Last year, an estimated one million migrants arrived in Europe, accounting for the record number of 1.82 million detections of illegal border crossings reported by EU Member States. The number of detections was more than six times the previous record set in 2014.
A large number of illegal crossings were made by people who were counted for the first time when arriving on the Greek islands from Turkey and later were counted again when crossing one of EU’s external borders in the Western Balkans.
The Eastern Mediterranean route, especially the Greek islands in the Aegean, accounted for the largest number of detections – nearly 885 400. More than 90% of the detections, or 803 000, were reported in the second half of the year. Syrian nationals accounted for the largest proportion of arrivals, although the share of Afghans rose significantly towards the end of the year. Iraqis were the third largest nationality using this route.
Some 764 000 detections were recorded on the Western Balkan route, mainly on Hungary’s and Croatia’s border with Serbia.
In 2015, the number of migrants arriving via the Central Mediterranean route fell by about a tenth to 154 000, in large part due to the fact that Syrians had switched to using the Eastern Mediterranean route. However, the number of East and West Africans steadily increased by 42% to more than 108 000. The most often reported nationality was Eritrean, although by regions, the majority of the migrants came from West Africa.
The share of rubber boats used on this route increased last year. The use of weak, overcrowded boats with limited fuel supplies by smugglers seeking to maximise their profits put migrant lives at risk, leading to search and rescue operations saving an unprecedented number of people. Frontex saved some 40% of the people rescued in the Central Mediterranean region and 90% of those near the Greek islands in the Aegean.
The record number of migrants seeking to make their way to Europe also led to an increase in the number of detections of people smugglers, which rose by a fifth to more than 12 000. Moroccans, Spaniards, Albanians and Syrians were the most represented nationalities among the people smugglers. On several occasions, especially on the Central Mediterranean route, smugglers threatened border guards and rescue teams to recover the boats used to transport migrants.
The number of asylum applications in 2015 rose to an unprecedented level of 1.35 million, according to EASO. However, the number of return decisions issued by the Member States (286 700) and the number of effective returns (175 200) remained relatively stable when compared to the previous year. Albanians accounted for 17% of all effective returns, trailed by Ukrainians (8.6%) and residents of Kosovo* (5.8%).
The Annual Risk Analysis for 2016 also describes a series of alternative futures developed in collaboration with experts from relevant stakeholder organisations. These scenarios may be used as a foresight instrument at a strategic level.
The Annual Risk Analysis also points out three major challenges to be faced at the external borders: an unprecedented rise in migratory pressure, an increasing terrorist threat and a steady rise in the number of regular travellers.
*This designation is without prejudice to positions on status, and is in line with UNSCR 1244 and the ICJ Opinion on the Kosovo declaration of independence.