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Migration to Europe


Jannatul Ferdous


Europe is experiencing the  mass movements of displaced people  in a way that it has largely been immune from for decades. The ramifications and manifestations of what is being called a ‘migration crisis’ are  extensive, intersecting with national as well as pan-European politics, existing economic problems, xenophobia, fear of terror attacks, and much more. This crisis, in effect, seems to  dwarf in scale  and  complexity any other crisis that Europe  has faced since  the end of the Second World  War.

What is Migration?

Migration is not exclusive to humans. Animals migrate too, but in this lesson, we shall look at Migration of people.

It is the movement of a person or a group of people, to settle in another place, often across a political or administrative boundary. Migration can be temporal or permanent, and it may be voluntary or forced.

“There are 232million people living outside their country of birth, including myself. All of us are part of a productive global economy that benefits our world as a whole” —Ban Ki-Moon, UN Secretary General

There are two important terms that relate to migration:

Immigration (people coming in from elsewhere) and Emigration (people leaving their home country). Immigration is when people move from other places into a place to settle. Such migrants are called immigrants. Emigration is when people move out to new places, and the migrants involved are called emigrants.

Migration is not a new thing — it is known historically, that people have always had migratory lifestyles. There is enough evidence that people have moved from far away places to inhabit new areas. For example, Migrants from Asia ended up in North and South America over a period of time, via a land bridge over the Bering Strait. There has been several bulk movement of people in the history of humans, all of which were caused by some specific events during those times.

In more recent years, such as the Industrial revolution period (1843-1939), over 50 million people left Europe for the USA, Canada, Argentina, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa. Many of them left to escape the poverty and periodic crop failures in Europe.

The concept is very similar today. In fact, people find it easier to move because of the availability of efficient transport, way-finding technology, improved communications, media, and information, even though new policies, laws and controls in entry points are much more rigorous than ever efore.

Forms of Migration

The various kinds of migration depend on the flow and number of people often involved, the reasons for their movement, the time they spend in migration, and the nature of that migration. Here are a few forms:

        Intercontinental migration:

It is when the movement is across continents, such as from Korea (Asia) to Brazil (South America). If the movement is on the same continent, we say intracontinental migration. Sometimes, people migrate from one place to the other within the same region, continent or country. This is also known as regional migration or internal migration.

         Rural-Urban Migration:

This involves the movement of people from rural areas or countrysides to urban areas of the same country in search of new opportunities and lifestyles.

         Forced or involuntary Migration:

This is when the government or authorities of a place force people to migrate for a reason.

       Impelled Migration (also called reluctant or imposed migration):

Here, no one is forced to migrate but due to some push factors such as war, hunger and other difficult conditions, people decide to leave.

        Seasonal Migration:

Sometimes people move during specific seasons such as crop harvesting and climate to work and then go back when the season is over.

        Return Migration:

This involves the voluntary return of migrants to their original place after they outlive the reasons for which they left. Often times, young people who move into the cities to work return home when they retire to spend the rest of their lives in the quiet of their towns and with old friends and family.

         Long and short-term migration:

People may consider migrating for good if the condition in their home is one that is threatening. For example, people move for better health care if they have some disease that requires some level of attention that can only be received in another place. On the other hand, it may be temporal in nature. For example, a person may study in another place, but may decide to stay and work for many years before going back for good

What are the factors of migration?

People migrate for a number of reasons. These reasons may fall under these four areas: Environmental, Economic, Cultural and Socio-political. Within that, the reasons may also be ‘push’ or ‘pull’ factors.

        Push Factors

Push factors are those that force the individual to move voluntarily, and in many cases, they are forced because the individual risk something if they stay. Push factors may include conflict, drought, famine, or extreme religious activity.

Poor economic activity and lack of job opportunities are also strong push factors for migration. Other strong push factors include race and discriminating cultures, political intolerance and persecution of people who question the status quo.

        Pull Factors

Pull factors are those factors in the destination country that attract the individual or group to leave their home. Those factors are known as place utility, which is the desirability of a place that attracts people. Better economic opportunities, more jobs, and the promise of a better life often pull people into new locations.

