Migrant arrivals in EU set to reach 5-year low

Illegal border crossings have continued to drop, putting this year's rate on track to be the lowest since 2013, Frontex has said. Despite this, an EU dispute over the arrivals continues to feed anti-migrant sentiment.

Unauthorized migrant arrivals in the European Union are down significantly compared to last year, with 2018's figures likely to hit a five-year low, the EU's border agency, Frontex, announced on Wednesday.

Frontex logged 118,900 illegal border crossings in the first 10 months of the year, which is more than 30 percent lower compared to the same period in 2017.

The agency attributed the trend to a steep drop in migrants and refugees taking the dangerous central Mediterranean route between Libya and Italy. The number of people arriving in Italy is down 87 percent compared to last year.

Italy's populist government has taken a hard-line stance on immigration, with Interior Minister Matteo Salvini vowing to stop arrivals and banishing migrant rescue boats from the country's ports.

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Outsourcing border controls to Africa

Rise in Spain arrivals

While Italy's stance may have helped dissuade some from making the dangerous crossing, Frontex noted there has been a rise in the number of people crossing the Mediterranean to enter Spain.

In October, almost 60 percent of all unauthorized migrant arrivals in the EU took place along the route between Morocco and Spain.

Some 9,400 people used the western Mediterranean route this October — over double the number from the same time last year.

Despite the steady drop in arrivals, EU member states continue to fiercely disagree over how the bloc handles migration. The dispute has continued to stoke anti-migrant sentiment across Europe.

Last month, the UN's refugee agency and the International Organization for Migration warned that the "political discourse concerning refugees and migrants, particularly those arriving by boat, has become dangerously toxic."

They added that although the rates of boat arrivals had fallen, the number of deaths at sea had risen.

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rs/aw (AP, dpa)

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