The number of migrants arriving in the European Union irregularly rose by 86% between January and July compared to the same period last year, the EU border agency Frontex said Friday. The island nation of Cyprus in particular is having to bear the brunt of this trend.
Overall, nearly 156,000 migrants arrived in the European Union from January to July this year, according to Europe's border agency, Frontex -- nearly double the number tallied for the same period in 2021. That number, however, does not include the 7.7 million Ukrainian refugees fleeing the Russian invasion of their country since February this year.
In the month of July alone, the number of migrants entering the bloc increased by 63% year on year, reaching a total of 34,570 for that month alone. Out of those, more than four out of ten entries (14,866 entries in concrete terms) were classified as "irregular," using the Western Balkan route.
Frontex said that this migration route continues to be "the most active," adding that July's tally is "nearly three times more" than the number recorded in July last year. The EU agency added that the main nationalities of people trying to enter the EU on this route were Syrians, Afghans and Turks.
Cyprus on forefront of eastern route
In terms of sea crossings, the Central Mediterranean route continues to attract to largest number of migrants, Frontex said, with more than 42,500 migrants coming into the EU this way between January and July. This marks an increase on this route of 44% -- compared to the same period last year.
On the Eastern Mediterranean route, there were 22,601 arrivals in the first seven months of the year in total -- a number that is "more than double" compared to last year, Frontex stressed.
Meanwhile, the island nation of Cyprus particularly stands out in the statistics released by Frontex: The number of migrant arrivals on the divided island of Cyprus accounted for half of the total number of migrants using the eastern route. In total, more than 11,300 migrants showed up in Cyprus in the first seven months of the year, which also is more than double the number compared to the same period last year.
Most migrants coming to Cyprus reportedly hail from Syria, Nigeria and the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Read more: Migrants live in 'misery' as Cyprus suffers overwhelm with migrant influx
UK overwhelmed with boat arrivals
The UK has meanwhile also registered a sharp rise in migrants crossing the English Channel. Over 20,000 people have arrived in the UK in small boats this year, the Ministry of Defence said. The last landmark number of 15,000 crossings had only been breached less than four weeks ago.
This number is already more than two thirds of the tally for all of 2021; this time last year, there had been only about 11,300 crossings to the UK across the Channel.
The UK government's plans to send irregular migrants to Rwanda to apply for asylum there have neither come to fruition to date nor do they appear to have had the intended effect of deterring migrants from coming to the UK in the first place, as the UK expects to breach the mark of 30,000 arrivals in the coming months.
Read more: UK: Migrants should watch out for immigration scams warns new report
Deadly sea crossing
Parallel to the number of irregular entries to Europe, the number of migrants who have drowned or have gone missing in the Mediterranean has also risen recent months, reaching a total tally of 1,200 in the first half of the year, according to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).
This number does not take into account the latest tragedy in the Mediterranean Sea when dozens of people went missing last week after a boat sank between the Greek islands of Karpathos and Rhodes. More than 30 victims are still expected to be found, as the search for bodies continues.
Migrants hoping to reach Europe often sell all their belongings and pay thousands of dollars to people smugglers -- without any guarantee that they ever will reach the continent alive.
Read more: Dramatic changes to UK asylum law for irregular migrants
With AFP, dpa, Frontex, Sky News