In the first quarter of 2015, all indicators showed increasing trends compared to the situation a year ago. However, compared to the previous quarter (last quarter of 2014), the indicators were down, as traditionally expected during winter months. Yet, two important indicators (detections of illegal border-crossing and illegal stay) were the largest ever recorded for a first quarter of the year since data collection started in 2008. Compared to the same period in 2014, detections at the external borders increased by more than 180%. The number of asylum applications was also higher than during the last quarter and was a record number.
While the migratory pressure at the EU’s external borders in general has not relaxed much, its distribution among particular border sections has been shifting. For instance, irregular migration at the Western Balkan route reached the highest level since FRAN data collection began. It is estimated that large numbers of migrants detected in the Western Balkans may have already been counted on the Eastern Mediterranean route. This leads to a high probability of double counting and may partially account for the large increase in the overall figure for detections of illegal border-crossing.
On the Eastern Mediterranean route, detections have increased fourfold compared to one year ago, being higher than during any previous first quarter. The increase was mostly reported from the Eastern Aegean Sea, where the majority of migrants were of Syrian and Afghan nationality. At the land border between Bulgaria and Turkey, in Q1 2015, detections of clandestine entry exceeded the number of illegal border-crossings between BCPs for the first time, reaching the mark of 1 000 detections. Additional operational and technical measures implemented along the green border between Bulgaria and Turkey and the flooding of the Evros river resulted in a greater number of irregular migrants taking the alternative route to enter Bulgaria by clandestinely hiding in vehicles.
By contrast, on the Central Mediterranean route, the number of irregular migrants detected in Q1 2015 reached a temporary low and proved far lower than the peak of Q3 2014 as the rough weather conditions at sea led to fewer migrant boats attempting the dangerous crossing. Gambians were the most reported nationality in the Central Mediterranean, followed by Senegalese, although both were detected in lower numbers than in Q4 2014.
Migrants from Kosovo* were detected in their highest numbers between Q4 2014 and Q1 2015. However, their number of detections began to subside already in March. By contrast, concurrent to seasonal reductions in the Central Mediterranean, a lower number of irregular migrants from African countries arrived in the EU in the fourth quarter. Especially Eritreans and migrants from West African countries were reported in substantially lower numbers.
With 5 000 reported detections in Q1 2015, the overall number of cases of document fraud was 7% higher than one year ago. This growth was related to the ongoing rise in detections of document fraud on intra-Schengen lights, mainly caused by migrants who have previously entered the external border illegally, while using fraudulent document for secondary movements to their final destinations.
* This designation is without prejudice to positions on status, and is in line with UNSCR 1244 and the ICJ Opinion on the Kosovo declaration of independence