Frontex Quarterly Reports for 2011 Q1 and Q2

The Frontex Risk Analysis Unit (RAU) released its 2nd Quarter Report (April-June) for 2011 on 4 October.  The 1st Quarter Report (Jan-March 2011) was released on 21 July.  As always, while the information is a few months old, the reports contain a significant amount of information, graphs, and statistical tables regarding detections of illegal border crossings, irregular migration routes, detections of facilitators, detections of illegal stays, refusals of entry, asylum claims, and more.

Here are extensive excerpts from the Q2 Report:

“Executive summary

In Q2 2011, all Frontex irregular-migration indicators increased compared to the previous quarter. The most important indicator, detections of illegal border-crossing, increased to a level not seen since Q3 2008 and correspondingly asylum applications are now at nearly the highest level since data collection began. What’s more, migration pressure at the border from migrants attempting to enter and stay in the EU increased even more than EU-level figures suggest, as they are offset against extensive reductions in Albanian circular migration.

In 2011 there were major and extensive developments in irregular-migration pressure at the external border of the EU, resulting from two simultaneous but independent hotspots of illegal border-crossings: the first was seasonally increased activity at the Greek land border with Turkey, where a wide variety of migrants continued to be detected at very high levels. The second, and the undeniable hotspot for illegal border-crossing into the EU in Q2 2011, was in the Central Mediterranean, where vast numbers of sub-Saharan migrants landed in Italy and Malta mostly having been forcibly expelled from Libya. [***]

4. Main points Q2 2011

  • All irregular migration indicators increased relative to the previous quarter
  • Compared to a year ago, there were significant EU-level increases in several irregular migration indicators, such as detections of illegal border-crossing, clandestine entries, and refusals of entry. There were also increased asylum applications
  • Despite detections of Afghan migrants falling by a third compared to last year, they were still the most common nationality detected illegally crossing the EU external border. Most were previously resident as refugees in Iran
  • In contrast, detections of all the other highly-ranked nationalities (Tunisians, Nigerians, Pakistanis, Ghanaians) increased massively relative to the same period last year
  • In total there were over 40 000 detections of illegal border-crossings, a 50% increase compared to Q2 2010. These were the result of two simultaneous but independent routes of irregular migration: the Eastern Mediterranean and the Central Mediterranean routes:

1. In the Eastern Mediterranean:

– There were over 11 000 detections of illegal border-crossing, almost exclusively at the Greek land border with Turkey, which is comparable with the same period in 2010

– This flow currently attracts migrants from north Africa, sub-Saharan Africa and Asia

– Groups of Dominicans were detected travelling to Turkey to enter the EU via the Greek land border

– Secondary movements are assumed from detections of (i) illegal border-crossings in the Western Balkans, (ii) false documents on flights to major EU airports from Turkey as well as Greece, and (iii) landings in southern Italy from Greece, Turkey and Albania

2. In the Central Mediterranean:

– Following a bilateral return-agreement between Italy and Tunisia, the massive influx of Tunisians to Lampedusa reported in the previous quarter decreased, but remained significant

– A very wide range of sub-Saharan Africans were detected on this route, some having been forcibly departed from Libya

– Italy reported more detections of illegal border-crossing in Sicily than ever before, a three-fold increase compared to the previous quarter; the increased flow was composed of migrants from Côte d’Ivoire as well as Tunisia and a range of other nationalities

– There were also increased detections of Egyptian migrants and facilitators landing in Sicily and Southern Italy from Egypt

– Italy and Malta reported huge increases in the number of asylum applications submitted by sub-Saharan African migrants. In Italy increases were particularly marked for Nigerians and Ghanaians

  • Following their new visa-free status, fewer Albanians were detected illegally crossing the EU border, and illegally staying within the EU (both mainly in Greece). Instead they were increasingly refused entry to Greece and they were also increasingly detected at the UK border, either as clandestine entry or using false documents
  • There was an increased flow of Georgian migrants towards Belarus (air and land), with increased illegal entries and asylum applications in Poland and Lithuania
  • In Q2, Libya was the most significant source of irregular migration to the EU. However, more recently the ability of the Gaddafi regime to forcibly expel its migrant population to the EU has become compromised; the situation remains dynamic and uncertain[.]

4.1 Detections of illegal border-crossing

At the EU level, in Q2 2011 there were more detections of illegal border-crossing since Q3 2008. The total of 41 245 detections during this reporting period is a 25% increase compared the previous quarter and a 53% increase compared to the same period last year (Fig. 2). Without question there were major and extensive developments in illegal migration pressure at the external border of the EU, resulting from two simultaneous but independent hotspots of illegal border-crossings. The first was increased activity at the Greek land border with Turkey, where a range of Asian, north African and sub-Saharan African migrants were increasingly detected at very high levels. The second, and the undisputed hotspot for illegal border-crossing into the EU in Q2 2011, was at the Italian islands in the Central Mediterranean, where vast numbers of Tunisians, Nigerians and other sub-Saharan migrants landed in small sea vessels, the majority of which in Q2 had been forcibly departed from Libya.

