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Frontex: Illegal migration to EU in 2023

The European Border and Coast Guard Agency (Frontex) has published statistics regarding attempts to illegally cross the external borders of the EU in December of the previous year and throughout the entire year 2023.

According to data published on Tuesday, January 16th, by the European Border and Coast Guard Agency (Frontex), the number of attempts to illegally cross the external borders of the European Union in 2023 increased by 17% compared to the previous year, reaching approximately 380,000. This is the highest total since 2016, according to preliminary estimates, and it demonstrates a consistent upward trend over the past three years.

Photos and Images: Frontex

The central part of the Mediterranean Sea basin remains the most active migration route to the EU – in 2023, 2 out of 5 illegal crossings occurred in this region (41%), followed by the route through the Western Balkans (26%) and the eastern part of the Mediterranean Sea basin (16%).

The largest percentage of illegal migrants in the past year were Syrians, with over 100,000 attempts to cross the external borders of the EU by individuals of this nationality. They were followed by Guineans and Afghans. Citizens of these three countries accounted for 37% of all nationalities among all recorded cases. There has been a noticeable increase in the number of migrants from West Africa, making up 47% of all detections.

According to statistical data, last year, women accounted for 10% of the total number of all illegal migrants, while children made up another 10%. It should be noted that the number of unaccompanied minor migrants increased by 28% compared to the previous year and in 2023 exceeded 20,000.

The numbers presented today show the evolving challenges we face in managing the external borders of the EU, said Hans Leijtens, the Executive Director of Frontex. We are still committed to ensuring the security and integrity of the EU borders. Equally important is addressing the humanitarian aspects of migration. These figures represent not only statistics but also real people.

2,500 Frontex permanent staff and personnel participate in various operations supporting EU member states and neighboring countries in protecting the external borders of the EU and combating organized crime, such as migrant smuggling, human trafficking, and terrorism.

The central part of the Mediterranean Sea basin remained the most active route leading to the EU in the past year, and the border services of EU member states reported a total of 157,479 detected cases (in December alone, there were 4,742 cases, which represents a 49% monthly increase compared to 2022). The majority of those detained were citizens of Guinea, Tunisia, and Ivory Coast.

On the route through the eastern part of the Mediterranean Sea basin, there were 6,290 attempts to illegally cross the border in December (60,073 in total throughout 2023), which is a 55% increase compared to the previous year. The majority of those detained were citizens of Syria, Afghanistan, and Palestine.

On the route through the western part of the Mediterranean Sea basin, there were 1,818 attempts to illegally cross the border in December (16,915 in total throughout 2023), which is 12% more than in the previous year. The majority of those detained were citizens of Morocco, Algeria, and Syria.

In 2023, on the Western Balkans route, there was the largest annual decrease among all major migration routes to the EU, by 31% (1,091 cases in December and 99,068 cases throughout the year), largely due to a stricter visa policy. The majority of those detained were citizens of Syria, Turkey, and Afghanistan.

On the route from West Africa, there were 4,973 attempts to illegally cross the border in December (40,403 since the beginning of 2023), which is a 161% increase compared to the previous year. The majority of those detained were citizens of Senegal, Morocco, and Mali.

The number of illegal crossings through the English Channel towards the United Kingdom in December was 3,308, making the total number since the beginning of 2023 reach 62,047, which is 12% less than during the same period last year. The majority of those detained were citizens of Afghanistan, Iraq, and Syria.

Lastly, it’s worth mentioning that for the eastern border of the EU (Poland, Lithuania, and Latvia with Belarus, and Poland with Ukraine), there were 94 attempts to breach it in December and a total of 5,608 attempts from January to December. This represents a 12% decrease compared to the same period in the previous year. The majority of those detained were citizens of Ukraine, Afghanistan, and Syria.

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