By Andrea Terlizzi (UNIFI)

As part of WP1, the UNIFI team has created a dataset providing economic, socio-political, cultural and legal indicators that identify and measure –  on a comparative basis – those contextual factors that have a beneficial or inhibiting impact on responses to mass migration in RESPOND countries. In particular, the dataset comprises a set of macro-level indicators measuring the socio-economic, political and institutional context of migration, and micro-level indicators addressing ordinary citizens’ subjective attitudes, behavior and perceptions about migration related-phenomena (e.g. perceived discrimination on ethnic grounds; immigration being bad or good for a country's economy; a country's cultural life being undermined or enriched by immigration).

Data have been retrieved from already existing sources – and in particular from the World Bank, IMF, OECD, ParlGov database, Eurostat, the Comparative Political Data Set at the University of Bern, the European Social Survey, Democracy Barometer, Eurobarometer, and Eurofound. The codebook displays the indicators with all the associated information, namely, a brief description of the variable, time period covered, missing countries and sources. The dataset is suited for carrying out cross-national, multilevel and pooled time series regression analyses.

Specifically, the dataset draws on data spanning the time period before and after the 2015 refugee crisis, namely 2011-2017, and covers eleven countries: Austria, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iraq, Italy, Lebanon, Poland, Sweden, Turkey and United Kingdom. For some countries – especially Iraq, Lebanon and Turkey – there have been problems in finding comparable data for several indicators. More data for these three countries can be retrieved from the respective country reports (elaborated for RESPOND research and available at In order to mitigate the problem of missing data for these countries regarding citizens’ subjective attitudes, additional data have been collected from the World Values Survey, which has been detected as being the most updated survey including Iraq, Lebanon and Turkey. Data for 2018 will be integrated in the dataset in the course of the overall research project.

The indicators are divided into five categories, which are all relevant to a comprehensive understanding of governments’ responses to migration: These are: (a) economic indicators (e.g., GDP growth, average annual wages, government debt and deficit); (b) social indicators (e.g. individuals at risk of poverty or social exclusion, education attainment, unemployment rate); (c) political and institutional indicators (e.g. changes in government, stability in government; freedom of religion, freedom of press);  (d) cultural (individual-level) indicators (e.g., quality of education system, satisfaction with democracy, trust in government, trust in parliament, attitudes towards the EU, individual well-being, attitudes towards migration); (e) legal indicators, that is, data on the enforcement of migration legislation (e.g., third-country nationals refused entry, third country nationals returned to the country of origin, decisions on asylum applications).

In order to contextualize migratory flows in the EU, it is important to understand the main drivers of population change: the natural population change and net migration. While the natural population change is the difference between the number of live births and deaths during a given year, net migration refers to the difference between the number of immigrants and the number of emigrants. Four out of eleven RESPOND countries (Germany, Greece, Hungary and Italy) present negative rates of natural change for the whole period under consideration. In 2017, deaths have outnumbered live births the most in Italy  – which registered the lowest birth rate in the EU –, followed by Germany, Hungary and Greece. On the contrary, in the same year there has been a natural increase – namely live births have outnumbered deaths – in Turkey, United Kingdom, Sweden and Austria. As for net migration, Austria, Germany, Italy, Sweden, and the United Kingdom show positive values – meaning that immigrants have outnumbered emigrants – for the whole period under study. The highest positive values have been registered in Italy in 2013 and Germany in 2015, while the largest negative values in Greece in 2012 and 2013. Migration is therefore a fundamental factor affecting population change. If we consider the European Union as a whole, since the mid-1980s net migration has increased and starting from the beginning of the 1990s the value of net migration has always been higher than that of natural change. Thus, during the past three decades net migration has constituted the main driver of population growth in the EU. This is a first, crucial element for a sound, evidence-based discussion of migration governance.

As for the international migrant stock in all RESPOND countries – namely, the percentage of individuals born in a country other than that in which they live (including refugees) –, data are reported for 2015. Lebanon presents the largest amount (34.1% of total population), followed by Austria (17.5%), Sweden (16.8%), Germany (14.9%), United Kingdom (13.2%), Greece (11.3%), Italy (9.7%), Hungary (4.6%), Turkey (3.8%), Poland (1.6%), and Iraq (1%). If we consider the refugee population only, in 2016 the country reporting the highest number of refugees in absolute terms is Turkey (2,869,379), followed by Lebanon (1,476,618), Germany (669,408), Iraq (261,882), Sweden (230,103), Italy (147,302), United Kingdom (118,913), Austria (93,182), Greece (46,381), Poland (11,703) and Hungary (4,691). With the exception of the United Kingdom, Poland and Hungary, where between 2011 and 2016 the number of refugees has decreased, in all the other countries there has been an increase. Turkey is by far the country that has registered the largest increase (+19737%, passing from about 14.000 to little less than 3 million), followed by Greece (+2849%), Iraq (+644%), Lebanon (+232%), Sweden (+166%), Italy (+154%), Austria (+98%) and Germany (+17%). However, not all these countries have experienced a constant growth in the number of refugees. Indeed, in Lebanon the number fell from 1,606,709 to 1,476,618 between 2013 and 2016, and in Germany it has dropped from 589,737 to 187,567 between 2012 and 2013.

Statistics on asylum applications are also crucial. In 2017, the total number of asylum applications from non-EU nationals amounted to 705,705, namely to approximately half the number registered in 2015 and 2016, when applications amounted to 1,322,825 and 1,260,910 respectively. Asylum applications reached their peaks in 2015 and 2016, when the EU has witnessed an unprecedented influx of refugees and migrants, most of them fleeing from war in Syria. All EU RESPOND countries experienced an increase in applications, with Germany displaying the highest peak in 2016 (745,155). In the same year, the second highest number of asylum applications has been recorded in Italy (122,960), followed by Greece (51,110), Austria (42,255), United Kingdom (39,735), Hungary (29,430), Sweden (28,790) and Poland (12,305).

Data are similar if we consider first time asylum applicants only. Indeed, after having peaked in 2015 and 2016 (approximately 1.2 million applications in the EU per year), the number of first time asylum applicants fell to 650,970 in 2017. Since a first-time applicant is a person who applied for asylum for the first time in a given country, this category excludes those who have already applied once and therefore more accurately reflects the number of newly arrived asylum seekers. Again, the peak has been reached in Germany in 2016 (722,265).

Numbers are very relevant in this field, where the discrepancy between reality and perceptions may be wide in several European countries. Therefore, anchoring further research and especially legislation and policies on real data is crucial for sound migration governance.

The Dataset and the codebook are published on this website as part of our Working Paper Series. Please click here to reach them.