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Frontex sees big rise in EU migrant entries, no Ukraine link

BRUSSELS (AP) – The number of migrants trying to enter the European Union (EU) without authorisation in the first three months of the year has risen to its highest level since 2016, even excluding refugees arriving from Ukraine, the EU’s border and coast guard agency said yesterday.

Frontex estimated that more than 40,300 “illegal crossings” were made into the 27-nation EU between January and March, up by 57 per cent over the same period last year.

Well over one million people, most from Syria but also many Iraqis, entered the EU in 2015, overwhelming reception facilities. Their arrival sparked a major political crisis in Europe as nations bickered over who should take care of them, and tensions still linger.

This year, almost five million people fled the war in Ukraine. Poland has welcomed more than half of them while Hungary has taken in close to half a million, according to United Nations refugee agency figures. Both countries refused to be obliged to take in refugees from Syria and Iraq after 2015.

Frontex said the number of attempts to enter Europe without authorisation via the Western Balkans more than doubled in the first quarter of 2022, with over 18,300 detected crossings.

Most were Syrians and Afghans. Over 5,100 attempts were made through the EU island country of Cyprus, a three-fold annual rise.

Frontex also said the number of migrants trying to reach Britain across the English Channel nearly tripled in early 2022 to almost 8,900 compared with the first quarter of last year. Around half were prevented from making the crossing.

Migrants walk near the Pournara Emergency Reception centre in Kokkinotrimithia, Cyprus. PHOTO: AP