The European migrant crisis or European refugee crisis began in 2015, when a rising number of refugees and migrants made the journey to the European Union (EU) to seek asylum, traveling across the Mediterranean Sea or through Southeast Europe. They came from areas such as Western and South Asia, Africa, and the Western Balkans. According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, the top three nationalities of the over one million Mediterranean Sea arrivals between January 2015 and March 2016 were Syrian (46.7%), Afghan (20.9%) and Iraqi (9.4%). Of the refugees and migrants arriving in Europe by sea in 2015, 58% were men, 17% women and 25% children. The number of deaths at sea rose to record levels 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. 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 outer 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 over 1.2 million first time asylum applications in 2015, a number more than double that of the previous year. Four states (Germany, Hungary, Sweden, and Austria) received around two-thirds of the EU's asylum applications in 2015, with Hungary, Sweden, and Austria being the top recipients of asylum applications per capita.
Schengen Area and Dublin Regulation
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.
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.
Article 26 of the Schengen Convention 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. 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. Humanitarian visas are in general not given to refugees who want to apply for asylum.
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 through international flights inside the Schengen Area. After being refused air passage, many migrants then attempt to travel overland to their destination country. According to a study carried out for the European Parliament, "penalties for carriers, who assume some of the control duties of the European police services, either block asylum-seekers far from Europe's borders or force them to pay more and take greater risks to travel illegally".
Statistics on the EU's foreign-born population prior to 2015
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, 7.7% in Russia, 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.
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. 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.
Global refugee crisis
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, 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.
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. 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, totaling 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. 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; 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.
Background to the crisis in Greece and Italy
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. 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. In 2015, Bulgaria followed by upgrading a border fence to prevent migrant flows through Turkey.
In 2008, Berlusconi's government in Italy and Gaddafi's government in Libya signed a treaty including cooperation between the two countries in stopping irregular migration from Libya to Italy; this led to a policy of forcibly returning to Libya boat migrants intercepted by the Italian coast guard at sea. The cooperation collapsed following the outbreak of the Libyan civil war in 2011, and in 2012 the European Court of Human Rights ruled that Italy had violated the European Convention on Human Rights by returning migrants to Libya, as it exposed the migrants to the risk of being subjected to ill-treatment in Libya and violated the prohibition of collective expulsions. 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. 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. 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. The Italian government had requested additional funds from the EU to continue the operation but member states did not offer the requested support. 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". The operation consisted of two surveillance aircraft and three ships, with seven teams of staff who gathered intelligence and conducted screening/identification processing. Its monthly budget was estimated at €2.9 million.
Sea and land arrivals to the EU
|Sea and land arrivals to the EU|
in 2014 by nationality
|Unspecified sub-Saharan nationals||26,341|
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. 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. 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.
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. 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.
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%). In total, 137,000 migrants crossed the Mediterranean into Europe in the first six months of 2015.
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.
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. According to Frontex, July set a new record for a single month, with 107,500 migrants estimated to have entered the EU. Frontex detected 615,492 irregular entries into the EU in the third quarter of 2015 and 978,338 entries in the fourth quarter, bringing the total number of detections of irregular entries at EU sea and land external borders in 2015 to 1.82 million (872,938 in Greece, 764,038 in Hungary and Croatia and 153,946 in Italy), associated with an estimated one million individuals irregularly entering the EU (because most 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).
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. 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.
In January and February 2016, over 123,000 migrants landed in Greece, compared to about 4,600 in the same period of 2015. In March, following the closing of the Balkan route by Macedonia and the entry into force of the EU-Turkey deal on 20 March, the number of migrants arriving in Greece dropped to 26,460, less than half the figure recorded in February. Syrians, Afghans and Iraqis continued to account for the largest share of the migrants arriving in Greece. This downward trend continued in April, when only 2,700 migrants arrived in Greece, decreasing by 90% compared to the previous month.
Meanwhile, due to improved weather conditions, the number of mainly African migrants crossing the sea to Italy doubled between February and March, reaching nearly 9,600 in March 2016, compared to 2,283 in March 2015. In April, on the contrary, the number of migrants arriving in Italy (8,370) dropped by 13% compared to the previous month and by 50% compared to the same month in 2015; despite this, Italy exceeded the totals for Greece for the first time since June 2015. On 16 April, a shipwreck of a large boat between Libya and Italy was reported, in which as many as 500 people may have died, in one of the worst disasters since April 2015. More than 66,000 mostly African migrants have arrived in Italy since the start of 2016.
According to Eurostat, EU member states received 626,065 asylum applications in 2014, the highest number since the 672,000 applications received in 1992. 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%).
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%).
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.
In 2015, EU member states received 1,255,640 first time asylum applications, a number more than double that of the previous year. The highest number of first time applicants was registered in Germany (with 441,800 applicants, or 35% of all applicants in EU states), followed by Hungary (174,400, or 14%), Sweden (156,100, or 12%), Austria (85,500, or 7%), Italy (83,200, or 7%) and France (70,600, or 6%). Compared with the population, the highest number was registered in Hungary (with 17.7 asylum seekers per 1,000 inhabitants), Sweden (16), Austria (10), Finland (5.9) and Germany (5.4). The three main countries of citizenship of asylum applicants, accounting for more than half of the total, were Syria (with 362,800 applicants, or 29% of the total), Afghanistan (178,200, or 14%) and Iraq (121,500, or 10%), followed by Kosovo (5%), Albania (5%), Pakistan (4%), Eritrea (3%), Nigeria (2%) and Iran (2%).
