While preparing a guest lecture at the University of the Aegean on the Greek island of Lesbos I looked for the most recent data about arrivals of refugees via the Mediterranean Sea. UNHCR states that in 2015 almost 900,000 people have arrived in Europe by sea which is higher than the total arrivals counted between 2006 and 2014. 3,500 people are reported dead or missing, which only shows the mere numbers behind the many personal tragedies happening in the Mediterranean. Not only the numbers went up considerably, but also the geographic patterns changed. While Italy used to be the hot spot of arrivals, this has now shifted to Greece where over 750,000 people arrived. Most of these arrivals come from Turkey, making the island of Lebos near the Turkish coast the first destination for the majority of people seeking refuge in the European Union. The following map shows the European countries resized according to the total number of Mediterranean sea arrivals in 2015:
The majority of refugees now comes from Syria (51%) followed by people from Afghanistan (20%) and Iraq (7%). Compared to the previous years, this also indicates the shifts in conflict regions, but also in changed geopolitical strategies. Following the crisis around refugees arriving from Libya and the African coast only a year ago Europe took measures to cut off these routes which more than halved the numbers of arrivals in the region. Looking back at the period of 2006 to 2014, most arrivals took place in Italy, with even Malta seeing quite significant numbers arriving on its shores. Here is the map that I made a year ago showing the distribution at the time:
From Lampedusa 2014 to Lesbos 2015, these maps show that in a world of ongoing geopolitical conflicts the refugee crisis is here to stay on the political agenda. However, it first and foremost is a humanitarian crisis, even if some political rhetoric makes you think it’s not…
Photos: Refugees on the Greek Island of Lesbos in December 2015
Technical note: The colours in the above maps are using a colour scheme developed for the Social Atlas of Europe. Each country shown has a unique colour which allows it to be identified in the differently distorted maps. Furthermore, all countries in these maps are shaded using a rainbow colour scheme, starting with shades of dark red to demarcate the countries with the most recent association with the EU and moving through to a shade of violet for the oldest member states.