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ARA 2014

2014-05-14

Frontex Annual Risk Analysis 2014 presents a European summary of trends and developments along the external borders of the Member States of the EU. It focuses on describing current challenges that are likely to impact on operations coordinated along the external borders. It presents the latest update regarding the situation before the border, at the border and after the border.

Before the border

Data on visa issuance are not yet available for 2013, but the European Commission has released the data for 2012. In 2012, a total of 14 250 595 short-term uniform visas were issued, representing an increase of 13% compared to 2011, and a 51% increase compared to 2009, when 9 420 896 short-term uniform visas were issued. Most of the visas (59%) were issued in just three countries: the Russian Federation, which alone accounted for 42% of all visas issued in 2012, with nearly 6 million visas, as well as Ukraine (1.3 million, 9%) and China (1.25 million, 8%). 

At the border

Passengers

Passenger flow is an indicator of the volume of checks that border guards have to perform. However, at European level, there is no systematic reporting on passenger flows by BCP, border section or as a total for the EU external borders. At the air border, data from Eurostat on extra-EU arrivals are the best approximation of the flow of passengers. At the air border, Eurostat data showed that intra-EU arrivals (460 million) were approximately four times larger than extra-EU arrivals (125 million) at main EU airports in 2012. Extra-EU arrivals in 2012 showed a steady trend of +2% compared to 2011. The UK and Germany are the two Member States reporting the largest number of extra-EU arrivals, each reporting more than 20 million. The main two airports with the largest number of departures to the EU in 2012 were the Turkish airports of Istanbul Atatürk (IST) and Antalya Airport (AYT), which reached around 6 million passengers during the year.

At the land border, although data are limited, it can be assessed that between 2009 and 2013, passenger flows increased more rapidly at the land border than at the air border in the wake of visa liberalisation for the Western Balkan countries and the implementation of local border traffic agreements. It is now assumed that there are more passengers crossing at the land border than at the air border. 

Refusals of entry and document fraud

According to the Schengen Borders Code, third countries nationals arriving at the external borders may be refused entry into the EU if not fulfilling all the entry conditions. Refusals of entry rose by 11% between 2012 and 2013, to 128 902. While most refusals of entry are reported from the land and air borders, in line with the distribution of passenger flows, the long-term trend is an increase at the land border due to increasing passenger flow. At the EU level, Russians ranked first for refusals of entry, followed by Ukrainians and Albanians.

The Eastern land border saw a large increase in refusals of entry issued to Russians of Chechen origin at the Polish-Belarusian land border between March and August 2013. The migrants showed up without visas and then applied for asylum. Later on, they also applied for asylum in Germany.

In the Western Balkans, visa liberalisation granted to citizens of Serbia, Montenegro, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and Albania increased both the passenger flow and the number of refusals of entry. Refusals of entry issued to nationals of the Western Balkan countries accounted for 18% of all refusals in the EU in 2013, while this share was only 9% back in 2010, i.e. before visa liberalisation. Thus, visa liberalisation resulted in more passengers checked at the borders. At the same time, passengers no longer requesting a visa were no longer screened by consulate authorities, thus increasing the responsibilities of the border-control authorities, which are now the only authorities to identify travellers who do not meet the criteria for travelling in the EU for a period of three months within a six-month period, as laid down in the legislation.

In 2013, there were around 9 800 detections of migrants using document fraud to illegally enter the EU or Schengen area. The use of fraudulently obtained (rather than forged) documents is becoming an increasingly common modus operandi at the border. This is because modern documents are getting more and more difficult to forge or reproduce. Indeed, detections of fraudulently obtained passports doubled in 2013 in comparison to 2012.

Illegal border-crossing

Detections of illegal border-crossing along the EU’s external borders sharply increased between 2012 and 2013, from approximately 72 500 to 107 000, which represents an annual increase of 48%. While the annual increase is significant, the 2013 level is comparable to the totals reported by Member States in 2009 and 2010 (104 600 and 104 000, respectively), and is still lower than the total reported during the Arab Spring in 2011 (141 000). Apart from this rising trend, 2013 was characterised by three phenomena: a large increase in illegal border-crossings by Syrians, subsequently applying for asylum, on the Eastern Mediterranean route and in the Central Mediterranean; a steady flow of migrants departing from North Africa (Libya and Egypt) putting their life at risk to cross the Mediterranean Sea; and a sharp increase, mostly in January-June, in detections reported by Hungary at its land border with Serbia.

