Migration and asylum

Due to the geopolitical situation in several of the EU's neighbouring countries, the number of asylum-seekers coming to the EU increased significantly in 2015 and 2016, before falling in 2017.

For this reason, asylum and migration have become urgent topics of discussion across the EU. While, the EU has set some common standards in several regulations and directives, the responsibility for implementation of asylum and migration policy lies with the Member States, who must ensure that their national legislation is compliant with both EU law and international agreements.

This infographic was last updated in March 2019.

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flows of migration


EU law does not allow for the regulated arrival of asylum-seekers, so their entry into EU territory is usually irregular, due to a lack of necessary documentation and/or the use of unauthorised border-crossing points. Therefore, the figures for illegal border crossings are for mixed flows of both irregular immigrants and possible future asylum-seekers. These mixed flows pose a large challenge for border authorities: while asylum-seekers cannot be refused entrance to a Member State, irregular immigrants can and should be refused entry, based on the Schengen Borders Code.

Frontex, the EU border surveillance agency, collects data concerning illegal crossings of the EU's external borders from national border control authorities.

The EU external borders are those between Member States and third countries, as well as between Schengen Associated Countries (Norway, Iceland and Switzerland) and third countries.


The main points of entry show the routes of illegal entries into the EU in 2017. For each route, the point of entry shows the number of entries and the top three nationalities of migrants.

The bar chart shows illegal border crossings by third-country citizens via land and sea routes. In 2015, there was a 6-fold increase in illegal border crossing in comparison with 2014, and a 17-fold increase compared to 2013, due to a large increase in border crossings by citizens of Syria, Afghanistan and Eritrea. As of 2017, there is an overall decrease in illegal border crossing, falling below the level of 2014, with Syria, Afghanistan and Eritrea representing only about 8 % of the 2015 figure. In 2017, the top three countries of origin connected to illegal border crossings are Syria, Nigeria and Côte d'Ivoire.

In 1 000s
Land borders Sea borders

The maps show the monthly average number of detections of illegal border crossings in the EU.

Frontex reports that 204 734 irregular border crossings were detected at the EU's external borders in 2017. However, Eurostat annual data indicate that roughly 708 585 people applied for asylum in 2017.

Frontex specifies that irregular border crossings may be attempted by the same person several times in different locations, which means that a large number of those who were counted when they arrived in Greece were counted again when entering the EU for the second time through Hungary or Croatia.


The map shows the global flow.

Asylum applications

Asylum-seekers are not evenly spread throughout the EU, with some countries receiving a disproportionate amount of asylum applications. The eight Member States marked on the map have received 90 % of the total requests for asylum for the first six months of 2015. The number of asylum applicants in the EU has more than doubled in the last two years.

In 1 000s

Rates of migration have changed over time. The map shows migration trends since 1998. Figures were collected on the basis of a gentlemen's agreement until 2007, and in accordance with the Regulation on statistics on migration and international protection since 2008.

Migrants arrive in the EU Member States at the EU external borders. Under the Dublin Regulation, they should apply for asylum in the first EU country they enter, which is normally a Member State on the EU external borders. However, as the table shows, a large number of migrants travel to Germany or Sweden to seek asylum, either because they have friends and family there, or because they believe they would enjoy better living conditions in these countries.


The map shows the relative weight of the number of applicants per million inhabitants in the 'country of arrival' (the EU Member State in which asylum has been requested) for the period January to June 2017. The EU average is 1 385 applicants per million inhabitants.

Overall, the numbers of asylum-seekers from 10 of the top 15 countries of origin have decreased in 2017 compared to the 2015 levels. The top 15 countries represent 65 % of the total asylum seekers in 2017.

In 1 000s

The chart on the right hand side shows the number of asylum-seekers from the top 15 countries of origin for 2016 and 2017. The value in brackets represents changes in 2017 with respect to 2015; positive value shows an increase, negative a decrease (e.g. there was a decrease of 263 000 applicants from Syria in 2017 compared to 2015). The numbers are rounded to the nearest thousand, thus sometimes there might be a difference between the numbers in brackets and the numbers on the bars.

