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Research and innovation

Migration and mobility

Research facilitated by the Commission in this area, funded projects and publications. 

Horizon migration research

This page is where information and easy access to all of our Horizon migration research projects can be found.

EU funded research on migration has grown steadily since 1994, but it was with the framework programme of Horizon 2020 that it took centre stage. The EU dedicated €100 million to research on migration and mobility after taking stock of the research needs emerging from new challenges that unfolded across Europe since 2014,

This lead to 41 state-of-the-art projects, pushing conceptual boundaries and developing truly international research, with partners and case studies from all across Europe and many different regions in the world.

We fund international research partnerships on migration across the world, with research on 34 countries in Africa, Asia, the Middle East and Latin America.

Horizon Europe now continues to fund key research on migration and mobility, filling the knowledge gaps which are most pressing for policymakers across the EU.

As of 2024, Horizon Europe has allocated more than €35 million to research topics such as skilled migration, irregular migration, decision making processes of aspiring migrants, skilled and returns and readmissions.

Policy background

The past decade has confirmed the importance of human mobility for countries and societies across the globe. Even more so, it became central in political debates across the EU.

Migration is naturally part of the EU, of its societies, its regional integration and its diversity. In 2021 alone, 2.3 million migrants legally arrived in Europe, whiles as of 1 January 2022 there were 23.8 million non-EU citizens residing in the EU. This legal movement of people shows how many opportunities may arise from migration when it is well managed, and how much this is now part of how are societies are shaped.

However, the past decade has also seen an increase in irregular migration in and around the EU, as well an increased flows of individuals seeking asylum, escaping from dire situations unfolding in the EU’s neighbourhood and beyond. In light of all this, new dynamics and challenges unveiled complexities of migration, which need to be better understood in order to better govern it.

This contributed to financing a comprehensive migration research agenda, including migration governance, asylum and forced displacement, migration and development nexus, climate change and migration, migrant integration, skilled migration, irregular migration, narratives and discourses on migration, migration forecasting and modelling.


New Pact on Migration and Asylum

Against this backdrop, the EU introduced the New Pact on Migration and Asylum in September 2020, aiming to address these complexities with a comprehensive approach to migration management.

The Pact seeks to strike a balance between responsibility and solidarity among Member States and is designed to manage and normalise migration for the long term, providing certainty, clarity and decent conditions for people arriving in the EU.

It also establishes a common approach to migration and asylum that is based on solidarity, responsibility, and respect for human rights. Insights from migration research will be pivotal in shaping policies that reflect the realities of migration, promote integration, and leverage the benefits of migration for EU societies, aligning with the EU's commitment to evidence-based policymaking.

1. Legal migration, attracting skills and talents

Emphasising the safety and structure provided by legal migration routes, this section explores the EU's dedication to welcoming individuals who bring new skills and talents. By navigating these pathways, migrants are afforded protection and rights, enriching European communities both socially and economically. Here, we examine the frameworks that support legal and skilled migration, highlighting how they serve as a foundation for dynamic economic growth and cultural diversity.


2. Integration and inclusion

Upon their arrival, migrants embark on a new journey, one that leads toward successful integration and inclusion within European societies. This section delves into the strategic efforts to ensure a smooth transition.

EU Migration research provide migrants with the knowledge to navigate their rights, access essential services, and integrate into society. Efforts extend to supporting children and young people, in particular, to grow and thrive in their new environment.

Areas like skills recognition, labor market integration, social cohesion of migrants in rural, urban, and shrinking areas, innovative housing solutions and community-building practices complete the landscape of EU migration research on integration and inclusion.


3. Migration governance (solidarity and responsibility), and asylum 

The New Pact on Migration and Asylum, introduced by the EU in 2020, aims to establish a more fair and efficient asylum system, emphasising solidarity among Member States. Under this area, the principles of solidarity and responsibility that guide the EU’s approach to asylum seekers and refugees are highlighted, focusing on achieving fair and efficient asylum processes across Member States.


4. Irregular migration and human rights

Irregular migration, a complex and often invisible facet of global movement, poses unique challenges for measurement, management, and humanitarian response. Individuals embarking on irregular migration routes frequently find themselves in precarious situations, even after their arrival to the EU and are vulnerable to exploitation and deprived of basic protections.

This section focuses on the research conducted to understand and quantify this phenomenon comprehensively. It delves into the myriad challenges faced by irregular migrants, aims to unravel the root causes of their journeys, and explores strategies to enhance their living conditions. Through dedicated study and analysis, the EU is committed to addressing the multifaceted aspects of irregular migration, ensuring efforts are grounded in empathy and a deep understanding of the human stories behind the statistics.


5. Enhanced border management and security

The EU's commitment to open yet secure borders reflects a modern approach to migration, blending effective management with a steadfast dedication to human rights. Horizon Europe is at the forefront of developing methods that ensure border security that does not compromise the rights of individuals.

By focusing on smart, ethical border management solutions, the EU sets a global standard for respecting human rights. This segment showcases the advancements in innovation for border security, illustrating the EU’s efforts to maintain border integrity while upholding human rights standards.

6. Return, readmission, and reintegration

In recent years, the EU has intensified its cooperation with third countries to manage returns effectively, with readmission agreements and arrangements being key components of its migration policy. In this area, the focus is on the EU’s collaborative efforts with non-EU countries to ensure effective return, readmission, and reintegration of migrants, underlining the value of sustainable solutions and partnerships.


7. Emerging challenges and opportunities in migration

EU migration research transcends the immediate objective of supporting policy implementation, extending its focus to enhancing preparedness for emerging and future challenges. It serves a dual purpose: amplifying the effectiveness of current EU policies while also laying the groundwork to navigate uncharted territories that are only beginning to shape migration trends.

This section articulates the role of research in foreseeing and crafting policies to address future challenges such as the role of climate change on migration, environmental displacements, health crises, urbanization challenges, and the evolving gender dynamics in migration.