This timeline details the main events in the European Migrant Crisis, sometimes called Refugee Crisis from 2011 to present day.
The Migrant Crisis began following the Arab Spring and the outbreak of civil war in Syria when thousands of people left their homes to escape the war. As conditions worsened people began to try to reach Europe in the hope of claiming asylum and seeking a better life. People smugglers soon took advantage taking large sums of money for a seat on overcrowded boats and dinghies sailing from Turkey to Greece. People smugglers also began trafficking people on overcrowded boats and dinghies from Libya to Italy.
War began in Syria when President Bashar al-Assad refused to step down despite widespread protests against his repressive government.
Syrian refugees began leaving Syria. Many went to neighbouring Lebanon.
Fighting in the north west of Syria led to many refugees crossing the border to Turkey.
Syrian refugees fled to neighbouring Jordan.
2012 (4th April)
Kurdish Syrian refugees left Syria for Iraqi Kurdistan.
2012 (6th April)
With a UN ceasefire due to come into operation on 12th April, the fighting between the Syrian government and rebels intensified. Around 2,500 refugees crossed the border to Turken claiming that Syrian forces were putting mines near the border to prevent people leaving Syria.
2012 (3rd July)
Around 200,000 people left Aleppo to escape shelling. Many crossed into Turkey.
2012 (18th July)
Large numbers of refugees fled to Lebanon after a bomb explosion killed President Bashar al-Assad’s brother-in-law.
2012 (29th July)
The UNHCR (United Nations Refugee Agency) opened the Za’atari refugee camp in Jordan.
2012 (11th September)
Thousands of Syrian refugees arrived in Turkey, Jordan and Lebanon to escape escalating violence.
2012 (25th September)
Rioting broke out in the Za’atari camp in Jordan in protest at the harsh living conditions.
2013 (4th January)
The Lebanese government made the decision to agree to register refugees.
2013 (12th January)
Terrible storms and cold weather led to poor conditions for refugees living in temporary accommodation.
2013 (6th March)
The number of Syrian refugees reached one million.
The United Nations Refugee Agency reported that around 6,000 people were leaving Syria each day.
Around 20,000 refugees fled Syria for Kurdistan, Iraq.
2013 (1st September)
The total number of Syrian refugees reached 2 million.
2013 (11th September)
Germany agreed to take 5,000 Syrian refugees for a period of two years.
2013 (3rd October)
A shipwreck off the Italian coast left 130 African migrants dead and many more missing.
2013 (11th October)
27 died when a migrant boat capsized off the coast of Malta.
2013 (25th October)
700 migrants were rescued by the Italian coast guard.
The total number of Syrian refugees in Lebanon reached one million.
2014 (28th May)
French police were called to deal with migrants in the camp at Calais known as The Jungle.
A new refugee crisis began as people began fleeing Mosul in Iraq that had been taken over by a new jihadist group calling itself Islamic State (IS or ISIS).
There were calls for Europe to do more to help the refugees.
IS had taken over parts of Syria. Barack Obama agreed to US airstrikes against IS.
2014 (23rd August)
A boat with 250 migrants on board capsized off the coast of Libya.
Around 130,000 Syrian Kurds fled into Turkey after Kurdish villages were attacked by IS.
2014 (15th September)
Around 500 migrants died when a boat sank off the coast of Malta.
2014 (8th October)
Jordan refused to accept any more refugees.
2014 (14th October)
Around 400,000 Kurds fled to Turkey. They spoke of the horrors committed by IS.
2014 (20th November)
The number of Syrian refugees in Turkey reached 1.6 million. Turkish authorities were unable to cope and refugees faced poor insanitary living conditions.
2014 (1st December)
The United Nation announced that it would no longer be able to offer food vouchers for Syrian refugees due to lack of funds.
2015 (2nd January)
A migrant ship with 360 people on board that had been abandoned by its crew were rescued by Italian coast guard.
