2 Nov 2015

Refugees and migrants travel two billion miles in 2015

Migrants and refugees travelling to Europe to apply for asylum in 2015 have collectively travelled two billion miles, Channel 4 News can reveal.

This analysis demonstrates for the first time the vast distances people have travelled to get to Europe.

An interactive video story released by Channel 4 News called Two Billion Miles allows viewers to follow in the footsteps of migrants and refugees as they face the hardships of months on the road.

The user-led story demonstrates the reality of the migrant experience, as they flee from terror and war, starting from one of six locations: Sinjar in Iraq, three cities in Syria, Somalia and Eritrea.

In October, a record 218,394 migrants and refugees arrived in Europe by sea.

“That makes it the highest total for any month to date and roughly the same as the entire total for 2014,” said Adrian Edwards, a spokesman for United Nations refugee agency UNHCR.

The two billion miles (2,018,709,684 miles) travelled by those who sought asylum does not include those still on the road, or unregistered and economic migrants.

The figure is a conservative estimate based on asylum claims recorded by the agency Eurostat – who have recorded more than 700,000 asylum claims so far this year, and by plotting the distance from their country of origin to their destination based on the fastest overland route.

The number is the equivalent of every person in the UK walking a marathon – and then some, as well as the same as 10 return trips to the sun. With the number of new arrivals in Greece at the end of last month at the highest they’ve been all year – at 9,000 per day – the distance will far exceed two billion miles by the end of the year.

More than 180,000 Syrians have sought asylum in Europe alone, with their collective journeys totally more than 400 million miles.

There have been just under 100 million miles travelled by those seeking asylum to the UK, while those hoping to settle in Germany have covered over 600 million miles between them.

Channel 4 News editor, Ben de Pear, said: “For two years now we have been covering the mass migration of people to Europe; the worst humanitarian crisis on the continent since World War II.

“We have thought long and hard to try and devise a way to properly represent the scale of displaced people and refugees in this current wave of migration, portray the many different routes and the millions of individual journeys, a tiny fraction of which we have been able to film. This interactive pulls all this together in an attempt to make sense of the magnitude of this crisis by following it in their footsteps.”