Migrant entry numbers into Europe hit six-year high

BRUSSELS (AP) — The number of attempts by migrants to enter the European Union without authorization reached around 330,000 last year, the highest number since 2016, the EU’s border and coast guard agency said Friday.

Almost half of the 2022 attempts were made over land through the Western Balkans region, EU agency Frontex said, according to its “preliminary calculations.” Regardless of entry route, Syrians, Afghans and Tunisians together accounted for roughly 47% of the attempted border crossings.

Men accounted for more than 80% of the attempts to get in, Frontex said. The agency calculates entry attempts rather than the number of people trying to get into Europe, because it’s often difficult to identify migrants, who routinely travel without passports, and some may try to enter multiple times.

People arriving at Europe’s borders to apply for asylum have a reasonable chance of being allowed in, while those who come without a visa in search of jobs and better lives are mostly turned away.

Well over 1 million people, most of them Syrians fleeing conflict, entered the EU in 2015, overwhelming reception facilities and sparking one of the 27-nation bloc’s biggest political crises.

Member countries still argue over who should take responsibility for people arriving without authorization and whether their neighbors and partners should be obliged to help. Attempts to reform the bloc’s asylum system have made little progress.

Frontex’s latest figures didn’t include almost 13 million Ukrainian refugees who were counted at the EU’s external borders between February and December. Special emergency measures were introduced to ease their entry and help find them accommodation, training and short-term jobs.

The number of people making potentially perilous journeys across the Mediterranean Sea in poorly equipped and often overloaded boats and rubber dinghies continued to rise last year. Frontex said that well over 100,000 crossing attempts were recorded, around 50% more than in 2021.

Egyptians, Tunisians and Bangladeshis tried in the greatest number. The agency said that 2022 saw the most people in five years arrive from Libya, the main departure point in northern Africa. The number of people leaving Tunisia hit the highest level in recent history.

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