Note: This post was a sticky feature, and was on top for several days. Some more recent posts are below it.
Ever since the height of the migration crisis in the fall of 2015, I’ve been looking for a comprehensive map that shows all the major routes for trafficking migrants into Europe. I never found one, so I was forced to make one myself.
The most important thing about all the information on this map is that it represents trafficking, that is, the illegal transport for pay of people from one country to another. Trafficking is usually carried out by an organized criminal network, and can be very expensive. Somewhere between two and ten million people have been trafficked into Europe since the “Arab Spring” began in 2011. We don’t know the average price per capita of a passage to Europe, but it is presumably in the thousands of dollars. If we low-ball it at $2,000 per head (it’s known to be much higher than that for migrants from Central Africa or South Asia), that would mean that the total spent to traffic migrants to Europe in the past six years has been somewhere between four and twenty billion dollars. Add to that the cost of the clothes, shoes, tents, equipment, and pocket money handed to each migrant, and you can see that the amount spent on getting all these people to Europe is HUGE.
Someone is paying for that, and in most cases it’s not the migrants. One suspects the Saudis and the Gulf sheikhs, of course. And George Soros’ NGOs are known to be involved with the peripheral “humanitarian” activities that bring aid to the “refugees”, including the boats that travel to just off the coast of Libya, pick up the migrants, and deliver them to Italy. But I am not aware of any hard evidence for where the bulk of the money paid to the traffickers comes from.
The information used to plot the routes shown on the map comes from innumerable news stories about the flow of migrants that have been published since 2011. The only exception is the hypothetical “northern route” discussed by organized crime leaders at a summit in Kabul last year (according to a report in the Kronen Zeitung), represented by the green arrows on the map. The rest of the plotted routes are based on reports of incidents published in the media. Arrivals by air — a fairly significant number — are obviously not covered by this map.
I’ve been gathering the data for more than six years, so I can’t supply links for everything. But it’s all in the Gates of Vienna archives, either as posts (most of them in the “Immigration” category) or in the “Immigration” section of the news feed.
See these recent posts for some of the latest news:
- The Balkan Route Reopens
- The Truckload of Chocolate Iraqis in Romania
- The Routes Used by Organized Crime to Traffic “Refugees” Into Europe
- Culture-Enrichers Smuggled Into Belgium in a Truck Cooler
Names of places that appear repeatedly in news stories on migration have been added to the map, including Calais, Malmö, Ventimiglia, Lampedusa, and the Greek islands most frequently used as dumping facilities by the traffickers from Anatolia.
The question marks on the maps indicate an uncertainty about the origin or later route of the migrations indicated by arrows of the same color.
Although the map above covers only the period from 2011 until the end of last year, the route from Tunisia to Lampedusa was routinely used by traffickers well before then. Ever since our Italian tipsters started sending us articles for the news feed (which was about 2007, I think), I’ve been reading stories about how overwhelmed the municipal authorities in Lampedusa have been by the numbers of migrants descending on them.
There were also migration routes from Ceuta and Melilla (two Spanish enclaves adjacent to Morocco on the North African coast) across the Strait of Gibraltar and the western Med to Spain. Traffickers’ boats originating in Anatolia also arrived occasionally on Crete and other Greek islands before 2015.
There was an enormous surge in migration early in 2011, at the beginning of the “Arab Spring”. The first wave came from Tunisia after the ouster of the government of Zine El Abidine Ben Ali and the emergence of Ennahda. Later, after the Col. Muammar Qaddafi was deposed and assassinated in Libya, the pace of departures from North Africa accelerated.
In those days there weren’t any NGO boats picking up the passengers from the traffickers’ boats almost as soon as they departed from Libya. The Italian coast guard didn’t rescue anybody unless the boats were in actual distress close to Italian territory. Many of the boats bringing the migrants arrived in the harbor at Lampedusa under their own power. Boats also landed on Sicily, the southern coast of Italy, Malta, Pantelleria, and other small islands.
Since then things have changed, of course. The new rules require that “refugees” be picked up as soon as possible after their departure, whereupon they are ferried by EU vessels or NGOs to the Italian coast.
More than 60,000 migrants landed in Italy in 2011. It seemed like such a huge number at the time — a real “Camp of the Saints” moment. Yet since the Great Migration began in earnest in 2015, the number of annual arrivals in Italy has risen to six or seven times the figure from 2011.
