In the fourth quarter of 2015, the indicator of detections of illegal border-crossings between BCPs reached its highest level since the data exchange under the Frontex Risk Analysis Network (FRAN) began in 2007. It is also the first time that the total number reported under this indicator has increased between a third and a fourth quarter.
In the past years, bad weather and rough sea conditions have slowed down migration across the Mediterranean Sea with the onset of autumn. In 2015, however, the record level of irregular migration from Turkey to the Aegean Islands in the summer months was followed by another 45% increase in October in relation to September. In November, irregular migration in the Eastern Mediterranean dropped by around 30%, and successively by one-third in December. In spite of this reduction, the number of illegal border-crossings reported by Greece in December 2015 was more than 50 times higher than one year before, exceeding 110 000.
As regards nationalities, 46% of all migrants who have crossed the sea border from Turkey in Q4 2015 claimed to be Syrians, while 28% stated to be from Afghanistan. Compared to one year ago, the numbers of irregular migrants from Iraq, Iran and Pakistan have exponentially in-creased, from over one hundred in Q4 2014 to over 100 000 during the reporting period.
Detections on the Western Balkans route closely followed the events in the Eastern Mediterranean. Indeed, most migrants who had entered the EU from Turkey were reported for a second time when they passed through the Western Balkans and then crossed the external EU border from Serbia to Croatia. Once in the EU, this flow of irregular migration is reflected by continuously high numbers of detections of illegal stay in several Member States.
Compared to the high level of irregular migration on the Central Mediterranean route one year ago, the number of detections reported by Italy during Q4 2015 de-creased by roughly one-third in relation to the previous quarter. This lower level of migration resulted from the fact that in contrast to 2014, Syrians avoided the dangerous sea crossing from North Africa. Indeed, the number of non‑Syrians choosing this route was at about the same level as in Q4 2014.
As usual, irregular migration on the Central Mediterranean route slowed down at the end of the summer due to adverse weather and sea conditions and reached a low in November. However, in December the Italian authorities reported rising numbers again at a level that was three times that of the month before. This sudden spike was caused by increased arrivals of Horn of African and West African nationals, especially from the Gambia, Eritrea, Nigeria and Senegal.
Somehow overshadowed by the migration to Greece, the level of irregular migration in the Western Mediterranean has doubled compared to one year ago and reached the highest level of any previous fourth quarter.In spite of the unprecedented growth in irregular migration including migrant nationalities with very low asylum recognition rates, the number of effective returns increased slightly but remained at a relatively low level, i.e. fewer than 50 000 persons in Q4 2015.