Record Number of Migrants Enter EU in 2023 – Frontex

Record Number of Migrants Enter EU in 2023 – Frontex

The number of irregular border crossings into the European Union (EU) in the first 11 months of 2023 has reached over 355,300, according to new data from Frontex.

This figure marks the highest total recorded since 2016.

Significant Increase on Western African Route

The Western African route saw the largest rise, with irregular crossings more than doubling compared to last year to over 32,400 so far in 2023.

This number is the highest reported since Frontex began collecting data in 2009.

Arrivals in November jumped over 500% year-on-year to nearly 4,700.

Central Mediterranean Remains Busiest Route

Despite a recent downward trend, the Central Mediterranean route remains the most active, with over 152,200 detected crossings in the January-November period.

This number is the highest total for this period since 2016.

The number of monthly arrivals dropped 24% from October to just under 7,900 in November.

The Eastern Mediterranean route also saw a nearly 50% annual increase in the first 11 months, with almost 52,600 detections so far.

According to data from the International Organization for Migration (IOM), 2,511 individuals have been reported dead or missing on Mediterranean crossings this year so far.

Most occurred on the dangerous Central Mediterranean route.

Decrease in Crossings on Balkan Route

One exception to rising trends was the Western Balkan route, which saw a 28% annual drop in irregular crossings down to 98,600.

This made it the only major route with fewer crossings compared to 2022.

Approximately 58,300 irregular migrants were detected on the Channel route so far this year.

This represents a 14% decrease compared to the same period last year.

Authorities Emphasize Continued Vigilance

Frontex maintains nearly 2,600 officers and staff providing border security support for EU member states.

Fifty additional officers were recently sent to aid Finland, which has completely closed its borders with Russia, in handling an unusually high volume of eastern border crossings.

Syria, Guinea, and Afghanistan were reported as the top three nationalities on all routes so far in 2023.

Frontex emphasized these migrants often take tremendous risks, and ensuring border crossings adhere to international laws and norms will remain a key focus.

How Will This Affect Travelers and Immigrants?

The high number of irregular border crossings has raised questions around the upcoming launch of the European Travel Information and Authorization System (ETIAS) in May 2025.

All visa-exempt non-EU nationals will require ETIAS clearance prior to entering the Schengen Area.

For travelers and immigrants seeking to enter or reside legally in the EU, the heightened border activity may lead to increased processing times, screening measures, and potential delays.

Those planning longer-term relocation to EU countries may also face stricter immigration policies.

Tighter Control Over EU Borders Expected

The unprecedented migration levels will likely spur calls for tighter control over external borders by EU countries.

With pressure growing, members states may implement more stringent border checks, passenger screening, and immigration policies.

Changes could include heightened visa security rules, increased ETIAS eligibility checks, expanded customs inspections, and fewer options for irregular migrants already in the EU.

Managing Borders Crucial as Migration Challenges Persist

The new figures underline the complex challenges around European border management and immigration policies.

As EU members balance strained resources with an obligation to protect vulnerable migrants, calls for tighter security measures will likely intensify.

Yet Frontex and policymakers emphasize that any changes must align with European values.

This means facilitating legitimate travel while upholding laws that protect refugees and asylum seekers.

Striking the right equilibrium across these priorities will prove critical.

With the ETIAS system launching in 2025, the Schengen Area must have an infrastructure that enables verification of visa-exempt visitors while also quickly processing genuine asylum claims.

As migration pressures persist, both upholding security and human rights will remain crucial to a coordinated, compassionate, and lawful European response.

Achieving these twin aims, though difficult, will ultimately strengthen rather than erode the EU’s commitments to universal rights.