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Migration arrivals in the EU in 2015

Migration arrivals in the EU in 2015

Migration arrivals in the EU in 2015

In 2015, of the main migratory routes to Europe by land and sea, that across the
Western Balkans was the busiest. Starting in Turkey, the route heads west into Greece
and then into the Western Balkans, at present primarily via the former Yugoslav
Republic of Macedonia and Serbia. The region’s aspiring EU candidates, particularly
Kosovo1 and Albania, have largely been a source of irregular migration themselves, with
a peak of border crossings in 2014 and early 2015. Increasing migrant flows from
outside Europe, however, have shifted the trend, turning the region into a transit one.
Some of the contributing factors include:
Migrant flows stemming mainly from the Middle East and more broadly, Asia,
 The strategic geopolitical position of the Western Balkans,
 The construction by Greece (2012) and Bulgaria (2014) of fences along their
borders with Turkey, which diverted most migrants to sea routes,
The 1951 UN Geneva Refugee Convention defines refugees as people fleeing conflict or
persecution. People who apply, or intend to apply, for asylum on these grounds, but whose
applications are pending, are called ‘asylum-seekers’, whereas ‘refugees’ are those who have
already been granted asylum. ‘Refugees’ is however often used more broadly in the media, to
cover all those part of a flow, as in the present case, from a country/region stricken by conflict,
irrespective of their legal status. The concept of ‘economic migrants’ has also gained prominence
in recent years. Their primary motivation is considered to be economic gain. In Europe there is
ongoing debate as to whether it faces a ‘refugee’ or an ‘economic migrant’ crisis. Refugees and
economic migrants are often labelled with the same term – ‘migrants’, but they are subject to
different laws and levels of protection. The difficulty of drawing a distinction between them, as
well as their many shared characteristics, has brought the term ‘mixed migration’ into use. The ‘Western Balkan route’ is
composed of two migratory flows: one
from the Western Balkan countries
themselves and another of migrants
having entered the EU (Bulgaria or
Greece) via Turkey by land or sea, with
the aim of reaching the Schengen area.
EPRS The Western Balkans – Frontline of the migrant crisis
risk/cost compared to the ‘deadly’ central Mediterranean route,
 The introduction of visa-free travel within the EU for Western Balkan countries.

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