Changing Directions of Migration Routes?

A father and child in Dobova, Slovenia where thousands of refugees travel through on their journey to safety in Europe (Photo: Meabh Smith/Trócaire)

An overall decline has been observed in the influx of undocumented migrants into the European Union. On April 15, the European Union’s border agency Frontex published a report, in which authorities documented approximately 48 600 “irregular” attempts to enter the bloc between January 1 and March 15. This data representing a 12 percent decrease in comparison to the same period of the previous year – writes Infomigrants.

Frontex stated that the decline was due to a precipitous decline in detections of Central Mediterranean crossings, which had been the busiest migrant route into the EU in 2023.

Approximately 11 400 individuals were documented as having traversed this route from January to March of the current year; by this time last year, the figure had more than doubled. Thus far in 2023, the majority of migrants identified along the Central Mediterranean route were Tunisians, Syrians, and citizens of Bangladesh.

Additionally, the Western Balkan route, a major corridor for migrants from the Middle East, Asia, and Africa to reach the European Union, experienced a substantial decline in activity during the first three months of this year.

The number of “detections of irregular border crossings” decreased to 5 500 from January to March, which is roughly one-third of what it was the same time last year.

The Eastern Mediterranean Route Remained the Most Active

While the number of migrants traversing the Central Mediterranean has decreased, the rate of migration along other routes has increased substantially.

In these three months, more than 13 700 people, primarily Syrians, Afghans, and Egyptians, entered Europe via Greece, Cyprus, and Bulgaria, according to Frontex. As a consequence, irregular migrants have utilized the Eastern Mediterranean route to enter the European Union at the highest rate this year.

In contrast, the pathway connecting West Africa and the Canary Islands was the subsequent most bustling, as reported by Frontex: during the period from January to March, over 13 500 individuals traversed the Atlantic Ocean in order to reach the Spanish-owned archipelago. This is the highest count ever documented by Frontex since its data collection commenced in 2011.
The agency stated that the majority of those who reached the Canary Islands during this time period originated in Mali, Senegal, or Mauritania.
Similarly, activity increased along the route across the English Channel, with over 11 600 migrants departing the European Union for the United Kingdom, representing a 56 percent increase.

Keeping Track of Migrant Fatalities

Deaths of migrants attempting to enter the European Union via these routes have continued unabatedly, despite reports by authorities of a decline in arrival figures.

IOM data indicates that the Central Mediterranean continues to be the most perilous route, with at least 476 reported missing persons so far this year. Without accounting for unreported migrant departures and so-called “invisible shipwrecks,” the actual number of fatalities is believed to be considerably greater.

In the press release Frontex charged the criminal organizations engaged in smuggling exacerbate the perils migrants are confronted with. The agency asserts that smugglers are capitalizing on the heightened demand from sub-Saharan migrants in Mauritania, which is situated on the coast of West Africa, by overcrowding more individuals onto flimsy Cayuco-style vessels en route to the Canary Islands.

Interestingly Poland reported an increase in attempted crossings. Beyond the primary migration routes, individuals persist in endeavoring to enter the European Union via Russia and Belarus. Authorities in Poland report an increase in border crossings with Belarus in recent weeks, with 669 attempted crossings recorded over the past weekend alone.


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