Migrant irregular crossings into EU highest in six years

Migrant irregular crossings into EU highest in six years

Migrant irregular crossings into EU highest in six years

Irregular border crossings by migrants into the EU reached a new high in the first quarter of this year, according to Frontex, the EU’s border protection agency.

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Irregular border crossings by migrants into the EU reached a new high in the first quarter of this year, according to Frontex, the EU’s border protection agency.

 

The number of attempted crossings from the EU to the UK has nearly tripled since the same period last year, according to the report.

“The first quarter of this year was the busiest in terms of illegal border crossings at the EU’s external borders since the migratory crisis” of 2015-2016, when 1.3 million Syrians fleeing civil war sought refuge in Europe, Frontex said in a statement.

 

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The agency said there were 40,300 irregular crossings by migrants into the EU between January and end-March this year.

 

That was the highest figure for that period since 2016, when nearly 285,000 irregular entries were recorded, at the tail-end of the 2015-2016 inflow that was largely halted by a March 2016 deal between the EU and Turkey.

 

Irregular crossings after that deal dropped dramatically, and decreased further in 2020 and 2021 because of border restrictions due to the coronavirus pandemic.

 

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The agency said this year’s January-February-March tally was 57 percent higher than for the same period in 2021.

 

While the war in Ukraine that started in February this year has provoked Europe’s biggest migratory flow since World War II, Ukrainians with biometric passports can enter the EU without a visa.

 

The majority of the nearly four million Ukrainians who have entered the EU since the war therefore were not irregular entries.

 

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But Frontex said there were hundreds of Ukrainians who did “cross the border illegally between border crossing points”.

 

The biggest numbers of irregular crossings were detected coming from the Western Balkans, mostly entering the EU via Greece and Bulgaria. They accounted for around half of all irregular entries, with the main migrant nationalities being Syrian and Afghan.

 

Frontex said there was also a big rise in the number of irregular entries into the EU on what it calls the “Eastern Mediterranean Route”, meaning Greece, Cyprus and Bulgaria. The main nationalities there were Nigerians and Congolese.

 

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Cyprus in particular saw a three-fold increase in the number of irregular arrivals in the first three months of this year, with more than 5,000 of the 7,000 arrivals detected on the Eastern Mediterranean Route.

 

Most migrants irregularly entering the EU along its eastern and southern flanks aimed to move on to other EU countries, or to former EU member Britain.

 

The Channel route, from the EU to Britain, saw a 190 percent jump from early 2021, Frontex said.

 

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It said there were nearly 8,900 crossings, but that “half of them were prevented” at the moment of departure “and half were rescued by British authorities”.

“Land patrols and aerial surveillance activities detected 55 percent of departures” destined for the United Kingdom, according to the report.

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