The number of illegal immigrants crossing into Europe has risen sharply in the first four months of this year, meaning that this year’s figures could overtake those of the 2011 Arab Spring.
EU border agency Frontex said that 42,000 illegal immigrants reached Europe between January and April this year, the Telegraph reports. This marks a four-fold increase on the same period last year.
Italian authorities have also confirmed that a further 14,000 illegal immigrants arrived on the country’s territory in May, bringing their total so far this year to 55,000.
Ewa Moncure, a Frontex spokeswoman, said: “By the end of April the number of illegal border crossings was close to 42,000, including 25,500 through Italy.
“The Italians gave a new figure a couple of days ago of over 39,000 so far this year, so the overall total will have grown significantly.
“If we look at the number of migrants who have arrived in Italy last year compared with the number who have arrived in the first five months of this year, the total has already been exceeded. It was 40,000 or so for the whole of 2013 and it seems like we have nearly reached that point by the end of May.”
In addition, the traditional peak season for illegal immigration, summer, has not yet begun.
“There have historically been more arrivals in the summer because of the weather and particularly because the sea is less treacherous for boat crossings from Africa,” Miss Moncure added.
Frontex also reported an increase in immigrants using rubber boats, either to cross the Atlantic to the Canary Islands, or to cross the Mediterranean. Their report said: “Compared to fishing boats, rubber boats put migrants’ lives at even greater risk, but offer the cheaper sailing option.”
These figures come after Libyan interior minister Salah Mazek threatened to help illegal migrants reach Europe unless the EU agreed to give aid to his nation.