There were rougly 160,000 irregular border crossings by migrants and refugees into the European Union in the first ten months of this year, according to Frontex. That's 70% more than during the same period in 2020.
In October, close to 22,800 irregular border crossings were registered on Europe's main migratory routes, according to a statement released by European Union border agency Frontex on Monday (November 22).
The number reflected significantly more crossings compared to the same month in the previous two years, the border agency said: 30% more crossings compared to October 2020 -- when stricter border restrictions were in place due to the COVID-19 pandemic -- and 18% more crossings compared to October 2019 -- before any pandemic restrictions had been introduced.
The total number of border crossings this year was reportedly also higher in 2021 to date compared to 2020 or 2019, according to Frontex. The number of irregular border crossings at the external borders of the European Union (EU) between January and October 2021 was roughly 160,000 -- 70% more than in the first ten months of last year.
The most significant increase was reported on the Eastern, Western Balkan and Central Mediterranean routes and in Cyprus, the EU border agency said. The number of detections of crossings in the Western Mediterranean meanwhile dropped.
Central Mediterranean: Largest number of crossings
Between January and October, European authorities reported 55,000 irregular border crossings on the Central Mediterranean Route -- which spans mostly from Libya and Tunisia to Italy and Malta.
In October, 6,240 illegal crossings were reported -- 85% more than in the previous year. The main nationalities on this route included Tunisians, Bangladeshi and Egyptians. Egyptians have become the third most common nationality registered as using the Central Mediterranean Route, reportedly using departures mainly from Libya, Frontex said.
A significant development reported in October was the growing number of migrants registered in Italy arriving directly from Turkey by sea, according to the EU border agency.
Western Balkans: Second largest number of crossings
On the Western Balkans route, 48,500 irregular border crossings were been reported to Frontex. In October alone, more than 9,000 crossings were detected, marking an increase of 140% compared with last year (3,816), and an increase of 810% from October 2019 (1003).
In October, 40% of irregular crossings into the EU occurred via the Western Balkans, according to Frontex. The majority of migrants on this route came from Syria, Afghanistan and Morocco.
Eastern land border: Small total number, but large increase
On the EU's Eastern land borders, the total number of detections of irregular border crossings so far this year amounted to nearly 8,000 -- 15 times more than in 2020, Frontex said. Migrants and asylum seekers mainly arrived from Belarus and most of them hailed from Iraq, Afghanistan and Syria. After reaching a significant peak in arrivals in July (climbing over 3,200), migrant arrivals on the eastern land route decreased in the following months dropping to just over 600 in October 2021, according to Frontex.
EU states bordering on Belarus -- in particular Poland -- have recently increased their police and military presence on the border and have created fortified border fences to prevent migrants and refugees from crossing by irregular means. Human rights organizations have repeatedly accused Poland of carrying out pushbacks into Belarus in violation of international and EU asylum laws.
Western Mediterranean Route: More than 2020, less than 2019
In the first 10 months of this year, there were 16,390 illegal border crossings reported on the Western Mediterranean Route, which leads from Northern Africa primarily to Spain. The number increased by 14% compared to last year and decreased by 23% compared to 2019.
In October, 1,614 crossings were registered, down 42% from last year. Algerians accounted for 63% of irregular crossings on this route, followed by Moroccans (29%).
Western African Route: Increase compared to last two years
On the Western African route, the total number of detections in the first ten months of this year stood at 16,710 -- up 46% from 2020 and up 1020% compared to 2019.
In October, 3,515 illegal crossings were registered, 34% fewer than in the same month last year. Most migrants on this route came from Morocco and sub-Saharan Africa.
Eastern Mediterranean: Fewer landings in Greece, more in Cyprus
Between January and October, 15,770 irregular crossings were registered on the Eastern Mediterranean route, down 11% from the same period in 2020 and down 76% compared to January to October 2019. This route spans from Turkey and Middle Eastern and North African countries like Libya to Greece and Cyprus.
In October, 2,585 crossings were detected, 40% more than in the same month last year. The EU border agency said that while there was a significant decrease in arrivals in the Eastern Aegean (meaning in Greece), there was also a strong increase in arrivals recorded in Cyprus.
Editor's note: The numbers mentioned in this article are those of border crossings into the European Union, not the numbers of migrants or refugees who arrived via those various routes. One person might be counted multiple times if they cross into the European Union multiple times.