Sometimes individuals have ideas and perceptions about places that are not necessarily correct, but are strong pull factors for that individual. As people grow older and retire, many look for places with warm weather, peaceful and comfortable locations to spend their retirement after a lifetime of hard work and savings. Such ideal places are pull factors too.

Very often, people consider and prefer opportunities closer to their location than similar opportunities farther away. In the same vein, people often like to move to places with better cultural, political, climatic and general terrain in closer locations than locations farther away. It is rare to find people move over very long distances to settle in places that they have little knowledge of.

Impact of Migration on destination country

Migration has both positive and negative impacts on the destination country.


   Cheap Labour:

Migrants often do many unskilled jobs for a very little wage. Skilled migrants are also often happy to give their services for little salary.

   Skilled Labour:

Some immigrants are highly skilled and talented, and they contribute to knowledge and production for the well-being of all in that country.

   Cultural Diversity:

Immigrants provide the diversity in many places. Diversity helps cultures and traditions to loosen the grip on racism, discrimination and things like that. Diversity helps people learn about other ways of life and what goes on in other places of the world. It brings variety to almost every part of our ways of life. Diversity helps people to better appreciate humanity and human rights in general.


   Job loss:

Immigrants may also cause pressure on job issues as the locals often lose jobs to incoming workers.


Immigration can fuel racism and discrimination. Immigrants who cannot speak the local language or do not behave like the locals often find themselves not accepted in their communities, as people prefer not to have anything to do with them.

   Social/Civil Pressure:

Housing, health, education and many other facilities may suffer from the pressure of excessive use by more people than it was designed to take. This can force prices of such amenities to go high, causing hardship to all.

    Breakdown of culture and traditions:

Traditions and cultures are negatively modified because of diversity. Sometimes healthy ways of lives are lapsed as different people are exposed to different ways of doing things. Sometimes new crime incidents emerge or increase as a result of ‘bad’ people coming in.


As long as people move from place to place, there is a risk of contagious disease outbreak.

The impact of Migration on the home country


     Loss of skilled labour:

The biggest negative impact on the country of exit perhaps is the fact that young graduates (or skilled labour and professional) leave to offer their services to other countries. In many developing countries, doctors, nurses, engineers and very bright professionals are lost to other countries.

     Population and markets:

Businesses do better with bigger markets and more buyers. A growing and healthy population often provides the needed market for economic growth and development. When the youth leave, the population stalls and demand for some goods and services fall.


When parents leave, children and other dependents suffer the most, as they lose out on the important psychological development that they need from good parenting. Many of the children are exposed to social vices at an early age because there is no parental control.



It is known that migrants send lots of monies home to support their family. That is a massive flow of foreign exchange or funds that the local government and families can tap into for development and economic growth.

      Better job prospects for locals:

When the youth leave, there is less pressure for jobs, and people are more likely to find something to do.

        Knowledge and skills flow:

Particularly for short-term and seasonal migration, migrants often bring home new ideas, skills and knowledge that they have acquired from their travel. Many businesses, farm practices, and economic ventures have been started by people who got ideas and knowledge during the times they spent in migration.

What is Illegal Migration?

Every nation, country or colony often has rules and laws that control and regulate people who come in from other places. Migration becomes illegal if people do not have the permission of the country or borders they are entering into.

In recent time, illegal migration has been on the rise. Illegal migration is often fueled by pull factors.

People sneak into other countries by land or sea, and other organized groups help people to sneak into other countries to work illegally. This is known as human trafficking.

Many of  the illegal migrants involved end up in very difficult and dangerous situations, as they do not have the proper documents to get a job.

The flow of illegal migrants is often from poorer countries to richer countries. The people involved often are not the poorest in their home countries. They tend to be people with a lot of information, knowledge, ambition and motivation, which often fuels their desire to migrate for better life.

  Undocumented Immigrants

These are people who live in a place without permission and the authorities have no record of them. It also includes people who visit a country for tourism or education or health purposes legally, but do NOT go back. This means even though they went there legally, they are now illegal immigrants because they have out-stayed the time period they were given. In a similar way, immigrants who have expired documents, or who came in with fake documents all fall under undocumented immigrants.

