boat wreck

Unravelling the Mediterranean Migration Crisis (MEDMIG) Sep 2015 - Aug 2016



UNHCR (data)
IOM (data)
Statewatch (policies)
MSF (life updates)
MovingEurope (life updates)

The MEDMIG project is led by the Centre for Trust, Peace and Social Relations at Coventry University, in collaboration with the University of Birmingham (UK), the University of Oxford (UK), ELIAMEP (Greece), FIERI (Italy), People for Change Foundation (Malta) and Yasar University (Turkey).

Research questions

In the first ten months of 2015 more than 700,000 refugees and migrants crossed the Mediterranean, arriving in southern Europe in search of protection or a better life. This has captured the public and media imagination and challenged the ability of European States to respond appropriately.

This project aims to better understand the dynamics of migration in the Mediterranean region by providing the first large-scale, systematic and comparative study of the backgrounds, experiences, aspirations and routes of migrants in four European countries (Italy, Greece, Malta and Turkey). It encourages critical reflexive dialogue and practice by opening new and inclusive spaces for questioning and challenging established ways of categorising and thinking about with the Mediterranean migration crisis. It will create opportunities for increased policy dialogue and academic collaboration between the affected countries and generally the EU.

The research is underpinned by a number of urgent research questions:

  1. What are the underlying factors shaping migration from countries of origin and how do the characteristics and backgrounds of migrants shape the response to structural issues?
  2. What are the opportunity or constrain structures that shape migrant journeys to Europe?
  3. What are the differences between the Central Mediterranean (principally from Libya to Italy and Malta) and Eastern (Turkey to Greece) Mediterranean routes?
  4. To what extent are migrant journeys to Europe, or particular countries within Europe, shaped or even determined by non-state actors (agents, facilitators and civil society)?
  5. What are the impacts of policies intended to deter or prevent migrants from crossing the Mediterranean?

More information is available on the project website.

Principal Investigator

Heaven Crawley (Centre for Trust Peace & Social Relation, Coventry University)


Franck Düvell (Project Co-Investigator)
Nando Sigona (Project Co-Investigator)
Katharine Jones (named researcher)
Simon McMahon (named researcher)



Professionals' Advisory Group

Michael Collyer (Sussex University)
Ferrucio Pastore (International and European Forum of Migration Research, FIERI, Turin)
Ayselin Yildiz (Yasar University, Izmir)
Dia Anagnostou (ELIAMEP, Athens)
Yonous Mohammadi (Greek Forum of Refugees, Athens)
Jean-Pierre Gauci (People for Change, Malta)
ARCI (Italy)

Additional consultants are Albert Kraler (International Centre for Migration Policy Development, ICMPD Vienna) and Jeff Crisp (Refugee Studies Centre, Oxford).

News & Media

Mediterranean Migration Crisis – Mixed Policies, Mixed Results
Blog | COMPAS Communications

Unravelling the Mediterranean Migration Crisis – field work notes 2015
Blog | COMPAS Communications

Refugees forced to depend on human smugglers: study
4 Nov 2016 | Deutsche Welle

Refugee crisis: European leaders blamed for record high deaths in the Mediterranean
3 Nov 2016 | Independent

No direct flight: new maps show the fragmented journeys of migrants and refugees to Europe
3 Nov 2016 | Independent

Migrant death toll expected to exceed 10,000 in 2016
17 Sep 2016 | Guardian

The Thought Show on Syrian refugees
8 Sep 2016 | BBC World Service (interview with Franck Düvell at 29:30)

BBC Trending on Syrian refugees
3 Sep 2016 | BBC World Service (interview with Franck Düvell at 12:50)

Did Alan Kurdi’s death change anything?
2 Sep 2016 | BBC Trending blog

Rifugiati, le cifre confermano: le politiche europee aumentano i rischi in mare
31 Mar 2016 | Vita

Europe Is Driving Refugees to More Dangerous Routes across the Med
30 Mar 2016 | Newsweek

