When was the height of illegal immigration?

Asylum and Migration: Facts and Figures 

A six-year low for irregular border crossings


The European Border and Coast Guard collects data on illegal border crossings at the EU's external borders, which are counted by national authorities. In 2015 and 2016, more than 2.3 million illegal border crossings were detected. In the period January-November 2020, however, the total number of illegal border crossings fell to 114,300. Compared to 2019, this is a decrease of 10 percent, and it is also the lowest level in the past six years. Despite a decrease of 55 percent, Afghanistan remains one of the main countries of origin of people found to have been irregularly crossed, along with Syria, Tunisia and Algeria.

The Mediterranean crossing still often ends fatally, with 1,754 people reported dead or missing in 2020 and 2,095 in 2019. Irregular arrivals via the central Mediterranean route (to Italy and Malta) increased 154 percent from January to November 2020 compared to the same period in 2019. There were more than 34 100 such arrivals in 2020, compared with almost 11 500 in 2019. In in these cases most of the people arrived in Lampedusa. Arrivals in Spain, especially in the Canary Islands, increased by 46 percent (35,800 people) in 2020 compared to 2019.

Many newcomers come from countries that are more affected by economic downturns than conflict. A decline in global money transfers likely contributes to this trend. Until the pandemic is contained and economic recovery sets in, poor employment and health prospects will remain an incentive for people to come to the EU.