Figure 2 shows the evolution of the FRAN indicator 1A – detections of illegal border-crossing, and the proportion of detections between the land and sea borders of the EU per quarter since the beginning of 2008. In Q2 2011 there were more detections of illegal border-crossing since the peak of Q3 2008 nearly three years ago. Compared to a year ago, detections at the EU land border decreased by 42% to 13 742 in Q2 2011, almost exclusively due to fewer detections of Albanian nationals following their new visa-free status; elsewhere at the land border (including Greece) trends were roughly stable. In contrast, at the sea border detections increased nine-fold to some 27 500 detections (Fig. 2), the vast majority of which (95%) were in the central Mediterranean, forming the major development in irregular migration to the EU in 2011.


At the EU level, detections of illegal border-crossing increased by 53% compared to a year ago (Fig. 3). However, this level masks a lot of variation among Member States. First, and most importantly to the current situation, was a 4 200% increase in detections of almost exclusively African migrants in Italy. Related to this central Mediterranean flow, was a concurrent and massive increase in detections reported from Malta (from 0 to 710), and also increases further west into Spain (+61%). As a result, all these countries have seen increases in other indicators such as asylum applications of the most common nationalities (see relevant sections). [***]


As illustrated in Figure 4, for just the second time since records began in early 2008, in Q2 2011 detections of illegal border-crossings on the Central Mediterranean route, which comprises the blue borders of Italy and Malta, exceeded those reported from both the (i) Eastern Mediterranean route of the land and sea borders of Greece, Bulgaria and Cyprus, and (ii) circular migration from Albania to Greece.

Without question, in Q2 2011 the single most important irregular-immigration route in terms of detections of illegal border-crossing was the Central Mediterranean route, where detections increased in the beginning of 2011 to previously unprecedented levels (Fig. 4). In the first quarter of 2011, and uniquely compared to previous surges of illegal immigration, this flow was restricted to a single nationality – Tunisian, most of whom were responding to civil unrest in their home country by leaving towards the Italian Island of Lampedusa. In response to this almost unmanageable influx of irregular migration at a single and isolated location, a bilateral return agreement was signed between Italy and Tunisia, which allowed for the accelerated repatriation of newly arrived individuals. Hence, during the current reporting period, the flow of Tunisian migrants fell from over 20 200 in the previous quarter to 4 300 in Q2 2011.

However, civil uprising commonly referred to as the Arab Spring, and its effects on migration in the area, was not limited to Tunisia. For example according to multiple sources, in next-door Libya, migrants from sub-Saharan countries were in Q2 2011 being coerced to move towards the EU by the Gaddafi regime in response to the NATO Operation Unified Protector which commenced on March 27 under United Nations Security Council Resolution 1973. Thus, in Q2 2011, besides some continued departures from Tunisia, the flow in the central Mediterranean was composed of a single flow of large numbers migrants from sub-Saharan countries departing Libya in small vessels. [***]

4.1.1 Eastern Mediterranean route

Detections of illegal border-crossings on this route increased seasonally and in line with previous years, from 6 504 in Q1 2011 to 11 137 in Q2 2011, almost exclusively due to a massive increase in detections at the Greek land border with Turkey, where detections increased from 6 057 to 10 582. [***]

4.1.2 Central Mediterranean route

In Q2 2011 there were 26 167 detections of illegal border-crossings on the Central Mediterranean route, a 10% increase even compared to the ‘peak’ reported during the previous quarter, and evidently a massive increase compared to the negligible detections throughout all of 2010. The vast majority of detections on this route were reported from Italy (25 500) where detections increased by 13% even compared to the ‘influx’ of migrants reported during Q1 2011. In Italy, Central African, Tunisian, Nigerian and Ghanaian were the mostly commonly detected nationalities, 90% of which were detected in the Pelagic Islands (14 300), most notably Lampedusa (Fig. 7). However, in Q2 2011 there were also more detections of illegal border-crossing reported from Sicily (2 260) than ever before; this figure is nearly three times bigger than that reported in the previous quarter and more than twenty times higher than during the same period last year (100). Compared to the previous quarter, in Sicily there were more detections of migrants from a very wide range of countries such as Egypt, Côte d’Ivoire and Tunisia. There were also over 710 detections reported from Malta, which is a sustained peak from the previous quarter (820) and extremely high compared to the negligible detections throughout 2010. In Malta there were much fewer detections of Somalis and Eritreans but there were increased detections of Nigerians and migrants from Côte d’Ivoire. However, migrants from Tunisia, Algeria and Egypt often claim to originate from sub-Saharan Africa in an attempt to appear as refugees, a fact which may render such comparisons of nationalities somewhat misleading.