I 10 migliori articoli su rifugiati e immigrazione 13/2016
29 Mar 2016 | Open Migration

European policy is driving refugees to more dangerous routes across the Med
29 Mar 2016 | The Conversation

EU-Turkey: Deal or no Deal?
14 Mar 2016 | Monday Morning Meetings on Migration (podcast)

Crisis or opportunity? How European countries use refugees for political gain
25 Feb 2016 | The Conversation

L’UE augmente la pression sur la Grèce
11 Feb 2016 | La Presse

Closing the Balkan Route: Will Greece Become a Refugee Bottleneck?
9 Feb 2016 | Spiegel International

Wie viele Flüchtlinge haben keine Papiere?
29 Jan 2016 | Mediendienst Integration

Up All Night Programme (interview at 45:23)
23 Jan 2016 | BBC Radio 5

How Europe’s academy is addressing the refugee crisis
15 Oct 2015 | Times Higher Education

Avrupa mülteciler konusunda sınıfta kaldı
6 Oct 2015 | Aksiyon (quotes Franck Düvell)

A crisis of Europe
Oct 2015 | ESRC Society Now

Das Europa der Grenzen
26 Sep 2015 | Der Spiegel (quotes Franck Düvell)

From a refugee crisis to a crisis of Europe
24 Sep 2015 | ESRC News

Refugee crisis: ‘Europe needs to take big numbers. Until then, chaos reigns’
19 Sep 2015 | The Observer (quotes Franck Düvell)

UN warns European unity at risk as borders close to refugees
19 Sep 2015 | The Observer (quotes Franck Düvell)

İngiltere’nin sığınmacı politikası eleştiriliyor
15 Sep 2015 | Cumhuriyet (quotes Franck Düvell)


Greece, Italy, Macedonia, Malta, Turkey


Asylum and RefugeesBordersEuropean UnionIllegalityWar and conflict




Analysis will be grounded within existing meta-level frameworks for understanding migrant journeys (BenEzer 2005, Collyer 2010, Khosravi 2010, BenEzer and Zetter 2014, IOM 2014) and transit, secondary, mixed and irregular migration (Düvell 2006, 2014, Bloch et al. 2011) including the political and policy contexts within which this migration takes place, but will also explore the structural determinants of migration at the meso-level, focusing on both the opportunities and constraints that shape migration (migration environment, social networks and information flows) (Haug 2008, Wissink et al. 2013).

We will take account of the cognitive and behavioural processes that shape migration at the micro-level, including aspirations (Carling 2002, Fonseca 2013), capabilities (Sen 1985, 2001, 2005, Carling 2002, de Haas 2011), individual perceptions including perceptions of risk (Wissink et al. 2014, Düvell 2015, Kaytaz 2015), decision making (Robinson and Seagrott 2002, Crawley 2010, Kennan and Walker 2012, McAuliffe 2013) and the interaction of migrants with the different actors including smugglers that facilitate migration (commodified journeys) (Gammeltoft-Hansen 2011, Andersson 2014).


One-sited and unilateral research has often been criticised for the limited insights that it can generate (Coleman and von Hellermann 2011). Although a number of recent reports have documented migrant journeys to different countries, they have engaged a relatively small number of respondents (Human Rights Watch 2015, IOM 2015b, Statewatch 2015) making it difficult to draw conclusions about more general patterns and trends.

Instead, we propose a multi-sited transnational research design to simultaneously gather and analyse data from a large number of migrants. The research will be undertaken at 12 sites in four countries: Italy and Malta (Central Mediterranean route) and Greece and Turkey (Eastern Mediterranean route). We will conduct a total of 550 interviews with migrants. The majority of interviews will be with migrants who have crossed the Mediterranean within the preceding month, 225 each in Italy and Greece (the two countries that have received by far the largest proportion of migrants since January 2015) and 50 in Malta, a country in which migrants have effectively become ‘stuck’. A further 60 interviews will be conducted with migrants in Turkey (prospective, failed) to facilitate a better understanding of the transit context.

