Our second Research Brief examines the Eastern Mediterranean route, presenting our findings in relation to the drivers, decisions and destinations of refugees and migrants who travelled via Turkey to Greece during 2015.
The Brief focuses on four main themes:
- The factors affecting the decision to leave;
- Journeys and routes taken to reach Greece;
- Intended destinations of those migrating;
- The use of smugglers to facilitate the journey.
The clearest finding emerging from this research is the striking disconnect between the evidence on the drivers of migration across the Eastern Mediterranean Route and EU policies of containment.
Whilst increased arrivals are largely the result of conflict and instability in the region, most notably in Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, Eritrea and, most recently, Yemen, they also reflect the ‘coming together’ of a number of distinct ‘sub-flows’ from many countries and regions. These sub-flows are made up of individuals and families who have been displaced for months and even years looking for a place where they can secure protection and an opportunity to rebuild their lives.
What is often considered a homogeneous flow of refugees and migrants across the sea should in reality, therefore, be seen as a series of sub-flows that converge in Turkey.
The failure of EU policies to respond effectively to the increased movement of people across the Mediterranean in 2015 was in part a problem of implementation but also reflected flawed assumptions about the reasons why people move, the factors that shape their longer-term migration trajectories and their journeys to Europe.
There is a need for nuanced, tailored and targeted policy responses which reflect these diverse, stratified and increasingly complex flows.
The extent to which the policy of containment will continue to reduce flows to Greece and the EU remains to be seen. The future of the EU-Turkey agreement, already subject to legal challenge, has been brought into serious doubt as a result of the attempted Turkish coup of 15th July and subsequent political crackdown. Around 100 people arrived in Greece each day during August 2016, up from an average of 60 per day in July. It is too early to tell whether this is the beginning of an upward trend.
Meanwhile there are 58,635 people stranded in Greece many of whom have been unable to access procedures for asylum or family reunification. The refugee relocation scheme from Greece, explicitly described as an act of European solidarity and responsibility sharing by the European Commission,has relocated just 2,682 people of the 66,400 (4%) originally agreed.
Finding protection in Europe remains elusive, even for those coming from some of the most desperate war-torn situations in the region. These drivers are powerful and seem likely to persist into the future. In the absence of safe and legal routes to protection for those outside Europe – and a significant increase in relocation and family reunification opportunities for those who are stuck in Greece – the prospect of a ‘solution’ to the Mediterranean migration crisis remains to be found.