EU Illegal Immigration Still at 124,000 in 2020 Despite Virus Lockdowns

EDIRNE, TURKEY - MARCH 01: Greek border guards stands behind the border fences on March 01, 2020 in Edirne, Turkey. Refugees and migrants from various countries board a boat in an attempt to reach Greece from Turkey by crossing the Evros River on March 01, 2020 in Edirne, Turkey. Thousands …
Burak Kara/Getty Images

The number of illegal migrants entering Europe decreased by 13 per cent in 2020, the lowest number since 2013, a phenominon predominantly caused by the Chinese coronavirus travel restrictions.

Data released by the European Union border agency Frontex states that 124,000 illegal migrants crossed into the European Union last year, with Syrians the largest nationality represented in the figures, followed by Moroccans, Tunisians, and Algerians.

Greece saw the largest drop in illegal immigrants in 2020, despite seeing an initial surge of migrants prior to the Chinese coronavirus outbreak when Turkish President Recep Erdogan opened the gates to Europe in February.

According to a report from Greek newspaper Proto Thema, Greece saw a 76 per cent reduction in the number of illegal arrivals over the course of the year for a total of around 20,000 migrants.

Greek Minister of Migration and Asylum, Notis Mitarakis, noted that there has also been a significant decrease in the number of asylum seekers living in accommodation structures throughout the country, as well.

Last year, one of the largest centres, the notorious Moria migrant camp on the island of Lesbos, burned to the ground following suspected arson by some of the migrants living in it. Several migrants, all from Afghanistan, were later arrested in connection with the fire.

The structure that replaced the Moria camp, the Kara Tepe camp, has also seen its share of problems in recent months, including an incident in December in which a three-year-old child was found unconscious and was believed to have been raped.

While Greece saw a massive decline in new arrivals, the Spanish Canary islands saw the opposite situation in 2020. Over 22,600 migrants arrived in the islands, located off the west coast of Africa, in what amounted to an eight-fold increase from the year before.

In November alone, the islands reported over 8,000 arrivals — the single largest monthly number ever recorded.

Follow Chris Tomlinson on Twitter at @TomlinsonCJ or email at ctomlinson(at)


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