Most detections of illegal border-crossing were of Syrians, Eritreans, Afghans and Albanians, who together accounted for 52% of total detections (or 55 400). Syrians alone (25 500) represented almost a quarter of the total. Their detections at the EU border tripled between 2012 and 2013, reflecting the dire situation in Syria and the desperate plight of Syrian refugees. Syrians were by far the most common nationality to request international protection with 50 096 applications reported to the Frontex by Member States. This is nearly twice as much as the already very high number of applications submitted by Syrians in 2012 and represented a significant increase in numbers for the EU.

In the Central Mediterranean area detections were low in the first quarter of 2013, but gradually increased starting from the second quarter to reach a peak in the third. By the end of the year, the annual total was 40 304 detections of illegal border-crossings. Most boats departed from Libya, where facilitators take advantage of weak government controls. Many migrants also departed from Egypt.

On the Eastern Mediterranean route, detections (24 800 in 2013) were at the lowest level reported since 2009, but this route still ranked second and accounted for nearly a quarter of all detections of illegal border- crossing to the EU. Compared to 2011 and 2012, the areas of detections also considerably changed and detections in the Eastern Aegean Sea were the largest, followed by detections along the land border between Bulgaria and Turkey.

Detections of illegal border-crossing strongly increased on the Western Balkan route, from about 6 400 in 2012 to 19 500 in 2013. Most of the detections were reported in February-July 2013 at the Hungarian-Serbian land border. Migrants detected in that period for illegal-border crossing immediately applied for asylum and subsequently absconded to continue their journey to other Member States.

In the Western Mediterranean area and on the Western African route, detections of illegal border-crossing remained fairly stable in 2013, with 6 800 and nearly 300 detections respectively. In the Western Mediterranean, nearly two-thirds of the detections were reported at the land border in Ceuta and Melilla. This is associated with more effective prevention of departures at sea by the Moroccan authorities and enhanced prevention measures in the Mediterranean Sea, including the EPN JO Indalo. Several times in 2013, the Spanish authorities warned of the permanent threat of migration to Melilla.

At the eastern land border, detections of illegal border-crossing remained at a low level, at 1 300, or 1.2% of the EU total.

After the border 

In 2013, there were about 345 000 detections of illegal stay in the EU, which represented a generally stable trend compared to the previous year. This is consistent with a stable, if slightly declining long-term trend over the past five years.

Based on the Frontex Risk Analysis Network (FRAN) data for 2013, the number of asylum applications submitted in the EU continued to increase. Preliminary data indicate an over- all increase of about 28%, totalling 353 991 applications in 2013. Syrians were by far the most common nationality to request international protection, nearly double the already very high number of applications submitted in 2012. More than two-thirds of all Syrian applications were submitted in Sweden, Germany and Bulgaria.

Between 2012 and 2013, detections of facilitators decreased by 11%, totalling about 6 900 in 2013. This decrease may be in part due to a widespread shift towards the abuse of legal channels and using document fraud to enter the EU, which allows facilitators to operate remotely and inconspicuously rather than accompany migrants.

In 2013, there was a steady trend of about 159 000 third-country nationals effectively returned to third countries. This total does not include readmissions between Member States. As in 2012, the UK and Greece were the Member States conducting the largest number of returns.

Conclusions – Outlook

The best forecasts – those likely to materialise and have a direct bearing on the situation at the external border – spell an increased workload for border-control authorities as of October 2014, when all Schengen Member States will be required to be able to carry out VIS fingerprint verifications at all border-crossing points (BCPs) and also to is- sue VIS visas with biometrics at the border when necessary. This additional mandatory task will come in addition to increased passengers flows, in particular at the land border, due to visa liberalisation and a general increase in people’s mobility worldwide. Increased workload and responsibilities for border-control authorities come at a time of budget constraints.

Looking ahead, everything points to a heightened likelihood of large numbers of illegal border-crossings into the EU and an increased number of migrants in need of assistance from search and rescue operations but also in terms of provision of international protection, in particular in the southern section of the external border, on the Eastern Mediterranean route and the Central Mediterranean route. Many migrants who crossed illegally are expected to continue making secondary movements within the EU.

Most risks associated with document fraud were assessed as high. Indeed, document fraudsters not only undermine border security but also the internal security of the EU. These risks are common to nearly all Member States, as they are associated with passenger flows and border checks, which are a specific expertise of border-control authorities. Most cases of fraud are expected to involve EU travel documents and there are indications of a shift away from the use of passports towards less sophisticated documents such as ID cards and residence permits.

The risks associated with the abuse of legal channels are often assessed as high as they are common and widespread phenomena. Although no reliable measurements exist in this respect, such abuse probably represents the easiest and most common modus operandi used by persons staying illegally in the EU.

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