A graphic showing migrant arrivals for the first 11 months of 2019 produced by Frontex | Source: Screenshot of Frontex report released December 2019
A graphic showing migrant arrivals for the first 11 months of 2019 produced by Frontex | Source: Screenshot of Frontex report released December 2019

As 2019 draws to a close, the European border agency Frontex has released its latest reports about fluctuating trends across migrant arrivals to Europe. It found that arrivals were falling in the western and central Mediterranean and growing in the eastern Mediterranean as well as the Balkans.

The European border agency Frontex found that in November 2019 “the number of detections of illegal border crossings on Europe’s main migratory routes fell 25% from the previous month to around 14,400.”

Although the numbers fell overall, the border agency attributed that fall to a spate of bad weather which bucked the overall rising trend in the eastern Mediterranean since summer 2019. 

In the first 11 months of 2019, a total of 74,126 migrants crossed into Europe via the eastern Mediterranean. 10,619 via the western Balkans route, 13,180 arrived via the central Mediterranean to Italy and 21,750 arrived in Spain via the western Mediterranean route, predominantly from Morocco.

Compared to the previous year, 2018, arrivals in the central and western Mediterranean were down, by 43% (to Italy) and 57% to Spain. In the eastern Mediterranean, arrivals were up by 42% on 2018’s figures and in the Balkans a whopping 103%.


Numbers of migrant arrivals in the eastern Mediterranean have been increasing since the summer. However, in November the arrivals dropped by 20% according to Frontex, although their figures did not include arrivals in Cyprus. In the eastern Mediterranean, wrote Frontex, “Afghans accounted for nearly one of every three migrants detected, while Syrians accounted for another quarter of the irregular migrants.”

In the western Mediterranean, almost a third of all arrivals were Moroccan and Algerians made up another 17%. The total number of arrivals in this part of Europe have more than halved since 2018.

In the central Mediterranean Tunisians, Sudanese, people from Ivory Coast and Pakistan were the most common nationalities amongst those who arrived. All in all 13,200 arrived in the first 11 months of 2019.

Western Balkans

Afghans were among the most frequent arrivals via the western Balkans routes. The numbers here more than doubled on 2018’s figures. In November alone more than 1,900 people were detected crossing into the European Union via this route. Frontex notes that “the same person may attempt to cross the border several times in different locations at the external border.” It is known that on the borders between Bosnia Herzegovina and Croatia migrants will attempt the crossing several times, referring to their attempts as "a game."

The United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) last produced a report on arrival trends in September 2019. At that point they found that 46% of arrivals were men, 21% were women and 33% were children. Between January and September 2019, an estimated 1,042 refugees had died trying to cross the Mediterranean Sea. The deadliest route was between North Africa and Italy. Since September, more people have died and as of December 17 the estimated number of deaths stands at 1,243.

Across the whole Mediterranean region, Afghan arrivals accounted for 16,861 arrivals in 2019, that is about 19.2% of all arrivals. Syrians still account for just over 15% of arrivals.


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