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By the end of 2015, an unprecedented number of migrants had arrived to the EU – 1,015,078 – having taken perilous journeys across the Mediterranean Sea to Europe in search of safety. The news dominated European political debate and media. More than 800,000 people were trafficked by sea from Turkey to Greece. There were 4,000 recorded deaths as people drowned in overloaded and unseaworthy boats. But why did so many people take this journey, and willing to risk their lives to do so?

In this podcast we explore geographical research by the MEDMIG project that sought to better understand these unprecedented movements, by examining the journeys, motivations and aspirations of people migrating.

Learning activities

Listen to the podcast and make notes on the following questions:

  • What range of factors informed migrants' decisions to leave their homes?

  • How were these journeys experienced by migrants - what routes were taken before arriving into Europe?

  • Why did migrants move on from countries to which they initially travelled?

  • What sorts of actors are involved in smuggling?

  • What is the difference between the categories of migrant and refugees and are these categorisations helpful?

  • How did international governments co-operate to support migrants and refugees?

The media in Europe talked about the arrival of refugees and migrants to the EU in 2015, as an unprecedented event – a single flow of people that came from nowhere, suddenly and unexpectedly. However, this showed a lack of understanding to migration experiences.

Ask pupils to write down what they know or remember of the Mediterrean Migration Crisis in 2015. Pupils should think specifically about the drivers of migration and the routes taken. Pupils should then read and make notes on the article below. 

No direct flight: new maps show the fragmented journeys of migrants and refugees to Europe (The Conversation, 2016). 

During September 2015 and January 2016, the MEDMIG project team interviewed 500 refugees and migrants travelling via the Central (Libya to Italy and Malta) and the Eastern (Turkey to Greece) Mediterranean routes.  These accounts include those of Amadou, Amed, Mahmod, Michael and Niyat; migrants who made the difficult decision to flee their home in search of safety. 

Read their stories (available from the downloads box), and produce a storyboard to share their story. You should highlight the drivers of their migration and the barriers they faced in pursuit of security. 

Migration is multi-casual, is it often a variety of circumstances. There are a myriad of reasons for people moving, and the MEDMIG project thought to better understand this. In 2015, conflict in the countries neighbouring Europe was a major factor contributing to the increase in refugees and migrants. The journey of more than 77% of respondents could be described as forced migration.

This animation by PositiveNegatives is inspired by the true testimonies of four Eritrean refugees who fled their homes to make the dangerous journey across Ethiopia, Sudan and Libya to Europe. This video contains images of conflict that some might find distressing.

Watch the video and as a group discuss the following question, using evidence from the stories shared in the animation:

  • Explain how local, national and international governance impact refugees decision to take dangerous journeys?

In collaboration with PositiveNegatives access free resources that explore the maths of migration with Professor Heaven Crawley. 

Key words

Forced migration
The coerced movement of a person or persons away from their home or home region.

Internal displacement
Persons or groups of persons who have been forced or obliged to flee or to leave their homes or places of habitual residence, in particular as a result of, or in order, to avoid the effects of armed conflict, situations of generalized violence, violations of human rights or natural or human-made disasters, and who have not crossed an internationally recognized State border.

The movement of people from one place to another.

A person who has been forced to leave their country in order to escape war, persecution, or natural disaster.

The illegal movement of people across an international border.

The United Nations Human Rights Council: a United Nations body whose mission is to promote and protect human rights around the world. 


File nameFiles

File type



Amadou’s Story


459 KB

Amed's Story


459 KB

Mahmod' s Story


459 KB

Michael and Niyat's Story


478 KB

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