The European Union’s Mediterranean borders will be under migrant pressure throughout this year, the EU’s border agency Frontex said. Almost 119,000 Africans were caught trying to get to the EU in 2017 on smugglers’ vessels departing from Libya. Frontex says that this trend will continue in 2018. “The pressure, the irregular migration pressure on our southern borders in the Mediterranean will remain at a very high level (in 2018),” Fabrice Leggeri, Frontex’ Executive Director, commented.
On top of the 119,000 African migrants setting out from Libya, there are about 42,000 others on the way from Turkey to Greece and another 23,000 heading from Algeria and Morocco to Spain. The numbers on the Libya-Italy route have gone down since last July as Libyan authorities – under pressure from Rome and Brussels – began to block departures, especially from the smuggling hubs. However, the crossings to Spain have more than doubled from below 10,000 in 2016. Mr. Leggeri explained that the activity increased due to the use of more solid rubber boats on this Western Mediterranean route.
Stopping irregular immigration from the Middle East and Africa is one of the EU’s priorities since 2015 when more than a million migrants arrived in Europe, thus causing a crisis throughout the EU accompanied by a rise of nationalist, anti-immigrant and populist sentiments. Since 2016, when an EU-Turkey deal stopped the irregular arrival of Syrian refugees in Greece, Frontex said African nationals have made up almost two thirds of some 205,000 people trying to reach the shores of Europe. It is estimated that around 511,000 tried to do so in 2016. In 2017, Syrians and Nigerians each made up nine percent of overall arrivals, followed by nationals of the Ivory Coast, Guinea and Morocco.