresa May said that it was important to help people living in war zones regions and refugee camps but "not the ones who are strong and rich enough to come to Europe".[393] British UKIP politician Nigel Farage stated that the exodus from Libya had been caused by NATO military intervention, approved by David Cameron and Nicolas Sarkozy, in the civil war in Libya.[394]


Syrian refugees hosted in some Middle East countries (Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan, Iraq and Egypt); only a small fraction of all Syrian refugees have been resettled anywhere in the world. Data as of August 2015.[402]

Political debate

European People's Party

Europe needs to fulfil its humanitarian duty, helping those fleeing for their lives, and as a Christian-Democrat, I want to reiterate that is not Christian rights, but human rights that Europe invented. But we also need to better secure our external borders and make sure that asylum rules are used properly and not abused.

Manfred Weber, leader of the European People's Party in the European Parliament.

European Commissioner for Migration, Home Affairs and Citizenship, Dimitris Avramopoulos, said that the European Commission "does not care about the political cost" of its handling of the migration crisis, because it's there for five years to do its job "with vision, responsibility and commitment" and what drives it "is not to be re-elected", and invited European national leaders to do likewise and stop worrying about reelection.[420][421]

On 31 August 2015, according to The New York Times, Angela Merkel, German Chancellor and leader of the Christian Democratic Union, in some of her strongest language theretofore on the immigrant crisis, warned that freedom of travel and open borders among the 28 member states of the EU could be jeopardised if they did not agree on a shared response to this crisis.[99]

Nicolas Sarkozy, President of the Republicans and former French president, compared EU migrant plan to "mending a burst pipe by spreading water round the house while leaving the leak untouched".[422] Following German Chancellor Angela Merkel's decision to allow tens of thousands of people to enter Germany, Sarkozy criticised her, saying that it would attract even greater amounts of people to Europe, where a significant part would "inevitably" end up in France due to the EU's free movement policies and the French welfare state. He also demanded that the Schengen agreement on borderless travel should be replaced with a new agreement providing border checks for non-EU citizens.[423]

Party of European Socialists

At this moment, more people in the world are displaced by conflict than at any time since the Second World War. ... Many die on the approach to Europe – in the Mediterranean – yet others perish on European soil. ... As social democrats the principle of solidarity is the glue that keeps our family together. ... We need a permanent European mechanism for fairly distributing asylum-seekers in European member states. ... War, poverty and the stark rise in inequality are global, not local problems. As long as we do not address these causes globally, we cannot deny people the right to look for a more hopeful future in a safer environment.

Sergei Stanishev, President of the Party of European Socialists[424]

Italian Prime Minister and Secretary of the Italian Democratic Party Matteo Renzi said the EU should forge a single European policy on asylum.[425] French Prime Minister Manuel Valls of the French Socialist Party stated, "There must be close cooperation between the European Commission and member states as well as candidate members."[426]

Eurosceptic parties

The Japanese-born Czech politician Tomio Okamura speaks at the anti-immigrant rally in Prague, 17 October 2015

According to The Wall Street Journal, the appeal of Eurosceptic politicians has increased.[386] On 10 September 2015, The Times (UK) reported that French anti-EU politician Marine Le Pen is "on course for presidency".[427]

Nigel Farage, leader of the British anti-EU United Kingdom Independence Party and co-leader of the eurosceptic Europe of Freedom and Direct Democracy group, blamed the EU "and Germany in particular" for giving "huge incentives for people to come to the European Union by whatever means" and said that this would make deaths more likely. Additionally, he said that the EU's Schengen agreement on open borders had failed and warned that Islamists could exploit the situation and enter Europe in large numbers, saying that "one of the Isil terrorist suspects who committed the first atrocity against holidaymakers in Tunisia has been seen getting off a boat onto Italian soil".[428][429] In 2013, Farage had called on the UK government to accept more Syrian refugees,[430] before clarifying that those refugees should be Christian due to the existence of nearer places of refuge for Muslims.[431]

Europe of Nations and Freedom Co-President Marine Le Pen, leader of the French far-right National Front, accused Germany of looking to hire "slaves" by opening its doors to large numbers of asylum seekers among a debate in Germany whether there should be exceptions to the recently introduced minimum wage law for refugees.[432][433] Le Pen also accused Germany of imposing its immigration policy on the rest of the EU unilaterally.[434] Her comments were reported by the German[435] and Austrian press,[436] and were called "abstruse claims" by the online edition of Der Spiegel.[437] Centre-right daily Die Welt wrote that she "exploits the refugee crisis for anti-German propaganda".[438]

Geert Wilders, the leader of the Dutch Party for Freedom (a member of Europe of Nations and Freedom) who is known for his opposition to Islam, called the influx of people an "Islamic invasion" during a debate in the Dutch parliament, speaking about "masses of young men in their twenties with beards singing Allahu Akbar across Europe".[439] He also dismissed the idea that people arriving in Western Europe via Western Balkans are genuine refugees, stating: "Turkey, Greece, Macedonia, Serbia are safe countries. If you flee them then you are doing it for benefits and a house."[440]

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