European immigration policy

A forward-looking and comprehensive European immigration policy, based on solidarity, is a key objective for the European Union. Immigration policy is intended to establish a balanced approach to dealing with both regular and irregular immigration. The immigration policy at European level deals both with legal and irregular immigration.  Regarding regular immigration, the EU decides on conditions for legal entry and residence. Member states keep the right to rule on admission volumes for people coming from non-EU countries to seek work.


Migration numbers to and from the EU in 2022 are as following:

  • 92 million persons immigrated to the EU
  • 96 million persons emigrated from the EU
  • 96 million persons total net immigration to the EU

The European Union tackles also irregular immigration, especially through a return policy that respects fundamental rights. With regards to integration, there is no harmonization of national legislations. However, the EU can play a supporting role, especially financially.

The European Parliament is actively involved, in the adoption of new laws on irregular and regular immigration. It is a full co-legislator together with the Council representing member states on these matters since the entry into force of the Lisbon Treaty in 2009.

European Asylum policy

 Since 1999, the EU has been working to create a Common European Asylum System (CEAS). For the common system to work, it must have:

  • consistent rules for granting refugee status across all member states
  • a mechanism for determining which member state is responsible for considering an asylum application
  • common standards on reception conditions
  • partnerships and cooperation with non-EU countries

 With the Lisbon Treaty the European Parliament decides on an equal footing with the Council of the EU on asylum-related legislation.

The EU and its member states are intensifying efforts to establish an effective, humanitarian and safe European migration policy.

The EU’s work on migration and asylum


Since the height of the migration crisis in 2015, the EU has implemented measures to improve its control over external borders and migration flows.


The EU and its member states are intensifying efforts to establish an effective, humanitarian and safe European migration policy. The European Council plays an important role in this effort by setting the strategic priorities.


Based on these priorities, the Council of the EU establishes lines of action and provides the mandates for negotiations with non-EU countries. It also adopts legislation and defines specific programmes. Over the past few years, the Council and European Council have built up a strong response to migratory pressure.


In October 2015, the Luxembourg presidency activated the integrated political crisis response (IPCR) arrangements. These provide concrete tools to help coordinate the political response to a crisis by bringing together key actors.

Migration routes Eastern Mediterranean route


The Eastern Mediterranean route refers to irregular arrivals to Greece, Cyprus and Bulgaria. In 2015, high numbers of refugees seeking shelter from Syria’s war arrived in the EU via this route.


Western Mediterranean route


The Western Mediterranean route refers to irregular arrivals to Spain, both by sea to mainland Spain and by land to the Spanish enclaves of Ceuta and Melilla in Northern Africa.

This route is mostly used by migrants from Algeria and Morocco, but people from many sub-Saharan African countries also try to reach Europe via this route.


Western African route


The Western African route refers to arrivals at the Canary Islands in the Atlantic Ocean, with departures from Morocco, Western Sahara, Mauritania, Senegal and the Gambia. After high numbers of irregular arrivals in 2020 and 2021, there has been a considerable decrease in 2022.


Central Mediterranean route


The Central Mediterranean route refers to irregular sea arrivals to Italy and Malta. Migrants from North Africa, the Middle East, South Asia and sub-Saharan Africa transit mainly through Libya, before continuing on to Tunisia and Türkiye on their journey to Europe.

Following two years of low numbers of irregular migrants on the route, the number of persons using this route began to increase again in 2020, and it rose significantly in 2022.


Western Balkans route


The Western Balkans route refers to irregular arrivals in the EU (mainly in Bulgaria, Croatia, Hungary and Romania) through the following countries: Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo*, Montenegro, North Macedonia and Serbia.

It is one of the main migratory paths into Europe. After the record number of arrivals in the European Union in 2015, the number of irregular migrants choosing this route fell steadily for a few years. However, since 2019 it has begun to pick up again. In 2022 the pressure increased significantly.


Refugee inflow from Ukraine


On 24 February 2022, Russia launched a military aggression against Ukraine. Since then, millions of people have fled the war, seeking refuge in EU countries and in the Republic of Moldova.

On 4 March 2022, the EU decided to introduce the temporary protection scheme, with the objective of alleviating pressure on national asylum systems and allowing displaced persons to enjoy harmonised rights across the EU. These rights include:

  • residence
  • access to the labour market and housing
  • medical assistance
  • access to education for children

As of January 2023, 4 million Ukrainian refugees were benefitting from temporary protection in the EU.


EU solidarity with Ukraine


The EU stands firmly with Ukraine and its people, and will continue to strongly support Ukraine’s economy, society, armed forces and future reconstruction. Since the start of Russia’s war of aggression, the EU and its member states have made available around €67 billion in support for Ukraine and its people for which goes €17 billion in support for refugees.


The Atlas on Migration of the European Commission’s Knowledge Centre on Migration and Demography is an interactive resource of harmonised, up-to-date and validated data on the status of migration and demography in 27 EU Member States and 171 non-EU countries and territories.


Migration remains a top concern for EU citizens. By making global migration data easy to access and use, the Atlas of Migration 2021 addresses one of the priorities of the new European Commission for the decades to come. 


The Atlas of Migration brings together harmonized, up-to-date and validated data on the status of migration and demography in 27 EU Member States and 171 non-EU countries and territories.


The interactive online tool is underpinned by a continuously updated data repository and presented on a dynamic platform. It shows the latest available data, through charts which are interactive so users can make and print country/territory profiles that are shaped to their needs.


If you are interested researching more information about The Atlas on Migration, please visit the link provided:

The researched information and policies are taken from the official sites of the European Parliament and European Commission, and European Council – Council of the European Union.






Choose language »
Skip to content