The first three months of 2010 showed a significant drop in all indicators of irregular migration at the external borders of the European Union. These lows continue a general decreasing trend already noticeable in 2009 and are attributed to reduced employment opportunities for irregular immigrants in the EU, combined with stricter migration and asylum policies in Member States and more effective co-operation with key countries of origin.
At approximately 14,200, detections of illegal external border crossings in the first three months of 2010 were down 36% on the fourth quarter of 2009 and 39% on the same period a year earlier. While detections at the Spanish and Italian sea borders became negligible, detections at the dominant Eastern Aegean Sea border between Greece and Turkey also fell by more than 60% to just under 2,300. Within this overall decreasing trend, a new pattern also emerged: Detections at the Greek-Turkish land border were for the first time greater than those at the countries’ sea border.
Across the EU as a whole, detections of irregular immigrants at sea borders between January and March 2010 were less than one-tenth of the peak level (for the third quarter of 2008) when roughly 33,600 detections were reported.
On the Central Mediterranean route, Member States reported only 150 detections of illegal border-crossing, compared to 5,200 detections in the first quarter of 2009, and 1,500 in the fourth quarter of 2009. This reduction is due to a bilateral agreement between the Italian and Libyan authorities implemented in May 2009.
The number of detections along the Western Mediterranean sea route also reached a record low with only 500 irregular immigrants detected heading towards the southern Spanish coasts (almost 72% down on the fourth quarter of 2009 and almost 82% on the first quarter of 2009).
On the West African route via the Canary Islands—once the main transit route for irregular immigrants into the EU—the number of arrivals also reached a record low, with only five detections over the first three months of 2010, in contrast to 31,700 detections in 2006, when Frontex operations started in that area.
Facilitator detections up 13%
The number of interceptions of “facilitators” of irregular immigration (human traffickers and smugglers) rose by 13% over the same period (to almost 2,500). This represents an unprecedented high for the FRAN data on detections of facilitators. The vast majority of facilitators were detected in Italy, France, Greece and Spain, representing more than 85% of all cases. Within this trend, Italy’s tally of detections was up by almost 75% to more than 1,000, while France also noted a record number of facilitator interceptions (464).
Another clear trend is that in most of these countries, it is mainly domestic nationals that provide facilitation. The predominance of Italian national facilitators rose to represent almost half of all interceptions in Italy. Only in Greece do interceptions of foreign facilitators, namely Albanians, outnumber domestic nationals.