Europe’s migration crisis 

Refugees arrive on the shores of the island of Lesbos after crossing the Aegean sea from Turkey ©UNHCR/Achilleas Zavallis  

In recent years, Europe has had to respond to the most serious migratory challenge since the end of World War II. Read on to learn more.

The record migratory flows to the EU witnessed in 2015 and 2016 have subsided: 120,000 people reached Europe by sea in 2019, compared to more than one million in 2015. The Mediterranean crossing remained deadly however, with 1,319 dead or missing in 2019, compared to 2,277 in 2018 and 3,139 in 2017. The influx of migrants and asylum seekers to Europe has shown the need for fairer and more effective European asylum and migration policies.

Migration in numbers

In recent years, people have been fleeing to Europe in large numbers from conflict, terror and persecution in their own countries. Of the 295,800 asylum seekers granted protection status in the EU in 2019,, over a third came from war-torn Syria, with Afghanistan and Venezuela in second and third place respectively. In all of these countries civilians face threats due to armed conflict, human rights violations, or persecution.

Read our article to find out why people migrate from one country to another

In 2019, 272 million people worldwide were living outside their country of birth. Within the EU, there are 35 million people who were born in another country to the one they live in. Of these, roughly 22 million were born outside the EU, while another 13 million came from another EU country.

Read our facts and figures page for precise data on who the asylum seekers and migrants who come to Europe are, how many applied for asylum and received it, how many people were denied entry to the EU and what financial steps the EU is taking to deal with migration.

EU response to the migrant crisis

Europe’s migration challenge has exposed shortcomings in the Union’s asylum system. Parliament has sought to combat this by proposing reforms to the Dublin regulation, which determines the EU country responsible for processing applications for international protection.

As the reform of the common asylum policy had stalled, in September 2020, the Commission proposed a New Pact on Migration and Asylum, which sets out faster procedures throughout the EU’s asylum and migration system, includes a revision of the Dublin regulation and provides new options for how member states can show solidarity.

Read more about the New Pact on Migration and Asylum and MEPs’ reaction to it.

Parliament has also worked on new measures to manage illegal immigration, tighten border controls as well as implement a more effective system of collecting and storing information about people entering the EU.

Read our guide on the EU response to the migration challenge