Since 2014, the European Union (EU) has seen a steep rise in migrants (both economic and forced) crossing its external borders. Approximately 1.3 million and 1.2 million new asylum applications (mainly by Syrian nationals) were submitted in the EU in 2015 and 2016 (respectively). The numbers were almost twice as high as the previous peak of the early 1990s, triggered by the Balkan wars.
However, the scale of this “crisis” is less apparent when the number of newcomers is set against the EU-28’s population of about 513 million. Moreover, out of over 1.2 million asylum applications lodged in 2016, fewer than 300,000 individuals were granted protection (refugee status or other). Why then have migration flows since 2014 been dubbed a “crisis”? And what was the “crisis” about?