REACH in the Balkans: Real time monitoring and profiling of migration trends towards Europe

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EU_Balkans_Dec 2015

The scale of ongoing migration into Europe is unprecedented, with over a million asylum seekers arriving in 2015. According to UNHCR, as of December 2015, there have been 921,713 arrivals by sea alone. However, harsh weather conditions and rough seas have recently reduced the flow of migrants entering Europe by the sea-crossing from Turkey to Greece, with figures from UNHCR showing a decrease in the number of migrants arriving on the Greek islands in the second half of December. As countries of the European Union (EU) continue their discussions on how to better integrate the migrants, it is of utmost importance to build an understanding of the ongoing migration to respond to the current crisis and prepare contingency plans for future displacement towards the EU. 

In this context, and following a first assessment of the refugee crisis in September 2015, REACH, has established since November 2015 a displacement monitoring mechanism to assess the trends and profile of new arrivals into Europe through the Western Balkans, with the support of the European Union Humanitarian Aid and Civil Protection department (ECHO). With the aim of providing a better, real-time understanding of displacement profiles, trends and intentions for humanitarian planning and policy decision-makers in Europe, REACH has deployed assessment teams, based in the Western Balkans, who collect primary data on a daily basis on the profiles, motivations and intentions of migrants arriving to Europe, mainly originating from Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan. 

Through primary data collected between 9 and 31 December 2015, REACH teams uncovered that, unlike the September 2015 assessment, which found that the majority of group traveling were made up of single men, families were now the more prevalent among the traveling groups. REACH findings also indicate that of the total number of males travelling alone, 21% reported being unaccompanied minors aged 15-17, the majority of which were from Afghanistan. In the context of country destinations, Germany remained to be the most commonly intended destination, with 78% of groups expressing their willingness to reach Germany as a final destination.

REACH’s field research in the Balkans is also complemented by regular social media reviews and by field research in migrants’ countries of origin, notably in Syria and its neighbouring countries of Iraq, Jordan and Lebanon. Furthermore, REACH’s action complements and is being coordinated with other key humanitarian agencies such as the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and the International Organisation for Migration (IOM), which are currently tracking displacement routes and approximate numbers of arrivals.

Through this intervention REACH will continue providing monthly updates on trends and profiling of the migrants arriving to the Western Balkans, with the aim of providing consistent and regular evidence as the basis for the response and the decision making of key stakeholders, including humanitarian actors and policy-makers within the EU.

Read the complete ‘European Migration Crisis, Western Balkans’ situation overview.

Image: Migrants at the Serbian-Hungarian border in Horgos, September 2015