The number of unauthorized migrants entering Europe hit a five-year low, yet the Mediterranean crossings into Spain have surged. Frontex, the border agency, said that migrants tried to get to Europe without permission around 150,000 times in 2018, a 25% fall compared to 2017. The agency said that the decline could be attributed to a smaller number of people entering through Italy, crossing the Med mostly from Libya and Algeria.
The new figures suggest that the patterns and the dynamic have changed since the height of the European refugee crisis, which started in 2015, with large numbers of migrants trying to reach Europe from South-Eastern Europe, the Middle East and Africa. In contrast, Spain detected around 57,000 crossings last year, twice as much as in 2017. Frontex said that the most represented nationalities on the Western Mediterranean route were Moroccan, Guineans, Malians and Algerians. EU countries have been arguing about how to manage migrant arrivals since the 2015 peak of the migrant crisis when more than a million people entered the bloc – the continent’s biggest influx of migrants and refugees since the Second World War.
Following 2015, the number of arrivals was curbed by a variety of measures including a 2016 deal between the EU and Turkey under which migrants arriving in Greece would be sent back to Turkey if they did not apply for asylum or their claim was dismissed. Moreover, new border fences were set up in 10 Balkans countries and last year, a deal was signed between Rome and Tripoli under which Italy would provide financial support, training and equipment to help Libya manage its borders. Between 2014 and 2020, the EU Commission is providing 7 billion euros to member states to improve reception centers and border controls.