Our Key Findings

Our Key Findings

Our research addressed a broad range of themes and concerns regarding Mediterranean migration. Here are a few of our key findings.

Representations of Europe’s ‘migration crisis’ during 2015 and since then have reflected and reinforced particular ways of thinking about the dynamics of migration. Politicians, policymakers and the media from across Europe have largely talked about the arrival of refugees and migrants in 2015 as a single coherent flow of people that suddenly and unexpectedly pushed at the continent’s Mediterranean borders. A focus on numbers and the scale of migration ‘flows’ has come at the expense of a more nuanced understanding of the, sometimes vast, differences in the usually fragmented and protracted journeys of the people who were arriving.

Our research has highlighted the limitations of these perceptions of migration and casts new light on why and how people were making the journey to Europe, as well as the relationship between migration dynamics and policies of control.

Click the headings for more information on the following themes:


Refugee and migrant movements towards Europe are not linear, uninterrupted flows but are made up of people on multiple and varied types of journeys.

Some people make short and direct journeys to a pre-determined destination, but many others make multiple consecutive, fragmented movements, separated by periods spent in one or more different locations where they live and work with no intention of moving on.

Understanding the conditions in countries that refugees and migrants move on is necessary to help explain how and why they arrive in Europe.

Migrant decision-making

In 2015, the vast majority of people arriving in Europe by boat were fleeing conflict, violence, human rights abuse and threats to themselves and their family. These experiences took place in their home country as well as during their journeys.

The decision to move and where to move to are not clear cost-benefit calculations but are also strongly influenced by perceptions of the human rights situation and presence of family members.

Refugees and migrants gather information and resources during their journeys on which to base their decisions. They often have only a partial understanding of migration policies in Europe.

Legal and policy categories

The differentiation between ‘refugees’ and ‘migrants’ is simplistic and conceals the complex back-stories that explain why people came to Europe in 2015.

People left their homes for multiple reasons. They also moved between categories during their journeys.

People setting out for economic reasons often experience violence and persecution along the way.; people fleeing conflicts keep moving if they do not feel safe and cannot access rights, employment, education and healthcare for themselves and their children.


Every single person interviewed for the research had used a smuggler for at least one leg of their journey

A broad range of people are involved in smuggling, sometimes operating within criminal networks but not always. In some cases, state officials, the military, law enforcement, and border guards also facilitate smuggling.

People rely on smugglers to escape situations of danger and to cross borders when they are no other opportunities for securing access to protection and/or work.


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