333,350 asylum applicants were granted protection in the EU in 2015 following a positive decision on their asylum application. The main beneficiaries of protection status were citizens of Syria (50% of the total number of persons granted protection in the EU), Eritrea (8%), Iraq (7%), Afghanistan (5%), Iran (2%), Somalia (2%) and Pakistan (2%). The EU countries who granted protection to the highest number of asylum seekers were Germany (who granted protection to 148,200 people), Sweden (34,500), Italy (29,600) and France (26,000). The rate of recognition, i.e. the share of positive decisions in the total number of decisions, was 52% for first instance decisions in the EU and 14% for decisions on appeal. The citizenships with the highest recognition rates at first instance were Syria (97.2%), Eritrea (89.8%), Iraq (85.7%), Afghanistan (67%), Iran (64.7%), Somalia (63.1%) and Sudan (56%).
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%). 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%). 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%). In the fourth quarter of 2015, there were 426,000 first time applicants, mainly Syrians (145,130), Afghans (79,255) and Iraqis (53,585). The top recipients were Germany (38% of the total), Sweden (21%) and Austria (7%).
In August 2015, the German government announced that it expected to receive 800,000 asylum applications by the end of the year. 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).
Sweden received 162,877 asylum applications in 2015, mainly from Syrians (51,338), Afghans (41,564), Iraqis (20,857), Eritreans (7,231) and Somalis (5,465). 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).
Origins and motivations
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. 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%). 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. 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.
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. The majority of asylum applicants from Serbia, Macedonia and Montenegro are Roma people who feel discriminated against in their countries of origin. The influx from states like Nigeria and Pakistan is a mix of economic migrants and refugees fleeing from violence and war such as Boko Haram insurgency in north-east Nigeria and the War in North-West Pakistan.
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. Of the asylum applications received in Sweden in 2015, 70% were by men (including minors). Men search for a safe place to live and work before attempting to reunite later with their families. In war-torn countries, men are also at greater risk of being forced to fight or of being killed. Among people arriving in Europe there were, however, also large numbers of women and children, including unaccompanied children. 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.
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. In contrast to Germany, historically a popular final destination for the EU migrants, France saw its popularity erode in 2015 among migrants seeking asylum.
Migrant routes, development, and responses in individual countries
- Western African route (Sea passage from West African countries, into the Canary Islands, i.e. territory of Spain)
- Western Mediterranean route (Sea passage from North Africa to southern coast of Spain, also including the land route through the borders of Ceuta and Melilla.)
- Central Mediterranean route (Sea passage from North Africa (mainly Libya) towards Italy and Malta across the Mediterranean Sea.)
- Apulia and Calabria route (Sea passage of migrants from Turkey and Egypt who enter Greece and then cross the Ionian Sea towards southern Italy. Since October 2014 classified by Frontex as a subset of the Central Mediterranean route.)
- Albania–Greece circular route (Large number of illegal land border crossings whereby economic migrants from Albania cross into Greece for seasonal jobs and then return home.)
- Western Balkan route (Land and sea route from the Greek-Turkish border, through Macedonia and Serbia into Hungary or Croatia. Mostly used by Asian immigrants (from Syria, Afghanistan and Iraq) but also used by large numbers of migrants from Balkan countries themselves, primarily Kosovo).
- Eastern Mediterranean route (Passage used by migrants, mostly Asian, crossing from Turkey into EU via Greece, southern Bulgaria or Cyprus. Large portions of these migrants continue along the Western Balkans route towards Hungary.)
- Eastern Borders route (The 6,000 km long land border between EU's eastern member countries and Russia, Belarus, Ukraine and Moldova.)
Frontex tracks and publishes data on numbers of illegal crossings along the main six routes twice a year. The following table shows the data for the period up to and including the year 2015:
|Main migration routes into the European Union||Illegal border crossings (land and sea)|
|Western African route||31,600||12,500||9,200||2,250||200||340||170||250||275||874|
|Western Mediterranean route||N/A||N/A||6,500||6,650||5,000||8,450||6,400||6,800||7,840||7,164|
|Central Mediterranean route||N/A||N/A||39,800||11,000||4,500||64,300||15,900||40,000||170,760||153,946|
|Apulia and Calabria route||N/A||N/A||N/A||807||2,788||5,259||4,772||5,000|
|Circular Albania–Greece route||N/A||N/A||42,000||40,000||35,300||5,300||5,500||8,700||8,840||8,932|
|Western Balkan route||N/A||N/A||N/A||3,090||2,370||4,650||6,390||19,950||43,360||764,038|
|Eastern Mediterranean route||N/A||N/A||52,300||40,000||55,700||57,000||37,200||24,800||50,830||885,386|
|Eastern Borders route||N/A||N/A||1,335||1,050||1,050||1,050||1,600||1,300||1,270||1,920|
On 27 August 2015, 71 migrants were found dead in an unventilated food truck near Vienna. As an official response to this event, 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.
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. 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.
On 14 September 2015, Austria followed Germany's suit and instituted border controls of its own at the border with Hungary. Austrian authorities also deployed the Austrian Army to the border with Hungary.
On 19 September 2015, Austria permitted entry to approximately 10,000 migrants from Slovenia and Hungary. 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.
