Approximately 330,000 illegal border-crossings into the European Union were recorded in 2022, the highest figure since the migration crisis of 2016 and an increase of 64 percent from the previous year, according to the latest data from EU border agency Frontex.
The Western Balkan migratory route, which sees migrants travel through Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and Serbia to reach the European Union’s external border at Hungary, overtook the Central Mediterranean route as the most-used pathway by illegal migrants. More than 145,000 illegal migrants were detected using the route last year, a significant increase of 136 percent over 2021.
Migrants using this route last year were most commonly from Syria, Afghanistan, Turkey, and Tunisia.
Croatia’s membership of the European Union’s borderless Schengen Area, which came into effect on Jan. 1, 2023, will inevitably lead to greater challenges in this region, extending the length of the EU’s external border considerably.
A total of 102,529 migrants were detected attempting to breach the EU border in the Central Mediterranean region to reach Italy, an increase of 51 percent over 2021. Migrants from Egypt, Tunisia, Bangladesh, and Syria were most commonly reported to be active on this route.
The Eastern Mediterranean was the third-most-used route by illegal migrants, primarily traveling through Turkey into Greece. Almost 43,000, primarily Syrians, Afghans, Nigerians, and Congolese, followed this route last year — an increase of 108 percent over 2021.
Decreases in activity were reported in the three other designated routes acknowledged by Frontex. The Western Mediterranean route into Spain saw 14,582 illegal migrants, down 21 percent; the Western African route to the Spanish Canary Islands recorded 15,462 illegal border-crossings, down 31 percent; and the Eastern Land Border into Poland, Lithuania, and Latvia saw 6,127 illegal migrants, down 25 percent over 2021.
Meanwhile, a 37 percent increase was recorded in exits from the Schengen Area towards the U.K. where 71,081 individuals were detected.
The 13 million Ukrainian refugees recorded entering the EU via its external land borders between Feb. 24 and the end of the year are not included in the figures, Frontex confirmed.
More than 80 percent of illegal migrants detected were adult men.
“Women accounted for fewer than one in ten of the detections, while the share of reported minors fell slightly to around 9 percent of all detections,” Frontex stated in a press release on Friday.
The EU border agency stressed that the figures were based on preliminary figures, admitting “the final figures may be higher due to delayed reporting.”
The statistics on illegal border-crossings are separate from the number of asylum applications made across Europe, which perhaps gives a more informed view of the crisis enveloping the continent.
Almost 790,000 asylum applications were made in the EU between January and October last year, according to EU Agency for Asylum chief Nina Gregori. This represents an increase of 54 percent compared to the same period in 2021 and does not include the temporary protection afforded to Ukrainians.
“It’s pretty clear that the growing number of applications will continue for the foreseeable future,” Gregori said in December, with asylum applications in excess of 100,000 each month in the latter months of the year.