Irregular Migration to the EU Falls by 13%

2020 saw the lowest number of irregular border crossings since 2013.

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Agadir – The number of detected irregular border crossings along the European Union’s external borders fell by 13% in 2020. According to figures collected by Frontex, the European Border and Coast Guard Agency, this was primarily due to the COVID-19 restrictions many countries put in place. 

Both Western and Eastren Meditarenean saw a marked decrease in irregular migration last year. The Western Meditarenean, primarily Spain, recorded 17,000 arrivals, a 28% decrease compared to 2019. Meanwhile, the Eastern Meditaranean recorded only 20,000 border crossings, a decrease of 76%, the biggest drop in arrivals across the EU.


While COVID-19 restrictions certainly have played their part in reducing irregular migration, also notable have been Morocco’s efforts to curb irregular crossings.

Morocco has witnessed continued success in stopping attempted irregular migration operations bound for Spain, causing undocumented migrants passing through Morocco to seek new routes, such as crossing the Atlantic towards the Canary Islands. 

As a result, the Canary Islands experienced a record number of undocumented migrantion in 2020, with over 22,600 irregular border crossings detected on the Western African migratory route. With an increase of eight times compared to 2019, this was the highest number of irregular border crossings recorded by Frontex since it began collecting data in 2009.

Most migrants departed from West African countries such as Mauritania, Senegal, and Gambia, with smugglers using large fishing boats capable of carrying large numbers of people at once.

Similarly, the Central Mediterranean route also saw an increase of traffic, recording 35,600 arrivals, an increase of 154%. Tunisia saw a sharp growth of departures, but most undocumented migrants came from Libya.
A notable point of the report is the decline in child migration, with approximately 10% of irregular migrants being under the age of 18, compared to 23% in 2019.