The number of migrants arriving in Spain irregularly decreased in 2022, Spanish government figures show. While sea arrivals dropped overall and in particular on the Atlantic route to the Canaries, the Melilla and Ceuta enclaves saw a significant increase in irregular migrant arrivals.
The overall number of migrants arriving irregularly in Spain in 2022 dropped by more than a quarter over the previous year, the Spanish Interior Ministry said Tuesday (January 3), attributing the decline mainly to fewer sea crossings.
A total of 31,219 people entered Spain without permission last year, down from 41,945 in 2021 -- a drop of more than 25% and a second straight yearly decline, the ministry said in its annual migration report.
In the report, the interior ministry credited "cooperation with countries of origin and transit" of migrants, and the reinforcement of the fight "against mafias that traffic people" for the decline.
Unlike Spain, the other three Mediterranean EU countries that registered large numbers of migrants in 2022 -- Italy, Greece and Cyprus -- all saw irregular sea arrivals go up. The 27-country bloc as a whole registered 308,000 attempts to enter without permission in the first eleven months, a 68% increase compared to the same period last year, according to EU border agency Frontex.
The busiest migration route to Europe in 2022, according to Frontex, was the so-called Balkan route with about 140,000 migrants arriving overland by November.
Atlantic route saw biggest drop
While migrant arrivals by sea decreased across Spain, the most significant fall occurred on the Atlantic route from the western and northwestern coasts of Africa to Spain's Canary Islands.
The number of migrants who arrived by sea on the island group fell to 15,682 in 2022 from 22,316 in the previous year, about 30% less. In a record-setting year 2020, more than 23,000 migrants arrived on the Canaries irregularly.
At its shortest, the route from the Moroccan coast to the island group is around 100 kilometers, but migrants often come from as far as Mauritania which is more than 1,000 kilometers away. Registered arrivals to the Canaries began surging in late 2019 after increased patrols in the Mediterranean dramatically reduced migrant numbers, according to news agency AFP.
24% more arrivals to Ceuta and Melilla
Yet migrant arrivals by land to Ceuta and Melilla -- Spain's two North African enclaves bordering Morocco -- jumped by over 24% last year over the previous year to 2,289.
The two tiny territories have the European Union's only land borders with Africa. In June, around 2,000 mainly Sudanese people tried to cross the high fence into Melilla. Morocco's police intervened brutally.
The death toll of the Melilla border stampede -- at least 23 according to Morocco, at least 37 according to Amnesty and independent experts, according to AFP -- was the worst in years of attempted migrant crossings into Melilla and Ceuta. In late December, Spain's public prosecutor decided to close an investigation into the deaths.