An officer patrolling for the European border patrol agency Frontex
An officer patrolling for the European border patrol agency Frontex

Europe is facing 'no burning crisis' of people crossing its external borders, according to the EU’s border and coastguard agency, Frontex. But despite a drop in arrivals, the agency says stronger border controls are needed.

The number of people entering the European Union irregularly fell for a third consecutive year in 2018 to 150,114, the head of Frontex, Fabrice Leggeri said on Wednesday.

"There is no burning crisis with the irregular crossings at external borders," Leggeri told a news conference in Brussels.

More people were stopped at the border: Frontex and member states stopped 191,000 people from crossing into the EU last year, up from 183,000 in 2017.

The number of people coming across the central Mediterranean, on the other hand, has dropped to the lowest since 2012, with migrants instead taking the eastern and western Mediterranean routes, Leggeri said.

Overall, unauthorized migrant crossings of the Mediterranean fell to 150,000 last year. The number leaving Libya and Tunisia dropped by 80 percent in 2018 to around 23,500 arrivals.

Spain: Migrants storm the fence from Morocco to reach the Spanish enclave of Ceuta | Photo: Reuters/Faro TV

'Still a pressure'

Despite the drop in total arrivals, Europe still faces pressure, Leggeri said. He added that Frontex still plans to boost its border controls, with more staff and improved technology.

Unauthorized migrant arrivals in Spain rose in 2018 by 160 percent to 57,000 crossings. The Frontex chief confirmed that the western Mediterranean became the "route number one" to the EU in terms of irregular crossings last year. 

"Morocco is the main departure point to Europe on that route," he said. Moroccans, followed by Guineans, Malians and Algerians have become the main nationalities of migrants arriving in Europe via the western route.

Syrians continue to enter Europe in the biggest numbers. The number of Turkish nationals fleeing their country tripled in 2018 to more than 7,900, with most crossing the land border into Greece.


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