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New report says refugees outnumber economic migrants entering Europe

Research reveals difficulties of settling in Europe and finds 84% of migrants not motivated by economic conditions

Image: P52 Migrants by Irish Defence Forces (CC2.0)

Researchers from Middlesex University have released a report challenging assumptions that the majority of refugees coming to Europe are economic migrants.

The report Mapping Refugee Reception in the Mediterranean is the first report of the EVI-MED Project and is the result of a project funded by the Economic and Social research Council (ESRC) and Department for International Development (DFID).

The research - led by Professor Brad Blitz - shows 84% of the estimated 1,008,616 people who reached Europe by the end of 2015 came from refugee-producing countries and a quarter were children under the age of 18.

Although migrants continue to take the hazardous journey to Europe by sea, there has not been significant analysis of the reception they receive in destination countries, or their motives for migrating. This new report offers valuable evidence of the migrant experience after arrival in Europe.

Principal Investigator Professor Blitz is confident this research provides important evidence of the reality of the situation.

“Our research challenges the myth that only economic migrants are coming to Europe and records the overwhelming push factors driving people out of their home countries and across the Mediterranean in search of safety," he says.

“Our report describes the further hardships these people often have to go through when they believe they have reached safety and the challenges of providing international protection in Italy, Greece and Malta. It documents some promising practices but notes that there is much to be improved upon in the future.

"Every individual, irrespective of their status, has rights under international law and deserves to be treated with dignity.”

The report is based on 750 questionnaires and additional interviews carried out at reception centres in Greece, Italy and Malta. Some of the key findings are:

  • The majority of refugees who responded recorded that they fled persecution, war, famine and personal insecurity – only 18% described their motivation as economic
  • Asylum applications increased during the research period – in Greece the number of applications in 2016 was three times as high than in 2015 (51,092 compared to 13,195), as individuals and families found they could not move on
  • In Greece and Italy men and women were present in more equal numbers but in Malta the presence of women is negligible
  • In Greece there were a larger number of families and accompanied children than in Italy
  • Greece provided closed detention centres where people were forced to stay, unable to move to the mainland; in contrast to Italy which established  ‘hotspots’  where people spent little time before being moved on
  • Living conditions in Italy were generally better than in Greece.

The authors put forward recommendations on how to improve systems and protect the rights of asylum seekers and migrants. They suggest Greece, Italy and Malta should be working with the EU to ensure refugees are treated with dignity and their human rights are respected.

They also suggest a full review of the reception process is urgently needed in these countries to ease the process of migration and decrease the need for dangerous, inhumane and inappropriate detention centres.

The report is the result of a project led by Middlesex University London and funded by the Economic and Social Research Council and Department for International Development Mediterranean Migration Research Programme.

For more information on the research read the full report Mapping Refugee Reception in the Mediterranean

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