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EU reports overall drop in illegal migration, but sharp rise in sea crossings

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By Michael Daventry
Migrants from Morocco walk on a beach on the Canary island of Gran Canaria, Spain on Friday
Migrants from Morocco walk on a beach on the Canary island of Gran Canaria, Spain on Friday   -   Copyright  Javier Bauluz/AP
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Illegal crossings into the European Union plummeted at some land borders but soared on sea routes in 2020, new figures have revealed.

The EU’s border agency Frontex said it had detected 124,000 illegal crossings into the bloc in 2020 compared, a 13-point reduction.

But the figures disguised an even sharper 76% drop in crossings into Greece and Bulgaria via Turkey, a route widely used by refugees from Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan in previous years.

Frontex said fewer women and children had attempted to enter in 2020.

“Men accounted for a much larger share of the total number of irregular migrants arriving in Europe last year, with women making up fewer than one in ten,” the agency said.

“A year ago, women accounted for one of every four. The share of children detected last year also fell.”

Frontex
Crossings have fallen overall, but risen sharply on some routesFrontex

There was a sharp increase in the number of migrants using the southern Mediterranean route from north African countries.

Frontex said the increase in departures from Tunisia had been “stark” in 2020, but that slightly more migrants had departed from Libya.

There was also over 22,600 arrivals — a record figure — on the Canary Islands, the Spanish territory off the coast of West Africa.

It’s the highest level since Frontex began keeping records in 2009.

“Smugglers often used large fishing vessels capable of carrying a larger number of people that departed from West African countries such as Mauritania, Senegal and the Gambia,” the agency said.