Asylum decisions

First instance decisions refer to decisions taken by the Member States on refugee status, subsidiary protection and authorisation to stay for humanitarian reasons.


The data bubbles display positive and negative decisions by Member States for 2016 and 2017.

The number of asylum applicants and the number of first instance decisions during the same year differs due to the time elapsed between a request and the decision. This time varies considerably depending on asylum procedures and the administrative workload of Member States.


The data bubbles shows the aggregate of positive decisions for the EU28. Red colours represent the positive decision in thousands, while the bubbles give the percentage that the positive decisions represent in total decisions.


Western Africa


In 2015: 874

Not specified

Central Mediterranean

118 962

In 2015: 153 946

Côte d'Ivoire

Circular route (Albania - Greece)

6 396

In 2015: 8 932


Eastern Mediterranean

42 319

In 2015: 885 386


Western Balkans

12 179

In 2015: 764 038


Eastern Border


In 2015: 1 920


Western Mediterranean

23 143

In 2015: 7 164

Côte d'Ivoire

Central Mediterranean

14 222
12 829
15 115
9 914

Eastern Mediterranean

4 236
73 782
15 190
3 527

Western Balkans

3 613
63 670
10 855

Western Mediterranean

1 929


irregular border crossings
See the evolution of
the number of applicants


33 780

Applicants in 2017.


99 330

Applicants in 2017.


32 970

Applicants in 2017.


222 560

Applicants in 2017.


128 850

Applicants in 2017.


24 715

Applicants in 2017.


26 325

Applicants in 2017.


58 650

Applicants in 2017.


33 950

Applicants in 2017.


18 210

Applicants in 2017.
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in the EU

In the current EU asylum system, individual Member States are responsible for processing asylum applications. Through its Directives and Regulations, the EU has reinforced the standards and obligations for providing international protection, complying with the commitments taken by all EU Member States under the Refugee Convention.

The EU moved towards greater harmonisation of asylum rules in 2013 with the completion of the second phase of the Common European Asylum System (CEAS).

CEAS is based on two aspects:

CEAS comprises five key acts

Dublin III Regulation

Dublin III Regulation establishes the criteria for determining which Member State is responsible for examining an application for international protection to avoid ‘refugees in orbit’ (asylum-seekers for which no Member State takes responsibility) and to prevent multiple asylum applications;

Qualification Directive

Qualification Directive clarifies the grounds on which international protection is granted to asylum-seekers;

Asylum Procedure Directive

Asylum Procedure Directive establishes common procedures for granting and withdrawing international protection, while strengthening the rights of asylum-seekers during the asylum procedure;

Reception Conditions Directive

Reception Conditions Directive ensures a common standard in Member States for asylum-seekers’ access to various services including healthcare, education and employment;

EURODAC Regulation

EURODAC Regulation facilitates the application of the Dublin Regulation by centralising fingerprint information from asylum-seekers and irregular immigrants in a single database in order to identify the point of entry or the first application made by a claimant.

160 000

people need to be relocated

The Dublin System states that, by default, the first Member State an asylum-seeker enters is responsible for examining his or her application for international protection.

This means that an asylum-seeker who moves to another Member State is automatically transferred back to the Member State of first entry. However, in accordance with judgements from the European Court of Human Rights and the Court of Justice of the EU, asylum-seekers are not transferred to a Member State with systemic deficiencies in asylum procedures or in the reception conditions of asylum-seekers.

Unfortunately, certain Member States on the EU’s external borders, such as Greece, Italy and Malta, are overburdened by the numbers of asylum-seekers. This has led to both poor conditions for asylum-seekers (unjustified detentions, mistreatment, etc.) and to lower rates of asylum being granted.

An early warning mechanism was established to prevent pressure on the asylum systems of Member States experiencing difficulties coping with a surge of migrants.

As a consequence, many asylum-seekers travel to other countries, such as Germany or Sweden, where they believe they have a higher chance of a successful application and better reception conditions.

This second group of Member States often refrain from sending asylum-seekers back to their Member State of entry into the EU because of the worse reception conditions there, in practice turning the 'exception' provided for in the Dublin Regulation into a rule and, as a result, suspending the Dublin system altogether.

