Illegal EU migration surges as thousands flock to Italy

PARIS - There has been a significant rise in the numbers of migrants reaching Europe in recent months, the BBC has learned.

The number of people attempting the dangerous sea crossing from North Africa to Italy has risen sharply, says Frontex, the EU border agency.

From January to April, 42,000 migrants were detected on these routes, with 25,650 of these crossing from Libya.

Combined with seven other less busy routes, the total figure for this year is probably now about 60,000.

On Wednesday, the Italian government said the number of migrants reaching its shores had soared to more than 39,000.

The total for 2014 so far is more than the equivalent period in 2011, the year of the Arab Spring, which eventually saw the arrival of 140,000 illegal migrants.

"If the current trends continue, and with the summer months approaching, there is a strong likelihood the numbers will increase further," says Gil Arias Fernandez, Frontex's Deputy Executive Director.

At least a third of the latest arrivals are Syrians, fleeing that country's civil war.

But other significant numbers are coming from Afghanistan and Eritrea.

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