Irregular border crossings into EU so far this year highest since 2016

2023 has seen a significant rise in the number of irregular border crossings, which increased by 17% in the first 11 months to reach over 355 300. This number has already surpassed the entire total for 2022, marking the highest value recorded since 2016. 

The Western African route has seen the biggest rise in the number of irregular crossings, which doubled so far this year to over 32 400. This unprecedented rise is the highest since Frontex began collecting data in 2009. The number of arrivals in November jumped over 500% compared to the same month of last year to nearly 4 700. 

Frontex’s commitment to safeguarding the EU’s borders remains steadfast, with nearly 2 600 officers and staff engaged in various operations. Most recently, the agency provided an additional 50 officers to support Finland in handling the unusually high number of arrivals at its Eastern Border with Russia. 

Key highlights of the migration data include: 

  • A decrease of 25% in irregular border crossings in November compared to last year, totalling over 20 000. 
  • All major migratory routes reported lower numbers in November than in October. 
  • Record numbers on the Western African route. 
  • The Central Mediterranean route, while still the most frequented in 2023, showed a downward trend recently when compared to earlier in the year. 
  • Top three nationalities on all routes this year: Syria, Guinea, and Afghanistan. 

The Central Mediterranean remained the busiest migratory route in 2023, with more than 152 200 detections reported by national authorities in the first 11 months. This is the highest total on this route for this period since 2016. 

However, the number of monthly detections on this route dropped 24% month-on-month in November to nearly 7 900. 

The Eastern Mediterranean route also remained active, seeing a nearly 50% increase from a year ago in the first 11 months, reaching nearly 52 600 detections. 

Sea crossings remain fraught with peril for the people undertaking irregular migration. Data from the International Organization for Migration (IOM) indicates that 2 511 individuals have been reported missing in the Mediterranean this year. The vast majority of them were navigating the perilous Central Mediterranean route. 

During the January-November period, the Western Balkan route saw the biggest annual drop among the major migratory routes, with the number of irregular crossings falling 28% to 98 600. 

On the Channel route, roughly 58 300 irregular border crossings have been detected on both sides so far in 2023. This is a 14% decrease on the same period in 2022. 

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.