On 28 October 2015, Austria decided to build a fence along its border with Slovenia (that has a total length of 91 km) to "be able to control the migrants in an orderly manner", said Minister of the Interior Johanna Mikl-Leitner.
On 20 January 2016, Austria announced it would limit the number of asylum applicants to 37,500 in each of the next four years, compared to the 90,000 applications in 2015. On 19 February 2016, Austria started putting a daily cap of 80 asylum seekers allowed to enter the country to apply for Austrian asylum, and a maximum of 3,200 allowed daily to transit towards other countries (de facto most of them to Germany). The EU's migration commissioner said the cap was incompatible with Austria's obligations under EU and international law. The EU Council of Ministers' legal team however concluded that Austria's moves are not illegal
Croatia, an EU member state since 2013, shares a land border (527 km) with Serbia and therefore experienced a strong inflow of migrants from Serbia after 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 Syrmia, 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". 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. 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.
On 15 September 2015, Croatia started to experience the first major waves of refugees, who carved out a new route through Europe after Hungary sealed its borders. 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. Thousands of migrants were subsequently led to pursue alternative routes through Croatia from Serbia. 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. On 17 September, as of 3:30 am, more than 5,000 migrants had arrived in Tovarnik. Interior Minister Ranko Ostojić said Croatia was "absolutely full" by the evening of 17 September 2015, and Croatia decided to close its border with Serbia. Train lines from Serbia via Croatia to Slovenia were closed until further notice.
As of 6 October 2015, 125,000 had entered Croatia in the space of three weeks. Between mid-September and mid-October 2015, about 200,000 migrants had passed through Croatia, most moving on to Hungary. On 17 October 2015, Hungary closed its border with Croatia to migrants, forcing diversion of migrants to Slovenia instead. 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.
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 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.
On 9 March 2016, Croatia started implementing border restrictions on the border with Serbia, aiming to reinstate the Schengen rules.
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. 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.
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. It was reopened a few hours later when the walking migrants exited the motorway. 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. 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.
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, wanting to avoid predicted accumulation of illegal migrants on their way to Sweden as one of the reasons for this decision.
Migrants entering France illegally by train from Italy were returned to Italy by French police since border controls were introduced in July 2015. France has been perceived as "unwelcoming" and having a poor job market by migrants. 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. 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.
In response, a UK financed fence was built along the A 216 highway in Calais. At the camp near Calais, known as the Jungle, riots broke out when authorities started to demolish the illegally constructed campsite on 29 January 2015. Amid the protests, which included hunger strikes, thousands of refugees living in the camp where relocated to France's "first international-standard refugee camp" in Grande-Synthe.
On 13 September 2015 it was reported that the local authorities had estimated the flow of 300 asylum seekers per day entering via the northern land border from Sweden into Tornio, which is the main route of migration flow into Finland. 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. 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. In late November, the number passed 30,000, nearly ten-fold increase compared to the previous year.
More than 60% of asylum seekers who arrived during 2015 came from Iraq. In late October, The Finnish Immigration Service (Migri) changed its guidelines about areas in Iraq which are recognized as safe by the Finnish authorities, putting Iraqi asylum seekers under closer scrutiny. The Interior Minister Petteri Orpo estimated that two in three of recent 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.
In September, the processing time of an asylum application was estimated to be extended from normal six months up to two years. In late November, the reception centers were reported to be running out of space, forcing the authorities resorting to refurbished shipping containers and tents to house new asylum seekers. Interior Minister Petteri Orpo has 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 described the inhabitants would be under strict surveillance.
Germany has been the most sought-after final destination in the EU migrant and refugee crisis. 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. 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. According to The Wall Street Journal, this "unilateral" open-arms policy triggered both a domestic and an international backlash. However, Germany immediately began to deploy a quota system to distribute asylum seekers among all German states. 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.
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. The restrictions incorporated a temporary suspension of rail travel from Austria and allowed spot checks on automobiles.
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". 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. In late October 2015, the small village of Sumte, population 102, was told by Lower Saxony officials that it would receive 750 asylum-seekers. 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; these sexual attacks brought about a fresh wave of anti-immigrant anxiety and protest across Europe.
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 did not stop in Germany and moved on to other EU states.
In February 2016, the German government admitted that it had lost track of around 13 per cent of the 1.1 million people registered as asylum seekers on arrival in 2015, because they never arrived at the refugee accommodation they were assigned. The German government said that probably many of the missing asylum seekers simply went to other European countries, while others continued to live illegally in Germany.
Migrants arrive from the Middle East making the 6-kilometre (4 mi) water crossing to the Greek islands of Chios, Kos, Lesbos, Leros, Kastellorizo, Agathonisi, Farmakonisi, Rhodes, Samos, Symi and other islands which are close to Turkey and are thus a quick and easy access border into Europe. Some arrive via the Evros border crossing from Turkey. 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".
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.
Human traffickers charge illegal immigrants $1,000 to $1,500 for the 25-minute boat ride from Bodrum, Turkey to Kos. In August 2015, "hundreds" of boats made the crossing carrying illegal immigrants every night. 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. Desperate migrants have fought brawls over places in boats leaving Bodrum for Kos.
Airlines charge passengers usually less than $400 for oneway economy class tickets from Turkey to Germany or Britain, but a rule in the Schengen Agreement requires airlines to check that all passengers have a visa or are exempt from visa.
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.