One growing issue is that of unaccompanied minors, one of the most vulnerable groups in the migration process.

This refers to minors who either arrive in the EU without an adult responsible or are left unaccompanied after they have entered EU territory. The Dublin Regulation includes an exception to the ‘first country’ rule in the case of unaccompanied minors, who should apply for asylum in the Member State where they have a family member. In the absence of any relative in the EU, the Member State where they have lodged an application is responsible, provided that it is in the best interest of the child.

Despite the progress of CEAS, many claim the structural problems that have led to an overburdening of some Member States, can only be tackled by greater EU support and solidarity from those less affected.

Under operational measures approved by the Council of Ministers in September 2015, a temporary emergency relocation programme was launched in October.

The programme aimed to relocate 160,000 people in clear need of international protection from Italy and Greece to other EU Member States. The idea behind the relocation was to alleviate the pressure experienced, particularly by Member States at the external EU borders, by relocating asylum-seekers to other Member States according to a distribution key taking into account GDP, unemployment rates, etc. By May 2018, 96 % of eligible persons have been relocated. However, not all Member States were willing to participate in the scheme, reflecting contrasting attitudes in public opinion and difficulties in balancing solidarity and responsibility between different EU countries. Following the political deadlock, on 7 December 2017, the Commission referred the Czech Republic, Hungary and Poland to the Court of Justice of the EU (CJEU) for failing to contribute to relocation in breach of their legal obligations, the validity of the relocation scheme having been confirmed by the CJEU in September 2017.

To support the most vulnerable in need of international protection and help them find a safe pathway to Europe, the Commission, together with Member States, established several resettlement mechanisms, such as the emergency scheme, which ended in 2017, and the new scheme, which expires in October 2019. Resettlement refers to refugees who are outside the EU and are defined, by the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR), as in need of international protection. In total, up to May 2018, over 32 000 people have been resettled to the majority of the EU Member States. This initiative has been called for by the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR).

To achieve a comprehensive approach to migration in the future, policy and regulations need to strike the right balance between humanitarian aspects of asylum and migration on one hand and security and social cohesion concerns on the other. Furthermore, many call for the reasons that lead people to embark on dangerous journeys, such as poverty and insecurity in their countries of origin, to be addressed. A further obstacle is the public’s increasingly negative opinion of migration, partly as a consequence of the economic crisis in many Member States, as well as security threats such as terrorism and fear for an increase in crime.

These concerns were address in the European Agenda on Migration, presented in May 2015.


The agenda relies on:

  • Full and coherent implementation of the CEAS;
  • Fighting irregular immigration, with particular emphasis on actions against human smuggling and further development of readmission agreements with third countries. Currently the EU’s return policy depends on the will of the countries of origin and of transit to readmit migrants;
  • Securing the effective management of EU external borders, inter alia by strengthening Frontex’s operational capabilities and pooling more resources amongst Member States;
  • New EU policy of legal immigration.

Various proposals have been made to flesh out this collective responsibility:

  • An EU-wide asylum status and a centralised EU agency;
  • A system of collective responsibility with distribution of asylum-seekers between Member States;
  • Joint processing schemes across the EU.

Under the existing common European asylum system, asylum seekers are not treated uniformly and recognition rates in different EU countries vary. Besides, based on their geographical position, only a few countries are responsible for essentially all the asylum claims submitted within the EU. To make the legal framework more efficient, harmonised, fairer and more resistant to future migratory pressures, the Commission launched its reform of asylum policy in May and July 2016.

This introduced two packages of proposals, covering fair allocation of asylum applications among Member States and providing a common set of rules at EU level to simplify and shorten the asylum procedure, discourage secondary movements and increase the prospect of integration.

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asylum procedures
in the EU

Currently lists of safe countries are defined at national level and not coordinated, which can lead to different recognition rates of similar asylum applications and the incentive to apply for asylum in Member States with higher recognition rates.

EURODAC is a biometric database in which Member States are required to enter the fingerprint data of migrants in order to identify where they entered the EU, and whether they have previously made asylum applications. Its main purpose is to facilitate the application of the Dublin Regulation, which determines the Member State responsible for processing an asylum claim.

