Financial Risks

Are you wondering how much it costs to reach Europe when you don’t have the required visa? The price of an irregular journey to a European country is not fixed. The amount you pay will depend on several factors, such as the route you take, the smugglers you use and the type of transport.

Usually migrants set off on a journey with a price in mind, but as they travel, the amount of money they owe increases. This might happen, for example, because kidnappers demand a ransom or migrants get sick and have to pay for medical assistance.

If you’re considering migrating irregularly to Europe, reading about the financial costs could help you make a more informed decision about your future.

Many migrants are unaware of how much the journey to Europe will cost. Smugglers tell migrants that the route to Europe is safe and cheap, and promise migrants that they will find job opportunities in transit countries. But the reality is often different.

Smugglers take advantage of migrants vulnerability and often ask for more money on the journey to pay for food and accommodation costs or to bribe officials. In some cases, migrants are held hostage and forced to pay ransom money in exchange for their freedom.

Pay-as-you-go systems, where migrants pay for one leg of the journey at a time, are becoming more popular. These schemes make migrants even more vulnerable to abuse or extortion.

Despite having no guarantee that they will make it safely to their desired destination, many migrants take the risk and pay the costs. They often end up having to borrow from family members, or sell their homes or businesses.

Potential migrants from West Africa have told The Migrant Project that they thought the journey would cost around USD 1,000, while others estimated the price would be between USD 4,000 to 6,000. These estimates fall short of the reality in many cases. In fact, some Nigerian migrants have reported paying up to USD 24,000.

In an interview with The Migrant Project, East African migrants said they had paid up to USD 5,400 to reach Europe from the Horn of Africa. It costs around USD 1,600 to travel from Ethiopia to Sudan; then another USD 1,600 to be smuggled from Sudan to Libya; and finally, up to USD 2,200 to cross the Mediterranean.

According to a study by the International Organization for Migration (IOM), the average price of a journey from Iraq to Europe in 2015 was USD 7,000 per person. However, some migrants have told The Migrant Project that they ended up paying up to USD 35,000.

Migrants revealed to The Migrant Project that they had paid between USD 6,000 and USD 10,000 for the trip from Afghanistan to Europe. Many migrants pay for the journey by borrowing from others or selling their property or businesses.

In an interview with The Migrant Project, a Nigerian migrant said the journey across the Mediterranean sea from Libya to Europe can cost up to USD 3,000. After making it all the way to Libya, he told The Migrant Project that he had to return home because he couldn’t afford to pay the smugglers for the sea crossing.

If migrants reach European shores, they will most likely have to continue to travel to reach their final destination. Travelling in Europe is expensive. For example, one migrant told The Migrant Project that smugglers charge around USD 5,000 to travel from Calais in France to the United Kingdom.

Living costs around Europe vary considerably, but they are generally higher than in the home countries of migrants. Unemployment among irregular migrants in European countries is also high, so it’s difficult to pay off debts while covering living costs. Although migrants with a legal status may benefit from state support to access healthcare, education and housing, irregular migrants are not usually eligible for this assistance, thus unemployment amongst asylum seekers is high. This makes it very difficult to earn back the money spent on the trip. Even those who are successful in their application to remain have no guarantee of making back the money they spent getting there. 

Learn more about life in Europe as a migrant.

The unexpected high cost of the irregular journey to Europe means that many migrants have to return home even before they reach their final destination. Between January 2017 and May 2018, the IOM voluntary return programme helped more than 23,300 migrants return home from Libya.

Migrants who have already spent large sums of money on the journey are also choosing to return to their home countries. In 2017, for example, around 30,000 individuals from various countries returned home voluntarily from Germany. This happens because migrants are often unaware of the realities of life in Europe before they embark on their journey.

Migrants returning to their home countries after failed irregular migration attempts face a number of challenges. Some migrants feel shame and regret for having wasted time and money. Others face anger from their families and communities. Migrants who have spent several years abroad sometimes struggle to adapt to life in their home countries again.

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