In Q2 2011, all Frontex irregular-migration indicators increased compared to the previous quarter. The most important indicator, detections of illegal border-crossing, increased to a level not seen since Q3 2008 and correspondingly asylum applications are now at nearly the highest level since data collection began. What’s more, migration pressure at the border from migrants attempting to enter and stay in the EU increased even more than EU-level figures suggest, as they are offset against extensive reductions in Albanian circular migration.
In 2011 there were major and extensive developments in irregular-migration pressure at the external border of the EU, resulting from two simultaneous but independent hotspots of illegal border-crossings: the first was seasonally increased activity at the Greek land border with Turkey, where a wide variety of migrants continued to be detected at very high levels. The second, and the undeniable hotspot for illegal border-crossing into the EU in Q2 2011, was in the Central Mediterranean, where vast numbers of sub-Saharan migrants landed in Italy and Malta mostly having been forcibly expelled from Libya.
At the Greek border with Turkey, detections increased seasonally to a very high level, exactly comparable to that of a year ago in Q2 2010. At this border section the most commonly detected migrants were Afghan refugees previously resident in Iran. Hence, in the short term, the measures taken by the Iranian authorities towards their resident population of ~3 million Afghans will be a key push factor for this particular flow of migrants. This border section also continued to attract migrants from an extremely wide geographical area; migrants from a variety of Asian (Pakistan), north African (Algeria, Morocco) and sub-Saharan African (Somalia, Congo) countries continue to typify the flow, as well as recent increases from countries as far afield as the Dominican Republic. Undeniably, this border section is a globally established illegal-entry point for would-be migrants and facilitation networks. Secondary movements from this hotspot of migration are readily detected at the land borders between the Western Balkans and both Slovenia and Hungary, at the blue border of Southern Italy and at a range of European airports, particularly in final destination countries such as the Netherlands and Germany.
In the previous quarter (Q1 2011) there was a surge of some 20 000 Tunisian irregular migrants on the Italian island of Lampedusa. This flow is still significant, but has reduced by 75% following an effective accelerated-return agreement between Italy and Tunisia. However, detections on this route still increased in Q2 2011 following an additional influx of mostly Central African, Nigerian and Ghanaian migrants to not only Lampedusa, but also increasingly to Malta and Sicily. Most of these migrants were previously resident in Libya, some were detained and then forcibly expelled to the EU. Indeed, in Q2 2011 Libya was confirmed by third country monitoring as the greatest source of irregular migration to the EU, but more recently the capacity of the Gaddafi regime to detain and expel its migrant populations has been compromised by the activities of the National Transitional Council (NTC). However, the situation remains unpredictable and very unstable. As a result of this flow, Malta has reported unprecedented numbers of asylum applications, and there were more detections of persons staying illegally in destination countries such as Germany and Switzerland.
Since being granted visa-free travel to the EU in late 2010, Albanians have been detected in much lower numbers illegally crossing the border into Greece and as persons staying illegally in Greece. However reports suggest that Albanians are still circular migrants to Greece, but this legal flow is now directed at land BCPs. In support of this, Albanians are now detected in large numbers as refusals of entry to Greece. In addition, other movements are now detectable as refusals of entry to Italy and Slovenia, and clandestine entry and the use of false documents while attempting entry to the UK.
Reports from Belarus and EU Member States suggest that there are increasing numbers of migrants from Georgia arriving in Belarus with the intention of illegally entering the EU; some 8 600 arrived during the first 6 months of 2011. Many arrived by air but others were detected transiting the Ukraine and Armenia. Evidence for this migration flow is supported by increased detections of Georgians in several Member States in terms of illegal border-crossing (Poland, Lithuania), secondary movements (Estonia) and applications for asylum (Latvia, Poland). Kaliningrad is increasingly a nexus point and Finland is among the final destinations.