Politicians across Europe have talked about the arrival of refugees and migrants in 2015 and 2016 as if it were an unprecedented “event”, a single coherent flow of people “heading for Europe”. There is a focus on the beginning and end of peoples’ journeys – at the expense of almost everything in between.
Our new research with 500 refugees and migrants in Italy, Greece, Turkey and Malta reveals a much more complicated picture of protracted, fragmented journeys. Between them, our respondents travelled along nearly 100 different routes before eventually reaching Europe, sometimes having spent months or even years living elsewhere. The convergence of these routes in Turkey and Libya helps us to understand why the number of migrants heading to Europe increased to just over a million in 2015.