The third quarter of 2014 saw an increase in most of the indicators of irregular migration exchanged under the Frontex Risk Analysis Network (FRAN) in comparison with the second quarter of 2014. The only decrease was observed in the number of effective returns. A factor in this general trend was the annually recurring cycle of seasonal variation, whereby the summer months of each year are usually marked by increased pressure at the external borders.
However, the increase in irregular migration was above what would usually be expected based on seasonal fluctuations at this time of the year. In the third quarter of 2014, the number of illegal border-crossings reported by the Member States was at its highest level since FRAN data collection began in 2007 at over 110 000. In fact, compared to the third quarter of 2013, detections at the external borders increased by more than 150%.
Almost 90% of the irregular migrants were reported from the sea border of the EU. Com-pared to one year ago, both Italy and Greece reported a more than threefold increase in detections of illegal border-crossing. Also detections in Spain increased; however, only by 6% and from a significantly lower base.
In Q3 2014, Syrian migrants were the most reported nationality in the Central Mediterranean with more 20 000 detections, which accounted for one quarter of all detections at this border section, while the number of Eritrean migrants, previously top-ranking, decreased by 20% from Q2 (falling to about 13 000). Due to the difficult living conditions for migrants in Egypt, many of the 140 000 Syrians currently registered in the country decided to leave for Europe, mainly through Libya.
The intensified migration in the Central Mediterranean Sea was not only related to improved weather conditions, but also to the migratory pressure exerted by a large number of migrants from African, Middle East, and Asian countries, waiting in the coastal areas of Libya for an opportunity to reach Europe. On the other hand, criminal facilitation net-works exploited the presence of Italian vessels deployed in the proximity of the Libyan coast under the Operation Mare Nostrum, often using unseaworthy and overcrowded boats and counting on the prompt engagement of Italian search and rescue capacities.
For the third quarter in a row, Italy reported a large number of sub-Saharan Africans of unidentified nationality. Before the first quarter of 2014 hardly any migrant had been reported in this category, yet Q3 saw over 12 000 such detections, which may indicate that the large waves of arrivals of sub-Saharan Africans may have intermittently exceeded the screening capacities deployed to the Italian sea border. Numbers of identified sub-Saharan Africans indeed show a significant increase in Nigerian and Gambian irregular migrants.
As the prolongation of the conflict in Syria and the emergence of new conflict areas, such as Iraq, might further increase war-related migration to countries of the Middle East region, also the Eastern Mediterranean route will continuously be affected by migrants trying to reach the EU. Already in Q3 2014, mainly due to more detections in the eastern Aegean Sea, the share of detections re-ported from the Eastern Mediterranean route has increased by 170% compared to Q3 2013.
By the end of 2013, increased operational measures had led to a decline in detections at the Greek and Bulgarian external land borders and to a displacement of irregular migration to the Aegean Sea. However, irregular migration at the green border to Turkey has been continuously on the rise again since January 2014. Compared to the previous quarter, detections between land BCPs increased by almost 70%, while clandestine entries almost doubled, even though from a far lower level.
Hungary reported a rapid threefold increase in detections of illegal border-crossing since the previous quarter, again representing the largest share of irregular migration flow at the land borders. Both detections related to Kosovo* citizens and Syrians increased more than fourfold. Syrians are currently the top-ranking nationality at this border section. This suggests that, despite increased operational activities at the EU’s external border with Turkey, secondary movements from Greece through the Western Balkan region to Hungary and further on to other Member States continue at sustained levels. Numbers of Afghan nationals, who ranked third, increased to a lesser extent.
On the Western Mediterranean route, the numbers of detections of illegal migration from Morocco have almost doubled since the previous quarter. Migration in this region has usually peaked during the third quarter, but in 2014, the months between July and September were marked by the most intensive migratory flow since 2011.
The growth in illegal migration, however, was limited to the blue border. Additional technical and operational measures at the land border to the Spanish enclaves of Ceuta and Melilla reduced attempts to climb the fence significantly and resulted in just 325 detected migrants in Q3 2014.
After the number of asylum seekers had crossed 100 000 applications made in the EU/Schengen Associated Countries in the second quarter, the indicator broke another record in Q3 2014 and jumped to 164 000 asylum claims. Of migration-related indicators, the number of asylum applications showed the most consistent long-term up-ward trend. In absolute numbers according to Eurostat data, Germany was the Member State which registered the largest increase in asylum applications compared to the same period of last year.
Asylum seekers increasingly focused on the top destination countries. Since 2010, the share of applications for international protection submitted in the current top three asylum destinations (Germany, Sweden, and Italy) has grown from 37% to around 60% of the total number. In general, Syrian asylum seekers continued to be the number one nationality seeking international protection in the EU/ Schengen Area, representing a fourth of all asylum applications submitted in Q3 2014.
Since the previous quarter, the number of persons using fraudulent documents reported through the European Union Document-Fraud Risk Analysis Network have increased to more than 2 400 detections on entry to the EU/Schengen area from third countries. Spain, Italy, and France reported the highest levels of document fraud detections of entry at the external border, together accounting for more than 50% of the cases. But also Poland reported more detections, which were, to a large extent, related to Ukrainians presenting fraudulently obtained visas.
Moreover, the number of document fraud cases detected between Schengen and non- Schengen EU countries has grown by almost 40% since the previous quarter, reaching the highest level of both this and last year. This surge was mostly due to more detections of Albanian, Ukrainian, Iranian, and Syrian document fraudsters attempting to travel to the UK.