In the previous FRAN Quarterly (Q1 2011) it was reported a surge of irregular immigration (20 000 detections) on the Central Mediterranean route that was almost entirely restricted to a single nationality: Tunisian (Fig. 8). As a result of this influx, on 20 February the JO EPN-Hermes Extension 2011 commenced in the central Mediterranean, and a bilateral agreement was reached between Italy and Tunisia on 5 April 2011, which resulted in the strengthening of police surveillance along the Tunisian coast and regular repatriations of Tunisian nationals from Italy. For example, according to data collected under JO Hermes 2011, some 1 696 Tunisians were repatriated between 5 April and 23 August 2011. The repatriation agreement is probably an effective deterrent, combining as it does, returns and surveillance, however some migrants have reported their boats being spotted by military patrols that did not take any action. According to the FRAN data, in Q2 2011 some 4 286 Tunisian migrants were still detected illegally crossing the border into Italy. Although a massive reduction, this still represents a very large and significant flow of irregular migrants into the EU.

In comparison to the reduction in flow from Tunisia, in Q2 2011 there was a large increase in migrants who had departed from Libya (Fig. 9). The migrants departing from Libya were mostly nationals from countries in the Horn of Africa, the sub-Saharan and Central African regions and, to a lesser extent, Asia. According to intelligence collected during JO EPN-Hermes Extension 2011, most of these migrants had already been in Libya for over a year, originally heading to Tripoli via the traditional routes for sub-Saharan and Central African migrants. In Q2 2011, migrants tended to reach Italy on large fishing vessels that had departed directly from Tripoli or the nearby ports of Medina and Janzour. Most of these deported African nationals did not want to leave the country as their standard of living in Libya was high compared to their home countries. Several even stated that they would choose to return to Libya after the war. In Q2 2011 reports suggest that some migrants were instructed to reach embarkation areas on their own but had been caught by the military or police and then detained in camps or disused barracks until they were transported to embarkation areas and onto vessels bound for Italy. In each case the migrants were searched by the military before boarding and all their belongings were confiscated. According to reports, nationals of the sub-Saharan and Central African regions as well as from Horn of African countries have been recruited by the Libyan army/police to manage their compatriot migrants at gathering places or camps. In some cases the destination of vessels from Libya was Sicily, where the flow was characterised by waves of landings. For example there were around 11 landings on 13 May and 7 between 11 and 29 June, with the majority of boats arriving from Libya and Egypt. [***]

4.1.3 Western Mediterranean route

In Q1 2011 there were 1 569 detections of illegal border-crossings on this route to Southern Spain, which is nearly double compared to the previous quarter (890), and more than a 50% increase compared to a year ago (973). Some of this increase is due to better weather conditions at this time of year, but irregular migration pressure on this route is clearly higher than it was at the same time last year. [***]

In the longer-term, irregular immigration to southern Spain has been consistently decreasing since the beginning of 2006. Commonly cited reasons are Frontex Joint Operations in the area, effective bilateral agreements and more recently rising unemployment in Spain, particularly in sectors typified by migrants.* Nationalities traditionally associated with this route were Algerian, Moroccan and Ghanaian. [***]

4.1.4 Western African route

The cooperation and bilateral agreements between Spain and the rest of the Western African countries (Mauritania, Senegal and Mali) are developing steadily. They are one of the main reasons for the decrease in arrivals on this route over the last year, as are the presence of patrolling assets near the African coast. In Q4 2010 Frontex reported a slight increase in the number of detections of illegal border-crossing at the Canary Islands, from a maximum of 50 during each of the previous 4 quarters, to 113 in Q4 2010. This increased level of detections persisted into the first quarter of this year (154), exclusively due to Moroccan nationals (152) displaced after the dismantling of migrant camps near the dispute Western Saharan region. However, during the current reporting period detections on this route decreased massively to a negligible 24 detections. [***]”

Click here for 2011 Q2 Report.

Click here for Frontex Statement regarding 2011 Q2 Report.

Click here for 2011 Q1 Report.

Click here for Frontex Statement regarding 2011 Q1 Report.


Filed under Aegean Sea, Algeria, Analysis, Cyprus, Data / Stats, Eastern Atlantic, Egypt, European Union, Frontex, General, Greece, Italy, Libya, Malta, Mauritania, Mediterranean, Morocco, News, Reports, Senegal, Spain, Tunisia, Turkey

3 responses to “Frontex Quarterly Reports for 2011 Q1 and Q2

  1. Pingback: New Publications on Ethiopia, Arab Spring, FRONTEX, Racial Justice, Systematic Reviews | Refugee Archives Blog

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