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As coronavirus lockdowns end, thousands of migrants are making the deadly crossing to Europe

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Guardia Civil officers stand guard in June 2018 as migrants stay at a makeshift emergency center in the south of Spain, after being rescued by Spain's Maritime Rescue Service.
Guardia Civil officers stand guard in June 2018 as migrants stay at a makeshift emergency center in the south of Spain, after being rescued by Spain's Maritime Rescue Service.   -   Copyright  AP Photo/Emilio Morenatti, File
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Five times as many migrants crossed into the European Union in May compared to a month earlier as coronavirus lockdowns across the continent are eased and borders re-open.

Frontex, the European Border and Coast Guard Agency, said on Monday that it had recorded 4,300 unauthorised crossings in May compared to around 900 in April, the lowest total since it began collecting data in 2009.

A total of 31,600 people have crossed into Europe illegally in 2020 so far, a drop of only 6% from the same period in 2019.

Of them, 12,700 have come via the so-called 'Eastern Mediterranean route', by sea from Turkey to Greece, including 1,250 in May alone. The largest proportion of those coming via Turkey are from Afghanistan, Frontex data reveals.

Over 5,500 have reached Europe via the so-called 'Central Mediterranean route', from North Africa to Europe, including 1,000 in May. A further 6,900 have come via the Western Balkans, up 50% on the same period last year, including 90 in May.

Over the weekend, a boat carrying around three dozen migrants bound for Europe capsized in the Mediterranean; a dozen people were missing and feared drowned off the coast of Libya.

The International Organisation of Migration said in March that its estimated death toll of migrants who tried to cross the Mediterranean passed the “grim milestone” of 20,000 deaths since 2014.

On Sunday, Pope Francis used his address in Rome to draw attention to thousands of migrants, refugees, asylum-seekers and internally displaced people, stating they were “more vulnerable to forms of exploitation and violence.”

“There is cruelty,” the pope said, departing from prepared remarks. “We all have responsibility. No one can feel exempt."