Irregular Border Crossings into EU Drop 23% in Early 2024

Irregular Border Crossings into EU Drop 23% in Early 2024

In the first four months of 2024, there were significantly fewer people illegally crossing the European Union (EU) than during the same time in 2023.

The number of these irregular crossings decreased by 23%, according to Frontex, the EU’s border agency.

Sharp declines in Central Mediterranean and Western Balkans routes

Most of the decreases occurred on the Central Mediterranean and Western Balkans routes, which saw the largest drops.

However, there was a notable increase in crossings in the Western African route to the Canary Islands and the Eastern Mediterranean route.

Unprecedented surge in Western African route

The number of irregular migrants arriving in the Canary Islands hit a record high in the first four months of 2024.

There were over 16,200 of these arrivals, which is more than any other time since 2011, when Frontex started keeping track.

This surge seems to be caused by criminal groups in Mauritania taking advantage of people from sub-Saharan Africa who want to enter the EU.

These smugglers have been cramming more migrants into unsafe boats, making the journey even riskier.

Eastern Mediterranean now most active route

The Eastern Mediterranean route now became the busiest route for illegal migration, with the number of people entering more than doubling compared to the same time last year.

In the first four months of 2024, there were over 17,300 of these crossings.

Meanwhile, there was also a significant increase in the number of people crossing the English Channel, with 34% more crossings than last year.

Migrants continue to risk perilous sea crossings

Even though fewer people are illegally crossing into Europe this year, the journeys remain very dangerous, especially for those traveling by sea.

The International Organization for Migration (IOM) reported that 568 people have disappeared in the Mediterranean Sea this year, most of them on the dangerous Central Mediterranean route.

Top nationalities of migrants in early 2024

Most of the illegal migrants found crossing borders in the first four months of 2024 were from Syria, Mali, or Afghanistan.

As the year progresses, it remains to be seen how migratory patterns and numbers will continue to evolve.

Navigating the changes for travelers

The changes in irregular migration could affect the new European Travel Information and Authorization System (ETIAS), which is planned to start in the middle of 2025.

This system will require travelers who do not need a Schengen visa to get authorization before they travel to most of Europe. It is designed to make travel safer. 

As migration patterns change, the ETIAS will be important in controlling who comes into Europe.

Adapting policies in a changing landscape

The changes in the number of irregular border crossings might prompt EU countries to rethink their immigration policies.

The new ETIAS system is designed to control short trips, but these countries might also need to change their approaches for long-term visitors, like families, investors, digital nomads, and students.

It is important for the EU to find a way to keep its people safe while still welcoming those who bring different ideas and help the economy grow.

Addressing irregular migration in the EU

The dynamics of irregular migration in the EU are constantly changing, which creates difficulties for the member states and agencies like Frontex.

These organizations also need to protect both the people trying to cross the borders and those already living in the EU.

As illegal migrants find new ways to take advantage of those who want to enter Europe, it is clear that a well-thought-out plan that involves everyone working together will be needed to solve this problem in a way that is both humane and effective.