In the first quarter of 2017, the indicator of illegal border-crossings at the EU’s external borders continued to be at a significantly low level relative to the first quarter of 2016, after which the closure of the Western Balkan route and the EU-Turkey statement ended the unprecedented irregular migration flow into the EU and Schengen area. On the one hand, the number of detections decreased by 86% compared to one year ago. On the other hand, however, the reported level of irregular migration was substantially higher in Q1 2017 than in any first quarter between 2008 and 2014.
Specifically, the following trends have been observed along the different migratory routes:
At the EU’s external borders with Turkey – in particular, at the Greek-Turkish sea border section – the migratory pressure in the first quarter of 2017 was lower in comparison with illegal border-crossings during the second, third and fourth quarters of 2016, when the EU-Turkey statement significantly reduced the level of irregular migration along this route.
On the Western Balkan route, where most of the migrants crossed the EU’s external border for a second time after arriving on the Eastern Aegean Islands in 2015 and at the beginning of 2016, the level of irregular migration has remained low reflecting the successful implementation of the EU-Turkey statement. In the first quarter of 2017, the total number of illegal border crossings reported by Bulgaria, Croatia, Hungary and Romania decreased by 97% compared to the same quarter of 2016. This represents 9% of the total of irregular migration during Q1 2017.
In contrast to the general decline in irregular migration on the Eastern Mediterranean and Western Balkan routes, the irregular migration flow on the Central Mediterranean route in Q1 2017 continued to be higher than on any other route. Italy reported a 29% increase in irregular migration, compared to the same quarter in 2016. This represents 61% of the total number of irregular migrants in Q1 2017. Libya continued to be the main departure country for migrants, accounting for 97% of all arrivals in Italy. At the same time, it is worth noting that migrant arrivals from Egypt declined to almost zero in Q1 2017. The main nationalities of detected migrants were Nigerian, Guinean and Bangladeshi.
In Q1 2017, Spain reported a 191% increase in the number of illegal border-crossings on the Western Mediterranean route, compared to the same quarter in 2016. This increase represents 10% of the total number of irregular migrants in Q1 2017, which is also the highest Q1 flow on this route since 2009. Even though most detections were reported at the sea borders, 43% of illegal border-crossings took place at the land borders marking a significant increase. The largest groups of detected migrants originated from Côte d’Ivoire, Guinea and Gambia.
The FRAN indicator with the highest relative increase was related to refusals of entry at the external EU / SAC borders, which increased by 27% compared to the same quarter in 2016. This increase was mainly caused by more Russian and Ukrainian nationals being refused at the Polish land border.