15 May 2015

The annual report issued by the EU Border Agency Frontex highlights that in 2014 more than 280,000 migrants crossed the EU external borders irregularly; most of them being asylum seekers. That is twice as many as the previous peak following the Arab Spring in 2011, when 140,000 irregular migrants were detected.

In 2014, more than a quarter of people crossing irregularly were Syrians (79,169), the majority seeking international protection. They were followed by an increased number of Eritreans, who rose from 11,300 people in 2013 to 34,500 last year. The number of Afghans increased from about 9,500 in 2013 to more than 22,000 in 2014.

According to the report, in 2014, most irregular migrants arrived in Europe through the central Mediterranean route; amounting to 170,000 people; being 60% of all the irregular entries. They departed from Libya, where asylum seekers and migrants face arbitrary deten­tion in very poor conditions, as well as violence and exploitation. The report also notes that many of them were detected during search and rescue operations; saved while they were risking their life in distress at sea.

In addition, in late 2014, Frontex reported a sharp increase of migrants from Kosovo who irregularly crossed the border between Serbia and Hungary. From a monthly average of less than 1,000 people per month, before September 2014, 9,000 people arrived in the EU through the Western Balkan route, in December 2014.

Frontex also underlines that in 2014, 252,000 migrants had to return to their country of origin, which, compared to 2013, represents an increase of 12%. That is mainly due to a growing number of return decisions is­sued by Spain, rising from 7,410 in 2013 to 40,386 in 2014.

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This article originally appeared in the ECRE Weekly Bulletin of 15 May 2015. You can subscribe to the Weekly Bulletin here.