Professor Jenny Phillimore, Director of the Institute for Research into Superdiversity (IRiS), writes for Carnegie Council for Ethics in International Affairs.
"While migrants seeking to escape conflict, persecution, poverty, and environmental disaster have been crossing the Mediterranean by boat to seek sanctuary in Europe for a number of years, in 2015 the scale of arrivals increased beyond all expectations. The International Organization for Migration (IOM) reported in excess of one million arrivals, with migrants arriving from more than 100 countries and with over 4,000 people drowning on the crossing. So far in 2016, some 205,000 have arrived by sea, with 90 percent coming from the top 10 refugee-producing countries. The largest number is from Syria (49 percent), followed by Afghanistan (25 percent), and Iraq (15 percent) (figures from UNHCR, 2016). In addition, over 2,500 migrants have drowned so far this year. The media and EU governments are clear that this is a "crisis" but vacillate between terming it a migration, refugee, or humanitarian crisis. Many have proclaimed it to be the greatest crisis since World War II. Italy and particularly Greece have encountered the majority of arrivals—many of whom then continue to Germany, Sweden, and Austria to claim asylum. Others, generally with relatives in the UK, wait for an opportunity to cross the English Channel in makeshift camps. "