Europe’s Migration Crisis

In 2015, over one million migrants and asylum seekers reached the EU via the Mediterranean. More than 3,700 people died or went missing in the same period while making the journey. Over 130,000 have made the crossing since the start of 2016, while more than 410 have lost their lives in the attempt. Arrivals to Greece via Turkey across the Aegean Sea now far outstrip crossings via Libya to Italy. From Greece, a debt-stricken country unable to cope with the influx, many travel overland through the Western Balkans to reach other EU countries. The land route contains its own perils, including blocked border crossings, summary expulsions and police abuse.

Over 80 percent of those taking the dangerous journey originate from countries beset by war, generalized violence, or with repressive governments, such as Syria, Eritrea, Somalia, Afghanistan, and Iraq. The EU continues to emphasize preventing departures and combating smuggling over a coordinated approach based on access to protection and respect for human rights including through problematic cooperation with Turkey and other transit countries.

The EU should sustain robust search and rescue operations in the Mediterranean and expand safe and legal channels into the EU. A more orderly and coordinated process at Europe’s borders and increased direct resettlement from the countries bordering Syria (or of first refuge) would benefit people seeking asylum and allow for better screening and vetting thereby benefitting national security. EU countries should ensure more equitable responsibility sharing for asylum seekers, and implement common EU standards on reception conditions and asylum procedures.

More than a million migrants and refugees crossed into Europe in 2015, sparking a crisis as countries struggled to cope with the influx, and creating division in the EU over how best to deal with resettling people.

The vast majority arrived by sea but some migrants have made their way over land, principally via Turkey and Albania.

Winter has not stemmed the flow of people – with 135,711 people reaching Europe by sea since the start of 2016, according to the UNHCR.

        So why is the crisis just hitting Europe now?

It’s due to a combination of factors. The developing countries who are currently hosting the vast majority of refugees from Syria are reaching breaking point. Lebanon, Jordan and Turkey, sheltering 3.6 million Syrian refugees between them, are overwhelmed, and international humanitarian funding is falling far short of the need. Many would rather attempt the dangerous journey to Europe than subsist in impoverished, overcrowded refugee camps.

The increased numbers have also been encouraged by German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s pledge to Syrians that if they could manage to reach Germany, they could apply for asylum there – effectively suspending an E.U. law that requires the first country an asylum seeker arrives in to be responsible for documenting and processing his or her application, and resettling them. The rule has placed a disproportionate burden on the southern countries of Italy, Greece and Malta, who see the most arrivals from the Mediterranean.

There’s also a self-perpetuating element to the crisis; people who reach Europe successfully encourage friends and families to join them, and several Facebook pages in Arabic provide information for people making the same desperate bids to reach the continent. Increased international media coverage may also be playing a part in the surge of migrants as rumors of impending caps on refugee numbers, or brief gaps in border control along various frontiers encourages people to try to cross while they can.

But along with the waves of Syrian refugees are many people fleeing turmoil or poverty in sub-Saharan Africa. Lots of them would have previously found safety or jobs in Libya but that country’s worsening instability has propelled even more people to try their chances on the Mediterranean. This movement of people is unlikely to slow until winter arrives, making that journey even more difficult and dangerous than it already is.

        Which countries are migrants from?

The conflict in Syria continues to be by far the biggest driver of migration. But the ongoing violence in Afghanistan and Iraq, abuses in Eritrea, as well as poverty in Kosovo, are also leading people to look for new lives elsewhere.

         Where are migrants going?

Although not all of those arriving in Europe choose to claim asylum, many do. Germany received the highest number of new asylum applications in 2015, with more than 476,000.

But far more people have arrived in the country – German officials said more than a million had been counted in Germany’s “EASY” system for counting and distributing people before they make asylum claims.

Hungary moved into second place for asylum applications, as more migrants made the journey overland through Greece and the Western Balkans. It had 177,130 applications by the end of December.

        How do migrants get to Europe?

The International Organization for Migration (IOM) estimates that more than 1,011,700 migrants arrived by sea in 2015, and almost 34,900 by land.

This compares with 280,000 arrivals by land and sea for the whole of 2014. The figures do not include those who got in undetected.

