recent years, the number of irregular migrants detected on the Western
Mediterranean route, stretching across the sea between Spain and Morocco, has
increased significantly. This path has also been the main route used by
criminal networks to smuggle drugs into the Europe.
2018, the Western Mediterranean became the most frequently used route into
Europe. The number of detections in 2018 doubled for the second consecutive
year to a record high of 57 034.
was the main departure point to Europe for irregular migrants. Most of the
migratory pressure registered on this route was linked to migrants originating
from sub-Saharan countries. However, towards the end of 2018, the number of
Moroccan migrants began to increase.
claiming to be minors accounted for 9% of the arrivals on this route. Overall,
on both land and sea routes, Moroccans were the top detected nationality,
followed by Guineans, Malians and Algerians.
number of migrants detected reaching Spain from northern Africa jumped to 23
063 in 2017.
situation in the Rif region of Morocco, the main transit country for migrants
heading to Spain, created an opportunity for more departures from its western
coast in the second half of the year. This was coupled with a growing use of
high-capacity boats capable of transporting large numbers of migrants.
of every five migrants were nationals of Algeria and Morocco. Most of the
remaining people on this route came from Western Africa.
2016, detections of illegal border crossings on the Western Mediterranean route
reached almost 10 000. As in the case of the Central Mediterranean route, most
migrants were from Africa.
the situation differed considerably at the land and sea border. At the land
borders of Ceuta and Melilla, yearly detections near the fences hit a record
low of about 1 000. However, in the last month of 2016, some 400 sub-Saharan
African migrants forced their way into Ceuta. Previously sub-Saharans had
tended to try and climb over the fence to Melilla.
Detections at the sea border increased to over 8
000 in 2016. The migrants departed from the Moroccan and Algerian coasts towards
the southern shores of Spain. Most detections were reported around the Strait
of Gibraltar, where the majority of migrants opted for dangerous small rubber
dinghies to make the crossing, some equipped with a small engine.
For more information on the route, see our risk analysis report for 2019.More information about the role of Frontex in
Illegal border crossings on the Western Mediterranean route (sea and land) in numbers.