On 27 January 2016, the European Commission accused Greece of neglecting its obligations under the Schengen agreement to carry out external border controls, saying that a visit by EU inspectors in November 2015 found that Greece was failing to identify and register arrivals properly, to fingerprint everyone, and to check travel documents for authenticity and against security databases. On 12 February, the EU gave Greece a three months deadline to fix its border controls, or other member states could be authorized to extend border controls for up to two years instead of the normal six months.
On 11 February, NATO announced that it was going to deploy ships in the Aegean Sea to deter people smugglers taking migrants from Turkey to Greece. Nato chief Jens Stoltenberg said the mission would not be about "stopping or pushing back refugee boats", but about intelligence gathering and sharing information with Turkey and Greece, both NATO allies.
On 1 March 2016, the Greek government asked the EU for 480 million euros in emergency funds to shelter 100,000 refugees.
The Republic of Macedonia closed its border with Greece on 9 March 2016 where 12,000 to 13,000 migrants were stuck at Idomeni on the Greek side, while the total number of migrants throughout Greece are estimated to be more than 50,000.
After the 2016 Turkish coup d'état attempt Greek authorities on a number of Aegean islands have called for emergency measures to curtail a growing flow of refugees from Turkey, the number of migrants and refugees willing to make the journey across the Aegean has increased noticeably. At Athens officials voiced worries that Turkish monitors overseeing the deal in Greece had been abruptly pulled out after the failed coup with little sign of them being replaced. Also, the mayor of Kos, expressed concern in a letter to the Greek Prime Minister sighting the growing influx of refugees and migrants after the failed coup. The Association of Greek Tourism Enterprises (SETE) warned about the prospect of another flare-up in the refugee/migrant crisis due to the Turkish political instability.
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.
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. The European Commission warned EU members against steps that contravene EU obligations and urged members like Hungary to find other ways to cope with an inflow of illegal migrants. 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.
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. 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.
On 4 September 2015, about a thousand of the migrants at Railway Station East (Keleti Pályaudvar) set off by foot toward Austria and Germany. On the same night, the Hungarian government decided to send buses to transport illegal migrants to Hegyeshalom, on the border with Austria.
On 14 September 2015, it was reported that the Hungarian police were blocking the route from Serbia, and that the regular entry-point was heavily manned with officers, soldiers and helicopters hovering above, sealing this border with a razor wire and detaining migrants crossing the border illegally with the threat of arrest and criminal charges. 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. A 20-year-old Iraqi refugee was 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 before. 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. Within two weeks, tens of thousands of refugees crossed from Croatia into Hungary, most of whom went toward the Austrian border.
On 16 October 2015, Hungary announced that it would close its green border with Croatia to migrants, and since 17 October onward, thousands of migrants daily were diverted to Slovenia instead.
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. Many of them are fleeing poverty-stricken homelands or war-torn countries and seeking economic opportunity within the EU. 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.
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.
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. As a consequence of the April 2015 Libya migrant shipwrecks, the EU launched a military operation known as Operation Sophia. More than 13,000 migrants had been rescued from the sea in the course of the operation as of April 2016.
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 from Turkey to Greece.
The first three months of 2016 saw an increase in the number of migrants rescued at sea being brought to southern Italian ports. In April 2016, nearly 6,000 mostly sub-Saharan African migrants have landed in Italy in just four days. In June 2016, over 10,000 migrants have been rescued in just four days.
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.:13 In 2011, most of these asylum applications were submitted by nationals of Somalia, Nigeria, Eritrea and Syria.:26 In 2012, more than half of the requests were by Somalian nationals alone.: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."
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. They insisted on going to Italy, and were eventually taken there.
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. The number of undocumented migrants hoping to reach the EU via Melilla or Ceuta grew in 2014. 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. In October 2015, 165 people were rescued from fourteen attempts to cross the Strait of Gibraltar to reach Ceuta.
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. Other reports accuse Spain of using rubber bullets and tear gas to prevent migrants from reaching Spanish territory. The Spanish Government said that it has now banned its border guards from using rubber bullets to repel migrants. In March 2016, migrants were discovered hiding in "impossibly small spaces" in a car at the Melilla border crossing, with some in the dashboard area and some under the back seat. According to the authorities, people are found hiding in cars almost every day.
Norway (Russia-Norway border)
The number of migrants crossing from Russia into Norway increased from a handful in the first half of 2015 to 420 asylum seekers crossing by bicycle in September 2015 alone. As of 11 December 2015 over 4,000 migrants had crossed the Northern border, and the 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.
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. 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.
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.
There were also various humanitarian and non-governmental organisations aiding the migrants on the border, coming mostly from Slovenia, Croatia and Austria.
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". 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.
By 24 October, Slovenia had reported more than 56,000 total migrant arrivals.
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. On 11 November, Slovenian military personnel began the construction of the fence consisting of razor wire. The Austrian minister of the interior Johanna Mikl-Leitner expressed full support for the Slovenian government's action on the border with Croatia.
On 23 February 2016, German press noted that Slovenia decided to deploy army on the border facing Croatia, to assist the police. It was noted, that the bill did not approve military action, however noting that the army was still authorized to use force in the case of emergency.
During all of 2015, migration authorities reported 500 cases of suspected terrorism links or war criminals to Swedish Security Service. Twenty individuals were denied asylum in 2015 due to war crimes.
