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Migration flows to the EU

Migration routes

Migration flows to Europe essentially develop along the following routes:

  • Central Mediterranean, with arrivals of migrants by sea in Italy and Malta mainly from sub-Saharan Africa and North Africa, transiting via Tunisia and Libya. The number of irregular migrants along this route has increased significantly since 2020 and the EU is taking concrete action to address the root causes of migration.
  • Eastern Mediterranean, with arrivals in Greece, Cyprus and Bulgaria. Migrants mostly come from Syria and since 2016 the number of arrivals has significantly decreased, also thanks to cooperation between the EU and Turkey.
  • Western Mediterranean, with arrivals of irregular migrants in Spain, both by sea and by land, to the enclaves of Ceuta and Melilla (North Africa). Migrants come mainly from Algeria and Morocco, but also from sub-Saharan Africa. The peak in 2018 led to the stepping up of cooperation between Spain and Morocco.
  • West Africa, with irregular arrivals in the Canary Islands and transits through Morocco, Western Sahara, Mauritania, Senegal and Gambia. In recent years, the number of arrivals via this route has increased significantly.

Since the Russia-Ukraine crisis, a massive influx of refugees has been directed towards the European Union. Concrete measures have been implemented in this regard, such as temporary protection and the allocation of substantial financial resources.


The EU and the Management of Migration Flows

Over time, the EU has adopted several frameworks regulating legal migration flows through resettlement programmes and instruments aimed at attracting highly skilled workers, students, researchers, seasonal workers, as well as facilitating intra-corporate transfers and family reunifications. In order to relaunch these programmes, a series of measures are planned, in view of which the European Commission presented the Communication “Attracting skills and talent to the EU”.

As to the remaining migration flows, the EU has developed common minimum standards for the processing of applications for asylum (Common European Asylum System). The system, which is also designed to curb secondary movements and different treatment between EU Member States, consists of a series of different pieces of legislation regulating all aspects of the procedure for granting international protection: the Dublin Regulation, which sets out the criteria for identifying the Member State responsible for an application for international protection; the Asylum Procedures Directive; the Reception Conditions Directive, with common minimum standards for the asylum seekers’ living conditions; the Qualification Directive on refugee or subsidiary protection beneficiary status. Readmission agreements are also in place to repatriate irregular migrants (the EU has so far concluded 18 readmission agreements).

The overall reform of European migration and asylum policy, based on the proposals of the New Pact on Migration and Asylum, is currently being negotiated. The Council and the European Parliament have adopted a joint roadmap to adopt the legislative proposals by the end of the 2019-2024 Parliamentary term.

Italy is taking part in the negotiations with the aim of fully implementing the principle of solidarity and fair sharing of responsibility among Member States (Article 80 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union), in close coordination with the traditional Mediterranean countries of first entry of migrants (Cyprus, Greece, Malta and Spain) and in constant dialogue with the other European partners. This contributed to the adoption of the political declaration on solidarity adopted by the Justice and Home Affairs Council on June 10, 2022, following which an implementation mechanism coordinated by the European Commission is in place.