The European Border and Coast Guard Agency, Frontex, revealed a huge increase in the rates of irregular migration to EU countries over the past year, while Syrians came at the forefront of those fleeing, and women and minors constituted 10 percent of the migrants.
In a statement, on Tuesday, January 15, the agency stated that the number of illegal migrants crossing into European Union countries increased by 17% in 2023 compared to 2022’s numbers, making it the highest rate recorded since 2016, according to Frontex.
Frontex, which is based in Warsaw, indicated that this percentage represents “a significant increase in the number of illegal crossings in 2023, and is the highest since 2016,” explaining that the number rose to 380,000, 41% of whom took the Central Mediterranean Sea route.
In a statement, Frontex highlighted that these annual figures confirm “a steady upward trend over the last three years.”
The agency pointed out two other migration routes that migrants took to a large extent in 2023: the Western Balkans (26%) and the eastern Mediterranean (16%).
Frontex explained that “the largest number of illegal immigration cases in 2023 is attributed to Syrians (one hundred thousand cases), followed by Guineans and Afghans,” noting that “these first three nationalities represent more than a third of illegal crossing cases.” Women and minors represent about 10% of these immigrants.
The Ukraine crisis exacerbated the refugee crisis and pushed large numbers of Ukrainians towards Western countries.
The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees has registered about 5 million people seeking temporary protection, especially in the eastern part of the EU countries, such as Poland, Romania, the Baltic States and Slovakia.
As the fighting continues in Ukraine, the number of refugees is expected to rise this year, which will put more pressure on the EU countries.
This influx caused a division within the EU regarding how to deal with the situation, between a camp committed to supporting migrants and those fleeing the fighting, as opposed to some EU countries complaining that they are burdened by the influx of refugees, compared to other countries within the bloc.