Fingerprinting is locally organised by the Member States and assistance is provided by EASO in hotspots.

In response to the increasing influx of migrants in Italy and Greece, the Commission has set up ‘hotspots’ to increase capacity to register and accommodate all arriving migrants. Migrants are then channelled either to the asylum procedure or, if they are not applying for asylum or do not demonstrate sufficient grounds to require international protection, to pre-removal centres to wait for their return. The hotspot approach is also contributing to the implementation of the relocation schemes: people in clear need of international protection are identified in frontline EU Member States for relocation to other EU Member States where their asylum application are processed.

The migration agenda includes a 'hotspot' approach which means identifying specific sections of the border that are characterised by disproportionate mixed migratory flows. The approach entails temporary intervention by EU agencies such as Frontex, EASO and Europol, to help national authorities guide asylum-seekers towards asylum procedures and irregular migrants towards return procedures.

Guarantees established for asylum-seekers include:

  • A personal interview with each asylum-seeker;
  • The right to appeal against a negative decision;
  • Access to the labour market within nine months of the asylum application.

EU legislation also provides for common standards for reception conditions of asylum-seekers in the Member States. This includes housing, health care access and education for children. However, it should be noted that Member States decide on the exact assistance provided, so conditions vary considerably.

At present, the Dublin system is based on the principle of mutual recognition of negative asylum decisions.

A negative asylum decision means that if a person's claim for international protection has been rejected in one Member State, and he or she subsequently claims asylum in another Member State, the second Member State is entitled to decline to examine the application. This has led to asylum-seekers trying at any price to avoid being registered as an asylum-seeker in a Member State in which they do not want to stay, which often pushes them into hiding from the law and promotes criminality.

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asylum, migration, borders and the EU budget

EU Funding inside
the Union in 2014-2020

In the fields of migration, asylum and borders, the EU utilises funding tools to complement Member States’ efforts within the Union. The two main funding tools used to this effect are the Asylum, Migration and Integration Fund (AMIF) and the Borders and Visa strand of the Internal Security Fund (ISF). Both are part of what the EU spends on home affairs, which also includes the financing of relevant EU agencies, amounting to a total budget of around €14 billion for the 2014-2020 period

In particular, AMIF has a budget of €6.89 billion, and ISF Borders and Visa has a budget of €2.76 billion, amounting to €9.65 billion in total.

To put these figures into perspective, the budget available for the previous period (2007-2013) under the predecessors of AMIF and ISF Border and Visa was €3.93 billion, which came from the following Funds:

  • European Refugee Fund (ERF) – €614 million;
  • Integration Fund – €825 million;
  • Return Fund – €676 million;
  • External Borders Fund (EBF) – €1 820 million.

Asylum, Migration and Integration Fund (AMIF)

The Asylum, Migration and Integration Fund (AMIF) co-finances national and EU actions that aim at promoting the efficient management of migration flows, as well as the implementation, strengthening and development of a common EU approach to asylum and migration. The AMIF has four common specific objectives.

The common specific objectives of the AMIF are:

  • Strengthening and developing the establishment of the CEAS;
  • Supporting legal migration to the Member States in accordance with their economic and social needs and promoting the effective integration of third-country nationals;
  • Enhancing fair and effective return strategies with a view to countering illegal migration;
  • Increasing solidarity and responsibility-sharing between the Member States, with particular focus on those most affected by migration and asylum flows.

To achieve these objectives, the AMIF can co-finance actions not only in the participating Member States, but also in relation with third countries. Initiatives need to be coordinated, and consistent with the EU’s external action and the measures supported by related funding instruments.

AMIF funded measures for asylum-seekers and refugees within national programmes aim to ensure full and effective implementation of the CEAS. In the fields of legal migration and integration, initiatives seek to support national integration strategies of Member States, as well as their national legal migration strategies. As regards to irregular immigration and return, support can be given to voluntary return schemes, forced return operations, mechanisms for monitoring forced returns, investments in detention facilities and developing alternatives to detention.