Before 2015 the bulk of the migrant flow passed across the Mediterranean, mostly to Italy, but also to Malta, Crete, Sardinia, and Spain. The Italian government wanted to rid itself of the migrants, so it registered them, handed them a little walking-around money, and let them buy railway tickets to points north as soon as it was practicable. Most of these migrants entered France at the Ventimiglia crossing and proceeded northwards from there. Some of them stopped in France, and some who wanted to get to the land of milk and honey in the UK ended up stalled in the “Jungle” shantytown just outside Calais. Many of them traveled on to The Netherlands, and especially to Sweden, whose then-prime minister Fredrik Reinfeldt had issued a blanket invitation to “Syrian refugees”, much like German Chancellor Angela Merkel did three or four years later.
Some of the Mediterranean traffic ended up in Germany, but most of it went elsewhere. The flow across the Med ebbed somewhat from 2012 to early 2014, as the situation in Tunisia stabilized, the civil war in Libya became less intense (until the arrival of the Islamic State), and the focus of the “Arab Spring” moved to Syria. Taking the Mediterranean route from Syria to Italy was an arduous and expensive process, involving as it did a trek overland through Jordan, Egypt, and Libya before embarking on the voyage to Lampedusa. The alternative — across the border to Turkey, and thence to the Greek islands — was thwarted by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, whose coast guard routinely stopped the smugglers’ boats and returned them to Anatolia.
But all that changed in the summer of 2015, when huge numbers of migrant boats began to cross the short distance from Turkey to Lesbos, Chios, and Kos, and deposited their human cargo in the bosom of the European Union.
Sometime in mid-2015 the Turkish government — which effectively means President Recep Tayyip Erdogan — made a policy decision concerning the migrants who gathered in Anatolia and attempted to book illegal passage across the Aegean to Greek territory. The Turkish police and coast guard simply stopped interdicting the people-smugglers’ boats, allowing more and more of them to succeed in depositing their customers on the Greek islands. Suddenly a new trafficking route was opened into the EU.
The coast guard’s change of behavior could not have occurred without a change of policy by the Turkish government. None of the decision-making process was made public (at least nothing was written in English that I could find), so the motives behind the momentous policy shift can only be speculated about. The hypothetical reasons require too lengthy an explanation to be covered here; see “Erdogan, Turkey, and the Refugee Racket” (October 2015) and “The Etiology of the European ‘Refugee’ Crisis” (February 2016) for an analysis of the most likely causes.
The net effect, however, was to encourage a mass departure from harbors on the Anatolian coast to the nearest Greek islands. As word spread that the boats were getting through, more smugglers entered the lucrative business, causing a drop in the price. Competition compelled the traffickers to cut costs, so they purchased cheap, shoddy Chinese inflatable boats and inferior life jackets (probably also made in China) to give to their charges. The boats only had to go a few miles, after all, and it became typical practice for the smugglers to puncture them near the beach, letting them sink and leaving the migrants to their own devices wearing their crappy life-vests.
The predictable daily spectacle in the surf off Kos and Lesbos drew media photographers and videographers like flies to a carcass. When the hysteria over the Dead Baby Porn hit in September, the resulting media frenzy prompted German Chancellor Angela Merkel to issue her notorious invitation for the entire Third World to come on in and set a spell. Thousands more migrants paid the smuggler’s fees (with whose money?) and made the crossing with their sights set on Germany.
The cheapest, most direct route from Greece to Germany passed through Macedonia, Serbia, Hungary, and Austria. The entire route from Kos to Nickelsdorf was covered in the media as if it were a spontaneous outflow of desperate people, a new Völkerwanderung of refugees fleeing privation and persecution in search of a better life. Nothing could have been further from the truth.
The spectacle of the columns of “refugees” walking along roads in the Balkans was set up as a photo op by those who funded (who?) and managed the trafficking in order to generate the right kind of emotion among citizens in the target countries (mostly Germany, Austria, The Netherlands, Denmark, and Sweden) and sympathetic television viewers in other Western nations. The average news consumer who looked at the TV, read a newspaper, or browsed major news outlets saw crowds of tired-looking families with children who looked appealingly into the cameras. They walked all the way here from Baghdad and Kabul — how could we not let them in?
Yet the reality was quite different. Cumulatively speaking, the “refugees” walked no more than a couple of miles from the time they left Bodrum until they stepped off the train in Munich or Berlin. They only had to walk short distances to cross what used to be called national borders — one between Greece and Macedonia, another between Macedonia and Serbia, and so on. These brief treks on foot were when the video cameras caught them and the photographers took their snaps. There were also changes of transport in the central railway stations of national capitals such as Budapest, where some of the most famous pictures were taken.
