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Migration routes to Europe. Drop in passages. The Covid-19 effect

(B2) The Balkan route is emerging as one of the main routes for illegal entry into Europe in the first six months of 2020

Eastern Mediterranean crossings to Greece fell by almost half in the first half of 2020 compared to 2019 (credit: Frontex)

Illegal crossings down

Over the first six months of this year, the findings are clear: with 36 illegal entries into Europe, the number of illegal border crossings to European Union countries fell by a fifth compared to 400 according to the findings of the European coast and border guard agency, Frontex. The effect of the Covid-19 crisis seems to largely explain this decline. But it is doubtless necessary to observe over time a modification of the migratory routes.

The main route less and less used

With 11 crossings in six months, from January to June 900, the eastern Mediterranean route (to Greece) remains the most popular. However, the number of passages has dropped dramatically. It is almost half as large as last year. Crossing levels are among the lowest recorded on this route since at least 2020.

The boom of the Western Balkan route, the Türkiye effect?

This is the lane on which the number of passages increases the most. Frontex has detected “ nearly 9300 migrants” at the borders. The jump is more than 70% compared to the same period a year earlier. This jump is probably partly due to the tussle between Turks and Europeans last March. Turkey had threatened to widely reopen the border and brought in hundreds of migrants at the land crossing points between Greece and Turkey, along the river Euros.

Central Mediterranean 

The route to Italy and Malta again increased in number of crossings between 2019 and 2020. Frontex counted 7186 crossings. The figure was only 5000 last year, but it included July crossings. It is therefore difficult to compare.

Western Mediterranean, the route of the Algerians

On the other hand, the drop is clear on the migratory routes from North Africa to Spain. Where the number of illegal border crossings has been halved to 4500 over six months.

Six majority nationalities

On the routes of the Eastern Mediterranean and the Balkans, it is still mainly Syrians and Afghans who try to cross. In the central and western Mediterranean, they are mainly Algerians, Tunisians, Moroccans and Bangladeshis.

(Emmanuelle Stoesser)

  1. It should be noted that Frontex speaks of detections of illegal crossings (which can sometimes overlap with the crossing of the same person).

Emmanuelle Stroesser

A journalist for magazines and the press, Emmanuelle specializes in humanitarian issues, development, asylum and migration and human rights.