The migration truce due to the Covid-19 pandemic is definitely a thing of the past. With the lifting of restrictions on global mobility, the flow of undocumented migrants had already increased by 57% between 2020 and 2021. And the border protection agency Frontex confirms the trend in the first quarter of 2022 compared to the first quarter of 2021.
Data to put into perspective
Over 40,300 “illegal crossings” were detected between January and March, a further increase of 57% compared to the same period last year. This hypersensitive data, unmatched for six years, falls at a delicate time in France. The start of the presidential campaign focused its attention on migration management, before being overtaken by the war in Ukraine. In this second round duel between Emmanuel Macron and Marine Le Pen, one is betting on the European level, with a reform of the Schengen area, when the other would like to give priority to national law and restore the hexagonal borders.
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The figures are nevertheless disproportionate, compared to the first quarter of 2016, in the wake of the 2015 migration crisis. Europe had then experienced the arrival of 284,525 migrants. Several points call for the data communicated by Frontex to be put into perspective. The agency itself reminds us: a crossing can be carried out several times by the same person. It should also be noted that Frontex counts both illegal entries and exits on European territory. However, the number of migrants who attempted to cross the Channel to England in the first quarter almost tripled compared to the same period of 2021. They were 8,900, an increase of 190%.
The inventory nevertheless confirms the intuition of Hélène Thiollet, migration specialist at the CNRS, who has been condemning for several months “a pandemic period that gave credence to the myth of ‘zero immigration'”. “I expect this fantasy, which has regained vigor in political discourse, to suffer a terrible setback in the years to come, as societies around the world have become impoverished”, she explains.
In the details of arrivals
Almost no road escapes the rise. The one passing through the Western Balkans is by far the most affected, since it alone accounts for nearly half of arrivals with an increase of 115% (more than 18,300, with a tripling in March to 6,650). Syrians and Afghans are the most identified nationals.
Arrivals to Cyprus, which tripled to 5,100 last quarter, largely explain the rise on the Eastern Mediterranean route (7,005 people detected). About 85% arrive via Turkey. This access route to Europe concerns mainly Nigerians and Congolese. The latter nevertheless have very limited access to the rest of the EU, Cyprus being an island far from the mainland which is not part of the Schengen area.
→ REPORT. In Cyprus, the wandering of migrants stuck at the gates of Europe
Entry via West Africa and the Canary Islands (attached to Spain) also recorded a significant increase of 70% in its flow, with 5,850 crossings. However, the flow recorded a sharp slowdown in March. Moroccans and Guineans are the most likely to take this path.
The new route through Eastern Europe saw these flows increase eightfold (950 “illegal crossings”), but from very low initial values. Most of these crossings took place in March (600), after the start of the Russian offensive in Ukraine. Which shows that “the vast majority of Ukrainians entered legally” in the EU, underlines the agency.