Past projects financed by the EU in this area include: support and practical assistance to unaccompanied minors (Belgium); improvement of reception conditions (Estonia); and mental health services for asylum-seeking children who have been victims of torture (Finland).

The AMIF is implemented in different ways:

  • Shared management (Member States for national programmes);
  • Direct Management (European Commission for Union actions, emergency assistance, the European Migration Network and technical assistance);
  • Indirect management.

For the 2014-2020 period, total initial AMIF allocation was estimated at €3.14 billion. Due to the unforeseen needs resulting from the migration crisis in 2015 and 2016, the initial allocated budget was substantially increased, to a total of €6.89 billion, by the end of 2017, through top-ups to support the relocation and resettlement, integration and return, the revision of the Dublin Regulation, Union action and emergency assistance. For the 2014-2017 period, around 78 % of the AMIF resources were allocated to Member States that adopt multiannual national programmes and implement the Fund under shared management. The basic national allocations under the AMIF amount to €5.39 billion. The remaining 15 % (€1 billion) and 7 % (€0.46 billion) are allocated for emergency assistance and Union action, respectively. All Member States except Denmark participate in the Fund.

Each participating country has to devote at least a given share of the resources that it receives to certain objectives. For example, a minimum 20% of the basic allocation assigned, taking into account statistical data on migration flows, must be spent on actions aimed at strengthening and developing the CEAS.

Funding is distributed among participating countries taking into account the statistical data on migration flows.

The remainder of the Fund is implemented through direct management (European Commission) or, in some cases, indirect management (e.g. by the International Centre for Migration Policy Development or ICMPD) to support transnational actions or actions of particular interest to the EU (‘Union actions’), emergency assistance, technical assistance and the European Migration Network, which the Council established in 2008 with the task of providing reliable and comparable information on migration and asylum topics.

Examples of proposals that have been awarded emergency assistance in recent years include: establishment of an emergency day accommodation centre for irregular migrants in Calais, France (with the EU contribution amounting to €3.78 million); consolidation of reception capacities in respect of migratory flows reaching strategic border points on Italian territory (€1.71 million); capacity-building of asylum reception and human resources aiming to respond effectively to migration pressure in Hungary (€1.25 million); and addressing needs related to the mass arrival in Cyprus of third country nationals who may be in need of international protection (€0.97 million).

Internal Security Fund (ISF) Borders and Visa

The main objective of the Internal Security Fund (ISF) Borders and Visa is to contribute to ensuring a high level of security in the Union by supporting measures that promote a uniform and high level of control and protection of external borders, as well as the effective processing of Schengen visas. The two specific objectives of the instrument, which are both related to facilitating legitimate travel and tackling illegal immigration, are:


Process Schengen visas effectively by supporting a common visa policy. This aims to facilitate legitimate travel to the EU, provide a high quality of service to visa applicants, ensure equal treatment of non-EU nationals and tackle irregular immigration;


Achieve a uniform and high level of control and protection of external borders by supporting integrated border management, harmonising border management measures within the Union and sharing information among Member States, as well as between Member States and Frontex.

The ISF has a budget of €3.89 billion for the period 2014-2020. From this, €2.76 billion was allocated for ISF Borders and Visa, with the remainder going to ISF Police

The ISF fund can be used for a wide range of initiatives, including setting up and running IT systems, acquiring operational equipment, promoting and developing training schemes and ensuring administrative and operational coordination and cooperation.

Among past national projects supported by the EU in this policy area, examples range from the purchase of helicopters to strengthen border surveillance (Cyprus) and equipment to identify false documents (Malta), to training for Border Guard aviation employees (Poland).

From the €2.76 billion ISF Borders and Visa budget for the period 2014-2020, 65 % of the resources are channelled through shared management in the Member States. The reprogramming of the initial budget of €2.76 billion was a response to the migration crisis; this means increased allocation for emergency assistance and Frontex equipment, and the transfer of part of the funds allocated to the IT systems supporting the management of migration flows at the external borders to eu-LISA. The additional €154 million, reserved for the special transit scheme that applies to Lithuania, remains untouched. In addition to the basic amount allocated to national programmes, Member States may also receive additional resources for the implementation of specific actions.

