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Central route or eastern route? The two routes of migration today

Map Italy Oper IMG_20160315_104224 - copy
The map of Operation Triton (© NGV / B2)

(B2 in the Mediterranean) The routes of migrants to Europe obey various imperatives. And they evolve depending on many factors: the possibilities of traffickers, the closures or openings of the borders of transit countries, the presence of police forces... or the weather.

In 2015, nearly a million passages

In 2015, 929.171 people crossed the Mediterranean to Europe, according to Frontex figures.

La “central” Mediterranean route via Libya to Italy (Lampedusa, Sicily) was used by 16% of people: 154.725 (Eritreans, Nigerians, Somalis, Sudanese). Exactly, 2892 people died during the crossing, a fatality rate of 1,9%.

From September 2015, a reversal of the trend occurs, with a drop in flows (-9%) over the same period in 2015. The vast majority of these crossings (9 out of 10) are made from Libya, a small 8% comes from Egypt, using mother ships or ferries, from the west coast of Egypt or the east coast of Libya to reach Europe.

The change happened in the second half. For several reasons. On the one hand, Egypt decided to control its border more tightly, thereby closing the eastern route. On the other hand, the central route seemed more dangerous than the eastern route. Finally, we are witnessing a change in tactics among traffickers (Read article to follow). They lack large ships.

At the same time, nearly 900.000 people take the route east of the Mediterranean, via Turkey, Greece, and the Balkans (exactly 880.820), or 83% of the crossings, with a lower mortality rate of 0,1%, 855 deaths. Route frequented mainly by populations from the eastern Middle East (Syrians, Afghans, Iraqis (Pakistanis, Iranians, others). This traffic, which is clearly increasing, takes place mainly from summer onwards.

La western road, via Morocco and Algeria to reach Spain or the Canary Islands remained more anecdotal. Only 3209 migrants managed to reach their goal. The flow was limited by “concerted efforts” in the countries of arrival (Spain), departure (and transit).


In 2016, major change: stabilization of traffic in the center, sustained pace in the east

La central mediterranean route suffered a certain increase (+ 9,6%). We can speak of a quasi stabilization. Nearly 9000 people passed through this route (8.944 people) at the end of February (1). Which represents 7,4% of migration traffic. In 2016, there were (only) 92 deaths, a fatality rate of 0,08%. And a notable drop compared to 2015. The weather was easier (only one day where there was a wind level above 3).

The people taking this route clearly come from Africa, with most of what looks like economic migration: Gambians (15%), Ivorians (13%), Senegalese (12%), Malians (10%), Guineans (9). %), Nigerians (8%), Somalis (8%), and other nationalities (25%) (2).

Next to it, the eastern road — via Turkey and the Balkans — experienced a surge, with 112.477 people passing through in a few weeks (i.e. 92,6% of traffic): + 1812%! compared to the same period of the previous year. Which makes sense. On the other hand, mortality increased, in number and percentage (321 deaths, 0,3%). In winter, even if the weather is quite mild this year, the sea remains rough.

The origin of these people clearly comes from countries at war in the Middle East or Asia (Syria, Afghanistan, Iraq), with the possibility of requesting asylum. However, we observe alternative routes to the land journey (via the Balkans): the Adriatic route (via Bosnia-Herzegovina-Croatia or Albania).

In the first months of winter, the western road, via Spain experienced almost complete closure (0 passages).


(Nicolas Gros-Verheyde)

(1) Source Frontex and IOM 23 and 24 February 2016

(2) These are the nationalities declared by migrants or asylum seekers or noted if they have papers.

Nicolas Gros Verheyde

Chief editor of the B2 site. Graduated in European law from the University of Paris I Pantheon Sorbonne and listener to the 65th session of the IHEDN (Institut des Hautes Etudes de la Défense Nationale. Journalist since 1989, founded B2 - Bruxelles2 in 2008. EU/NATO correspondent in Brussels for Sud-Ouest (previously West-France and France-Soir).

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