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. 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. 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. Within hours of Swedish border control becoming effective, Denmark in turn created a border control between Denmark and Germany. The migration pattern also changed with the majority of those arriving by ferry from Germany to Trelleborg instead of by train to Hyllie station, bypassing the border control between Denmark and Germany. Migrants then started taking taxis in greater numbers over the Öresund Bridge in order to evade identification. Three days later, a Danish cab driver was arrested for human trafficking near the Øresund Bridge. 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. In January 2016 interior minister Anders Ygeman said that Sweden was rejecting about 45 percent of asylum applications, which meant that around 60,000–80,000 of the 160,000 asylum-seekers who applied for asylum in 2015 could be deported in coming years.
In late June 2016 the Swedish parliament voted for more restrictive policy with a large majority in favour. As a result, residence permits will be temporary and immigration of family members will be curtailed, along with higher demands of proof to be able to support immigrating relatives. These measures are to be valid for three years. The law applies retroactively on everyone who arrived 24 November onwards and came into effect 20 July 2016. These measures puts Sweden in line with the minimum line of requirements mandated by the EU. Thirty individuals were denied asylum January–June 2016 due to war crimes.
In August 2016 four workers at asylum centres for refugee children were reported to have been infected by tuberculosis and health services reported a marked increase in tuberculosis infections due to the crisis. In 2015 an increase of 22% on the previous year was noted, this was largely attributed to an increased inflow of migrants over that year. 90% of people infected with tuberculosis were born abroad.
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. Turkish officials attempting to deter migration facilitated by smugglers have detained 57,000 travellers and over 100 human traffickers in 2015 through September.
Triggers of the summer 2015 crisis
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:
- On 18 June 2015 the government of Macedonia announced that it was changing its policy on migrants entering the country illegally. Previously, migrants were forbidden from transiting Macedonia, causing those who chose to do so to take perilous, clandestine modes of transit, such as walking along railroad tracks at night. Beginning in June, migrants were given three-day, temporary asylum permits, enabling them to travel by train and road.
- The opening of the Macedonia route enabled migrants from the Middle East to take very short, inexpensive voyages from the coast of Turkey to the Greek Islands, instead of the far longer, more perilous, and far more expensive voyage from Libya to Italy. According to the Washington Post, in addition to reducing danger, this lowered the cost from around $5–6,000 to $2–3,000.
- On the 25th of August, 2015 - according to The Guardian - 'Germany’s federal agency for migration and refugees' made it public, that “The #Dublin procedure for Syrian citizens is at this point in time effectively no longer being adhered to". During a press conference, "Germany’s interior minister, Thomas de Maizière, confirmed that the suspension of the Dublin agreement was “not as such a legally binding act”, but more of a “guideline for management practice”.
- According to the Washington Post, German Chancellor Angela Merkel's public pledges (at a time of diplomatic standoff with the government of Hungary at the beginning of September, when tens of thousands of refugees were attempting to cross Hungarian territory without getting processed for asylum application in the country) that Germany would offer temporary residency to refugees, combined with television footage of cheering Germans welcoming refugees and migrants arriving in Munich, persuaded large numbers of people to move from Turkey up the Balkan route.
- The Syrian government under Bashar al-Assad announced increased military conscription, and simultaneously made it easier for Syrians to obtain passports, leading Middle East policy experts to speculate that he was implementing a policy to encourage opponents of his regime to leave the country.
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 and other sources, as follows:
|Turkey||Greece||Greece built a razor-wire fence in 2012 along its short land border with Turkey. In September 2015, Turkish provincial authorities gave approximately 1,700 migrants three days to leave the border zone.|
|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.|
|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. 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. Beginning in November 2015, Greek police permitted only Syrians, Iraqis, and Afghans to cross into Macedonia. In February, Macedonian soldiers began erecting a second fence meters away from the previous one.|
|Serbia||Hungary||Hungary built a 175-km (109-mi) razor-wire fence along its border with Serbia in 2015.|
|Croatia||Hungary||Hungary built a 40-km (25-mi) razor-wire fence along its border with Croatia in 2015. On 16 October 2015, Hungary announced that it would close off its border with Croatia to migrants.|
|Croatia||Slovenia||Slovenia blocked transit from Croatia in September 2015, pepper spraying migrants trying to cross. Although re-opening the border, by 18 October 2015, Slovenia restricted crossing to 2,500 migrants per day.|
|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.|
|Russia||Norway||On 25 January, it was reported that Russia closed its northern border checkpoint with Norway for asylum seekers to return to Russia. 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. 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.|
|Austria||Germany||Germany placed temporary travel restrictions from Austria by rail in 2015 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.|
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. The vast majority of deaths occurred while persons were being illegally smuggled across the Mediterranean and Aegean Seas.
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. 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" 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. 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.
In a press conference, Renzi confirmed that Italy had called an "extraordinary European council" meeting as soon as possible to discuss the tragedy, various European leaders agreed with this idea. 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. He later confirmed that he would attend an emergency summit of European leaders on Thursday.
