Warsaw (AFP) - Nearly triple the number of migrants entered the European Union in 2014 compared to the previous year, mainly due to refugees fleeing war in Syria, the bloc's border agency said Wednesday.
"Around 280,000 migrants entered the EU in 2014 compared to just over 100,000 in the previous year. It's a huge increase," Frontex spokeswoman Ewa Moncure told AFP.
"Last year Syrian nationals were the most numerous at the borders, and we know what they are fleeing," Moncure said, referring to the four-year civil war that has ravaged the country.
Hundreds of people have died in recent months as waves of migrants from North Africa and Middle East conflict zones try to reach Europe, fuelling criticism of rescue efforts.
Italian authorities said Wednesday that at least 10 more people died after a boat capsized off Sicily when the migrants aboard rushed to meet rescuers.
An increasingly violent and chaotic situation in Libya, a key jumping off point for migrants, has also helped prompt the huge hike in the number of asylum seekers trying to reach Europe.
"The reasons for the dramatic increase in migration are many: the dramatic situation in Syria, Eritrea, South Sudan, Democratic Republic of Congo and Iraq combined with the fact that Libya is de facto a failed state without functioning law enforcement," Moncure said.
"This has created ideal conditions for people smugglers who operate in Libya with impunity."
"Libya has become the main departure point for migrants," she added, noting that around 170,000 arrived in the central Mediterranean from the North African state that was engulfed in chaos after its 2011 revolution.
"Developments linked to ISIS also played a role" in the spike in asylum seekers who entered the EU last year, she said.
Responsible for policing the external borders of the 28-nation EU, Frontex is based in the Polish capital Warsaw.