Half of arrivals to the EU through the Central Mediterranean

In the first five months of the year, the number of detections of irregular border crossings at EU’s external borders reached 102 000, 12% more than a year ago, according to preliminary calculations*.

The Central Mediterranean remains the main migratory route into the EU. In the first five months of the year, the number of detections more than doubled (160%) compared to the same period in 2022. It is the highest number recorded since 2017.

More than 2 700 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.

Key findings:

  • In May, there were 19 800 detections of irregular border crossings, down 31% year-on-year.
  • The Central Mediterranean route accounted for roughly half of the irregular crossings into the EU so far this year.
  • Entries on other migratory routes into the EU declined.

So far this year, the Central Mediterranean remains the most active route into the EU, with more than 50 300 detections in January-May reported by national authorities. This route accounted for nearly half of the irregular entries to the EU in 2023.

The arrivals on the Central Mediterranean route drove the raise of 12% of all entries to the EU, as arrivals on all the other migratory routes saw declines ranging from 6% on the Western Mediterranean up to 47% on the Western African route.

The decrease was mainly related to long periods of bad weather conditions, which made the already dangerous journeys aboard unseaworthy boats even more risky. However, migratory pressure in the region remains high and we can expect an increase in the activity of smugglers in the region in the coming months.

During January-May period, the Western Balkan route, which is the second most active route with over 30 700 detections, saw a decline of 25% in comparison to the same period last year.

The declines in this migration route observed since the beginning of the year are a tangible effect of countries in the region aligning their visa policies with EU regulations.