Worldwide people are on the move. The number of international migrants has grown consistently over the last 20 years. In 2020, 281 million people lived outside their country of origin, representing 3.6 percent of the world’s population. Europe continues to host the largest number of migrants in the world – 87 million in 2020 ahead of North America with 59 million.

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    Person holding suitcase

    Young person carrying an old suitcase. © Photolines / Shutterstock.

Migration & Forced Displacement

Almost half of all international migrants live within their continents of origin. 70 percent of migrants born in Europe reside in another European country, for instance.

In 2020, there were 82.4 million forcibly displaced people worldwide, forced to leave their homes due to conflict, violence, human rights violations, persecution, and natural hazards. Of those, 46 million are internally displaced people and 26.4 million refugees. An estimated 35 million (42%) are children below the age of 18. Most refugees (86%) are hosted in developing countries. 

Around the world, the vast majority of migrants travel, live and work in a regular and legal manner. Migration can bring considerable benefits to all sides. In countries of destination, migrants can make up for labour shortages, invest in new businesses, help create jobs and contribute to a richer and more diverse culture. And migrants, notably those working in the health sector, have been giving an important contribution in addressing the Covid-19 pandemic in their host countries. Migration also contributes to development in countries of origin. In this context, migrants send home remittances, which provide a stable source of financing that can help reduce poverty, and bring home new skills. 

Migration also presents a set of specific challenges, in particular when it takes place in an irregular manner. Migrants risk their life on dangerous journeys and are vulnerable to exploitation and abuse. At their destination, migrants often face difficulties in accessing health care, housing, education or employment. Organised crime networks benefit from facilitating irregular migration. 

Migration is a key policy area for the EU. Over the past years, the EU has developed a comprehensive and balanced policy framework on migration. Our ultimate aim is to ensure that migration takes place in a safe and regular manner, avoiding loss of life, protecting the human rights of migrants and providing international protection to those who need it. Constructive and sustainable migration policies are in the interest of partner countries, the EU, and refugees and migrants themselves.

The New Pact on Migration and Asylum

A fresh start for a fair and sustainable European approach to managing migration and asylum

The Commission presented the New Pact on Migration and Asylum in September 2020. It provides a reinforced basis to achieve the EU’s overarching migration objectives and provide a sustainable and long-term response to manage migration and asylum, by putting in place a predictable and reliable migration management system. Whilst much of the Pact is about reforming the EU’s asylum and migration systems, the New Pact also puts great emphasis on the external dimension, in particular on cooperation with third countries and regions, acknowledging that migration is central to the EU’s overall relationships with its international partners. 
To that end, the New Pact foresees fostering strengthened tailor-made, comprehensive and mutually beneficial partnerships with countries of origin, transit and destination. These partnerships can cover all relevant aspects of migration and forced displacement. This includes
•    strong commitment to providing support for refugees and displaced people and their host communities;
•    addressing the root causes of irregular migration and forced displacement;
•    strengthening migration governance and management in partner countries;
•    enhancing cooperation on readmission and reintegration;
•    developing legal pathways 
•    fighting the criminal networks behind migrant smuggling

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    Presentation of the New Pack on Migration and Asylum

    Presentation of the New Pack on Migration and Asylum. © EC Audiovisual service

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    Josep Borrell with Ararat Mirzoyan, Armenian Minister for Foreign Affairs

    Josep Borrell, EU High Representative/Vice-President, with Ararat Mirzoyan, Armenian Minister for Foreign Affairs. © EC Audiovisual Service

Working with our international partners

The EU fosters cooperation with key partners at bilateral, regional, continental and global level

The EU engages continuously with partner countries in the framework of comprehensive migration dialogues. With a number of countries more elaborate bilateral cooperation frameworks have been agreed: The EU has signed Mobility Partnerships with nine countries:  Cape Verde, the Republic of Moldova, Georgia, Armenia, Morocco, Azerbaijan, Tunisia, Jordan, and Belarus. Three Common Agendas on Migration and Mobility have been signed with Ethiopia, Nigeria and India.

