Refugees driven by war and conflict from the Middle East and migration from Africa have often dominated the headlines in Europe over the past few years. The continent has dealt with one of its most extensive migration waves in history. What have been some of the landmark events of what is referred to as the 'refugee crisis'?
On April 12, 400 people were believed to have drowned after a boat capsized off the coast of Libya, and on April 18, 650 migrants drowned south of the Italian island of Lampedusa. On April 23, the European Council promised to triple funding for rescue operations aimed at migrant boats and discussed the migrant crisis at an emergency meeting.
The European Commission suggested that the EU distribute refugees under a Quota system. Italy, Germany, France and Malta supported the proposition, while more central and eastern nations such as Poland, Hungary, Slovakia and Estonia opposed it.
On 13 July, Hungary erected a razor-wire fence along the country’s border with Serbia in order to decrease migrant arrivals.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel announced an open borders policy regarding taking in hundreds of thousands of refugees coming into Europe and announces "Wir schaffen das" or "We’ll manage it" in response to the crisis. Soon after, thousands of refugees began to pour into Germany as the Dublin Regulation, which says that an asylum seeker may only apply for asylum in the first country they step foot in, was suspended for Syrian refugees.
Between the 1 through 5 of September, the Hungarian police tried to carry out the Dublin Regulation, which means refugees should just seek asylum in the first EU country they step foot in. Migrants began to protest outside the Keleti railway station in Budapest after the Hungarian authorities began to seal off the terminal to stop them from traveling to other EU countries.
On September 2, the image of the dead body of Syrian child refugee Alan Kurdi on a Turkish beach shocked the world. His family tried to leave Turkey for Greece.
On September 22, EU ministers decided to redistribute 120,000 asylum seekers from the arrival countries Greece and Italy to other EU nations.
The EU launched the naval mission Operation Sophia to combat human smuggling in the Mediterranean.
The "Islamic State" or "IS" killed 130 people in terrorist attacks in Paris on November 13 and some of the perpetrators were revealed to have entered Europe along with the influx of refugees. On November 20, Slovenia, Croatia, Serbia and Macedonia only allow refugees from Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan to enter their borders.
On New Year’s Eve in the German city of Cologne mass sexual assaults take place in the city’s train station, with many of the perpetrators being reported as being of an Arab background. Criticism then emerged of Germany’s open-door policy and whether any of the perpetrators arrived with the influx of refugees in 2015.
3,771 migrants in total died in 2015 trying to cross the Mediterranean Sea.
The Aquarius, the main ship of the SOS Mediterranee
The EU and Turkey began a deal to handle migration, known as the 'Eu-Turkey deal'. Syrians who come irregularly to Greece from Turkey are eligible to be sent back, and in return, Syrian refugees in Turkey were to be distributed in the EU.
The EU drafted a proposal to fine EU countries that don’t take in their quota of asylum seekers. It has been opposed by central European countries such as Hungary and Slovakia, while Germany, which has taken in over a million refugees, is in favor.
An Egyptian ship with 600 refugees on board sunk into the Mediterranean Sea off the coast of Egypt while en route to Europe.
240 people were killed in after two migrant boats capsized off the coast of Libya.
The return of rejected Afghan asylum seekers from Germany began. It spurred a debate on whether Afghanistan should be considered a safe country of origin or not and if the deportations are warranted.
An Italian prosecutor named Carmela Zuccaro accused migrant rescue NGOs operating in the Mediterranean of colluding with human traffickers. This lead to a debate on whether the Italian government and the EU should regulate the way NGOs operate in a stricter fashion. Rescue organizations such as SOS Mediterranee have denied the accusation.
Italian Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni and the head of the UN backed government of Libya Fayez al-Sarraj discussed a plan to send Italian warships off the Libyan coast in order to fight human trafficking.
The first half of 2017 had record numbers of migrant arrivals to Italy. Overwhelmed, the Italian government called on other EU countries to share the burden.
The EU continues training of the Libyan Coast Guard to deal with the migrant crisis.
African and European leaders met in Paris to discuss the migrant crisis and greater cooperation between the European Union and the African Union nations. They discussed bolstering support to transit countries such as Niger, where migrants are being stranded out in the desert.
In August, Libya extended its search and rescue zone to seek out migrant boats heading for Europe.