African migration to Europe surged in 2023 – Le Monde

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Despite steps to minimise it, Europe remains vulnerable to the continual influx of migrants at its borders, according to a study published on Tuesday by the French newspaper Le Monde, after data revealed that the upward trend of illegal migration to the continent persisted last year.

According to UNHCR data, around 266,940 migrants and refugees landed in Europe in 2023. According to the research, 97% of them arrived by sea, with many ending up in southern European nations such as Spain, Italy, Greece, Malta, and Cyprus.

The migrant surge is a 67% rise from 2022 and the greatest since the continent’s migration crisis in 2015 (373,652 entries) and 2016 (1.03 million arrivals).

The rise comes despite European Union (EU) policy efforts, which have sought to prevent migrants from entering its territory by externalizing – or ‘outsourcing’ – border controls to non-EU countries.

The “main source” of the 2023 surge is the Sfax region of Tunisia on the North African coast, Le Monde said, with Tunisia accounting for about two-thirds of all migrants arriving in Italy last year, which fueled tension between Tunis, Brussels, and Rome.

Tunisians account for less than 10% of people who leave the North African country for Europe, with the majority coming from West African countries such as Guinea, Mali, and Cameroon. According to the Le Monde report, many of individuals who landed in Tunisia had previously failed to leave Africa via Algeria or Libya.

Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni has urged European partners to show more solidarity as the country serves as a key entry point for illegal migrants. The European Parliament and Council agreed in December to legislation aimed at creating a more sustainable asylum process and clarifying countries’ responsibilities in terms of receiving immigrants, more than three years after it was initially presented.

The migration movement from Tunisian coasts to Europe has sparked diplomatic tensions between Tunis and Brussels. Tunisian President Kais Saied responded to European Union (EU) efforts to better monitor his country’s migrant influx in exchange for financial aid, saying that the North African country “cannot be the border guard [for] Europe.”

Saied has, however, condemned the “hordes of illegal immigrants” attempting to use the country as an exit route, alleging that they desire to change “the demographic composition of Tunisia.” According to Le Monde, this has resulted in an increase in violence against Sub-Saharans living in Tunisia, sparking greater attempts to migrate to Europe.