In the first quarter of 2018, Member States reported a further significant drop in the detection of illegal border-crossings along the EU’s external borders, both in comparison to the previous quarter and in comparison with the first quarter of 2017. Adverse weather conditions in the Mediterranean, the prevention of departure in the Central Mediterranean by the Libyan Coast Guard and the fall in detections reported by MS neighbouring the Western Balkan route brought down the aggregate number of detections, despite in particular increasing numbers on the Eastern Mediterranean route, especially in March.
The following diverging trends are identifiable on the different migratory routes:
In the first quarter of 2018, Turkey is once again the main entry point to Europe due to a 35% increase in detections on the Eastern Mediterranean route compared with the first quarter of 2017.
On the Western Balkan route, a 67% decrease in detections was reported. The ramped-up security measures along the main Serbian-centred route have contributed to the emergence of a new Western Balkan route from Greece via Albania- Montenegro-Bosnia and Herzegovina-Croatia to Slovenia, which was first reported in Q4 2017. While MS reported a decrease in detections, WB partners reported an increasing number of detections, indicating that the WB route continues to be used.
On the Central Mediterranean route, the intensive patrolling by the Libyan Coast Guard has led to an 81% decrease in migrants departing from Libya in Q1 2018 compared with Q1 2017. During the same period, departures from Tunisia increased elevenfold, yet with 1 224 migrants Tunisia is still far behind the 4 534 migrants who departed during the same period from Libya.
On the Western Mediterranean route, a three-quarter comparative decrease in illegal border-crossings in the first quarter of 2018 at the Western Mediterranean land borders was contrasted by a 40% increase in detections at the sea border. On the sea route, during the first three months departures from Algeria came in at merely 142, hence the comparative increase is entirely due to departures from Morocco (from 1 000 in Q1 2017 to 3 411 in Q1 2018). The increase occurred despite adverse weather conditions in particular in March, along with vigilant patrolling by the Moroccan authorities.
A comprehensive look at the FRAN indicators reveals that indicators have all either declined or stayed roughly unchanged, with the most notable exceptions relating to the number of issued refusals of entry (+5%) and detected clandestine entries (+24%). Regarding refusals of entry, this increase is almost entirely the result of the increase in refusals at the Polish and Hungarian land borders.