THE number of people illegally entering Spain via the western Mediterranean route, leaving from Morocco, doubled last year for the second year in a row to 57,000.
Whereas figures show migrants crossing into Europe as a whole dropped last year to its lowest level in five years.
Border and coastguard agency, Frontex, has confirmed an estimated 150,000 people entered the EU irregularly in 2018 – the lowest total since 2013 and is 92 per cent below the highest figure recorded during the ‘migration crisis’ in 2015.
The agency claims the dip was due to a significant fall in the number of migrants taking the central Mediterranean route from Libya, Algeria or Tunisia to Italy. A little over 23,000 irregular crossings were detected on this route for the year, 80 per cent less than in 2017.
Italy’s Interior Minister, Matteo Salvini, closed the country’s ports to migrant boats in June and the populist government has passed new anti-immigrant laws.
Meanwhile, most of the migrants on the western Mediterranean route, destined for Spain, originated from countries in sub-Saharan Africa, although the number of Moroccans has reportedly increased in recent months. Many also came from Guinea, Mali and Algeria.
Spain’s government has also allowed some ships carrying rescued migrants to dock in its ports after they were prohibited entry to Italy or Malta.
Immigration has become a major issue across much of Europe, with many political parties promising to crack down on arrivals of migrants including refugees and asylum seekers.
The International Organization for Migration (IOM) puts the number of migrants and refugees arriving in Europe last year at close to 142,000, most of whom made the perilous crossing of the Mediterranean Sea.
The UN agency reported more than 2,200 migrants as missing or dead in the Mediterranean in 2018.