The Western Balkan route has been
one of the main migratory paths into Europe, reflected the influx on the
Eastern Mediterranean route. After the record number of arrivals in the
European Union in 2015, the number of irregular migrants choosing this route
fell steadily for a few years and has started to pick up again from 2019
The Western Balkan route was the
second most-used path to Europe as the detections of illegal border crossings
more than doubled in 2021 to a total of 61 735.
As with the previous year, the
majority of illegal border crossings can be attributed to migrants who have
been in the Western Balkan region for some time and repeatedly try to reach
their target country in the EU. As in previous years, non-regional migrants
continued to attempt to enter the Western Balkans across the southern common
borders with Greece and Bulgaria before heading north and trying to exit the
region largely at the northern common borders of Hungary, Romania Croatia or
26 969 irregular migrants were
detected in the Western Balkans region in 2020, over a three-quarters increase
compared with 2019.
While migrants already in the Western
Balkans were likely the main contributors to the rising number of attempts on
the region’s northern borders, there were also new arrivals, as reflected by
the significant pressure on entry to the region from the south. As such, non-regional
migration in the region continued to be strongly connected to the Eastern
Mediterranean migrant flow.
Syrians represented the largest
share of migrants on this path, but arrivals from all the Northwest African
countries also increased markedly.
In 2019, the number of irregular
migrants on this route almost tripled to 15 152. Illegal border crossings
particularly increased towards the end of the year, and in fact, almost half of
all detections on this route were recorded in the last quarter of the year
Two thirds of migrants detected
came from Afghanistan and Syria. Iraqis, Iranians and Turkish were also among
the top five detected nationalities using this path to the EU.
The number of irregular migrants
detected on the Western Balkan route to Europe halved from the previous year to
The top nationalities detected
transiting the region were Afghans and Pakistanis, similarly to those reported
on the Eastern Mediterranean route. Iranians were also among the most detected
The total number of irregular
crossings stood at 12 179 in 2017. The flow of migrants across the Western
Balkans reflected the influx on the Eastern Mediterranean route, yet at a lower
level compared with previous years given the continuing efforts made on the
route to curb the number of irregular crossings.
As in previous years, non-regional
migrants continued to attempt to enter the Western Balkans across the southern
common borders with Greece and Bulgaria before heading north and trying to exit
the region largely at the northern common borders of Hungary, Croatia or
Romania with Serbia.
In 2016, the number of detected
illegal border crossings between border crossing points associated with
non-regional migrants amounted to 130 325.
Following the coordinated
restriction measures implemented throughout the region, in destination
countries and the Aegean Sea, the non-regional flow transiting the Western
Balkans considerably subsided, declining almost every month, from 67 000 illegal
border-crossings in January down to roughly 1 400 in December 2016.
In 2015, the region recorded 764
033 detections of illegal border crossings by migrants, a 16-fold rise from
The record number of migrants
arriving in Greece had a direct knock-on effect on the Western Balkan route, as
the people who entered the EU in Greece tried to make their way via the former
Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Serbia into Hungary and Croatia and then
towards western Europe. This led to unprecedented numbers of migrants seeking
to re-enter the EU through Hungary’s borders with Serbia. The top-ranking
nationality was Syrian, followed by Iraqis and Afghans.
For more information about this
route, see Frontex’s annual risk analysis reports.
Illegal border crossings on the Western Balkans route in numbers.