Migration in Europe 


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Afghans braving rough seas to cross from Turkey to the Lesvos, Greece.©UNHCR/Achilleas Zavallis 

Migration represents challenges and opportunities for Europe. Learn how the EU deals with immigration, asylum and the migrant crisis.

The increase in migration to Europe requires a response from the EU on a number of levels. Firstly, policies to handle regular and irregular immigration, and secondly, common EU-wide rules on asylum. The migrant crisis of late has also resulted in a need for additional measures and reforms to ensure border security as well as a fairer distribution of asylum seekers among EU countries.

The migrant crisis


The current migration crisis is the worst since World War II. In 2015 and 2016 alone, more than 2.5 million people applied for asylum in the EU, while more than 2,030 people are thought to have lost their lives in the Mediterranean in the first six months of 2017 alone.  In 2015 and 2016, more than 2.3 million illegal crossings were detected by Frontex, the EU border surveillance agency.


The crisis has exposed shortcomings in the European migration system. Parliament and the EU have sought to combat this by reforming the EU asylum rules and creating a fairer system of distributing asylum seekers among EU countries, as well as strengthening EU border controls and managing controlling irregular immigration.

Read our article about the migrant crisis in Europe with key facts and figures and a summary of the EU response to the crisis.

European immigration policy

The immigration policy at European level deals both with legal and irregular immigration.  Regarding regular immigration, the EU decides on conditions for legal entry and residence. Member states keep the right to rule on admission volumes for people coming from non-EU countries to seek work.

The European Union tackles also irregular immigration, especially through a return policy that respects fundamental rights. With regards to integration, there is no harmonisation of national legislations. However, the EU can play a supporting role, especially financially.

The European Parliament is actively involved, in the adoption of new laws on irregular and regular immigration. It is a full co-legislator together with the Council representing member states on these matters since the entry into force of the Lisbon Treaty in 2009.

For greater details please read the fact sheet on the EU's immigration policy.

European Asylum policy


Since 1999, the EU has been working to create a Common European Asylum System (CEAS). For the common system to work, it must have:

  • consistent rules for granting the refugee status across all member states
  • a mechanism for determining which member state is responsible for considering an asylum application
  • standards on reception conditions
  • partnerships and cooperation with non-EU countries


Since 2005 the European Parliament decides on an equal footing with the Council of the EU on asylum-related legislation.


Check out our fact sheet on the EU asylum policy for more information.