In Q3 2011 most indicators monitored within FRAN community increased compared to a year ago. For example, detections of illegal border-crossing and refusals of entry both reached much higher levels than in Q3 2010. Moreover, more applications for international protection were submitted than in any other quarter since data collection began in 2008. Consistent with recent years, the majority of illegal border-crossings were limited to a small number of hotspots of irregular migration such as the Eastern and Central Mediterranean routes, accounting for 50% and 33% of the EU total, respectively. However, in Q3 2011 there was also a rise in the importance of the Western Mediterranean route, now representing nearly 10% of the EU total. At the EU level, the most commonly detected migrants were from Afghanistan, yet due to the recent increases in the number of migrants from Pakistan and Nigeria (by seven and ten times compared to Q3 2010, respectively) these nationalities have moved to the second and third position.
In Q3 2011 there were 19 266 detections of illegal border-crossing in the Eastern Mediterranean, a seasonal increase to a level almost exactly comparable with the same period in 2010. As was the case throughout 2010, detections were concentrated at the Greek land border with Turkey, where Afghans accounted for nearly half of all detected migrants. However, at this border section detections of migrants from Pakistan increased massively compared to last year and now rank second. Intelligence suggests that most Pakistani migrants are young, previously unemployed male economic migrants from North East Pakistan. They travel overland to Greece often with the help of facilitators and in the possession of false documentation. As Greece is both a transit country and a Schengen exclave, secondary movements are increasingly apparent from similar migrants detected illegally re-entering the Schengen area from the Western Balkans, crossing the Ionian Sea to southern Italy and using false documents on intra-Schengen flights from Greece.
In contrast to the consistent wave of irregular migration in the Eastern Mediterranean, the situation in the Central Mediterranean has been volatile in 2011, dependent on the political developments and civil unrest across North Africa. For example, civil unrest in this region, particularly in Tunisia, led to a dramatic increase in detections in the Central Mediterranean early in 2011. Consequently, in March 2011 some 14 400 Tunisian migrants arrived in the Italian island of Lampedusa. In April an accelerated repatriation agreement was signed between Italy and Tunisia, which resulted in a 75% reduction in the flow of Tunisians, but the region was then inundated by large numbers of sub-Saharan migrants arriving in Lampedusa, Sicily and Malta, many having been forcibly expelled from Libya by the Gaddafi regime. Since the National Transitional Council successfully gained control of Libya, this flow stopped abruptly in August. However, in Q3 2011 there were 12 673 detections of illegal border-crossing on this route, where Tunisian and sub-Saharan migrants, particularly Nigerians, are still arriving in significant numbers.
In Q3 2011 there were more detections in the Western Mediterranean (3 568) since mid2008. A wide range of migrants from North African and sub-Saharan countries were increasingly detected in this region. However, it is difficult to analyse the exact composition of the flow as the number of migrants of unknown nationality on this route doubled compared to the previous quarter. This may indicate an increasing proportion of nationalities that are of very similar ethnicity and/or geographic origin.
The flows of migrants arriving in the EU had a significant effect on the number of applications for international protection submitted: in Q3 2011 there were a massive 64 801 applications submitted across Member States. The largest increases in submitted applications were reported by Italy and involved nationals of Nigeria, Ghana, Mali and Pakistan. However, the applications submitted by nationals of Pakistan and Afghanistan also increased across a wide range of other Member States, such as Germany and Austria. In contrast to increasing applications for international protection were fewer detections of facilitators of irregular migration than ever before. This widespread and long decline may be because organised crime groups are increasingly recruiting would-be migrants by offering them legitimate entry to the EU with false or fraudulently obtained documentation. This is less risky and carries lower detection probability for facilitators than, for example, accompanying migrants across the border.
Following visa liberalisation, far fewer Albanians were detected illegally crossing the border into and illegally staying within the EU. However, Albanians are now increasingly refused entry to Greece and other Member States, which is relevant for the workload of border guards. Albanians were also increasingly detected attempting entry to the UK on intra-EU flights with false documents; not only were they detected on entry at UK airports, but also on entry at Irish airports and on exit at Spanish airports. According to intelligence, many obtain false documentation in Italy and then increasingly use smaller Spanish airports to depart towards the UK and Ireland. Albanians were also being detected en route to the UK and exiting the UK with large sums of money, which is indicative of illegal business activity between the UK and the rest of the EU and/or Albania.The threats related to cross-border crime at the border have generally remained unchanged since the beginning of the year. A seasonal increase in drug and cigarette smuggling and also in the detections of vehicle theft was reported. The presence of officers deployed at some sections of the EU external border positively affect the rate of detections of crime at the border. The modus operandi of vehicle smuggling based on the use of genuine documents shows the operational importance of profiling both the vehicles and their drivers.