The migration through the Mediterranean sea

1) Forced migration: a worldwide phenomenon

The forced migration tied to persecutions, conflicts and human rights violations doesn’t concern Europe only. The UNCHR’s data show that the forced migrants in the world, only in the year 2015, were 65,3 million people. And only a tenth of these people has found refuge in Europe!

Among the migrants that arrive in Europe, usyally they are distinguised in two main categories:

- the migrants wich are in the conditions to require international protection (refugees and sussidiary protection), or humanitarian protection;

- the so-called “economical migrants”, meaning people who can not require international protection, but neverthless leave their countries to escape poverty or look for better life conditions.

2) The Mediterranean migrants emergency

The emergency concerning the migrants that cross the Mediterranean sea is a phenomenon that has especially reached large dimensions in the last years:

  • In 2011, with the beginning of the Arab spring (the end of 2010) and especially with the fall of Gheddafi’s regime and his death (October 2011), the number raised to 70,000.
  • In 2014 (with the stabilization of the entire area), 220,000 people landed on European shores, a number three times higher than the previous year’s.
  • 2015 and 2016 have surpassed again the previous years, reaching a number higher than one million.

These data confirm us, if there was any further need, the fact that we are dealing with an extremely important historical and social phenomenon...

3) Deaths at sea

Sadly, also the deaths at sea have risen in numbers. According to OIM’s data, the documented deaths in the Mediterranean in 2015 were 3770, in 2016 they were 5079. And certainly many more died in both the Mediterranean Sea and the desert that migrants cross to reach Libya, and because of the ill-treatment and torture that happen during the routes.

4) The reasons behind migrations

A further question concerns the reasons behind this exodus and what pushes these migrants to leave their countries, facing long travels during which they risk their lives and their loved ones’.
The countries where most migrants come from are Syria, Afghanistan, Eritrea, Nigeria and Somalia. But other countries were added to this list even if they have lower numbers: Sudan, Gambia, Senegal, Ghana, Mali. The reasons are always the same: internal instability that threatens civil war, the presence of radicalized Islamic groups and extreme poverty.


  • Syria has been devastated by civil war for five years. Since the conflict started in 2011, more than 200.000 people have died and 11 million were forced to leave their homes.
  • Out of these eleven million, about 7.000.000 are still in Syria, while 4 million have left the country.
  • The large majority of the Syrian diaspora is in Turkey (2 million people), Lebanon (1 million) and Jordan (600.000).
  • Other Syrian refugees are scattered in between Iraq and Egypt, or are making their way towards Europe. In 2016, 126.000 Syrians arrived in the European Union, 43% of the total of the arrivals in 2015.


  • The country isn’t stable yet. After the start of the war in 2011, the country entered a profound crisis in 2014. A renewed political instability, which followed the uncertain results of the June 2014 elections, gave the Taliban newfound strength and their attacks on the civil population have risen in number (+ 24% compared to 2013).
  • The chronical issues the country faces: abuses from the police and security forces (including a large use of torture), threats to the freedom of expression, denial of women’s rights.
  • More than 700.000 Afghans are displaced in their own country; two and a half million people left Afghanistan and most of them lives in Iran and Pakistan.
  • 35,000 Afghans arrived in Europe (almost all in Greece) in 2015.

Eritrea suffers from twenty years of dictatorships under Isaias Afewerki, who forces everyone, men and women alike, to obligatory military service and runs a regime where the use of torture is constant, same as arbitrary arrests and lock-ups, disappearings of civilians and State-approved homicides.

Nigeria has been dealing since 2002 with the presence of the radical Islamic group Boko Haram, active mostly in the north of the country, with kidnappings, bombings and armed attacks..

Somalia has been continuously living with a state of civil war since 1991, a war that strengthened an Islamic armed group named Al-Shabab, which managed to control large parts of the country and was behind numerous attacks. Somalia is one of the poorest countries in the world: 81% of its inhabitants lives under the line of poverty.

5) What happens in the host countries

The Dublin Regulation

First of all, it should be remembered that according to the Dublin Regulation (so called because it was signed by a first European nucleus in Dublin in 1990), the first Member State where fingerprints are stored or an asylum application is registered is in charge of the 'A refugee's asylum.

This regulation is put into deep discussion, both by civil society, by entities such as the European Council for Refugees and Exiles (ECRE) and UNHCR ,. It has been demonstrated on several occasions in fact, that the regulation prevents the legal rights and well-being of asylum seekers, including the right to a fair examination of their asylum application and, if recognized, to effective protection. It also leads to an unequal distribution of asylum applications between Member States.

It happens, infact, that:

- countries such as Italy and Greece have found themselves almost entirely to take charge of the flow of migrants, without the possibility of providing all the necessary protection;

- not to be forced to stay in these two countries, risking the denial of asylum and without the possibility of reaching relatives or relatives in other countries, migrants obviously try not to give their fingerprints in Italy or Greece; To move to other states (the so-called "secondary movements");

- not to be forced to stay in these two countries, risking the denial of asylum and without the possibility of reaching relatives or relatives in other countries, migrants obviously try not to give their fingerprints in Italy or Greece; To move to other states (the so-called "secondary movements");

- In fact, migrants today apply for asylum in the countries of arrival; In Italy, for example, in 2016 there was an increase of 60% of requests, which has caused many problems; In fact, as Amnesty International has also denounced, the request for protection is given in a priori manner according to the countries of origin, in particular to Syrian citizens and people from other specific nations (such as Eritreans, Iraqis and Yemenites), while everyone else is excluded because of prejudice, and they’re quickly classified as ‘economic migrants’, while a large number of these people might reasonably have the requisites to ask for refugee status or international protection.

- At present, the new European Agenda for Migration (as we see below) has provided for a correction to the Dublin regulation, through the relocation of asylum seekers to several European states, although this mechanism does not seem to work, for the low numbers of people Relocated, and refusing to join in several European states.

Reception systems

The welcoming system changes from country to country, but essentially follows the same pattern: a first reception, which takes place before the formulation of the demand for protection; a second reception, which includes both those who are waiting to be answered, that those who have received international protection.

The parameters of these reception systems vary greatly in different European countries, given the quality of the assistance provided, the presence or not of educational activities offered to migrants (eg language courses); There are virtuous countries, such as Germany (where most migrants want to go), and countries where the migrant is being criminalized (as in Hungary, a law has been approved for which migrants without a residence permit are being arrested and Carried in "transit centers").

In general, it has been seen that widespread, small-scale welcome systems favor integration with the territory, respect for human rights, and the well-being of refugees.