The number of migrants who tried to cross irregularly into the European Union in January was up 78% compared to the same month in 2021. That's according to new figures released by EU border agency Frontex.
On Tuesday (February 15), the EU's border and coast agency said it registered a total of 13,160 irregular border crossings in January on the main routes into the EU. That figure is 78% higher than in January last year and 23% higher than in January 2020.
With 5,826 arrivals, the route via the western Balkans saw the largest increase (148%) compared to the same period last year. According to Frontex, most of the people on this route came from Syria, Afghanistan and Turkey.
Frontex said there were also more border crossings on the central Mediterranean route, that is from Libya and Tunisia to Lampedusa, Sicily and Malta. Here, the EU agency registered 2,150 attempts, an increase of 107%.
Fewer migrant arrivals from Belarus
Aside from the western Balkans route, the two largest figures in absolute numbers were irregular boat crossings from France to the UK via the English Channel (2,500) and from western Africa toward Spain's Canary Islands via the Atlantic (3,007), according to Frontex data. Both routes also saw larger numbers of arrivals compared to last year, particularly the France to UK route (by 273%).
In contrast, the number of registered irregular border crossings decreased in the western Mediterranean to Spain and on the EU's eastern external borders. In the western Mediterranean, 32% fewer irregular migrant arrivals were registered in January compared to the same month in 2021.
On the EU's eastern border -- Romania, Hungary, Slovakia, Poland and the three Baltic countries -- the number was down by 74%. Starting in May 2021, large numbers of migrants arrived at the borders of Lithuania, Latvia and Poland from Belarus, sparking a humanitarian crisis as thousands of migrants remained stranded on the EU external border for weeks in freezing conditions.
In total, nearly 8,000 migrants crossed irregularly into Lithuania, Latvia and Poland last year. Lithuania last month said it will install surveillance cameras along the entire length of its border with Belarus.