In 2021, the number of arrivals to
the EU via this route was 20 567, staying on the same level with the figures of
the previous year.
While detections of illegal border
crossings continue to drop in Greece, Cyprus experienced significantly stronger
migratory pressure compared to previous years as arrivals to its shores doubled
to around 12 350 This increase was linked to a higher share of Africans among
the detected migrants.
The number detections of illegal
border crossings plunged to 20 283 in 2020, only a quarter of the total of 2019.
Although the year began with a rise,
the onslaught of the COVID-19 pandemic and restrictions applied both in Greece
and Turkey substantially reduced arrivals during the rest of the year.
Most of the irregular migrants detected
on this route originated from Syria, Afghanistan and Turkey this year.
The Eastern Mediterranean was the
most-used path to Europe in 2019 as the number of detections of illegal
border-crossings jumped to 83 333, the highest total since 2016.
In the second half of the year,
arrivals in the Eastern Aegean were the highest since the implementation of the
EU-Turkey Statement. Contrastingly, the pressure on the Greek and Bulgarian
land borders with Turkey markedly eased and reported detections there fell by
almost half when compared with 2018.
Afghans were the most commonly
detected nationality with their number increasing by 167%, or by roughly 18 000
people in absolute numbers.
Aside from Afghans, migrants from
Syria and Turkey were among the top three detected nationalities.
In 2018, the Eastern Mediterranean
route registered 56 561 illegal border-crossings. The pressure was 34% higher
than in the preceding year due to the rise in land crossings from Turkey to
Syrians were the most commonly
detected nationality, followed by Afghans and Iraqis. The number of recorded
Turkish migrants more than tripled from 2017 with 7 918 arrivals, making it the
fourth most detected nationality.
In 2017, there were 42 319 detections
of irregular arrivals on the Eastern Mediterranean route. This was roughly on
the same level with the previous year’s figures due to the implementation of
the EU-Turkey statement.
In 2016, 182 227 migrants were
detected on this route, although a vast majority arrived in the first three
months of the year. The number of migrants arriving on the Greek islands in the
Eastern Aegean plunged starting in late March 2016, after the EU-Turkey
statement that came into force in March 2016, in which Turkey agreed to secure
its maritime and land borders and accept the return of irregular migrants from
Greece. The statement largely removed the incentive for migrants to take
irregular migration routes to Greece and has undermined the business model of
Several measures introduced to
prevent illegal border-crossing along the Western Balkan route also discouraged
many from making the dangerous sea crossing to reach the Greek Eastern Aegean
In 2015, 885 386 migrants arrived
in the EU via the Eastern Mediterranean route – 17 times the number in in 2014,
which was itself a record year at the time. Throughout 2015, Frontex deployed
an increased number of officers and vessels to the Greek islands to assist in
patrolling the sea and registering the thousands of migrants arriving daily. In
December, the agency launched Poseidon Rapid Intervention after the Greek
authorities requested additional assistance at its borders.
Most of the migrants on this route
in 2015 originated from Syria, Afghanistan and Iraq.
More information about this
migratory route is available in Frontex’s annual risk analysis reports. Frontex supports
Greece with border control as part of Operation Poseidon and Operation Terra.
Illegal border crossings on the Eastern Mediterranean route in numbers.