Publications Éditoriaux de l'Ifri

The Changing Face of Migration Flows Actuelles de l'Ifri, April 2015

Migration continues to be an integral part of the political landscape in several European capitals, especially at a time when national or local elections are approaching. Nearly all EU member states are under pressure in one way or another from external challenges, but some are under constant pressure from migration flows.


Potential migrants have seemingly managed to defeat even the most arduous of conditions on maritime routes throughout the winter. In January and February 2015, for example, the number of illegal crossings detected at some border hotspots, including the Central Mediterranean, the Western Balkans and the land border between Turkey and Bulgaria, reached new records. Compared with the same period in 2014, illegal crossings increased by over 40% in the Central Mediterranean, by over 123% across the sea border between Turkey and Greece, by over 160% across the land border between Turkey and Bulgaria and by an astronomical 990% in the Western Balkans.

The main reasons behind these figures are quite clear. Syrian and Afghanistan nationals are travelling via the land border between Turkey and Bulgaria as a result of the deteriorating security conditions in Libya. Before Greece built a wall in 2012, these migrants used to reach the Western Balkans via the land border between Greece and Turkey. Then they did it via Bulgaria, which reacted by starting to construct a long fence along its border with Turkey, in turn having a knock-on effect on the number of border crossings. The porous nature of Bulgaria’s borders was one of the reasons why other Schengen member states turned down Bulgaria’s application to accede to the agreement, as they also did with Romania’s. This gate to the EU, however, seems to have gained strong currency again as recent changes in migration routes show an increased use of the Greek sea border. Kosovans also look for an escape route and seek asylum in EU countries.

Stefano Bertozzi is a Senior Adviser at the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development.

Download the PDF to read further:


The Changing Face of Migration Flows