On 20 April 2015, the European Commission proposed a 10-point plan to tackle the crisis:
- Reinforce the Joint Operations in the Mediterranean, namely Triton and Poseidon, by increasing the financial resources and the number of assets. We will also extend their operational area, allowing us to intervene further, within the mandate of Frontex;
- A systematic effort to capture and destroy vessels used by the smugglers. The positive results obtained with the Atalanta operation should inspire us to similar operations against smugglers in the Mediterranean;
- Europol, Frontex, EASO and Eurojust will meet regularly and work closely to gather information on smugglers' modus operandi, to trace their funds and to assist in their investigation;
- EASO to deploy teams in Italy and Greece for joint processing of asylum applications;
- Member States to ensure fingerprinting of all migrants;
- Consider options for an emergency relocation mechanism;
- A EU wide voluntary pilot project on resettlement, offering a number of places to persons in need of protection;
- Establish a new return programme for rapid return of irregular migrants coordinated by Frontex from frontline Member States;
- Engagement with countries surrounding Libya through a joined effort between the Commission and the EEAS; Initiatives in Niger have to be stepped up.
- Deploy Immigration Liaison Officers (ILO) in key third countries, to gather intelligence on migratory flows and strengthen the role of the EU Delegations.
Border patrol operations
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 and had a wider mandate to conduct search and rescue operations across the Mediterranean Sea.
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. 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. 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. 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".
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, to undertake systematic efforts to identify, capture and dispose of vessels used by migrant smugglers. 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. As of April 2016, more than 13,000 migrants were rescued from the sea and 68 alleged smugglers were arrested in the course of the operation.
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. 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 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. 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. 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.
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. 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".
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. Czech Government's Secretary for European Affairs Tomáš Prouza 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. Czech President Miloš Zeman said that Ukrainian refugees fleeing War in Donbass should be also included in migrant quotas. 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.
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. 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.
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. Czech Interior Minister tweeted after the vote: "Common sense lost today." Slovak Prime Minister Robert Fico is threatening legal action over EU's mandatory migrant quotas at European Court of Justice in Luxembourg. On 9 October, the first 20 Eritrean asylum seekers were relocated by plane from Italy to Sweden, following the EU prerequisite fingerprinting in Italy as the first member country of asylum registration.
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.
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, saying, "We'll accept [refugees only] if we have security guarantees." The attacks prompted European officials—particularly German officials—to re-evaluate their stance on EU policy toward migrants, especially in light of the ongoing European migrant crisis. 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.
On 15 December 2015, the EU proposed taking over border and coastal security operations at major migrant entry pressure points, via its Frontex operation.
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. 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.
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.
Negotiations with Turkey
On 12 November 2015, at the end of the two-day summit in Malta, EU officials announced an agreement to offer Turkey 3 billion euros over two years to manage more than 2 million refugees from Syria who had sought refuge there, in return for curbing migration through Turkey into the EU. In November, Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan reportedly threatened to send the millions of refugees in Turkey to EU member states if it was left to shoulder the burden alone. The 3 billion euros fund for Turkey was approved by the EU in February 2016. In January, the Netherlands proposed that the EU take in 250,000 refugees a year from Turkey in return for Turkey closing the Aegean sea route to Greece, but Turkey rejected the plan. Starting on 7 March 2016, the EU met with Turkey for another summit in Brussels to negotiate further solutions of the crisis. An original plan saw for the closing statement to declare the Western Balkan route closed. However, this was met with criticism from German chancellor Angela Merkel.
The EU proposed to the Turkish government a plan in which Turkey would take back every refugee who entered Greece (and thereby the EU) illegally. In return, the EU would accept one person into the EU who is registered as a Syrian refugee in Turkey for every Syrian sent back from Greece. Turkey countered the offer by demanding a further 3 billion Euros in order to help them in supplying the 2.7 million refugees in Turkey. In addition, the Turkish government asked for their citizens to be allowed to travel freely into the Schengen area starting at the end of June 2016, as well as an increased speed in talks of a possible accession of Turkey to the European Union. The plan to send migrants back to Turkey was criticized on 8 March 2016 by the United Nations, which warned that it could be illegal to send the migrants back to Turkey in exchange of financial and political rewards.
On 20 March 2016, the agreement between the EU and Turkey to tackle the migrant crisis came into effect. As the deal outlines, migrants arriving in Greece will be sent back to Turkey if they do not apply for asylum or their claim is rejected. Under the deal the EU would send around 2,300 experts, including security and migration officials and translators to Greece who will help implement the deal.
The deal further outlines the mechanism that any irregular migrants who will cross into Greece from Turkey after 20 March 2016 will be sent back to Turkey based on individual case by case evaluation. Any Syrian who is returned to Turkey will be replaced by a Syrian resettled from Turkey to the EU, preferably the individuals who did not try to enter the EU illegally in the past and not exceeding a maximum of 72,000 people. Turkish nationals would have access to Schengen passport-free zone by June 2016 but this will not include non-Schengen countries such as Britain. The talks aiming at Turkey's accession to the EU as a member will start in July 2016 and a promised $3.3 billion aid will speedily be delivered to Turkey.
Following the arrival of migrants from Greece to Turkey, they are given medical checks, and are registered and fingerprinted, then bused to "reception and removal" centres in Ankara, Erzurum, İzmir, Gaziantep, Kayseri, Van and Kırklareli, and later deported to their home countries.
The UNHCR said it was not a party to the EU-Turkey deal and it would not be involved in returns or detention. Like the UNHCR, four aid agencies (Médecins Sans Frontières, the International Rescue Committee, the Norwegian Refugee Council and Save the Children) said they would not help implementing the EU-Turkey deal because blanket expulsion of refugees contravened international law.