2015 (3rd January)
Lebanon announced that it was imposing visa restrictions on Syrians entering the country.
2015 (26th January)
Syrian Kurdish forces managed to push back Islamic State from the border town of Kobane.
2015 (14th April)
Around 400 migrants drowned when their boat capsized off the coast of Libya. The Italian coast guard rescued 144 people.
2015 (19th April)
A boat carrying refugees capsized in the Mediterranean leaving around 700 people dead.
2015 (23rd April)
An EU Summit was held in Brussels to discuss the migrant situation in response to the numbers of boats carrying migrants sinking in the Mediterranean.
2015 (5th May)
A migrant boat sank off the coast of Sicily leaving a number of people dead.
2015 (10th May)
Brussels declared that EU quotas should be implemented with each country being designated a given number of migrants.
2015 (21st May)
Islamic State took control of the historic city of Palmyra giving them control of nearly half of Syria.
Increasing numbers of migrants at Calais try to smuggle themselves onto lorries bound for the UK.
2015 (13th July)
Hungary began building a razor wire fence along the border with Syria to keep migrants out.
2015 (23rd July)
Around 40 people died trying to cross teh Mediterranean from Libya.
2015 (28th July)
2,000 migrants tried to enter the Channel Tunnel.
The numbers of migrants crossing into Hungary increased as refugees tried to cross before the fence was completed.
2015 (15th August)
Around 40 migrants died in an overcrowded boat sailing from Libya.
2015 (22nd August)
A number of migrants broke through the Macedonian/Greek border leading to conflict with the Macedonian security forces.
2015 (22nd August)
3,000 migrants were rescued off the coast of Libya.
2015 (26th August)
Germany announced that Syrian assylum seekers were welcome.
2015 (27th August)
Two boats carrying migrants capsized off Zuwara in Libya.
Around 20,000 refugees fled Syria for Kurdistan, Iraq.
2015 (1st September)
Hungarian police sealed off a railway terminal to stop migrants travelling onwards. This led to fierce clashes between migrants and police.
2015 (1st September)
Thousands of new migrants arrived in Greece.
2015 (2nd September)
Images of the body of three year old Aylan al-Kurdi washed up on a Turkish beach went viral and led to increased sympathy for the plight of the refugees.
2015 (7th September)
Migrants broke through police lines on the Hungarian/Serbian border.
2015 (12th September)
An EU summit was unable to reach agreement over the migrant crisis.
2015 (15th September)
Hungary closed its border with Serbia and announced that anyone breaking through the fence would be jailed.
2015 (17th September)
Croatia closed its border with Serbia to prevent migrants travelling through the country.
2015 (30th September)
Russia began making targeted airstrikes on Islamic State positions.
2015 (17th October)
Thousands of migrants entered Slovenia trying to find a way to Germany.
2015 (18th October)
Due to the numbers of migrants, Slovenia restricted numbers of migrants entering the country to 2,500 per day.
2015 (30th December)
The number of migrants crossing to Europe by sea reached one million.
2016 (4th January)
Sweden and Denmark announced that they would be introducing border controls.
2016 (5th January)
There were protests in Germany after a group of migrants assaulted women on New Year’s Eve.
2016 (18th January)
Turkey agreed to allow Syrian refugees to apply for work permits.
2016 (5th February)
A new offensive and Russian airstrikes against rebel forces in Aleppo led to around 70,000 refugees fleeing to Turkey.
2016 (8th February)
A boat sank off the coast of Turkey killing 24 people.
2016 (18th February)
An EU patrol ship saved 900 migrants off the Greek coast.
2016 (23rd February)
It was announced that more than 100,000 migrants had entered Europe since January 1st.
2016 (29th February)
Work began to try to clear the Calais Jungle.
2016 (7th March)
The EU began working out a deal with Turkey to stop migrants travelling to Greece.
2016 (18th March)
The Balkan countries shut their borders leaving large numbers of migrants trapped in Greece.
