The stretch of the Mediterranean
Sea between North Africa and Italy is one of the main migratory routes to
Europe, although the number of arrivals has come down from the peak years of
In 2022, the number of detections in the Central Mediterranean rose by more than half to well over 100 000 detections.
Egyptians, Tunisians and Bangladeshis were the top three nationalities in a year that saw the most arrivals in this region from Libya since 2017 and the most from Tunisia in recent history.
Situation in 2021
The Central Mediterranean continued
to be the most used path to Europe for the second year in row in 2021 as 67 724
migrants were detected on this route. This is an 90% increase from the previous
year and accounts for 23% (or roughly one quarter) of all reported illegal
border-crossings at the external borders.
A higher rate of arrivals from
Libya made it the main country of departure, while more departures from
Tunisian and Turkish shores also contributed to the increased migratory
pressure on this route.
Tunisian migrants were most
frequently detected in this region, although the year of 2021 saw the return of
larger numbers of Egyptian migrants, whose number increased nearly sevenfold
from the previous year. Bangladeshi nationals were also among the top detected
Situation in 2020
In 2020, the number of irregular
migrants detected on this route increased significantly, making it the
most-used path to Europe. The number of detections doubled from the previous
year to a total of 36 435.
Libya was the most common departure
point: in addition to Bangladeshi, Sudanese and Moroccans were increasingly choosing
it as their last point of departure to Europe. The growing number of departures
from Tunisia and Turkey also contributed to the increased migratory pressure on
Tunisians were the top detected
nationality, accounting for over one third of all detections on this route,
followed by migrants from Bangladesh and Côte d'Ivoire.
Situation in 2019
In 2019, this route recorded its
lowest yearly number of irregular migrants since before the Arab Spring as the arrivals
in the region dropped for the third year in a row. The total number of arrivals
was 14 874, a 40% decline from the previous year 2018.
Nationals of Tunisia, Sudan and Côte
d'Ivoire were most detected on this route.
Over half of the migrants who
arrived in the EU via this route departed from Libya, although the prevention
activities by the Libyan Coast Guard kept departures down throughout the year.
Situation in 2018
In 2018, the Central
Mediterranean route experienced the biggest drop in the number of irregular
migrants. The total number of irregular border crossings plunged 80% on this
route to 24 800, the lowest number since 2012.
Tunisians and Eritreans
were the two most represented nationalities on this route, together accounting
for more than one third of all detected migrants.
Situation in 2017 and before
In 2017, the number of irregular
migrants detected on this migratory path stood at 119 385, decreasing from the
record high of 2016. After the monthly totals in the first half of 2017 roughly
mirrored those seen a year earlier, the figures dropped suddenly starting in
July. This sudden plunge in the number of irregular migrants reaching Italy in
mid-2017 was arguably the most significant development at the external borders
of the EU since the implementation of the EU-Turkey statement in March 2016.
In 2016, 181 459 migrants were
detected on the Central Mediterranean route, which was the highest number ever
recorded in the region. Most of the migrants departed from Libya, where
well-established smuggling networks took advantage of various groups vying for
control of the country.
The Central Mediterranean route was
also under intense migratory pressure in 2015, although the total number of
migrants arriving in Italy fell to 153 946, about a tenth lower than in 2014.
More information about this
migratory route to Europe is available in Frontex’s annual risk analysis reports. Frontex supports Italy
with Operation Themis.
Illegal border crossings on the Central Mediterranean route (including Apulia and Calabria) in numbers.
As of October 2014, the data for the Central Mediterranean route include the data for the Apulia and Calabria route. Indeed many migrants are disembarked in Apulia and Calabria even though they have been detected in the Central Mediterranean area. However, the current reporting mechanism does not break down by areas of detections, but by areas of disembarkation, thus a distinction of detections between these two routes is not available.