The number of illegal arrivals was 57% higher than in 2020, when restrictions imposed by the Covid-19 pandemic drastically reduced migration, but also 36% more than in 2019, Frontex said in a statement.

The number of illegal arrivals to the EU in 2021, “just under 200,000”, is now higher “than pre-pandemic levels”, added the Warsaw-based agency.

“This suggests that factors other than the lifting of restrictions on global mobility are behind the increase in migratory pressure,” Frontex said.

In 2021, a new factor was the influx of migrants, mainly from the Middle East, through Belarus, in what the EU considers an operation orchestrated by the Minsk regime.

Frontex also observed a sharp increase in migrant arrivals through the central Mediterranean, the Western Balkans and Cyprus.

The main route for migrants was the central Mediterranean, where 65,362 illegal migrants arrived, about a third of the total. From one year to the next, the increase was 83% on that route, according to Frontex.

The Western Balkans saw an increase of 124% compared to 2020, reaching 60,540 illegal migrants. In Cyprus, 14,400 arrivals were registered, 123% more than in the previous year.

Last year, Syrians were the most numerous among illegal migrants, followed by Tunisians, Moroccans, Algerians and Afghans.