Is this humanitarian migration crisis different?

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  1. Europe will record in 2015 an unprecedented number of asylum seekers and refugees with up to one million asylum applications; an estimated 350 000 to 450 000 people could be granted refugee or similar status, more than in any previous European refugee crisis since World War II.
  2. In recent months the Eastern Mediterranean and Western Balkan routes have gained importance with relatively large numbers of people starting to leave or transit via Turkey. The Central Mediterranean route, which leads to Italy, also continued to be heavily used. According to the latest available estimates more than 330 000 persons have arrived by sea in Europe since January this year, including about 210 000 landings in Greece and 120 000 in Italy.
  3. As during previous refugee crises in the 1990s the impact is concentrated in a few countries. In the OECD, Turkey is the most affected, currently hosting as many as 1.9 million Syrians as well as a large number of people from Iraq. Within the EU, Italy, Greece and Hungary are on the front line but the main destination countries are Germany, in absolute terms, and Sweden and Austria, relative to their population.
  4. More than in previous crises, asylum seekers are very diverse in terms of country of origin, profile and motivation. This increases the pressure on asylum systems in destination countries.
  5. Recent refugees from the Syrian Arab Republic (Syria) are more skilled than other groups and those who came, for example, during the Yugoslav wars in the 1990s. There are more unaccompanied minors (children without a responsible adult to care for them) arriving now than previously.
  6. Refugee flows tend to concentrate in countries with the most favourable economic conditions. A strong jobs market seems to be the most important determinant of flows for main refugee groups.
  7. Europe has better legal and institutional systems in place for asylum-seekers and migrants than it did in the 1990s. However, these have not ensured a fair burden-sharing between countries, and have not prevented people from choosing smuggling routes.
  8. In the current emergency situation, several countries are struggling to welcome, assist and process very large number of incoming people. Some regions and localities are under intense pressure. Coordination between different levels of governance will be key to prevent local communities from being overwhelmed. Since the 1990s, many EU countries have developed better settlement services for refugees which should help to cope in the medium term.
  9. For several EU countries, large-scale asylum inflows are a new experience. This is the case, for example, for Hungary and to a lesser extent for Poland and Bulgaria. Financial and technical support from other EU countries and from EU institutions is critical to enable them to respond to the emergency.
  10. In the short run, processing and supporting such large numbers of asylum seekers will be costly. In the long-run, much will depend on how well successful asylum seekers are integrated. This will require early and intensive efforts to provide language training, assess individual skills, provide school access, address health and social problems, and work with employers to help boost refugees’ chances of employment.
  11. Past experience of refugee crises suggests that migrants can, eventually, become valued and valuable contributors to the economic and social health of countries.
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