AFIC consolidation, geographical expansion, product portfolio and support from the European Commission
In 2016, the AFIC successfully extended its geographical coverage and now also includes several countries from East Africa. Moreover, the Community implemented one of the recommendations from previous annual reports and started issuing a new monthly report during 2016.
It also strengthened a sense of African ownership of the Community by organising two workshops in Africa, conducting expert field visits in the continent (Aflao border post between Ghana and Togo and new airport in Nouakchott) and capturing greater attention from the key policy makers in Europe and Africa.
Irregular migration in the Central Mediterranean at record levels
In 2015 and early 2016, the irregular migration issue dominated the political agenda of the EU as hundreds of thousands of migrants and people in need of international protection started to move via Turkey, across Greece and the West- ern Balkans, towards their desired destination countries, such as Germany, Sweden and Finland.
However, after the crisis in Greece was addressed with a set of measures and agreements, starting from March 2016, the Central Mediterranean once again became the main entry point for thousands of migrants.
Between 1 January and 31 August 2016, some 117 000 irregular migrants were intercepted in the Central Mediterranean, which represents a very stable trend in relation to the same period in 2015, when around 116 000 migrants were apprehended.
In 2016, Egypt became an alternative to Libya as the departure point towards Italy for migrants from Horn of African countries and Sudan (nearly 12 000 in January–August 2016).
The number of migrants arriving from West and Central African countries continued to increase in relation to the same period last year. West African migrants mainly came from Nigeria, the Gambia, Côte d’Ivoire, Guinea, Senegal and Mali.Shift from land to sea in the Western Mediterranean
In the first half of 2016, the trend on the Western Mediterranean land and sea routes followed a different pattern, i.e. an almost 55% rise in the apprehensions on the sea route and a decrease of nearly 43% in detections of illegal border-crossing at the land borders.
As regards clandestine entries to the Spanish territories, an increase in the number of migrants detected hiding in cars and trucks (often in secret compartments constructed for that purpose by the smuggling networks operating in Morocco) was also noted.
Shorter distances, more profit for Libyan smugglers
Human smugglers in Libya capitalise on the fact that they need to provide less fuel and basic supplies for the migrants to make it to Europe as the average length of the sea crossing is constantly decreasing due to the presence of EU maritime assets. Moreover, it should be noted that, as in the case of rubber dinghies, the average number of migrants per boat also increased in 2016, further boosting the profits of Libyan smugglers.
From Agadez in Niger to Libya
Agadez remains the key transit hub for migratory movements towards Libya with many smuggling networks operating in the city. The networks' structure is hierarchical with the so-called ghetto boss at the top. He owns one or more ghetto compounds where migrants are lodged, as well as a number of vehicles (either stolen or purchased) – typically white Toyota Hilux cars and military-style cargo trucks from Libya.
The ghetto boss may sometimes act as the driver, but typically he is responsible for logistics and financial arrangements to keep the entire network operational.
The rival tribes of Toubou and Tuareg have been in sporadic armed conflict with each other over portions of southern Libyan territory, natural resources, and control of smuggling routes. As a result, the Toubou tribesmen control the traffic flow across Libya’s southern border from their capital in Murzuq, while the Tuareg control the Algerian border region.
In 2015, there were almost 3 000 AFIC country nationals detected with fraudulent travel document in the EU/Schengen area, i.e. 6% less than in 2014. The above mentioned figure comprises detections both at the EU's external border as well as on the intra-EU/Schengen movements.
Data from the first half of 2016 show that this downward trend continued. However, the rising trend of illegal border-crossings in the Central Mediterranean involving AFIC country nationals is likely to translate into an increased demand for fraudulent EU travel documents used for secondary movements.
Counter measures by AFIC countries
Togo has been tackling the phenomenon of document and identity fraud for more than a decade and could certainly serve as an example of good practices in the AFIC region. The country has put in place an integrated centralised document issuance system that enables the authorities to limit opportunities for fraudsters and criminals to use and produce forged documents.
Taking into account the clauses of the ECOWAS protocol, the Ghana Immigration Service (GIS) developed a preventive strategy aiming to curb the current migration trend. The GIS set up a Migration Information Bureau that organises information campaigns across the country to alert potential migrants to the dangers of irregular travel.
In Kenya, in response to security threats at the border with Somalia (attacks by al-Shabaab), the authorities in- creased the number of military patrols and security operations at the common border, while also building walls at certain sections in order to prevent terrorist movements/infiltrations.
Between 1 August and 31 October 2016, the authorities in Niger reported at least 55 vehicles seized and almost 1 700 migrants intercepted without travel documents at various checkpoints between Niamey, Agadez and Dirkou. The authorities also introduced limits of movement for the nationals of ECOWAS. Namely, all passengers from ECOWAS countries are now systematically driven back to Agadez if they are detected above Séguédine-Dirkou line.
Other topicsThis report provides an update on developments regarding regional security threats and cross-border criminality. It also off an overview of alternative routes through Mali and provides examples of geospatial analysis.