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Western Mediterranean migration route

The Western Mediterranean migration route encompasses both the maritime route from North Africa to Spain and the land journey to the Moroccan Spanish enclaves of Ceuta and Melilla. It is unclear whether towns or locations are used by irregular migrants to embark and then debark in order to reach Europe.

The Western Mediterranean route was once the most common among Algerian and Moroccan nationals wanting to enter Spanish territory, either to stay or to continue on to another EU country. However, since the late 1990s, a growing number of Sub-Saharan Africans have used this path.

Strait of Gibraltar

Sub-Saharan Africans accounted for around one-quarter of migrants discovered after crossing the Strait of Gibraltar in 2003, compared to fewer than 2% in the late 1990s.In 2015, the route from Morocco to Spain was less commonly used by irregular migrants than the route from Libya.

Since 1999, stricter patrolling of the Strait of Gibraltar has been linked to a variety of migration routes to the EU. Because the Western Mediterranean route grew more heavily guarded over time, Libya became the primary point of departure for irregular migrants, resulting in a drop in the number of irregular migrants using the route. Because it was extremely difficult to enter Spain in 2012, numerous people preferred to relocate to Libya rather than Morocco. Others applied for permanent residency in Morocco, which allowed them to obtain tourist visas to travel to Turkey. Several migrants moved on to Greece after arriving in Turkey.

Ceuta and Melilla

Frontex, the EU border police, detected 7,842 irregular migrants attempting to cross the Western Mediterranean route in 2014. This route takes you around the southern Spanish coast as well as the land boundaries of Ceuta and Melilla. Due to the reinforcement of the fence along the Spanish land border, the number of migrants recorded irregularly crossing into Ceuta or Melilla reduced by 27% compared to 2013. In 2014, 3,087 migrants were caught entering the Ceuta-Melilla land border, compared to 4,229 in 2013. More than 60% of all detections in the Western Mediterranean route in 2014 were of migrants attempting to traverse the route by water.

Cameroon accounted for around 21% of all migrants discovered by Frontex during efforts to enter Ceuta and Melilla in 2014. Approximately 90% of all detected migrants in the Western Mediterranean route left Morocco, with the remainder leaving Algeria. In 2014, 1,497 Cameroonians were found (almost 20% of all detections), as were 734 Algerians and 669 Malians. The majority of irregular migrants detected on this route in 2014 were from various Sub-Saharan African nations. The Spanish government also spotted roughly 250 Syrians crossing the border illegally in November and December 2014.

Sources: United Nations UniversityIrregular Migration Routes to Europe and Factors Influencing Migrants’ Destination Choices

Photo by Tetbirt Salim on Unsplash


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