Central Mediterranean top migratory route into the EU in first half of 2023


In the first six months of this year, the number of detections of irregular border crossings at EU’s external borders reached 132 370, the highest total for the first half of the year since 2016 and 10% more than a year ago, according to preliminary calculations*.

The Central Mediterranean remains the main migratory route into the EU, accounting for nearly half of all detections at EU borders in the January-June period. The number of detections rose to almost 65 600, the highest number on this route for this period since 2017 and nearly 140% more than a year ago.

Nearly 2 900 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 June, there were 29 240 detections of irregular border crossings, up 40% year-on-year. Highest since 2016.
  • The Central Mediterranean route accounted for half of the irregular crossings into the EU so far this year.
  • Entries on other migratory routes into the EU declined.

The Central Mediterranean remains the most active route into the EU this year, with nearly 66 000 detections reported by national authorities in the first six month of 2023. This route accounts for one of every two irregular entries into the EU in this year.

Arrivals on all the other migratory routes saw declines from a year ago, ranging from 6% on the Western Mediterranean up to 34% on the Eastern Mediterranean route.

After a decrease in May caused by long periods of bad weather conditions, smugglers stepped up their activities, resulting in an 85% increase of arrivals in the Central Mediterranean in June.

Increased migratory pressure on this route may persist in the coming months with smugglers offering lower prices for migrants departing from Libya and Tunisia amid fierce competition among the criminal groups.

Regrettably, the sea crossings remain extremely dangerous. According to IOM data, almost 1 900 people went missing in the Mediterranean in June alone, with the vast majority on the Central Mediterranean route.

During January-June period, the Western Balkan route, the second most active route with nearly 40 000 detections, saw a decline of 29%, in large part due to tighter visa policies.

The number of irregular crossings in the English Channel towards the UK in June increased to 5 900 detections and was the highest this year. Periods of good weather have led to a rise in the number of detections, with smugglers also resorting to simultaneous departures to boost the odds of reaching the UK.

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.