Amnesty International said that the agreement between EU and Turkey was "madness", and that the day (18 March 2016) was a dark day for Refugee Convention, Europe and humanity. By contrast, Turkish prime minister Ahmet Davutoglu described the day as a historic day, adding that Turkey and EU had the same challenges, the same future and the same destiny. Donald Tusk said that the migrants in Greece would not be sent back to dangerous areas.
In April 2016, Turkish President Erdoğan threatened to allow the EU-Turkey deal to collapse. Erdoğan said: "We have received lots of thanks for our action on the refugees and in the fight against terrorism. But we are not doing this for thanks."
Effects on Dublin and Schengen rules
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.
- Hungary became overburdened by asylum applications and on 23 June 2015 it stopped receiving back its applicants who later crossed the borders to other EU countries and were detained there.
- On 24 August 2015, according to article 17 of the Dublin III Regulations Germany decided to suspend the general procedure as regards Syrian refugees and to process their asylum applications directly itself. The change in Germany asylum policy incited large numbers of migrants to move towards Germany, especially after German chancellor Merkel stated that "there is no legal limit to refugee numbers". Austria was meanwhile allowing unimpeded travel of migrants from Hungary to Germany through its own territory.
- On 2 September 2015, the Czech Republic also decided to defy the Dublin Regulation and to offer Syrian refugees who have already applied for asylum in other EU countries and who reach the country to either have their application processed in the Czech Republic or to continue their journey elsewhere. The rules regarding immigrants of other nationalities were not changed—i.e., they would still face detention and return under the Dublin Regulation if trying to reach Germany through the Czech Republic (unless they had the right to apply for asylum in the Czech Republic).
- On 7 September, Austria announced it would phase out special measures that have allowed tens of thousands of migrants to cross its territory and will reinstate the Dublin Regulation.
- Between 9 and 10 September, Denmark closed rail lines with Germany, after hundreds of migrants refused to be registered in the country as asylum seekers and insisted on continuing their travel to Sweden.
- On 13 September, Germany established temporary border controls along its border with Austria, in order to "limit the current inflows" and "return to orderly procedures when people enter the country" according to German Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere. The Czech Republic reacted by increasing police presence along its border with Austria in order to be able to react if the mass of migrants that was in Austria tried to reach Germany through the Czech Republic. Czech police did not establish actual border control like Germany, but conducted random searches of vehicles and trains within the Czech territory not far from the border, with cars and helicopters patrolling also alongside the green border. Some Czech police officers were stationed also within Austria in order to give advance warning in case large numbers of migrants moved towards the Austrian–Czech borders.
- On 14 September, Austria established border controls alongside its border with Hungary. Austria deployed not only police officers, but also the army along its border. Hungary also deployed army personnel along its border with Serbia and announced that from 15 September, all persons who illegally enter the Hungarian territory of Schengen Area will be arrested and face from 3 to 5 years imprisonment. Following Austrian chancellor Werner Faymann's remarks that Hungary's treatment of refugees is akin to Nazi policies, Hungary started transporting refugees by buses directly to the borderline with Austria, where they were offloaded and were then trying to cross to Austria on foot.
- On 15 September it was reported that migrants in southern Hungary have started a hunger strike protesting the closure of the green border with Serbia.
- On 16 September it was reported that Hungarian police had used tear gas and a water cannon on protesting migrants demanding the opening of the green border, after they had thrown stones and concrete at the riot police.
- On 17 September, Croatia closed its border with Serbia.
EU member states
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".
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.
Croatia – Croatia will receive 1,064 migrants in the next two years from 2015 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. 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. 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". Croatian President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarović and First Deputy Prime Minister Vesna Pusić rejected the option of building a fence on Croatian border with Serbia. Grabar-Kitarović has accused German Chancellor Angela Merkel of causing "chaos".
Czech Republic – Czech Republic will receive 4,306 refugees according to quotas accepted by the European Commission. 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. 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".
Czech Deputy Prime Minister Andrej Babiš called for NATO intervention against human trafficking in the Mediterranean. 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". 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. Former Minister of Foreign Affairs Karel Schwarzenberg has said that accepting 80,000 refugees would be suitable. 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.
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. 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). This is expected to rise in 2016. In December 2015, the Danish Government announced that it would introduce 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. In January 2016, the limit was changed to 10,000 DKK (c. 1,340 euros) and the law was passed. Similar laws already exist in Switzerland (limit 1,000 Swiss francs [c. 913 euros]), the Netherlands (limit 5,895 euros) and some federal states of Germany (limit varies, 750 euros in Bavaria and 350 euros in Baden-Württemberg). The Danish law was condemned from several sides, including by the UNHCR, 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 and a review two months after the law came into effect showed that there had been no confiscations.
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. 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. 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 is not fixed. Furthermore, he noted, that Finnish National Bureau of Investigation will improve its cyber surveillance. 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.
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."
Germany – Junior coalition partner, Vice Chancellor Sigmar Gabriel said that Germany could take in 500,000 refugees annually for the next several years. 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. 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. 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. In September 2015, enthusiastic crowds across the country welcomed arriving refugees and migrants.
Horst Seehofer, leader of Christian Social Union in Bavaria, the sister party of Merkel's Christian Democratic Union attacked Merkel's 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". 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. 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." 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, and suggested to reduce EU funding for member countries that reject mandatory refugee quotas.
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. The November 2015 Paris attacks prompted reevaluation of German officials' stance on the EU's policy toward migrants. 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. However, while not officially limiting the influx numerically, Merkel has tightened asylum policy in Germany.