Two tools currently playing a key role in information sharing between Schengen States in the area of borders and visa are: the Schengen Information System (SIS), which provides alerts and information on suspected criminals, on people who may not be entitled to enter into or stay in the EU, on missing persons and on stolen or lost property; and the Visa Information System (VIS), which deals with data on visa application and decisions.

Specific actions deal with the establishment of consular cooperation mechanisms between at least two Member States as well as the purchase of means of transport and operating equipment for joint operations by the Frontex Agency.

All Member States except Ireland and the United Kingdom participate in the implementation of the ISF Borders and Visa instrument. The four Schengen Associated Countries (Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland) also participate in the ISF Borders and Visa instrument.

Examples of beneficiaries of the programmes implemented under this Fund can be state and federal authorities, local public bodies, non-governmental organisations (NGOs), humanitarian organisations, private and public law companies and education and research organisations.

Each participating country implements the ISF Borders and Visa under a national programme, which has to be in line with the instrument’s goals and allocates a minimum share of the available resources to given objectives.

Following the findings and recommendations of a Schengen evaluation report in the context of the Schengen monitoring mechanism, a Member State may be required to modify its national programme with a view to addressing the identified weaknesses and prioritising ISF funding for the related corrective measures.

The remaining 35% of the reprogrammed budget for ISF Borders and Visa is, in principle, implemented through direct management by the European Commission or indirect management (for example by EU decentralised agencies).

Due to the migration crisis, the allocation for emergency assistance for the period 2014-2017, increased from an initial 1.3 % to 14.8 % of the total Fund. Union actions, which are specific cross-border or innovative measures of interest that benefit the entire EU, are decreased by a quarter to facilitate the increase in emergency assistance funds.

Examples of use of the ISF emergency funding include the acquisition of 90 fingerprinting devices (€1.36 million) to be installed at border crossings across Greece for the identification and registration of migrants in the framework of the central EURODAC system. The November 2015 allocation of ISF emergency resources to Croatia and Slovenia (respectively €3.99 million and €4.92 million) aimed to help both countries to manage high migratory flows, with financed measures including increased presence of police staff at borders and the accommodation costs of officers deployed from other Member States.

Two tools currently playing a key role in information sharing between Schengen States in the area of borders and visa are: the Schengen Information System (SIS), which provides alerts and information on suspected criminals, on people who may not be entitled to enter into or stay in the EU, on missing persons and on stolen or lost property; and the Visa Information System (VIS), which deals with data on visa application and decisions.

ISF Police

ISF Police, the other component of ISF, had initial estimated resources of €1 billion for the 2014-2020 period. However, the budget was increased to a total of €1.13 billion. By the end of 2017, a top-up of €70 million was made to support the Member States in implementing the Passenger Name Record Directive and another top-up of €22 million was made for developing information exchange and interoperability tools. The present allocations of the national programmes currently amount to €754 million (shared management), while €342 million is managed by the Commission through annual work programmes focusing on union action, emergency assistance and technical assistance at the Commission's initiative (direct or indirect management).


In addition, the EU has six decentralised agencies in the area of home affairs, which were endowed with initial resources of €2.13 billion under the 2014-2020 Multiannual Financial Framework (MFF) of the EU. These resources now amount to €4.14 billion for the six agencies.

Of these, the agencies working mainly in the fields of borders, visa or migration are: FRONTEX, the European Border and Coast Guard Agency located in Warsaw; EASO, the European Asylum Support Office based in Valletta; and eu-LISA, the Agency for the operational management of large-scale IT systems in the area of freedom, security and justice, which is located in Tallinn and Strasbourg. These three agencies now dispose of resources that amount to €3.21 billion for the 2014-2020 period.

Multiannual financial framework (MFF) 2021-2027

The European Commission has proposed a 2021-2027 MFF with a new structure, which differs significantly from the current MFF. Particularly, Heading 4, Migration and Border Management includes two funds: the Asylum and Migration Fund and the Integrated Border Management Fund (IBMF) for border management, visas and customs control equipment. An Internal Security Fund, which brings together the current MFF's ISF and the Justice Programme, is included in Heading 5, Security and Defence.


