More than 40,000 irregular border crossings into the European Union were registered between January and March 2022, according to Frontex. That's 57% more than in the first quarter of 2021. The figures did not include the vast majority of refugees fleeing the war in Ukraine.
The first three months of 2022 had the highest number of irregular border crossings into the European Union (EU) since the 2016, EU border guard agency Frontex tweeted on Tuesday (April 19).
A total of 40,300 "illegal" border crossings were detected at the EU's external borders between January and March, according to a recent Frontex report. That's a 57% increase compared to the same period last year.
Even though Frontex refers to the crossings as "illegal," the number does include refugees who have a right to asylum in Europe -- and thus a legal right to cross the border -- even if they tried to enter the EU through irregular means.
Refugees fleeing Ukraine were not counted in these border crossings if they entered the EU through official border crossing points -- meaning that a vast majority of Ukrainians who entered the EU were not counted in the figures.
Frontex counted the number of border crossings, not the number of people who arrived in the EU irregularly; one person may account for multiple crossing, if they crossed multiple borders and/or the same border multiple times.
More crossing attempts: Eastern Med, Balkans, Canaries
Most -- though not all -- routes into the EU saw an increase in border crossings in the first quarter of 2022. Flows along some routes more than doubled compared to the same period in 2021, according to the border agency.
In the eastern Mediterranean, 7,005 crossings were reported --marking an increase of 132%. This includes land and sea arrivals mostly in the Republic of Cyprus (5,100 crossings) as well as in Greece. The western Balkans meanwhile registered 18,343 crossings (+115%).
The Western African route -- from northwestern Africa to the Spanish Canary Islands -- saw 5,855 crossings, 70% more than between January and March 2021.
Fewer crossing attempts: Central Med
Crossings registered at the eastern border of the EU to countries like Poland and Lithuania peaked, growing 714% to 952 crossings. However, the increase is mostly due to Ukrainian citizens trying to cross the border illegally, Frontex said.
The central Mediterranean route -- which spans from northcentral Africa (Libya and Tunisia) to Italy and Malta -- registered a 17% drop (to 6,202 crossings), Frontex said.
Even though Britain exited the EU in 2020, Frontex also reported on the number of attempted border crossings to the UK. They saw a stark increase (+190%) in the number of migrants who tried to cross the Channel irregularly to 8,900. Roughly half of them were stopped by French authorities, while the other half were rescued by British authorities, the border agency said.