2016 (20th March)
The EU negotiated a deal with Turkey to return migrants arriving in Greece to Turkey if they refused to apply for asylum in Greece.
Migrants began to be returned to a camp in Turkey from Greece.
2016 (18th April)
Many people died after a boat capsized off the Greek coast.
Increasing numbers of migrants from African countries were making the crossing from Libya to Italy in overcrowded boats.
2016 (25th May)
The Italian navy rescued more than 500 people after their boat capsized.
2016 (late May
A large number of people died after several boats were shipwrecked off the Libyan coast.
Amnesty International announced that refugees were not given adequate protection in Turkey.
2016 (23rd June)
Around 4,500 people were rescued from the Mediterranean Sea.
2016 (30th June)
A number of migrants died after their dinghy sank off the coast of Libya.
The EU announced that a system of quotas per country should be imposed with 10,000 euros per migrant being given to the recipient country.
The Hungarian government announced it would hold a referendum asking citizens if they agreed with the imposition of refugee quotas on the country.
2016 (20th July)
The bodies of 22 people were found on a boat in the Mediterranean Sea.
2016 (1st August)
In Germany, Angela Merkel faced increasing opposition to her ‘refugees welcome’ policy.
2016 (25th August)
People smugglers were becomming increasingly violent in Calais. BBC footage showed them blocking roads with trees and breaking into lorries.
2016 (29th August)
Around 6,500 migrants were rescued from boats off the coast of Libya.
2016 (4th September)
In Germany Angela Merkel’s party lost large numbers of votes to the right wing anti migrant party AfD.
2016 (7th September)
The UK announced that a wall would be built in Calais to stop migrants gaining access to the port or tunnel.
2016 (21st September)
A boat carrying 600 migrants sank off the coast of Egypt. At least 42 people drowned.
2016 (23rd October)
2,400 migrants were rescued off the coast of Libya.
2016 (25th October)
The French authorities began dismantling the migrant camp in Calais known as ‘The Jungle’.
2016 (3rd November)
More than 200 migrants died when two packed boats sank off the coast of Libya.
2017 (14th January)
A boat carrying 100 migrants capsized off the coast of Libya. Only four people survived
2017 (23rd March)
A boat carrying 200 migrants sank off the coast of Libya. No survivors have been found.
2017 (10th April)
A huge fire ripped through a camp which held around 1500 migrants in Dunkirk Northern France. Although no one was killed, hundreds, including unaccompanied children, fled the camp and are now missing.
2017 (7th August)
Around 300 migrants stormed the Moroccan/Spanish border at El Tarajal and many got through.
2017 (8th August)
A further 1000 migrants attempted to cross the Moroccan/Spanish border at El Tarajal. The Spanish authorities closed the border for a week.
Thousands of refugees remained housed in poor conditions in refugee camps in Greece. Numbers entering the camp continue to rise faster than those processed and moved on.
An EU summit was held to try to find a solution to the ongoing crisis. Southern and Eastern European countries had become increasingly angry by the fact that they were left to deal with the situation and called for the EU to take greater responsibility. After lengthy talks an agreement was made to set up holding centres where migrants could be more speedily processed but the summit did not agree where those being given assylum should be settled.
2018 (28th December)
The British Home Secretary, Sajid Javid, put the UK on high alert after it was revealed that more than 100 migrants had crossed the English Channel since 25th December.
2019 (5th January)
The EU reported that the number of migrants arriving in the EU had drastically reduced from previous years.
2019 (23rd October)
British police discovered 39 people dead in a lorry in Essex.
2020 (11th August)
It was reported that more than 4,000 migrants had attempted to cross the English Channel this year. A rise of 500% on previous years.
Published Sept 9, 2016 @ 9:58 am – Updated –
Harvard Reference for this page:
Heather Y Wheeler. (2017 – 2020). European Migrant Crisis 2011 – Present Day. https://www.thetimelinegeek.com/european-migrant-crisis. Last accessed [date]