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.
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". Orbán also demanded an official EU list of "safe countries" to which migrants can be returned. 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’." 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. Speaking at United Nations General Assembly, Prime Minister Viktor Orbán called for "global quota" system to distribute refugees to all countries.
Italy – Some Italian towns and cities have refused instructions from the national government to house migrants. The Mafia Capitale investigation revealed that the Italian Mafia profits from the migrant crisis and exploits refugees. Pope Francis thanked the Italian navy for migrant rescue effort.
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.
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. He also called for a 'global system of refugee quotas'.
Poland – Government officials stated that the country is ready to take 2,000 refugees. 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".
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.
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".
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. 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. 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." S&D Group leader has proposed to suspend Fico's SMER party from the Party of European Socialists (PES).
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. 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). 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. 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.
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". 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.
In September 2015, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg identified "a need for immediate measures, border, migrant, the discussion about quotas, so on – this is civilian issues, addressed by the European Union." Czech Deputy Prime Minister Andrej Babiš said in reaction, "According to the NATO chief, the problem of refugees is a problem of the EU and the border protection and the fight against people smugglers is in the power of particular EU member states."
The Russian Federation released an official statement on 2 September 2015 that the United Nations Security Council was working on a draft resolution to address the European migrant crisis, likely by permitting the inspection of suspected migrant ships.
The International Organization for Migration claimed that deaths at sea increased ninefold after the end of Operation Mare Nostrum. Amnesty International condemned European governments for "negligence towards the humanitarian crisis in the Mediterranean" which they say led to an increase in deaths at sea.
In April 2015, Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch criticised the funding of search and rescue operations. Amnesty International said that the EU was "turning its back on its responsibilities and clearly threatening thousands of lives".
Australian PM Tony Abbott said the tragedies were "worsened by Europe's refusal to learn from its own mistakes and from the efforts of others who have handled similar problems. Destroying the criminal people-smugglers was the centre of gravity of our border control policies, and judicious boat turnbacks was the key."
In July 2013, Pope Francis visited the island of Lampedusa on his first official visit outside of Rome. He prayed for migrants, living and dead and denounced their traffickers. He expressed his concern about the loss of life and urged EU leaders to "act decisively and quickly to stop these tragedies from recurring".
U.S. President Barack Obama praised Germany for taking a leading role in accepting refugees. In April 2016, Obama praised German Chancellor Angela Merkel for being on "the right side of history" with her open-border immigration policy.
In a report released in January 2016, Médecins Sans Frontières denounced the EU response to the refugee crisis in 2015, saying that policies of deterrence and a chaotic response to the humanitarian needs of those who fled actively worsened the conditions of refugees and migrants and created a "policy-made humanitarian crisis". According to MSF, obstacles placed by EU governments included "not providing any alternative to a deadly sea crossing, erecting razor wire fences, continuously changing administrative and registration procedures, committing acts of violence at sea and at land borders, and providing completely inadequate reception conditions in Italy and Greece".
In March 2016, NATO General Philip Breedlove stated, "Together, Russia and the Assad regime are deliberately weaponizing migration in an attempt to overwhelm European structures and break European resolve. .. These indiscriminate weapons used by both Bashar al-Assad, and the non-precision use of weapons by the Russian forces - I can't find any other reason for them other than to cause refugees to be on the move and make them someone else's problem." He also claimed that criminals, extremists and fighters were hiding in the flow of migrants.
Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev said: "It's quite simply stupid to open Europe's doors wide and invite in everyone who wants to come to your country. European migration policy is a total failure, all that is absolutely frightening."
On June 18, 2016, United Nations chief Ban Ki-moon praised Greece for showing "remarkable solidarity and compassion" towards refugees and he also called for international support. The lack of action of UNESCO in this area, until now, is subject of a controversy. Some scholars, as António Silva, blame this UN institution not to denounce racism against war refugees in Europe with the same vigor as the vandalism against ancient monuments perpetrated by fundamentalists in the Middle East. They also accuse the organization to contribute to the emerging process of fetishization of the cultural heritage, forgetting that it should be used primarily as an instrument in the fight against racism, as openly declared the authors of the constitutive charter of the institution in 1945.
European People's Party
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.
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.
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". 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.
Party of European Socialists
Italian Prime Minister and Secretary of the Italian Democratic Party Matteo Renzi said the EU should forge a single European policy on asylum. 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."
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.
According to The Wall Street Journal, the appeal of Eurosceptic politicians has increased. On 10 September 2015, The Times (UK) reported that French anti-EU politician Marine Le Pen is "on course for presidency".
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". In 2013, Farage had called on the UK government to accept more Syrian refugees, before clarifying that those refugees should be Christian due to the existence of nearer places of refuge for Muslims.
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. Le Pen also accused Germany of imposing its immigration policy on the rest of the EU unilaterally. Her comments were reported by the German and Austrian press, and were called "abstruse claims" by the online edition of Der Spiegel. Centre-right daily Die Welt wrote that she "exploits the refugee crisis for anti-German propaganda".
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". 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."
Nansen Refugee Award
At 2016, Greek volunteers awarded the Nansen Refugee Award by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). Volunteers of "The Hellenic Rescue Team" and Efi Latsoudi of “PIKPA village” awarded for their tireless voluntary efforts to aid refugees arriving in Greece during the European refugee crisis.