The Balkans: Asylum Seekers, Migrants, and Refugees in Transit
Created: 18/03/2016 +


As of 16 November, close to 820,000 people have arrived in Europe by sea in 2015, including 673,916 to Greece, 142,400 to Italy, 2,797 to Spain and 105 to Malta. 85% of the arrivals are from the world’s top ten refugee-producing countries. 52% of the refugees are from Syria, 10% from Afghanistan, 6% from Iraq. As the sea route to Italy via North Africa is longer and more risky, and as the number of Syrians has increased, more people are travelling through Greece and then through the Balkans to reach northern and western Europe. The main pattern of movement is from Greece to the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) northwest through Serbia, Croatia, and Slovenia towards Austria and Germany. 

Greece has received the highest number of refugees and asylum seekers in decades and, several months after the start of the crisis, the rate of people arriving continues to grow. Despite the onset of winter, the movement is not expected to decrease, and UNHCR anticipates up to 600,000 arrivals between November 2015 and February 2016. Very few recent arrivals are pursuing asylum in the Balkan countries. 

Humanitarian needs are driven by obstacles at the borders, overcrowded and expensive transportation, long waits for registration, tensions between host communities and refugees, the risk of exploitation by smugglers, as well as inadequate assistance and shelter. Local and international capacities are under strain, and the arrival of winter is expected to exacerbate needs. 

The closing of various borders in Europe is placing a further strain on the situation, and could result in people being stuck in transit facilities, leading to overcrowding.