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Irregular border crossings fall in January despite spike on Western African route

2024-02-09

The number of irregular border crossings into the European Union fell to nearly 14 000 in January, down about one-third from December and was roughly in line with the total from the same month of last year. Nearly all major migration routes saw a monthly drop ranging from -71% in the Central Mediterranean to -30% in the Western Balkans. 

Bucking the downward trend was the Western African migratory route, where the number of arrivals reached over 6 600 in the usually quiet January period, nearly 50% more than in December and 10 times the figure reported a year ago. The region accounted for nearly half of all detection of irregular border crossings in January. 

Last year, the Western African route experienced the biggest percentage rise in irregular crossings. 

In recent months criminal groups involved in people smuggling in Mauritania were quick to seize opportunities presented by the increased demand from sub-Saharan migrants transiting their country seeking to enter the European Union via the Canary Islands. In recent months, people smugglers have been cramming an increasing number of migrants onto small wooden fishing boats know as Cayucos , putting the lives of the people on board in even larger danger. 

Frontex remains committed to safeguarding the EU's borders, with nearly 2370 officers and staff engaged in various operations. Currently, 170 Frontex officers and staff are supporting Spain on the Canary Islands and the Western Mediterranean region.

Key highlights of the migration data include: 

  • Western African route accounts for nearly half of all irregular crossings in January. 

  • Central Mediterranean sees biggest drop (-71% month-on-month) 

  • Top three nationalities on all routes are Syrians, Afghanis and Malians, although authorities are still determining the nationality of a large number of the arriving migrants. 

On the Channel route, the number of detections of people seeking to cross into the United Kingdom stood at nearly 3200, roughly in line with the figure from January 2023. 

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. 

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