In July of this year, Frontex released its first quarter (January – March) 2013 report. As in past quarters, the 70-page report provided in-depth information about irregular migration patterns at the EU external borders. The report is based on data provided by 30 Member State border-control authorities, and presents results of statistical analysis of quarterly variations in eight irregular migration indicators and one asylum indicator (here is a link to our summary of the 2012 fourth quarter report).
In Q1 2013 all indicators of irregular migration were reduced in comparison with the final quarter of 2012. In most instances these declines were consistent with past documentation of seasonal variation; typically the first few months of each year are associated with reduced pressure at the border compared to other times of the year. Here are some highlights from the report focusing on the sea borders:
- The Greek operation Aspida (see the 2012 Q4 summary for details) has resulted in a dramatic reduction of irregular migration across the Greek-Turkish border. As a result, one of the three alternative routes increasingly utilized is: migrants leaving the west coast of Turkey to illegally cross the Eastern Aegean Sea towards the Greek Islands. This border section ranked second at the EU level in terms of detections. Syrians and Afghans were both detected at similar frequencies of around 500 each over the three-month period.
The JO Poseidon Sea 2012 was also active during the reporting period in order to tackle the flow of irregular migrants penetrating the external EU sea borders in the Eastern Mediterranean mainly from Turkey and, to a lesser extent, from Egypt.
Syrians, were increasingly detected at the Greek sea border with Turkey (Eastern Aegean Sea) and the Bulgarian land border with Turkey.
There were fewer detections of illegal border-crossing than ever before, with just 9 717 detections. The drop was limited mostly to sea borders.The JO Poseidon Land 2012 was active during Q1 2013.Here are excerpts from the Report focusing on the sea borders:[***]4.2 Routes
- In the Eastern Mediterranean, detections tend to be characterised by Asian and some North African migrants illegally crossing the border from Turkey into Greece. In the second half of 2012 detections were much reduced following increased operational activity at the Greek land border with Turkey, where most detections were previously reported (see Section 4.1.1.).
- On the main Central Mediterranean route, which includes the Italian Pelagic Islands (Linosa, Lampione and Lampedusa) and Malta, most detections tend to be of migrants arriving on boats from North Africa. During the previous quarter there were fewer detections of North African nationalities such as Tunisians and Egyptians but there was a surge of migrants from sub-Saharan countries such as Eritrea, the Gambia and Mali, all of which were detected in much higher numbers during the last there months of 2012 compared with Q3 2012. In the current reporting period, the number of detected Somalis decreased, resulting in the top three nationalities – Somalis, Gambians and Egyptians– being detected at similarly low levels of around 200–250 each over the three-month period (Fig. 5).
[***]4.2.1 Eastern Mediterranean Route
[***]4.2.2 Central Mediterranean Route
In Q1 2013 there were 2 734 detections of il- legal border-crossing on the Eastern Mediterranean route, which was a decrease of 66% compared to the same period in 2012 but nevertheless still constituting nearly 30% of all detections at the EU level. In effect, this route remained the major entry point to the Schengen area.
With nearly 1 000 detections in Q1 2013, Syrians were by far the most detected nationality on this route. More than half of these detections were in the Eastern Aegean Sea region, with significant numbers also at the Bulgarian land border with Turkey.
East Aegean Sea
This border section ranked second at the EU level in Q1 2013. The most frequently detected migrants were Syrians and Afghans, followed Sri Lankans, whose number has recently increased.
The JO Poseidon Sea 2012 was operational throughout the reporting period, focusing on tackling the flow of irregular migrants penetrating the external EU sea borders in the Eastern Mediterranean mainly from Turkey and, to a lesser extent, from Egypt.
Syrians have been the most commonly detected migrants during the operation so far in 2013. Most were men travelling alone but here were some family units, and all were heading for Sweden or Germany to claim asylum. Once they entered Turkey, those intending to enter the EU travelled to Istanbul in order to make contact with facilitation networks. They stayed in Istanbul for between 1–12 weeks before being taken by van to the west coast of Turkey to depart towards the Greek eastern Aegean Islands.
Afghans were also detected in this region. Most were previously resident in Iran and had decided to travel to the EU due to deteriorating employment conditions. The Afghan community in Iran can easily find criminal networks that can facilitate them to Turkey and then to Greece. Once in Turkey, the Afghan migrants were transported by public transport to Istanbul and from there mainly by private transportation directly to departure area on the western coast of Turkey, where they boarded rubber boats destined for the Greek eastern Aegean Islands.
[***]4.2.3 Western Mediterranean Route
Since early 2011 migrants from Tunisia have been among the most commonly detected migrants arriving in the Central Mediterranean region but during the first three months of 2013 only 75 Tunisians were detected. In fact nearly all of the top 10 nationalities in Q1 2013 were detected in much lower numbers than during the final quarter of 2012.
Migrants from Somalia ranked top in the region but were detected at their lowest level for over a year.
A total of 233 migrants from the Gambia were detected in the Central Mediterranean during Q1 2013 which is the highest ever level for this nationality resulting in them ranking second in this region, followed by 216 Egyptians.
The JO Hermes 2012 was operational just for the first month of the reporting period. The operation was established to support the Italian authorities in tackling maritime illegal migration on the coasts of Sicily, Pantelleria and the Pelagic Islands (Lampedusa, Linosa, Lampione).
In January 2013, there was only one incident reported under JO Hermes whereby a total of 35 irregular migrants were detected, 32 of which were Syrian and three were Egyptian. [***] The disembarkation point was near Syracuse but this time the interception took place inland, implying that the facilitators (and probably some migrants) evaded detection.
The absence of boats from Tunisia and Libya may be due to the bad weather conditions throughout the Mediterranean area.
Although FRAN data suggest that detections of migrants from Syria were low in this region during the first three months of 2013 (85), there were some reports of boats arriving directly from Syria.
[***]4.2.4 Western African Route
In Q1 2013 there were only around 1 000 detections of illegal border-crossing in the Western Mediterranean region, which consists of several areas of the southern Spanish coast as well as the land borders of Ceuta and Melilla, where three-quarters of all detections were reported. At the end of 2012 we reported vastly increased detections of migrants from Chad, Cameroon, Mali and Guinea arriving in the region of Cadiz but this did not continue into the first few months of 2013.
Analysing the nationalities detected on this route is problematic as half were reported by the Spanish authorities as being of unknown nationality. However, open sources suggest that there have been increased reports of African migrants storming the border fence in Melilla.
In the first quarter of 2013, there were just a few individual detections of illegal border-crossing in this region, which is the same level as during the same period in 2012. During the previous quarter there were 30 or so detections of both Gambians and Moroccans but neither of these nationalities were apparent in the data exchanged for the first three months of 2013. Hence irregular migration pressure on the Western African route in much reduced.
Click here for a copy of the report.