The unprecedented migration crisis of recent years has mostly affected the Eastern and Central Mediterranean migratory routes to the EU. However, in 2015 and early 2016, a partial shift of the migration flow to the northernmost section of the EU’s eastern border was observed, when a few thousand migrants reached the EU / Schengen area on the so-called Northern (or Arctic) route. The situation at the eastern borders returned to normal later in 2016. In fact, most of the migration-related indicators showed a slight decline compared with 2015.
For example, there was a decrease in the number of illegal
border-crossings of Vietnamese migrants reported within the EaP-RAN.
Nevertheless, the number of migrants crossing the border illegally from the Russian
Federation to the Baltic States (Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania) remained
relatively high. Most of the facilitators detected along the EU’s eastern border
were Russians of Chechen origin.
Importantly, a set of measures to curb migration
flow implemented by the EaP RAN members both inland and at the common borders,
as well as temporary reintroduction of border controls at the EU’s internal
borders of Poland, led to a seasonal decrease in facilitated movements via the
Baltic States and Poland.
Moreover, intra-Schengen movements of Vietnamese via the Baltic States and Poland were still reported in 2016. In some cases Vietnamese irregular migrants were exposed to health hazards while hiding in vehicles.
The number of Afghans and Syrians who crossed the border illegally from Ukraine also declined. The nationwide operation ‘Frontier-2016’ launched by the State Border Guard Service of Ukraine significantly contributed to this decrease, in particular measures implemented in Zakarpattia, the region of Ukraine frequently transited by migrants from both Afghanistan and Syria. On the other hand, there were more Indians, Bangladeshis and Sri Lankans attempting to reach the EU via Ukraine.
In terms of other new developments, many
Turkish citizens (mainly of Kurdish origin) were detected using false Schengen
visas or attempting to cross the border illegally from Ukraine intending to
ultimately reach Germany.
With regard to illegal border-crossings by nationals from the countries of the region and / or the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS), a drop of 20% was recorded. Most of them were detected at the borders of Ukraine.
In contrast to the relatively low number of reported illegal border-crossings, the number of people refused entry to the EU at its eastern land borders exceeded 118 000 compared with just 61 590 in 2015. The vast majority of refusals of entry (96%) was issued to regional nationalities. Russians prevailed with an over fourfold increase in refusals of entry compared with 2015.
In addition to the Russian citizens, the number of refusals of entry
issued to Tajiks doubled. This increase was matched by a similar rise in asylum
applications of Tajiks at the EU level. Among the EU Member States, the vast majority
of refusals was issued by Poland, while the highest number of citizens of
Tajikistan submitted their asylum requests in Germany.
Finally, data collected
within the Eastern Partnership Risk Analysis Network (EaP-RAN), as well as the
results of Frontex-coordinated Joint Operations, indicate that tobacco products
remained the excise goods that were most frequently smuggled across the EU’s
eastern borders towards the EU.
The year 2016 was marked by an increased number
of detections of contraband tobacco hidden in cargo trains, a growing number of
cases where flying objects were used to smuggle goods across the border, as
well as more minors detected while smuggling cigarettes between BCPs.
As regards illicit drugs, hashish and synthetic drugs were mostly trafficked out of the EU, whereas heroin and cocaine were smuggled into the EU, which was either the destination or a transit area towards the Russian market.
In conclusion, the migratory crisis in the EU had very limited impact on the irregular migratory movements within the EaP countries or en route towards neighbouring EU Member States. This is not likely to change significantly in the future provided that the current operational response by all the countries in the region is maintained.