The EU’s external border force, Frontex, monitors the different routes migrants use and numbers arriving at Europe’s borders and put the figure crossing into Europe in 2015 at more than 1,800,000.

Most of those heading for Greece take the relatively short voyage from Turkey to the islands of Kos, Chios, Lesvos and Samos – often in flimsy rubber dinghies or small wooden boats.

        How dangerous is the journey?

According to the IOM, more than 3,770 migrants were reported to have died trying to cross the Mediterranean in 2015.

Most died on the crossing from north Africa to Italy, and more than 800 died in the Aegean crossing from Turkey to Greece.

The summer months are usually when most fatalities occur as it is the busiest time for migrants attempting to reach Europe.But in 2015, the deadliest month for migrants was April, which saw a boat carrying about 800 people capsize in the sea off Libya. Overcrowding is thought to have been one of the reasons for the disaster.

         Which European countries are most affected?

Although Germany has had the most asylum applications in 2015, Hungary had the highest in proportion to its population, despite having closed its border with Croatia in an attempt to stop the flow in October. Nearly 1,800 refugees per 100,000 of Hungary’s local population claimed asylum in 2015.

Sweden followed close behind with 1,667 per 100,000.

The figure for Germany was 587 and for the UK it was 60 applications for every 100,000 residents. The EU average was 260.

         How has Europe responded?

Tensions in the EU have been rising because of the disproportionate burden faced by some countries, particularly the countries where the majority of migrants have been arriving: Greece, Italy and Hungary.

In September, EU ministers voted by a majority to relocate 160,000 refugees EU-wide, but for now the plan will only apply to those who are in Italy and Greece.

Another 54,000 were to be moved from Hungary, but the Hungarian government rejected this plan and will instead receive more migrants from Italy and Greece as part of the relocation scheme.

The UK has opted out of any plans for a quota system but, according to Home Office figures, 1,000 Syrian refugees were resettled under the Vulnerable Persons Relocation scheme in 2015. Prime Minister David Cameron has said the UK will accept up to 20,000 refugees from Syria over the next five year

           How many asylum claims are approved?

Although huge numbers have been applying for asylum, the number of people being given asylum is far lower.

In 2015, EU countries offered asylum to 292,540 refugees. In the same year, more than a million migrants applied for asylum – although applying for asylum can be a lengthy procedure so many of those given refugee status may have applied in previous years.

  Why is EU struggling with migrants and asylum?

The EU on Friday also announced the first payments of a €3bn ($3.3bn; £2.3bn) package aimed at helping Turkey cope with migrants on its soil.

The head of the EU’s delegation to Turkey, Hansjorg Haber, said a large amount of the money would be spent on humanitarian aid, followed by schooling and infrastructure for migrants.

Some €400,000 had already been disbursed, Mr Haber said.

The Turkish government says that it has spent €8bn on Syrian refugees.

On Thursday, Mr Tusk issued a warning to illegal economic migrants not to try to reach Europe,

He also proposed “a fast and large-scale mechanism to ship back irregular migrants” arriving in Greece.


 Reducing the incentives for or drivers of onward movement can only occur if significantly greater efforts are made at the international level to improve asylum standards and secure the cooperation of all countries along main routes for asylum seekers and refugees in ensuring access to protection. The EU often emphasises its strong interest in cooperation with third countries on asylum and migration. But a greater share of the resources and political particular attention. Firstly, there needs to be an enhanced focus among states on working in genuine partnership, including between countries in regions of ‘destination’ and those of origin and transit, to establish and reinforce protection capacity, and to encourage all states to take full ownership of responsibility for ensuring their asylum laws and institutions are effective. Secondly, a stronger commitment is needed at the international level to ensuring access to durable solutions. Refugees languishing in protracted displacement are likely to resort in increasing numbers to irregular onward movement. Finally, additional legal channels must be developed and expanded for those people who cannot find protection and solutions where they are. If the compulsion to move on is not addressed in more proactive and positive ways, Europe will continue to see desperate people prepared to take any risk to move onwards irregularly. Far-sighted collective approaches to onward movement and the protection needs of those who move are urgently needed in order to reinforce the effective operation and ongoing viability of the international protection system as a whole.

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