Regional processes are valuable frameworks for dialogue that facilitate practical exchanges of experiences and perspectives from countries of origin, transit and destination, and help enhancing mutual understanding of approaches to migration-related challenges and opportunities. The EU is actively engaged in the Rabat, Khartoum, Budapest and Prague processes that cover the various migration routes to Europe. The Joint Valletta Action Plan continues to provide a useful framework for the EU's work on migration, notably though its principles of solidarity, shared responsibility and partnership and its comprehensive and balanced approach to migration.

The African Union – European Union Continent-to-Continent Dialogue on Migration and Mobility was launched at the 5th AU-EU Summit in Abidjan in November 2017. The continental dialogue expands the exchange of best practices and sharing of information to the African continent as a whole.

At mulitalteral level the EU works closely with key UN agencies, such as the UN Agency for Refugees adopted at the UNGA Summit in 2016, UNHCR, the International Organisation for Migration, IOM or the UN Office on Drugs and Crime, UNODC.

Migration and Development

The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development recognises that migration is a powerful driver of sustainable development, for migrants and their communities.

The 7th target of the 10th Sustainable Development Goal (SDG10) – target 10.7 – prescribes “to facilitate orderly, safe, regular and responsible migration and mobility of people, including through the implementation of planned and well-managed migration policies”.

At EU level, the European Consensus on Development (2017) mirrors the UN 2030 Agenda and acknowledges both the challenges of migration and the opportunities it brings for inclusive growth and sustainable development when well-managed.

Through remittances migrants make major contributions to development and poverty reduction at home. Remittances amounted to USD 540 billion globally in 2020, surpassing Foreign Direct Investments (USD 259 billion) and overseas development assistance (USD 179 billion). Remittance flows tend to be stable and resilient during crises. During the Covid-19 epidemic, for instance, they fell by only 1.6%. The EU is working with partners to promote cheap, fast and reliable remittance transfers in line with SDG 10.c.

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    Vocational Skills Training: Woman teaching new skills

    Vocational Skills Training Centre in Africa. © Shutterstock

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    Protection civil et aide humanitare de l'Union Europeene

    EU Assistance to Malian refugees at Mbera camp. © EC - Audiovisual Service


The 1951 Convention relating to the Status of Refugees (Geneva Convention) provides the international legal framework for refugee protection. It recognises that a satisfactory solution to refugee situations requires international cooperation. Against this background, the 2019 UNHCR Global Compact on Refugees intends to provide a basis for predictable and equitable burden- and responsibility-sharing among all United Nations Member States, together with other relevant stakeholders. As of June 2021 and according to UNHCR, there were 20.7 million refugees all over the world, originating from countries such as Syria, Venezuela, Afghanistan or South Sudan. The vast majority of refugees in the world are hosted in developing countries. The Russian invasion of Ukraine has triggered the largest and fastest evolving refugee crisis in Europe since World War II.

The Global Compact emanates from fundamental principles of humanity and international solidarity, and seeks to operationalise the principles of burden- and responsibility-sharing to better protect and assist refugees and support host countries and communities. It is grounded in the international refugee protection regime, centred on the cardinal principle of non-refoulement. The EU has actively contributed to the development of the Compact and is engaged in its practical implementation.

The EU is committed to meeting this common global challenge in a spirit of partnership and  will continue to work on strengthening protection systems, protection capacities, and access to international protection within Europe and in partner countries hosting refugees.

Together with its Member States, the EU is the leading donor to support responses to major refugee crisis, bringing together humanitarian and development efforts through the EU policy on forced displacement. The Commission Communication ‘Lives in dignity’ (2016) states our commitment to include forced displacement in our development programming and enhance the shared responsibility of this issue at global level. In 2020, the EU allocated most of its humanitarian budget of EUR 900 million to address the needs of refugees, IDPs and their host communities.

