MADRID – The number of illegal immigrants seeking entry to European Union soared in 2014 to an all-time record of 270,000, with Italy and Greece as their preferred destinations, according to the EU border agency, Frontex.
In an interview with Efe, Frontex Deputy Executive Director Gil Arias Fernandez said the numbers for 2014 nearly doubled the previous record of 141,000 that was registered in 2011 and attributed to spillovers from the Arab Spring.
After Italy and Greece, immigrants are most determined to settle in Bulgaria, Hungary and Spain, Fernandez said, and attributed the rise to “instability in their countries of origin and lack of control in transit countries,” such as Turkey and Libya.
“There is some control in Turkey, but the large numbers arriving from the Mediterranean coast are coming from Libya,” said Fernandez.
He noted that the number of immigrants fleeing their countries seeking international protection has increased.
“A few years ago, immigration for economic reasons was estimated at 50 percent and the same percentage for political refugees, while in 2014 about 80 percent of immigrants to the EU will be asylum seekers,” he said.
Although Frontex will not reveal specific details until mid-January 2014, Fernandez said the total figure will likely exceed 270,000 people, as about 260,000 migrants were recorded till November.
About 11,000 immigrants, who have arrived in recent weeks, will be added to November’s figure.
Fernandez voiced pessimism regarding future immigration flows, saying that the figures for 2014 will be maintained if the EU and member states do not take joint action to devise a solution.
“If no political solutions are found in the immigrants’ original countries, where the EU and the international community can play a role, and in transit states, like Libya where it appears their situation will not improve in the short term, I think the situation will remain the same,” he admitted.