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Considering how asylum seekers form and act on preferences for certain destinations could improve success of future EU relocation schemes
Press Release
Thursday, August 23, 2018

Considering how asylum seekers form and act on preferences for certain destinations could improve success of future EU relocation schemes

BRUSSELS – The latest idea for distributing asylum seekers around the European Union through a system of ‘regional disembarkation platforms’ may have a better chance of success if policymakers acknowledge that new arrivals often hold strong preferences for certain destinations and that these views may be difficult to change, a new Migration Policy Institute Europe issue brief suggests.

In Deciding Which Road to Take: Insights into how migrants and refugees in Greece plan onward movement, Katie Kuschminder, Assistant Professor at Maastricht University, fills a gap in existing research by examining how migrants’ plans may change during their journeys.

The analysis draws on a survey and interviews carried out by Dr. Kuschminder and her team with more than 500 refugees and other migrants in Greece, discovering that only about one-third had changed their minds about the countries in which they wanted to settle.

Those who did change their minds were often influenced by the conditions they found in Greece, by the opinions of friends and relatives, and by the availability of work and other opportunities in their preferred destinations.

The European Union’s emergency scheme to distribute asylum seekers, introduced in 2015, was dogged by political disagreements and ended in September last year. As leaders attempt to forge a new system, few policy discussions have acknowledged or explored ways to incorporate the preferences of migrants.

While the success of these schemes is partially down to political will, MPI Europe’s findings suggest that policymakers should invest much more in local integration if they hope to redirect asylum seekers to destinations other than those they originally had in mind.

‘In order for a relocation policy to be effective and meet the needs of both EU Member States and migrants,’ Dr. Kuschminder writes, ‘decisionmakers would do well to incorporate migrants themselves into the process of destination selection and redouble efforts to support their long-term integration into the host society’.

Read the issue brief here: www.migrationpolicy.org/research/migrants-refugees-greece-onward-movement.


Key findings from interviews on the Eastern Mediterranean route, carried out in Athens between May and July 2015 with migrants from Afghanistan (167), Iraq (60), Iran (41), Pakistan (117) and Syria (144).

The top choice of destination at the outset of the migrants’ journeys was Germany (21 per cent), followed by Greece (19 per cent), Sweden (9 per cent), United Kingdom (9 per cent), Europe (8 per cent) and Norway (7 per cent).

Once in Greece, 64 per cent of respondents did not alter their preferred destination. For the other 36 per cent, the biggest issue was whether to remain in Greece.

The most popular sources of information at the time of departure were family/friends, websites and social media. Their journeys appeared only to strengthen these patterns.