Antall illegale innvandrere som har krysset Europas grenser økte voldsomt i årets første fire måneder. Dersom det fortsetter i samme tempo for resten av året, så ligger det an til å bli enda fler enn de 140.000 som kom i 2011 under den «arabiske våren».
Frontex, som er EUs grensevakt, sier at 42.000 illegale innvandere ankom EU i perioden januar-april i år. Fire ganger så mange som samme periode i fjor.
I tillegg melder italienske myndigheter at 14.000 illegale innvandrere ankom Italia i mai. Totalen så langt i år blir dermed 55.000.
Ewa Moncure, a spokeswoman for Frontex, said: “By the end of April the number of illegal border crossings was close to 42,000, including 25,500 through Italy.
“The Italians gave a new figure a couple of days ago of over 39,000 so far this year, so the overall total will have grown significantly.
“If we look at the number of migrants who have arrived in Italy last year compared with the number who have arrived in the first five months of this year, the total has already been exceeded. It was 40,000 or so for the whole of 2013 and it seems like we have nearly reached that point by the end of May.”
The figures have soared even before the traditional peak months for illegal immigration.
Miss Moncure said: “There have historically been more arrivals in the summer because of the weather and particularly because the sea is less treacherous for boat crossings from Africa.”
Illegal migration has an enormous human cost, with hundreds drowned each year in sea crossings aboard overcrowded and sub-standard vessels.
Frontex reported an increase in the use of rubber boats, mostly by people from sub-Saharan countries, on what it described as the “perilous” journey to reach the Canary Islands or cross the Mediterranean.
“Compared to fishing boats, rubber boats put migrants’ lives at even greater risk, but offer the cheaper sailing option,” said Frontex’s annual report.
Hovedruten via Libya var stengt så lenge at mange har ventet i flere år hvilket har forårsaket en opphopning av folk som nå venter på å ta seg inn i Europa.