Thursday, February 4, 2021 was 'one of the busiest days in years' in the central Mediterranean, with over 1,000 people fleeing Libya in boats | Photo: Hippolyte/SOS MEDITERRANEE
Thursday, February 4, 2021 was 'one of the busiest days in years' in the central Mediterranean, with over 1,000 people fleeing Libya in boats | Photo: Hippolyte/SOS MEDITERRANEE

The number of undocumented migrants arriving in Europe, especially via the eastern Mediterranean Sea route, has decreased, according to the EU border agency. At the same time, more are making the crossing from North Africa.

Frontex said in a statement that overall detected border crossings into the EU decreased in the first three months of 2021 to around 24,000. This represents about a 7% drop compared with the same period last year. The agency attributed this mainly to "a sharp decline in illegal crossings on the eastern Mediterranean route."

According to Frontex, crossings by undocumented migrants on the eastern Mediterranean route between Turkey, Greece and Cyprus fell by more than 70% compared with the first quarter of 2020 to around 3,300. Nationals from Syria and Turkey accounted for the largest number of detected migrants on this route, Frontex said.

The number of migrants trying to cross via the Western Balkan route remained roughly the same as in previous months. Close to 6,000 border crossings were detected, according to Frontex.

In the western Mediterranean, between Morocco and the Spanish peninsula, the total of migrant arrivals by sea in the first quarter of 2021 was down around 8% on last year, although it rose again in March.

A group of north African migrants arrived at the Spanish port of Motril in the early hours of April 20, 2021 | Photo: Imago / Agencia EFE / Paquet
A group of north African migrants arrived at the Spanish port of Motril in the early hours of April 20, 2021 | Photo: Imago / Agencia EFE / Paquet

Busier sea routes

In relation to last year, the number of migrants crossing the central Mediterranean between North Africa, Malta and Italy has risen sharply. Between January and March of this year, the number of undocumented migrants known to have taken this route more than doubled to around 8,450, according to Frontex. Nationals of Tunisia and Ivory Coast accounted for the majority of migrants on this route, the agency said.

The number of migrants arriving in Spain's Canary Islands from Western Africa has also increased, reaching nearly 1,000 in March alone, more than twice the number as in the same month in 2020. At least 3,300 irregular migrants arrived in the Canary Islands in the first three months of 2021. Frontex said that most people arriving in the islands claimed to be from Mali and Ivory Coast.

With dpa, epd

 

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