InfoMigrants looks back at major events of the refugee crisis in Europe.

What are the main events of the European refugee crisis? Infomigrants looks back on key developments of the last three years.


  • Hundreds of thousands of people escape war and suffering, mostly from Syria


  • Many try to reach Western Europe via the Balkan route


  • In July, Hungary erects a razor-wire fence along the country’s border with Serbia in order to decrease migrant arrivals


  • In August 2015, German Chancellor Angela Merkel announces an open borders policy towards refugees coming into Europe. She says "Wir schaffen das" or "We’ll manage it" in response to the crisis


  • The photo of a drowned Syrian boy washed up on a beach in Turkey in September 2015 goes viral. It becomes a pledge to Europe’s  responsibility to help


  • In the same month, the slogan ‘Refugees Welcome’ becomes a symbol for solidarity movements


  • In the end of 2015, several European countries set up border controls, suspending the Schengen system of open-border and passport-free travel



  • In March 2016, the Balkan route through Macedonia, Serbia and Hungary is officially closed. Thousands of migrants remain trapped in Greece


  • In the same month, the EU-Turkey deal is signed: The EU agrees to safely resettle one Syrian refugee from Turkey for each irregular migrant returned to Turkey from Greece


  • In November 2016, over 340 migrants die as several migrant boats capsize off the coast of Libya


  • In December 2016, the return of rejected Afghan asylum seekers from Germany begins, amidst protest


  • In the same month, over 5,000 people lost their lives while crossing the Mediterranean Sea



  • In February 2017, Italy strikes a controversial deal with Libya to stem migrant arrivals, training the Libyan coast guard to turn back vessels and return migrants to Libya


  • NGOs running migrant rescue operations in the Mediterranean are increasingly under fire in the summer of 2017, condemned as “migrant taxis” by Italian prosecutors


  • The right-wing nationalist party Alternative for Germany (AfD) enters parliament in September 2017, with a clear anti-immigrant rhetoric


  • In the same year, other populist and anti-immigrant parties and movements across Europe are making headway


  • In November 2017, CNN footage shows migrants being sold off at slave auctions in Libya, prompting outrage in Europe and Africa



  • At the beginning of the year, the migrant routes shift: The Western Mediterranean Route is seeing a threefold increase in arrivals in 2017, fewer people are arriving in Italy


  • In February 2018, thousands of migrants remain stranded in overcrowded camps on Greek islands. Amnesty International calls the conditions an “open wound” for the EU and human rights


  • In May 2018, the German Cabinet approves legislation to reintroduce family reunifications for refugees with subsidiary protection. As of August 2018, 1,000 family members will be allowed to come to Germany


  • In June, Bosnia is seeing a drastic increase in migrant arrivals: Hundreds are camping out on the streets


  • According to UNHCR, 68.5 people are forcibly displaced worldwide (refugees, asylum seekers and internally displaced people)


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