Human TraffickingMigrationNews

Central Mediterranean accounts for more than half of irregular crossings into EU

The number of detections of irregular border crossings at EU’s external borders rose 13% in the first seven months of 2023 to 176 100, the highest total for the January-July period since 2016, according to preliminary calculations*.

The increase was entirely driven by the number of arrivals through the Central Mediterranean, which remains the main migratory route into the EU and accounts for more than half of all detections at EU borders. The number of irregular crossings on this route more than doubled (+115%).

Nearly 2 800 standing corps officers and Frontex staff are involved in various operations supporting member states and neighbouring countries in protecting the EU’s external borders and fighting crime.

  • In July, there were nearly 42 700 detections of irregular border crossings at EU external borders, up 19% year-on-year. Highest since March 2016.
  • The Central Mediterranean route accounted for half of the irregular crossings into the EU so far this year.
  • Entries on other migratory routes into the EU declined in 2023.

The Central Mediterranean remains the most active route into the EU this year, with over 89 000 detections reported by national authorities in the first seven month of 2023. This is the highest total on this route for this period since 2017.

Increased migratory pressure on this route may persist in the coming months with smugglers offering lower prices for migrants departing from Libya and Tunisia amid fierce competition among the criminal groups.

Arrivals on all the other migratory routes saw declines from a year ago, ranging from 2% on the Western Mediterranean up to 29% on the Eastern Mediterranean route.

Unfortunately, the sea crossings remain extremely dangerous. According to IOM data, more than 2 060 people went missing in the Mediterranean between January and July, with the vast majority on the Central Mediterranean route.

During January-July period, the Western Balkan route, the second most active route with more than 52 200 detections, saw a decline of 26%, in large part due to tighter visa policies. 

The number of irregular crossings in the English Channel towards the UK in July stood at close to 5 500, bringing the total for the first seven months of 2023 to almost 27 300. This is roughly in line with the same period of last year.

Note: The preliminary data presented in this statement refer to the number of detections of irregular border-crossing at the external borders of the European Union. The same person may cross the border several times in different locations at the external border.