In 2022 around 330,000 people crossed into Europe illegally, according to Frontex, the European Union’s border agency – the largest number since the Migrant Crisis of 2015-16 and a 64 percent increase on 2021. The figures do not include the 13 million refugees who fled Ukraine and entered the EU due to the conflict with Russia, ten million of whom have subsequently returned home.
This is the second year running with a steep increase in the number of migrants crossing into Europe, after a significant lull during the first year of the coronavirus pandemic, with most of them now entering the European Union (EU) through the western Balkans. Almost 50 percent were from Syria, Afghanistan, and Tunisia, with the number of Syrians doubling to almost 95,000.
As during the now infamous migrant crisis of 2015/16, the vast majority of migrants were young men. Fewer than 10 percent of all the migrants were women, and the number of reported minors was also lower than 10 percent.
Of the total 300,000+ people, just over 71,000, or 37 percent, attempted to leave the EU for the United Kingdom, but not all were successful. Afghans, Iraqis, and Albanians were the most likely to attempt to leave the EU for the UK.
Although the recorded number of migrants is huge, it is also likely to be a significant underestimate. Whether or not the current wave is as big as the record numbers from half a decade ago will become clearer with time. During the first year of the migrant crisis, 1.3 million people entered Europe, the highest annual figure since the end of World War II. Most of the migrants then were Syrians, fleeing the country’s civil war, but there were also significant numbers of Afghans, Iraqis, and Africans.
The 2015 crisis was encouraged in part by the open-door policy of German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who refused to put any kind of limit on the number of migrants Germany would accept, famously declaring “wir schaffen das” (“we can handle this”). The crisis deepened existing social, economic and political fractures across the continent, as well as creating new divides between pro-immigration countries, like Germany, and anti-immigration “conservative” countries like Poland and Hungary. The rise of populism within Europe, including such notable events as Brexit, is generally seen as a direct consequence of the events of the Migrant Crisis.
At the Highest Levels Since 2016.
The data also reveals a clear pattern in the routes of entry. The West African and Western Mediterranean routes have become significantly less popular, by 31 percent and 21 percent respectively, while Central and Eastern routes are now being favored by the vast majority of migrants.
The Central Mediterranean route, via Italy and its islands, remains popular, with about a third of all migrants choosing it, an increase of 51 percent on 2021. But the routes to the east, especially the Western Balkan route, through non-EU countries like Serbia and Bosnia and Herzegovina, have exploded in popularity.
The Western Balkan route is now the most popular by far, with 145,000 reported entries, an increase of 136 percent over last year. This was also the most popular route in 2015-16.
Before 2015, most crossings were from Libya to Italy, as border controls collapsed in Libya due to the Second Libyan Civil War. Most of the migrants who crossed from Libya to Italy before 2015 were sub-Saharan Africans.
It’s almost certain that the figures from Frontex are an underestimate, perhaps a significant underestimate, of the total number of migrants entering the EU. The Hungarian government, for instance, announced that over 250,000 illegal crossings were thwarted along the country’s borders in 2022, more than double the 122,000 recorded in 2021.
Figures for asylum applications from within the EU may give a more accurate idea of the state of migration. Nearly 800,000 people applied for asylum from within the EU between January and October last year, according to EU Agency for Asylum chief Nina Gregori. That’s a 54 percent increase compared to the previous year, but still less than the highs experienced during the Migrant Crisis. Most asylum applicants came from Syria, Afghanistan, and Turkey.
Wir Schaffen Das? Not Really.
Talk of a “new normal” after the pandemic appears spectacularly misplaced in Europe, where a replay of the events of 2015/16 – the unhappy “old normal” – is now firmly on the cards, if it isn’t already happening. Nobody expects migration to do anything but continue to climb in the coming years now that the pandemic restrictions have been eased and Europe is once again “open for business”.
While Europe’s pro-migration regimes may feel slightly more secure with Trump out of the White House and after the recent failure of the right-wing challenge to Macron in France, there can be no doubt that the resumption of massive migration will cause another populist reaction.
The question is whether it can be successful this time, or whether demographic change and other factors have already made it impossible to prevent Europe from changing unrecognizably forever.
European governments are beginning to lean in even more heavily on deliberate replacement of their native citizens. Just recently it was announced that the British government would seek to “replenish” aging rural communities by settling them with migrants, who would be given incentives to remain for a period of at least five years. Net migration into Britain reached an all-time high last year, of 504,000, more than ten times the annual figure when Tony Blair’s New Labour came to power in 1997 – and this under a so-called “Conservative government”. Similar programs for rural “replenishment” have been announced in France and Spain as well.
Then there is also the prospect of so-called “climate migration”, which threatens to make matters so much worse. According to unhinged predictions that are gaining more exposure and credence by the day, billions will be forced to flee their homes in the coming decades as climate change makes whole swathes of the Third World uninhabitable. And where will they go? To the West – to Europe, America and the broader Anglosphere – of course.
In her recent book Nomad Century, Gaia Vince argues that since disastrous climate change is now inescapable, we must encourage the billions who are going to have to migrate anyway to do so now. Right now. This will help avoid unnecessary suffering, she says, but it will require a total transformation of the way we live, work and eat, including the disappearance of national identity and the nation-state as we know it. A “Great Reset”, in short.
This argument, unsurprisingly, was on prominent display at the World Economic Forum’s annual meeting at Davos last week, when Al Gore suggested that a coming wave of one billion climate migrants would cause Western nations to “lose our capacity for self-governance”. He didn’t sound displeased at this prospect.
As strange as all this may sound, precedents have already been established, including a landmark ruling by the UN Human Rights Committee, that will make “climate migration” an unassailable reason for refugee status. And who would doubt that, given a chance to ensure a near unlimited supply of migrants, Western governments wouldn’t grab the opportunity with both hands?