Global economic instability caused by the coronavirus crisis may fuel a new surge of migration from Africa to Europe, the E.U.’s top law enforcement agency predicts.
In its latest annual report on migrant smuggling, Europol says flows from the Third World into Europe could increase again as border restrictions are relaxed and traffickers resume full-bore operations.
“While the economic impact of the COVID-19 crisis in Europe is not yet clear but expected to be significant, the impact on economies in the developing world is likely to be even more profound,” the report states.
“Prolonged economic instability and the sustained lack of opportunities in some African economies may trigger another wave of irregular migration towards the EU in the mid-term.”
Europol anticipates “continuous demand” along trafficking routes in the Western Balkans, which are already seeing increased activity in recent weeks, with hundreds of migrants arriving in northeast Italy via Slovenia.
“The region will thus remain a hotspot for the facilitation of secondary illegal migratory movements from Greece towards other EU countries,” the agency notes.
"Depending on the duration of the constraints in air travel, a diversion of smuggling activities to land and sea travel routes is to be expected. This will most likely have implications on the Western and the Eastern Mediterranean routes.”
Europol also predicts Turkey will continue driving illegal migrants towards its border with Greece - a maneuver which Ankara attempted at the onset of the coronavirus outbreak in Europe, with little success.
Evidence of increasing migration pressure at Europe's frontiers is mounting, with Hungary reporting 151 expulsions during the weekend, and another 37 illegal crossings prevented during the same time frame.
The number of illegal border crossings into the European Union during the first quarter of 2020 rose by 26 percent from the previous year, despite lockdowns and border closures in many countries across the continent.
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(PHOTO: Angelos Tzortzinis/picture alliance via Getty Images)Dan Lyman: Follow @CitizenAnalyst