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Eastern Mediterranean migration route

The Eastern Mediterranean migration route refers to the entrance from Turkey into Greece, Bulgaria, or Cyprus. Since 2008, this route has grown in importance as a means of entering the EU.

Frontex, the EU border police, detected over 50% more irregular migrants attempting to enter the EU via the Eastern Mediterranean route in 2014 than in 2013. In 2014, 50,834 detections were made, compared to 24,799 in 2013.

In the third quarter of 2014, the number of detections on the Eastern Mediterranean route was over six times that of the third quarter of 2013. Almost 87 percent of all detections used the sea route to enter the EU.

Turkey to Greece

Beginning in 2009, as a result of increased patrols along the Greek coast, irregular migrants began to use land crossings rather than maritime borders. The number of migrants detected in the Evros River basin grew by 40% over the first five months of 2011, from 6,287 detections in the same time in 2010 to 8,738 detections. The frequency of detections climbed even more after Greece built a fence along its border with Turkey at the end of 2012, cutting off the Evros River route. In 2012, efforts to improve border controls on the Turkish-Greek land border resulted in an increase in migrants departing from the Turkish coast for Greek islands, as well as an increase in migrants crossing into Bulgaria.

The significant decline in irregular migrants crossing the border into Greece via the Evros River was offset by a rise in migrants traveling by boat via the small straits that separate mainland Turkey from several Greek islands in the Aegean Sea. Mytilini, Samos, Chios, and Leros are among those islands. Another significant change was the Turkish government’s introduction of visa-free travel to numerous African nations, which allowed African migrants to legally visit Turkey by plane before crossing into the EU as irregular migrants via Greece and Bulgaria.


The Evros River was utilized by the majority of refugees to reach Greece from Turkey in 2012. East Africans and West Africans paid between € 2,000 and € 3,000, while North Africans paid between € 1,000 and € 1,500 to travel from Turkey to Greece in 2012. According to Greek authorities, travel from Turkey to mainland Greece may cost between 2,000 and 3,000 euros, while a safe trip from Greece to Italy may cost an additional 2,500 to 3,000 euros. The disparity between these two sources of information (migrants and authorities) is created by the authorities collecting data on safer, and thus more expensive, forms of transportation utilized by the majority of migrants.

Sources: United Nations UniversityIrregular Migration Routes to Europe and Factors Influencing Migrants’ Destination Choices

Photo by Andrae Ricketts on Unsplash


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