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Illegal border crossings in Europe have risen beyond 2019 levels, says Frontex

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By AP  with Euronews
A deserted migrant camp near the Kuznitsa checkpoint at the Belarus-Poland border.
A deserted migrant camp near the Kuznitsa checkpoint at the Belarus-Poland border.   -   Copyright  Leonid Shcheglov/BelTA via AP

The number of people trying to illegally enter Europe has dramatically risen in 2021, according to Frontex.

The European Union's border agency says the figures and significantly higher than in 2019 before travel restrictions were imposed during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Around 160,000 “illegal border crossings” were recorded in the first 10 months of this year, Frontex said in a statement.

This number was 70% higher compared to the same period in 2020 and 45% more than the number of people trying to enter Europe without authorisation in 2019.

The biggest rise was at the EU’s eastern borders, in the Balkans region, and via central Mediterranean Sea crossings, Frontex said.

Almost 8,000 people — most of them Iraqis, Afghans, and Syrians — entered through the EU’s eastern frontier, the agency reported. This was 15 times the same number recorded last year.

Crossings from Belarus hit a peak of more than 3,200 in July but had dropped to over 600 by October.

Frontex said that countries neighbouring Belarus have "significantly strengthened their border-control measures under exceptional states of emergency".

"While high-level frictions between the EU and the Belarusian regime continue,” the measures have stopped people moving in large numbers, Frontex added.

Meanwhile, 48,500 migrant crossings were reported on the “Western Balkans Route” -- including more than 9,000 entries in October -- an increase of 810% compared to 2019.

There were also 6,240 migrant arrivals in the central Mediterranean in October, 186% more than in 2019.

Frontex said a “significant development” is that a growing number of migrants are crossing by sea into Italy directly from Turkey. Most usually come from Libya and other parts of northern Africa.

The agency said that 16,390 “illegal border crossings” were reported on the western Mediterranean route, often into Spain from northern Africa, but the numbers were 23% less than in 2019.