Migratory Routes

The Western Balkan Route has been one of the main migratory paths into Europe, reflected the influx on the Eastern Mediterranean route. However, after the record number of arrivals in the European Union in 2015, the number of illegal border crossings on this route has been falling steadily.

In 2018, the number of irregular migrants detected on this route halved from the previous year to 5 869. Most of the migrants detected on this route in 2018 came from Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iran.

Situation 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. The total number of irregular crossings in 2017 stood at 12 179.

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.

The largest number of illegal border-crossings of regional migrants occurred at the common land borders between Greece, Albania and the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia. These were associated with Albanian circular migration to Greece.

Trends prior to 2017

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 128 000 illegal border-crossings in January down to roughly 3 000 in December 2016.

In 2015, 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. In all of 2015, the region recorded 764 033 detections of illegal border crossings by migrants, a 16-fold rise from 2014. The top-ranking nationality was Syrian, followed by Iraqis and Afghans.

Illegal border crossings on the Western Balkans route in numbers.

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