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This In Focus brief was previously published under the title 'European approaches to migration in the Mediterranean'.

‘Migration is about people – behind each face arriving at our borders, there is an individual: a businessperson travelling to work, a student coming to study, a victim of people-traffickers, a parent trying to get their children to safety. When presenting a comprehensive European Agenda on Migration we have to think about all dimensions of migration – this is not about quick fixes; this is about creating a more secure, prosperous and attractive European Union.’

- Dimitris Avramopoulos, European Migration, Home Affairs and Citizenship Commissioner

In 2015 more than 1 million people entered Europe by various routes over land and sea, most of whom were fleeing conflict and persecution. In the early months of 2016, Greece continued to receive between 1,000-4,000 new arrivals every day, many of them Syrian refugees. By October, UNHCR had already declared 2016 the deadliest year on record in terms of people trying to cross the Mediterranean.

The mass refugee influx into Europe since 2015 has been described by the UNHCR as "the biggest humanitarian emergency of our era" and a "largely self-induced humanitarian crisis". It has placed enormous pressure on countries in the region: not just those in Europe, but also its neighbours such as Turkey, Lebanon and Jordan, who continue to host the bulk of the refugees displaced by war in Syria, and from elsewhere. 

Europe has been debating how to manage the arrival and needs of asylum seekers and migrants for decades, with increasing urgency since January 2015. Discover the key aspects of European law and policy with regard to migration into the region since the onset of this 'crisis', and proposals for policy change, in this In Focus Brief.  

Introduction to the European system for managing migration

Europe has one of the most developed systems for regional cooperation on asylum and migration issues in the world. Click here for an overview of the key institutions and legal frameworks, and an explanation of how decsions are made in the European Union (EU). 

Preventing irregular migration into Europe


Managing the processing and movement of people within Europe's borders


Saving lives at sea


Note on terminology

In the context of addressing irregular migration in the Mediterranean, the term ‘trafficking’ is sometimes used to refer to what is in fact the related but distinct concept of ‘smuggling’. This brief has taken care to use the use the correct terms as much as possible. The importance of distinguishing between these two concepts has been highlighted by the UNHCR.

Would you like to contribute to this story? If so, please contact Madeline Gleeson, Director of the Regional Protection and Cooperation Project.

The Kaldor Centre plays a vital role in developing legal, sustainable and humane solutions for displaced people around the world.