For the first time since data collection began in 2008, detections of illegal border-crossings in the first quarter of the year exceeded those for the preceding quarter. This was almost exclusively due to a massive influx of illegal immigration at the Italian island of Lampedusa, where some 20 000 Tunisian nationals were detected during Q1 2011. As a result this was also the first quarter in which a Member State other than Greece (Italy) reported the highest number of illegal border-crossings into the EU. This represents a major shift in both the magnitude and distribution of pressure at the external border of the EU, with a wave of additional effects detectable across Member States, and significant developments subsequent to the current reporting period.
For linguistic reasons, and due to connections with established diaspora, many Tunisians arriving in Italy claimed France as their final destination. Therefore, in addition to detections of illegal border-crossings in Lampedusa, Tunisians were also increasingly detected as facilitators and illegal stayers in both Italy and France. There were also reports of organised crime groups facilitating sham marriages for Tunisian nationals. Since the reporting period, the flow of Tunisians has reduced somewhat, as a result of an accelerated repatriation agreement between Italy and Tunisia signed in April 2011 which applies to new arrivals.
Subsequent to the reporting period, Lampedusa came under severe immigration pressure from a second wave of migrants, this time departing from Libya (mainly migrants from Horn of Africa and sub-Saharan countries) following civil unrest and NATO Operation Unified Protector in the area.
In 2010 the unquestionable hotspot for illegal border-crossings was the Greek land border with Turkey, where mostly nationals of Afghanistan and Iraq were detected. In Q1 2011 detections of illegal border-crossing at this border section decreased 60% across a wide range of nationalities, particularly Afghans and Algerians. Nevertheless, in Q1 2011 the Greek land border with Turkey still constituted more than half of all illegal border-crossings at the EU level, excluding the arrivals in Lampedusa. The main hub for this migration route remains Turkey, which is also the main point of embarkation for attempts to illegally enter the EU via the air border. This border section has, to a large extent, not been affected by the civil unrest in North Africa. Much of the reduction of illegal migration pressure in Greece can be attributed to combined deterrent effects of increased operational activities in the area (RABIT 2010) and seasonal inclement weather, neither of which will be present in the next quarter. Hence, the pressure in this area is still assessed to be extremely high and increased detections are very likely to resume in the short term.In late 2010 nationals of Albania were granted visa-free travel to the EU, which had significant and demonstrable consequences on their international travel and modi operandi for illegally entering the EU. For example, in Q1 2011 Albanians were detected in much lower numbers both illegally crossing the border into the EU and illegally staying within the EU, which reflects the new legality of short-term travel to the EU for Albanian nationals. In any case, more Albanians were refused entry into the EU than any other nationality, because of alerts in the Schengen Information System. Combined with the fact that fewer Albanian facilitators of illegal migration were detected than ever before, these figures clearly indicate that Albanians, who were previously illegal but circular migrants to the EU, are now less detectable in illegal migration statistics.