Large numbers have fled Tunisia for Italy and Malta | Photo: Mehdi Chebil
Large numbers have fled Tunisia for Italy and Malta | Photo: Mehdi Chebil

Irregular migrant arrivals to Europe are picking up again, after record lows in April due to COVID-19 restrictions. The number of people reaching Italy and Malta by boat more than doubled from June to July.

Over the past three months, the number of irregular migrants detected at Europe’s external borders has been rising again, according to data from the border agency of the European Union, Frontex. In the month of July alone,  Frontex said there were a total of 8,650 irregular border crossings into Europe.

However, irregular migration into the EU was still much lower in the first half of 2020 overall, compared to the previous year, because of the coronavirus travel restrictions, which caused migration rates to reach record lows. Frontex said Tuesday that: "In the first seven months of this year, the number of illegal border crossings at Europe's external borders fell by 15% from a year ago to 47,250."

Italy and Malta saw biggest July increase

In July, the biggest increase in migrant arrivals was seen in the Central Mediterranean: 4,650 migrants arrived in Italy and Malta, more than twice as many as in June.

The reported rise was largely due to a significant increase in the number of people leaving Tunisia, according to Frontex.

More than a quarter of those who arrived in Italy in the first 7 months of 2020 said they were Tunisian, the Italian government said. Other countries of origin for migrants on this route were Bangladesh, Ivory Coast, Algeria, Pakistan, Sudan and Morocco.

On Monday, Italian and EU officials visited Tunis to offer financial support in return for tougher border controls by Tunisian authorities. 

More Algerians flee to Spain

The number of migrants who reached Spain via the Western Mediterranean in July nearly doubled relative to June, while the total for the first seven months of 2020 was less than 50% of the figure for the same period last year.

The number of Algerians using this route was seven times the figure from a year ago, Frontex said. Half of the migrants were Algerian nationals. Moroccans were the second-most represented nationality. 

Fewer on Eastern Mediterranean route 

On the Eastern Mediterranean route, Frontex said there were around 400 “detections of illegal crossings” reported in July, 44% lower than the previous month. Recent monthly totals for the route were well below the levels from a year ago, Frontex said.

Afghans and Syrians accounted for the largest number of migrants on this route.

With dpa, KNA


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