Frontex, the agency responsible for protecting the European Union’s external borders, has reported that in the first 10 months of 2021 the number of illegal migrants trying to enter the bloc increased by 70 percent compared to the same period last year.
From January and October, some 160,000 illegal border crossings into the European Union were recorded, with close to 22,8000 illegal crossings taking place in October alone, Frontex announced in a press release last week.
According to the EU border agency, the largest increase in illegal crossings took place along the Central Mediterranean routes, in the Western Balkans, and on the bloc’s eastern flanks. Conversely, the number of illegal crossings in the Western Mediterranean dropped.
By far, the most illegal crossings took place along the Central Mediterranean route, where migrants tend to travel from North African countries like Libya and Tunisia to Italy. In the first ten months of this year, Frontex recorded 55,000 illegal crossings — most of which were carried out by Tunisian, Bangladeshi, and Egyptian migrants — along the Central Mediterranean route alone.
The second-largest uptick in illegal crossings took place along the Western Balkan route, which saw 48,500 crossings into the bloc this year, an increase of 140 percent year over year, and up 810 percent from 2019.
Frontex also noted that an increasing number of illegal migrants – most of whom come from Libya and other parts of North Africa — are making their way to Italy by boat from Turkey. The border agency called it a “significant development.”
Nearly 8,000 migrants — mostly Iraqi, Afghan, and Syrian nationals — managed to slip through border controls along the bloc’s eastern frontier, more than 15 times the number recorded in 2020.
The months-long migrant crisis at the Polish-Belarusian border has played a key role in the considerable uptick in illegal migrant entries along the EU’s eastern flank compared to previous years. Despite this, however, recorded illegal crossings into Poland and the Baltic countries are still quite low compared to other migratory routes.
In its report, Frontex noted that countries neighboring Belarus — namely Poland, Latvia, and Lithuania — have “significantly strengthened their border-control measures under exceptional states of energy.”
“While high-level frictions between the EU and the Belarusian regime continue,” the measures taken by the governments of Poland, Latvia, and Lithuania have successfully prevented the illegal movement of large numbers of people, Frontex reported.
Top officials in Poland and the European Union have repeatedly accused Lukashenko’s regime of using migrants to wage “hybrid warfare” in order to destabilize and punish the bloc for sanctions imposed on Belarus earlier this year, following phony elections.
Earlier this month, as Polish security forces grappled with repeated attempts by large numbers of migrant men to break through border defenses, Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki traveled to the border area and deemed the crisis to be the greatest attempt to destabilize Europe since the Cold War.
“From a distance, these events may look like an ordinary migration crisis, but they are not. This is a political crisis created for a special purpose. The objective is to destabilize the situation in Europe for the first time since the end of the Cold War, 30 years ago,” Morawiecki began.
“This is just the beginning. The dictators will not stop. I want to assure you, Poland will not yield to blackmail and will do everything to stop the evil threatening Europe.”