How bad are Syrian migrants in Europe

Escape routes across the Mediterranean

Across the water - fast but dangerous

Over the past few years, thousands of people have risked their lives every day to enter the European Union. They fled war, displacement, poverty and oppression from their home countries. And the number of those who are fleeing crisis areas and want to go to Europe is constantly increasing.

But since 2017, the number of people who actually make it to a country in the European Union has been falling again, because the EU has largely closed its external borders. Many refugees choose the dangerous waterway, as it is considered the fastest way to get to Europe without an entry permit.

Because there are no legal opportunities to immigrate, they are often dependent on unscrupulous smugglers who sometimes transport their "customers" in unseaworthy or overloaded ships. There are essentially three main routes to bring refugees to Europe by water.

Spain and Italy

The western route across the Mediterranean leads from Morocco to mainland Spain. Most of these refugees come from Morocco, Mali, Guinea or the Ivory Coast. A clear advantage of this route is the short distance to mainland Europe.

However, the majority of refugees use the central Mediterranean route. This leads from Libya or Tunisia to Italy. Most of the refugees who use this route originally come from Tunisia, Pakistan, Ivory Coast or Algeria.

In recent years, numerous refugees initially stranded on the Italian Mediterranean island of Lampedusa. Due to its location, the small Mediterranean island is considered the southernmost tip of Europe. It lies exactly between Tunisia and Sicily. For a long time, the island was a first port of call for refugees, as the distance to Tunisia is only around 140 kilometers.

But Lampedusa is now also a symbol of a failed EU refugee policy. For the deaths of countless people, for whose fate apparently nobody really feels responsible, especially since Italy signed an agreement with Libya in 2017: The "Libyan Coast Guard" intercepts tug boats with refugees and receives money from Italy and the EU in return. However, this agreement is often criticized because there are many reports that the "Libyan Coast Guard" itself consists partly of human traffickers who abuse refugees.

Difficult alternative routes

There is another escape route across the Mediterranean: the so-called eastern route. This leads via Turkey to Greece. Since the outbreak of war in Syria in early 2011, many people have tried to get into the European Union this way. This escape route is used especially by Syrians, Afghans, Congolese and Iraqis.

The most dangerous of all escape routes over the sea, on the other hand, is the West African route. Because the Atlantic is more restless and therefore more risky than the Mediterranean. Many refugees from West Africa make their way to the Canary Islands in order to get to mainland Spain from there.

Since 2016 there have been various agreements, so-called "refugee deals", on all major Mediterranean routes: since 2016 between the EU and Turkey, since 2017 between Italy and Libya and for a long time between Spain and Morocco. The principle is always the same: The EU gives money and equipment, but the coast guard of the respective country prevents people from crossing to Europe.