Levels of irregular migration detected into the European Union via the Union’s external borders fell to their lowest since 2013, that’s according to preliminary data for 2019 published by Frontex, the European Border and Coastal Guard Agency.
Figures show a 6% fall in irregular border crossings to just over 139,000. The figure is 92% below the record number set in 2015.
The drop in levels was due to a reduction in the number of people reaching European shores via the Central and Western Mediterranean routes.
According to a statement issued by Frontex, ‘The number of irregular migrants crossing the Central Mediterranean fell roughly 41% to around 14,000. Nationals of Tunisia and Sudan accounted for the largest share of detections on this route.’
Meanwhile, the number of irregular migrants detected in the Western Mediterranean dropped approximately 58% to around 24,000, with Moroccans and Algerians making up the largest percentage.
Despite the downturn in irregular migrants entering the EU via the Central and Western Mediterranean routes, numbers entering the EU via the Eastern Mediterranean and the Western Balkans continued to grow.
Irregular migration via the Eastern Mediterranean increased by approximately 46% on 2018 figures with 82,000 irregular migrants entering the EU by this route.
The Frontex statement says ‘Around 14,000 irregular crossings were detected at the EU’s borders on the Western Balkan route last year – more than double the 2018 figure.’
Information was also released relating to the nationalities and genders of the migrants.
The statement said, ‘Afghans were the main nationality of newly arrived irregular migrants in 2019, representing almost a quarter of all arrivals.’
Meanwhile, there appears to have been an increase in the number of female migrants with Frontex reporting that ‘The most recent available data also suggest a higher percentage of women among the newly arrived migrants in 2019. In the first ten months of last year, around 23% of migrants were women compared with 19% in 2018.’
Publication of the data was followed by two further tragedies involving the deaths of migrants off the Turkish coast. Turkey has received an influx of migrants, primarily from Syria, since the start of the current migrant crisis, many of them seeking to reach the EU via Greece.
Turkish state news agency Anadolu reported the death of 11 asylum seekers in the Aegean Sea when their vessel sank off the Turkish coast on Saturday. Included amongst the dead are 8 children.
12 people were reported dead on Saturday morning in a separate incident also in the Aegean, after another boat sank near the Greek island of Paxos.
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