We will also undertake around 100 interviews with governmental, non-governmental and civil society organisations to gather broader insights into the experiences and journeys of the migrants with whom they come into contact. Ethnographic observations will be conducted at each site.

Our multi-layered comparative approach will enable us to analyse the complex and dynamic forces that underpin the very rapid changes in migration patterns currently being seen in the Mediterranean region. The research will generate a large data set within a very short period of time (three months) which will be analysed using NVivo to identify quantitative as well as qualitative patterns. In particular we will apply matrix coding to ethnographic and qualitative data to facilitate analysis of frequencies, relationships between variables and subsequently patterns (Green 2001, Davis 2014). This will enable us to draw out broader patterns and trends within and across countries, different groups of migrants and according to demographic and other variables.


Destination Europe? Understanding the dynamics and drivers of Mediterranean migration in 2015
Reports | Heaven Crawley, Franck Düvell, Katharine Jones, Simon McMahon and Nando Sigona | 2016

Understanding the dynamics of migration to Greece and the EU: Drivers, decisions and destinations
Other Publications | Heaven Crawley, Franck Duvell, Katharine Jones and Dimitris Skleparis | 2016

Unpacking a Rapidly Changing Scenario
Other Publications | Heaven Crawley, Franck Duvell, Nando Sigona, Simon McMahon, Katharine Jones | 2016

Boat migration across the Central Mediterranean
Research Brief | Simon McMahon, Nando Sigona | 2016


The research seeks to push the theoretical and conceptual boundaries of migration studies, gather and analyse data on migrants who have made the journey across the Mediterranean into Europe with the view to better understand the dynamics of this particular migration process and to inform the development of appropriate strategic, political and policy responses to the current migration crisis.

The primary beneficiaries of this research will be:

  1. Academic community working across range of disciplines will benefit from the improved evidence on migration across Mediterranean (four distinct geographical contexts) and increased availability of systematic and comparative data available for further research. The evidence resulting from our multidisciplinary approach will reduce the significant limitations of the more frequent academic research on ‘the migrant experience’ driven by, and tied to, abstract and distinct migrant categories created by law and policy to contain – and make sense of – migration flows. Future research will be able to draw on the new insights into the ways in which nationality, economic status (class), gender, race and age shape the journeys and experiences of migrants, and situating the multidimensional individual within broader historical, social, economic, and political contexts at local, national and international levels.
  2. National migration policy makers in Greece, Italy, Malta, Turkey and the UK will benefit from access to our systematic and comparative dataset and analysis on migration in the region which will provide insights into migrant motivations, aspirations and journeys and better understanding of the dynamics behind the migration process.
  3. Civil society organisations working with migrants in each case study country which campaign for the rights of migrants and grassroots organisations and provide immediate assistance to arriving migrants will be able to use our data and findings to better understand the needs of their target populations and more effectively advocate on behalf of those implicated in the migration crisis.
  4. International policy makers and practitioners from the European Commission (DG Migration and Home Affairs Irregular Migration and Return, European Asylum Support Office, Frontex, Europol) and international organisations (IOM, UNHCR, OHCHR, ICMPD, UNODC) will benefit from the data for the refinement and continued negotiation of the EU Agenda on Migration and emergency measures in response to the migration crisis. Improved communication of evidence to national and international policy makers will create better understanding of causes and implications of the migration in the Mediterranean and generate improved strategic, political and policy response.
  5. International and national public audiences will benefit from media stories and narratives about the motivations, aspirations and challenges of migrants who undertake the journey to Europe. Better informed public narratives will, in turn, create increased political space for an appropriate policy response to the crisis.
  6. The project team, advisory and stakeholder groups will gain longer term impact facilitated by increased opportunities for networking among national and international partners, improved cross-national dialogue on migration across the Mediterranean and the membership of the cross-national network.