The Great Game – A New Migrant Wave into Europe?
“The EU faces the biggest refugee crisis since World War II”. Such were the words of EU Home Affairs Commissioner Ylva Johansson in December 2022. Johansson was of course talking about Ukrainian refugees, but that’s not all. This week, Italian ministers called a six-month state of emergency in response to a rise in migrant numbers crossing the Mediterranean from North Africa. The decision coincides with the arrival of 3,000 migrants in three days, and new figures from the UN showing that Q1 2023 have had the highest number of migrant deaths in the Mediterranean since 2017.
So – is Europe facing a new migration wave on top of the Ukrainian refugee crisis? What will that mean for European politics and European economy? We point to two major effects of a new migrant wave – refugees as tool of war and refugees as an election game changer.
Flashback to 2015
Looking back over the past 10 years, the main migration flows into Europe has of course come from Syria through various routes. Back in 2015, this was the political subject of the time and decided a series of national elections in Europe. Afterwards, the European countries were able to mitigate the crisis by a cynical deal with Erdogan’s Turkey, who blocked much of the cross-border traffic, but the pace is now picking up again with increased numbers of migrant deaths in the Mediterranean as a very tragic consequence and measuring stick.
Below is counted the “illegal migration flows”, which basically entails all migrants who cross the border into Europe without authorisation. These can be migrant workers, refugees or other statuses.
This new wave of migrants has many root causes. Some credit better weather conditions for sea fare. Others point to Tunisian President Kais Saied’s crackdown on sub saharan migrants in February. Kais has recently intensified his rhetoric on the adverse consequences of migrants in Tunisia – the country recently surpassed Libya as the # 1 exit point for carriers heading for Europe through the Mediterranean.
It is clear that these reasons don’t stand along, however, as other regions have experienced similar increases in inward migration. The United States recorded an increase of 41% of cases at its southern border and almost seven times more attempted arrivals by boat than in 2021. There is little to suggest a trend reversal in 2023.