The EU has given considerable support to refugee hosting countries, notably to the countries affected by the Syria crisis through dedicated instruments such as the EU's Facility for Refugees in Turkey and the EU Regional Trust Fund in Response to the Syrian crisis. In addition, the humanitarian evacuation of people from Libya to Emergency Transit Mechanisms in Niger and Rwanda for onward resettlement helps the most vulnerable. Support for refugees is also channelled through the EU Trust Fund Africa. Most recently, in the context of the situation in Ukraine, an emergency package of €500 million to deal with the humanitarian consequences of the crisis has been allocated. Humanitarian aid will cover food, water, healthcare, shelter and help cover people's basic needs.

Legal Pathways

Customs border


Legal migration brings considerable benefit to our society and the economy and has a key role to play in driving economic development in the long term and in addressing current and future demographic challenges in the EU. Legal pathways for migration are also an essential component of a comprehensive and holistic approach to migration. The New Pact on Migration and Asylum proposed Talent Partnerships with the aim to provide a comprehensive policy framework, as well as funding support to boost mutually beneficial international mobility based on better matching of labour market needs and skills between the EU and partner countries.

The Talent Partnerships were launched on 11 June 2021. They  aim to provide a comprehensive policy framework, as well as funding support to boost mutually beneficial international mobility based on better matching of labour market needs and skills between the EU and partner countries. They will be open to students, graduates and skilled workers.

Resettlement provides protection to the most vulnerable refugees by admitting theminto an EU country where they will be able to access protection. It is a safe and legal alternative to irregular journeys and a demonstration of European solidarity with non-EU countries hosting large numbers of persons fleeing war or persecution. Resettlement is based on referrals by the UNHCR. Since 2015, three successful EU-sponsored resettlement schemes have helped almost 75,000 of the most vulnerable people in need of international protection find shelter in the EU.

Return, Readmission and Sustainable Reintegration

Ylva Johansson visiting a reintegration project in Tunisia


An effective and well-managed return system is an essential part of a comprehensive migration and asylum policy. Voluntary returns in particular bring on a number of benefits in terms of efficiency and sustainability. To that end, the Commissions presented a new strategy on voluntary return and reintegration in April 2021, which supports the successful implementation of key objectives of the New Pact and is part of the comprehensive migration partnerships with partner countries.

The EU provides support to the sustainable reintegration of returnees taking into account the social, psychosocial and economic aspects of the person's return to the community of origin. Sustainable reintegration aims at supporting not only individuals, but also the structures and services that make reintegration possible in the country of return, such as job search, education and training. This in turn benefits the whole community, and could help address the reasons that would have led the migrants to leave in the first place.

To facilitate the readmission of third country nationals, the EU has concluded legally binding Readmission Agreements with 18 partner countries. They set out clear obligations and procedures for the authorities of the partner country and of EU Member States as to when and how to readmit people. In addition, legally non-binding readmission arrangements have been concluded with six countries. 


Under the 2021-2028 programming framework the EU’s external financing instruments, for the first time, explicitly target support towards migration. The NDICI-Global Europe Regulation will be a key tool to support the implementation of the New Pact on Migration and Asylum stressing the importance of building comprehensive, mutually beneficial partnerships with third countries on migration in line with the priorities for external cooperation: protecting those in need and supporting host countries; building economic opportunities and addressing root causes of irregular migration; forging partnerships to strengthen migration governance and management; fostering cooperation on readmission and reintegration; and developing legal pathways to Europe.

Indicatively 10 % of the financial envelope for the NDICI-Global Europa Instrument will be dedicated to actions supporting management and governance of migration and forced displacement within the objectives of the Instrument. The target also includes actions to address the root causes of irregular migration and forced displacement when they directly target specific challenges related to migration and forced displacement.

Migration funding may be complemented from other Instruments such as e.g. Pre-Accession Assistance (IPA III).