The rest of the time they sat on air-conditioned buses and passenger trains as they crossed the Balkans towards the Promised Land. This was a very expensive process — who paid for it?
There were long queues of buses on each side of the relevant borders, but only a few photos and video clips of them slipped out. They didn’t fit the Narrative, so the media avoided featuring them.
And most of the migrants did not travel as families. The vast bulk of them, an estimated 80%-95%, were young men traveling by themselves. The media preferred images of those smiling young mothers with their earnest husbands and tearful children, however, because they fit the Narrative.
Everything was going swimmingly for the traffickers and the sponsors (who?) until Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán put a spanner in the works by closing the border between Hungary and Serbia. Unlike most EU member states, Hungary was not held in a stranglehold of indebtedness to the European Central Bank, so Mr. Orbán was able to resist all the blustering and threats emanating from Brussels. He stuck doggedly to his policy, but was careful to observe every jot and tittle of EU immigration regulations, so as to avoid the sudden incursion into Hungary of EUGENDFOR or some other EU expeditionary force sent to compel adherence to the rules.
This unexpected resistance compelled the traffickers and the financiers (who?) to change their plans, and the flow was hastily re-routed to run from Serbia through Croatia and Slovenia. The new arrival point in Austria became Spielfeld, across the border from Šentilj in Slovenia. From there the migrants were bused to Bavaria, where they either alighted in Munich, or continued northeastward to Berlin, northwestward to Amsterdam and Rotterdam, or northward to Denmark and Sweden.
A peculiar sidelight of all this migrant trafficking was the route that crossed from northern Russia into northern Norway, above the Arctic Circle. The Norwegians forbid foot passage at that crossing, so some ingenious Russian entrepreneur sold cheap, flimsy bicycles to the migrants that allowed them to get across the border. Media photographers took snaps of the discarded bicycles in heaps on the Norwegian side of the border.
The new route through Croatia and Slovenia could only be maintained for another few months, however. The “refugees” caused devastation everywhere they paused on their journey. At every makeshift camp en route they enriched their environs with theft, assault, and rape. They burned down their quarters and left filth in their wake. One by one the authorities in the countries along the route had had enough. They put up razor wire on their borders and installed gates at the road and rail crossings.
When Austria followed suit with her own barriers, the “Balkan Route” was effectively closed. The open, public flow of migrants through the Balkans was reduced to a trickle by early 2016. Those who were stranded on the wrong side of the closing gate — thousands upon thousands of them — collected in squalid camps on the Greek side of the border with Macedonia. When the Greek government stopped ferrying migrants from the outlying islands to the mainland, additional fetid camps were set up on those islands, completing the destruction of the local tourist industry.
In response, the Mediterranean route to Lampedusa was reopened, and the rate of flow across the Med to Italy rose far above its earlier levels. But that route is comparatively expensive. To turn the highest profit, the traffickers needed to get their human freight across the Bosphorus or the Black Sea to the Balkans, and thence to Germany.
Since then there has been a flow through Bulgaria and Romania to Serbia and Hungary. But the new Balkans traffic is far more hidden: the migrants are being packed into tractor trailers and hidden in the freight cars of trains. It’s hard to gauge the volume of traffic, because the only ones we can see are the ones who are caught by customs officials or police. We must presume that many more arrive safely in Germany, Belgium, the Netherlands, and other European countries. Forged documents about the cargo are being presented to customs agents; inspectors are being bribed. Only occasionally do we encounter the failed transports — the “Chocolate Iraqis” in Romania, or the migrants packed in a truck cooler who were nabbed on the border between Germany and Belgium.
Other migrants are attempting — with mixed results — to cross from Italy to Switzerland in their efforts to get to Germany. And there is also a route across the Brenner Pass from the Tyrol to Innsbruck, both by truck and by train. A couple of months ago several migrants froze to death while they were concealed under freight cars that had stopped at the pass. The incident alerted the Austrian authorities to the need to monitor freight trains more closely. Inspections are more rigorous now, but no one knows how many stowaways have actually made it across the Alps.
The German government has compiled estimates of the number of illegal migrants (over 100,000) who entered in 2016, based on those who were apprehended, but nobody knows how many others didn’t get caught. The rate of inflow since 2015 has obviously dropped, but not by an order of magnitude — it’s still at least in the hundreds of thousands.
And that, in a nutshell, is the current state of the Great Migration into Europe. The map at the top of this post will be subject to further changes, depending on the unfolding of events. But almost all the arrivals will continue to be the result of trafficking, and their passage will continue to cost billions of dollars a year.
And almost all of it is being paid for by someone other than the migrants themselves.