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Large Increase in Irregular Migration Attempts at EU Borders

The most significant increases were reported on the Central Mediterranean and Western Balkan routes.

The number of illegal border crossings at the European Union’s external borders in the first nine months of 2021 rose 68% to 133,900, according to preliminary calculations presented by Frontex – the European border and coast guard agency. This is also 47% more than in 2019 before the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic when the number of illegal border crossings amounted to 91,000.

In September alone, there were 23,630 illegal border crossings on Europe’s main migratory routes, 40% more than in 2020 when pandemic-related border restrictions were in place. It is also an increase of 17% compared with September 2019.

The most significant increases were reported on the Central Mediterranean and Western Balkan routes.

Eastern Borders

At the EU’s Eastern borders, the numbers of illegal border crossings reached almost 6,200 between January and September.

The border between Lithuania and Belarus continues to be the most affected with 4,170 crossings. The figures started to decrease after reaching a historic high in July (2,900 monthly arrivals). In September, Lithuanian authorities registered 20 irregular arrivals.

Most migrants detected on this border section came from Iraq, Afghanistan and Syria.

Poland saw 1,380 illegal crossings at its border with Belarus from January until September this year, with most migrants coming from Iraq, Afghanistan and Russia. In September, Polish authorities registered 28 illegal border crossings.

Western Balkans

In the first three quarters of 2021, there were about 40,200 illegal border crossings on the Western Balkan route, or 117% more compared to the same period of last year. In September alone, the route saw 10,400 illegal crossings, a 112% increase compared with September 2020. 

The main nationalities of migrants detected on this route were nationals of Syria, Afghanistan and Morocco.

Central Mediterranean

About 47,620 illegal border crossings were registered in the first nine months of the year on the Central Mediterranean route. This is an 87% rise compared to the same period of last year.

In September, there were 5,670 illegal border crossings, 33% more than in the same month last year. Most migrants came from Tunisia, Bangladesh and Egypt.

Western Mediterranean

Between January and September, 14,100 illegal border crossings were detected on the Western Mediterranean route, 22% more than last year. In September, the number of detections amounted to 3,487, about 20% more than September 2020.

Most migrants on this route came from Algeria, Morocco and from sub-Saharan Africa.

Eastern Mediterranean

The Eastern Mediterranean was the only route into the EU that saw a drop in detections of illegal border crossings. There were 13,190 detections between January and September, down 17% from the same period of last year.

In September 2021, 1,590 illegal crossings were registered on this route, 18% more than last year.

Cyprus accounted for nearly 50% of all arrivals this year and about 60% in September.

Most migrants came from Syria, Turkey, Afghanistan and Congo (DRC).

Western African

11,700 detections of illegal border crossings were registered on the Western African route in the first nine months of this year, 93% more than a year ago. In September, there were 2,353 detections, roughly in line with the same period of 2020. The main nationalities of migrants on this route included Sub-Saharan Africans and Moroccans.

Read more at Frontex

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