EU funding outside
the Union in 2015-2018

To respond to the refugee crisis, the European Parliament and Council have mobilised additional resources for 2015-2018, bringing the amount allocated by the EU to the crisis and external borders to more than €20 billion. This has been achieved not only by strengthening the AMIF and the ISF, but also by reinforcing existing instruments for external action as well as creating new ones (total EU funding outside the Union now amounts to €12.4 billion over the 2015-2018 period).

Increased EU resources for the refugee crisis are providing support for a number of measures inside and outside the EU.

Examples of measures include:

  • Additional emergency assistance for the most affected Member States;
  • Increased resources for relevant EU agencies (Frontex, EASO and Europol);
  • Restored funding for food aid via the World Food Programme to 2014 levels;
  • Increased humanitarian aid with more support for Syrian refugees;
  • Further assistance for refugees and their host communities in neighbouring countries such as Lebanon, Jordan, Turkey and Iraq.

EU Trust Funds

EU Trust Funds are an example of new instruments for external action that are being used to finance the EU’s response to migration. In particular, two Trust Funds are applicable for migration-related projects: the Madad Trust Fund and the Emergency Trust Fund for Africa.

The Madad Fund, which had, in 2018, a €600 million contribution from the EU budget, was established to respond to the Syrian crisis and channel aid for Syria’s neighbouring countries. This Trust Fund was developed to allow the EU and the Member States to intervene jointly to help refugees and their host communities in a manner that treats the refugee crisis as a regional crisis and permits action on a regional scale. Projects focus on education, food security and livelihoods, with almost half of the funds financing action in Turkey. Updated information, as of 28 February 2019, on the Madad Fund puts the level of EU pledges at €1.49 billion.

The Emergency Trust Fund for Africa addresses the root causes of irregular immigration and displaced persons in Africa. By January 2018, this fund disposed of €2.6 billion in contributions from the European Development Fund and the EU budget, targeting 26 countries in the Sahel and the Lake Chad region, the Horn of Africa and North Africa. Its objective is to improve living conditions and encourage people to stay in their countries of origin, rather than undertake the perilous journey to Europe and an uncertain future. High on the agenda are improvements in stability and security in the countries concerned, better governance, economic development, food security and the delivery of basic services. Recent data from March 2019 show the resources allocated to this fund are up to €4.2 billion including €3.7 billion from the European Development Fund (EDF) and EU financial instruments including DCI, ENI, HOME and ECHO funding.

For the time being, the bulk of funding for these two Trust Funds has come from the EU budget and the European Development Fund. By comparison, Member State contributions to date have been relatively low.

Facility for Refugees in Turkey

In November 2015, the EU announced the establishment of a Facility for Refugees in Turkey, a joint coordination mechanism for actions financed by the EU budget and national contributions made by the Member States. Its total budget amounts to €6 billion, with an amount of €3 billion fully committed and contracted for 2016- 2017, and an additional amount of €3 billion mobilised for 2018-2019. For 2016-2017, €1 billion came from EU resources and the remainder from national contributions and private entities. For the second instalment, the Commission should provide €2 billion from the Union budget and €1 billion will come from Member States’ contributions.

The aim of the Facility is to deliver efficient and complementary support to Syrian refugees and host communities in Turkey. Priority will be given to actions that provide immediate humanitarian, development and other assistance to refugees and host communities, national and local authorities in managing and addressing the consequences of the inflows of refugees.

Other funding outside the EU

In 2015-2018, other EU funding to address the refugee crisis outside the Union amounts to €8.2 billion. The bulk of this goes to humanitarian aid (€3.5 billion), while other resources are earmarked for: return of refugees and displaced persons, aid and support for migrants, the fight against root causes of migration (€1.6 billion); pledges from the London Conference in February 2016 and the Brussels Conference in April 2017, supporting the future of Syria and the region (€1.6 billion); support for livelihood opportunities, health, education for refugees and mobility policy (€800 million); support for stabilisation and peace, security and border management of third countries (€400 million); support for border and migration management in Turkey and the Western Balkans (€300 million).



