Over the past year, 139,000 irregular migrants were intercepted at the external borders of the EU, 6 percent less than in 2018 and 92 percent less than the record of arrivals reached in 2015.
The reduction is mainly due to fewer arrivals in Spain and Italy, according to preliminary data published on Wednesday by the European border and coast guard agency Frontex.
Arrivals in Spain via the Western Mediterranean route were significantly lower than in 2018 (58 percent less), with 24,000 migrants detected, mainly Moroccans and Algerians.
On the so-called Central Mediterranean route, through Italy, the number of arrivals was reduced by 41 percent compared to 2018 and remained below 15,000 migrants, mostly nationals of Tunisia and Sudan.
Despite the downturn in irregular migrants entering the EU via the Central and Western Mediterranean routes, numbers entering the EU via the Eastern Mediterranean and the Western Balkans continued to grow.
Irregular migration via the Eastern Mediterranean increased by approximately 46 percent on 2018 figures with 82,000 irregular migrants entering the EU by this route.
Around 14,000 irregular crossings were detected at the EU’s borders on the Western Balkan route last year – more than double the 2018 figure.
Afghans were the main nationality of newly arrived irregular migrants in 2019, representing almost a quarter of all arrivals, Frontex said.
There has also been an apparent increase in the number of women and children entering the the EU via migration routes with Frontex reporting that in the first ten months of last year, around 23 percent of migrants were women compared with 19 percent in 2018.
Approximately 14 600 migrant children younger than 14 in the January-October period, almost one thousand more than in all of 2018.