Last year, Frontex (the EU agency for the cooperation of national border guards) saw an exponential increase of illegal border crossings.
An increase in Frontex spottings of illegal migrants does not necessarily imply there are more. Maybe Frontex got better at doing its job. But by all accounts there was a net increase in migration to Europe in 2015.
How exceptional is the situation?
Europe has seen waves of asylum seekers before. The total number declined between the beginning of the 90's and 2013. It has increased again since. The UNHCR data does not cover 2015 but the trend is towards more asylum applications.
The crisis has more to do with the European Union, and its patchwork of border treaties, than the actual number of migrants.
The Schengen agreement creates a borderless area between signatory countries.
The Dublin Regulation determines which country is responsible for arriving asylum seekers.
Due to the big arrivals of migrants to Hungary, the country decided on the 23rd of June 2015 that it would stop accepting returned asylum seekers.
Migrants do not necessarily wish to be registered in the first country, while said country does not always wish to keep them. Countries not keen on registering migrants let them pass to the next, leaving that country with the responsibility to register them. The whole logic behind the Dublin Regulation collapses.
This in turn led some Schengen countries to reintroduce border controls, possibly compromising that treaty too.
European border agreements put a lot of responsibility on countries along the outer borders. In September 2015, as the situation in Greece, Italy and Hungary was becoming uncontrollable, the European Commission proposed "provisional measures" to reallocate a bit more than 100'000 asylum seekers to other countries.
The calculation to decide the quota for each country is based on four indicators.
The proposal was accepted by the European Parliament.
Could quotas become a permanent solution? Migrants aspirations and different countries' approaches to the question may compromise such calculations.
Imposing quotas of asylum seekers on potentially unwilling European citizens is akin to political suicide. The only solution all member countries could agree on is to outsource the problem to the near neighborhood, Turkey for instance.
Looking a bit further than the direct neighbors, where do last years asylum seekers come from?
The biggest origin of asylum applicants is the civil war in Syria. Where do Syrian refugees go?
Most fleeing Syrians have found shelter in neighboring countries, only a small part has made it to Europe.
Financiers of rebel groups, as well as supporters of the current government, have not been as interested in helping fleeing Syrians as they are in "regime change" or assisting the current regime.
The so called "migrant crisis" is above all an issue of the incoherence of the European Union. Without a common geopolitical vision and strategy, the EU has no chance of solving the problem at its root. Let alone force countries involved in Syria to take care of the problems they create.