Irregular migrant flow to Europe increased by 26 per cent in the first quarter of 2023, according to the European Border Security Agency, Anadolu News Agency reports.
“In the first three months of 2023, the number of irregular border crossings reported by national authorities increased to 54,000, 26 per cent more than in the same period last year,” the European Border and Coast Guard Agency (Frontex) in a statement on Wednesday.
The central Mediterranean and Western Balkan routes remain the most active, it said, adding that most migrants come from Syria, Ivory Coast and Guinea.
The Agency said that, in March alone, more than 22,500 irregular border crossings were detected at the EU’s external borders, 60 per cent more than a year ago.
The central Mediterranean, from Sub-Saharan Africa to Italy, was the most active route with some 28,000 crossings, three times the number from a year ago. “In March, the total detections on this route increased almost nine-fold, compared to last year to more than 13,000,” the Agency said.
“Organised crime groups took advantage of better weather and political volatility in some countries of departure to try to smuggle as many migrants as possible across the Central Mediterranean from Tunisia and Libya.”
The Western Balkans route, meanwhile, was the second most active with some 15,000 crossings in the said period, which are fewer than last year.
The number of irregular crossings in the English Channel towards the UK also fell 15 per cent from a year ago to 7,400.
The decline has been attributed to the Balkan region’s visa-policy alignments with the EU, and unfavourable sea conditions in the Channel.
Migration is a contentious issue in Europe, where governments have increased control to prevent asylum seekers from reaching their borders.