Overall in Q2 2013 there were 24 805 detections of illegal border-crossing along the external borders of the EU. In comparative terms, this figure represented a 7.4% in-crease in relation to the same quarter in 2012 and a 155% increase compared to the previous quarter. This is the sharpest in-crease between two consecutive quarters ever recorded since 2008, highlighting the rapidly evolving situation at the external border.
The strong increase was linked to two factors:
(1) better weather conditions in the Mediterranean Sea, which triggered an increase at the sea border;
(2) a sharp increase in detections at the land border between Serbia and Hungary.
On the Central Mediterranean route, the vast majority of migrants were from Eritrea and Somalia departing from Libya near Tripoli. