The first quarter of 2022 was the busiest in terms of irregular border crossings at the European Union’s external borders since the migratory crisis in 2016, according to Frontex preliminary data on Tuesday.
According to a Frontex press release, irregular migration also increased in the Eastern Mediterranean, with this being attributed to a significant degree to an increase in irregular arrivals to Cyprus during the first three months of the year.
Preliminary calculations by Frontex show that more than 40,300 illegal crossings were detected between January and March of 2022, 57% more than a year ago, on all EU external borders..
Almost half of these irregular arrivals were recorded at the Western Balkans migratory route. The largest increase compared to last year was reported on the EU’s eastern land border due to the refugee flows caused by the Russian invasion of Ukraine. However, most Ukrainian refugees crossed into the EU through legal border crossings.
During the month of March nearly 11,700 irregular migrants were recorded at the EU external borders, 29% more than in the same month of 2021.
The Eastern Mediterranean route saw the number of arrivals of irregular migrants more than double during the first three months of the year to more than 7,000, which amounts to an increase of 132% compared to last year.
The significant increase was driven by the detections of illegal border crossings in Cyprus, which rose three-fold to over 5,100 (from 7,005 detections for the entirety of the Eastern Med route).
Specifically in March, the total number of migrants detected also doubled to nearly 3,250. The main nationalities detected were Nigerians and Congolese (Frontex does not distinguish between the Democratic Republic of the Congo and the Republic of the Congo).
As Frontex notes in its press release, refugees fleeing Ukraine and entering the EU through border crossing points are not part of the figures of illegal entries detected. Also, it is noted that the preliminary data presented in refer to the number of detections of irregular border-crossing at the external borders of the EU, since the same person may attempt to cross the border several times in different locations at the external border.
The Western Balkan route accounted for nearly half of all illegal border crossings in the first three months of this year. The total figure for the January-March period increased by 115% compared to last year, to over 18,300.
In the month of March, the number of irregular migrants detected in the region nearly tripled to 6,650. The main nationalities detected were Syrian and Afghani.
The number of detections on the Western African route rose 70% in the first quarter to around 5,850, even though the total for the month of March alone fell by two-thirds compared to a year ago to 360. The main nationalities detected were Moroccan and Guinean.
In the first quarter of the year, the Eastern Land Border saw the largest increase (714% compared to last year) among the migratory routes. This was due to some Ukrainian citizens seeking to cross the border illegally between border crossing points, although a vast majority of Ukrainians arrived legally through regular border crossing points. The total number of detections rose seven-fold to over 950.
In the month of March alone, the number of detections of illegal border crossings in the region rose 12-fold to over 600.
Finally, the number of irregular migrants seeking to cross the Channel towards the UK so far this year nearly tripled from a year ago to more than nearly 8 900, half of them were prevented of departure and half were rescued by British authorities.