The situation remains complex. On one hand, the EU and its Member States are obligated under international law and EU Treaties to offer protection to asylum-seekers. But on the other hand, there are obligations under the same EU Treaties to guarantee the security and social cohesion of Member States’ societies. While the EU is helping Member States to deal with the refugee crisis, diverging national interests have, until now, prevented further common decisions in this field.

This animated infographic was updated in March 2019.

To remain up to date with the EU’s response to migration, regularly visit the European Parliament’s blog. Or send us an email on eprs@ep.europa.eu.

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An asylum-seeker is a person requesting international protection due to the risk of persecution or due to risk of being ill-treated or being subjected to other serious harm in his or her home country. To qualify as a refugee, an asylum-seeker needs to present evidence for evaluation.


A person who has been recognised as being in need of international protection. According to the Geneva Refugee Convention, a refugee is a person who ‘owing to well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion, is outside the country of his nationality and is unable or, owing to such fear, unwilling to avail himself of the protection of that country’.

Beneficiaries of international protection

Beneficiary of international protection means a person who has been granted refugee status or subsidiary protection status. ‘Refugee’ means a third-country national who, owing to a well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, political opinion or membership of a particular social group, is outside the country of nationality and is unable or, owing to such fear, is unwilling to avail himself or herself of the protection of that country, or a stateless person, who, being outside of the country of former habitual residence for the same reasons as mentioned above, is unable or, owing to such fear, unwilling to return to it. ‘Person eligible for subsidiary protection’ means a third-country national or a stateless person who does not qualify as a refugee but in respect of whom substantial grounds have been shown for believing that the person concerned, if returned to their country of origin , or in the case of a stateless person, to their country of former habitual residence, would face a real risk of suffering serious harm, and is unable, or, owing to such risk, unwilling to avail themselves of the protection of that country.

Beneficiary of subsidiary protection

A beneficiary of subsidiary protection is a person who does not qualify as a refugee under the Geneva Refugee Convention, but would be in danger if returned to his or her home country.

Irregular immigrant

An irregular immigrant is a person from a third-country (non-EU country) who does not fulfil, or no longer fulfils, the conditions of entry as set out in the Schengen Borders Code or other conditions for entry, stay or residence in a Member State.

Legally residing immigrant

A legal immigrant is a person from a third-country (non-EU country) that is legally residing in an EU Member State for purposes of work (Blue Card Directive, the Intra-corporate Transfer Directive), study (Students Directive, Scientific Research Directive), or family reunification (Family Reunification Directive).


People migrating to the EU are categorised as either: an asylum-seeker, a refugee, a beneficiary of subsidiary protection, an irregular immigrant or a legal immigrant.

Member States

EU Member States have an obligation to secure the external EU borders in their territory. They provide data and resources to relevant EU Agencies, including Frontex, to facilitate coordination between Member States. FRONTEX, which became the European Border and Coast Guard Agency in 2016, now also gives support to Member States in the field of migration management, the fight against cross-border crimes and search and rescue operations.

Member States are also responsible for processing asylum applications.


Frontex is the Agency, which helps Member States that are facing strong migratory pressure to secure the EU’s external borders, through coordinating deployment of equipment and border guards made available by Member States. In 2016, FRONTEX became the European Border and Coast Guard Agency. The Agency coordinates joint operations of the EU Member States at the EU’s land, sea and air borders and supports Member States in the field of migration management, the fight against cross-border crimes and search and rescue operations. It can create European Border Guard Teams (EBGT) for deployment in joint operations and rapid border interventions and has a role in returning migrants to their country of origin.

European Asylum Support Office (EASO)

The European Asylum Support Office (EASO) provides support to Member States experiencing an influx of asylum applications, this includes assistance with implementing EU legislation in the field, for instance by preparing case files for asylum applicants in overburdened entry points. However, national authorities process asylum applications.

Multiannual financial framework (MFF)

A framework regulating the budget of the EU over a number of years. It is laid down in a unanimously adopted Council Regulation with a consent of the European Parliament. The financial framework sets the maximum amount of commitment appropriations in the EU budget each year for broad policy areas ("headings") and fixes an overall annual ceiling on payment and commitment appropriations.