On January 13, 2015, the European Union Commission (EUC) released a statement that said in 2014 “more than 276,000 migrants illegally entered the EU, which represents an increase of 155 percent compared to 2013.”
[According to a recent report by Amnesty International, at least 23,000 migrants have lost their lives trying to reach Europe since 2000. And the numbers are rising fast, thanks to the conflicts that rage in Syria, Iraq, Libya and elsewhere. This is shaping up to be the worst year in decades for the number of illegal arrivals at Europe’s outposts (see article). From January to July alone around 100,000 undocumented migrants crossed the Mediterranean into Italy, already much more than the record 60,000 who made the crossing in all of 2011. In the same period, the number of illegal migrants arrested by the Greek authorities at the border with Turkey rose by 143%.
Whether they seek shelter from persecution or economic opportunity, illegal migrants are keenest to reach Europe’s richer, northern countries. Many migrants head directly to these countries, often by air, arriving on a legal visa and staying on when it expires. But geography and the economics of migration mean that the most desperate travel by sea and land from Africa and the Middle East. And their first contact with western Europe is on the continent’s periphery—Mediterranean islands like Lampedusa and Malta for the dangerously overcrowded boats from Africa, Greece’s eastern frontier with Turkey for those trekking from Syria and beyond.]