EU border restrictions ease and illegal crossings surge

In April and May, travel and border restrictions meant a sharp drop in the number of migrants crossing into the European Union, with the numbers being the lowest seen since 2009. 

However, as these restrictions have started to be relaxed, this number has begun to increase. 

According to a press release from Frontex, the European Border and Coast Guard Agency, there were 4300 unauthorised border crossings as of the beginning of this week, compared to 900 in the previous month. 

The report shows that, so far in 2020, 31,600 people have illegally crossed into Europe. Overall, this is just 6% lower than 2019. 

Of the people crossing, around 40% (12,700) came via the “Eastern Mediterranean route” and 1,250 came through this route in May. 

Most are coming from Syria, Afghanistan, Iraq via Turkey or Greece by sea. 

Another 5,500 came via the “Central Mediterranean route, which is crossing from North Africa, and 6,900 migrants crossed via the Western Balkans. This route saw the largest increase – 50% higher than this time last year. 

The estimated number of deaths for Mediterranean crossing has now reached 20,000 deaths since 2014, according to the International Organisation of Migration.

So, what does this mean going forward?

Human rights groups say the restrictions and border closures could add to the problem and make the situation worse for those fleeing war zones or poverty. 

In addition, asylum applications to the EU fell 87% between January and April to the lowest since 2008 in April, prompting concerns there could be a surge in arrivals and applications in the coming months. 

“The coronavirus pandemic has deepened the plight of people fleeing war, conflict and persecution, but people who are forced to flee conflict and persecution should not be denied safety and protection under these circumstances,” UNHCR spokesperson Babar Baloch said on Friday.

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