The number of people caught trying to enter the EU illegally has fallen to its lowest level in five years, the bloc’s border agency says.
An estimated 150,000 illegal crossings were registered by Frontex last year, the lowest amount since 2013.
It highlighted a sharp fall in the numbers crossing the Mediterranean to Italy, where a populist government has refused to allow rescue boats to dock.
But it said that arrivals in Spain had doubled for the second year in a row.
The number of departures from Libya dropped by 87% in one year, and those from Algeria fell by nearly a half.
Frontex says the western Mediterranean route is now Europe’s most active. The number of illegal arrivals in Spain – mostly from Morocco – doubled to 57,000 in 2018.
The agency also gathered data on the gender and ages of those caught trying to enter the EU illegally.
Women accounted for 18% of them, it says, while nearly one in five said they were under the age of 18.
The figures differ from those recorded by the UN refugee agency (UNHCR)which says that 123,109 illegal migrants arrived in the EU last year.
Frontex says this discrepancy is due to the fact that they cover all of the EU’s external land borders whereas the UN primarily measure sea borders.
The dramatic fall in the number of migrants attempting to take the central Mediterranean route to Italy follows the election of a populist government that has taken a hardline stance on immigration.