Taking their chances on fishing boats, dinghies and canoes, every year thousands of men, women and children drown in a desperate bid to reach Europe from Africa.
They cross from West Africa to the Spanish Canary Islands, from Morocco to southern Spain, from Libya to Malta and the Italian islands of Sicily and Lampedusa, and from Turkey to the islands of Greece.
Many more enter the European Union by land, via Turkey and the Balkans or from Ukraine and Belarus.
People entering Europe irregularly – without passports or visas – do so for a variety of reasons. In some cases, they are fleeing persecution, human rights violations and armed conflict and can, therefore, be considered as refugees who need special protection. More often, they are migrants trying to escape poverty and unemployment.
In order to help governments respond to some of the challenges posed by mixed movements of refugees and migrants in a coherent and practical way, UNHCR has started implementing a 10-point plan which sets out key areas in which action is required in countries of origin, transit and destination.
Countries in the Western Balkans region continue to struggle with the consequences of the massive forced population movements within the region of the early 1990s.