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


Over 800,000 asylum seekers and refugees have made their way towards Europe by land and sea in 2015. As the sea route to Italy via North Africa is longer and more risky, and as the number of Syrians have increased, more people are traveling 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) in a northwestern route through Serbia, Croatia, and Slovenia towards Austria and Germany. 

As of 5 November 2015, Greece had received the highest number of refugees and asylum seekers in decades, with over 656,108 people arriving by sea in 2015. The arrival of 210,265 in October alone marks a 2,729% increase compared to October 2014. Over 93% come from the world’s top 10 refugee producing countries; over 60% are from Syria. However, this is a significant under-estimation as only about one-third of refugees and asylum seekers are reportedly registering on arrival to transit countries, according to UNHCR. Very few recent arrivals are pursuing asylum cases in the Balkan countries. 

The humanitarian needs are driven by obstacles at the borders, overcrowded and expensive transportation, tensions between host communities and refugees, long waits for registration, 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.