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Migrant Numbers Increase Despite Decline of ‘Balkan Route’ to EU

New data published by European border security agency Frontex on Monday showed that detections of irregular border crossings at the EU’s external borders reached a total of nearly 80,700 in the first four months of 2023.

The calculations are still preliminary but if confirmed, they would mean an increase of 26 per cent compared to one year ago and the highest total for the January-to-April period since 2016.

The growth was solely due to a 292 per cent increase in the number of detections on the Central Mediterranean route to the EU, while all the other routes used by migrants and refugees saw a decline in numbers.

“During the January-April period, the Western Balkan route, which passes through countries including Serbia and Bosnia to the EU member states of Hungary and Croatia, was the second most active, with over 22,500 detections, down 21 per cent from a year earlier,” said the report.

The Central Mediterranean route accounted for over half of the total irregular entries registered by Frontex since January. The total amount, 42,200, is the highest since the agency first started to collect data in 2009.

The new data released showed that Syrians were the most detected nationality, accounting for 17 per cent of the total, and that the number of Afghans registered fell by just 50 per cent compared to 2022. The agency noted an increase in the numbers of nationals from sub-Saharan countries.

Sub-Saharan Africa is believed to one of the areas in the world that is being and will continue to be most affected by climate change.

Before the release of the new data, the new director of Frontex, Hans Leijtens, told Politico that he doesn’t want to use the word crisis to refer to the numbers.

“I just see facts and figures. And those worry me – because what I see is a huge rise,” he said.

Leijtens took office in March with the goal to “restore trust [in the agency] by being very transparent about what we are doing and how we are doing it”, he said during his presentation press conference in Brussels.

Frontex’s previous agency director Fabrice Leggeri resigned over a human rights scandal sparked by a joint investigation by Lighthouse Reports, Der Spiegel, SRF Rundschau, Republik, and Le Monde.

The investigation revealed the involvement of Frontex in illegal pushbacks of asylum-seekers from Greece to Turkey between March 2020 and September 2021. The involvement was later confirmed by EU’s anti-corruption watchdog OLAF.

Source: Balkan Insight