The number of migrants trying to enter the European Union in the first quarter of 2022 has risen to its highest level since 2016, the EU’s border and coastguard agency has said.
Frontex estimates that there were more than 40,000 migrant entries into the 27-nation bloc between January and March 2022, 57% more than a year ago. This figure excluded refugees fleeing Ukraine and entering through EU border crossing points.
This year the Western Balkans was the most popular route for migrants, according to Frontex, accounting for nearly half of migrant crossings into the EU this year.
Many migrants travel through the Western Balkans to enter EU-member states Croatia and Greece from Turkey and pass on northwards. Many migrants here were from Syria and Afghanistan.
Frontex added that the number of migrants crossing the Channel from France to the UK increased by 190% compared to a year ago.
The UK recently struck a controversial deal with Rwanda to fly those caught entering the UK illegally to the east African country, with UK PM Boris Johnson saying it is necessary to “stop people smugglers.” International human rights groups have blasted the plan as “shocking ill-conceived.”
The number of illegal crossings detected by Frontex in Eastern Europe saw the largest increase of all migratory routes, at 714%.
This was due to some Ukrainian citizens seeking to cross into the EU illegally at unauthorised points of the border, although the vast majority of Ukrainians have arrived legally through regular crossings, the border agency said.
Almost five million people have fled the war in Ukraine so far, with Poland welcoming more than half of them and Hungary taking in close to half a million, according to UN figures.
Both these countries refused to take in refugees from the Middle East when the EU tried to create a system for sharing them across the bloc.