Reports show that 204,219 people crossed an EU border illegally in 2017. As a comparison, in 2016, 511,074 crossed a European border illegally and 1.8 million in 2015.
According to Frontex, the improved figures were down to a combination of certain aspects. They combined the tighter security on Balkans routes, greater control of boats that leave Libya and the stepping up of returns of failed asylum seekers. Frontex is the European Border and Coast Guard Agency. In 2017, the agency assisted the deportation of around 14,000 people.
Fabrice Leggeri said that certain routes into Europe, will remain “at a very high level” in 2018. The southern borders in the Mediterranean have been particularly mentioned. Fabrice Leggeri is the head of EU’s border and coast guard agency.
More African immigrants will try to reach the EU
Leggeri released a warning about the immigration increase. He said that the number of African migrants trying to cross illegally into Europe would carry on rising. A big part of them is expected to arrive in Europe through Spain.
In 2017, around 119,000 Africans were arrested trying to arrive in Europe. They tried to enter the continent using migrant boats that departed from Libya. At the same time, over 42,000 immigrants came from Turkey to Greece. Another 23,000 came from Algeria and Morocco to Spain.
The Frontex director declared: “The western Mediterranean route is under scrutiny. While the number of migrants on the Libya-Italy route has dropped significantly since Libya – encouraged by the EU – began to block departures from its shores last July, illegal crossings into Spain more than doubled from below 10,000 in 2016”.
People smugglers who operate on the western Mediterranean route have started using more “solid” rubber boats to transport illegal immigrants. Mr. Leggeri said that this issue could explain the sharp increase.
Dealing with African immigrants trying to reach the EU
In 2016 a deal was struck between the EU and Turkey that targeted the refugees’ issue. The deal mostly halted the flow of Syrian migrants into Greece. Meanwhile, the number of African nationals trying to cross into Europe has increased in 2017, according to Frontex. Their number represented almost two-thirds of the 205,000 people who have been caught trying to enter Europe illegally.
Syrians and Nigerians each accounted for 9% of overall arrivals in 2017. They have been followed by immigrants who came from the Ivory Coast, Guinea and Morocco.
Morocco is the main transit country for Spain-bound migrants. Frontex added that domestic issues in Morocco led to an increase in departures. Particularly, most of these departures set off from the North African country’s western coast.
Reason for the decrease of EU immigration figures
Frontex said that a sharp decline in the number of detected illegal crossings had been witnessed in 2017. The decline took place despite the increased migratory pressure on the bloc’s southern borders.
Last year, “overall” illegal immigration to Europe had decreased by 60%.
According to Mr. Leggeri, 204,219 people crossed an EU border illegally in 2017. He compared the numbers to the 511,074 that crossed in 2016 and the 1,8 million from 2015.
The Frontex director explained that the EU stepped up to return failed asylum seekers. He pointed out that the agency had helped deport around 14,000 people in 2017.
However, Frontex mentioned a possible increase of fake travel documents and undocumented crossings across the EU. Member states are trying to tighten their asylum laws and border control. It was said that more and more people could try to hide in lorries, cars or cargo trains.