A total of 4,808 illegal migrants were registered in Croatia in 2017, which represented a 6.9 percent increase from 2016. However, in the first nine months of this year, the increase compared to the same period in 2017 was 31 percent, the government said in a cabinet session on Thursday.
The figures were part of a government report on the implementation of Croatia's integrated border management strategy for 2017.
By country of origin, the most numerous illegal migrants coming into Croatia last year were nationals of Afghanistan (965), accounting for 30 percent of all migrants who illegally crossed the border, said Zarko Katic, senior official at the Interior Ministry. These were followed by nationals of Kosovo, and Turkey in third place.
Katic said that the most common method used for illegal crossings is simply by walking over the border on foot and avoiding border control, as well as hiding in vehicles or freight trains coming into the country.
A new route that passes through Bosnia and Herzegovina became popular with illegal migrants last year, who travel on towards Croatia in the hopes of reaching the Schengen area which includes wealthy western European countries.
But, this was mainly due the good protection of Croatia's border with Serbia and Montenegro, Katic added.
Croatia's borders with Montenegro in the extreme south of the country and with Serbia in the east are about 340 kilometres long, whereas the border with Bosnia is roughly three times longer.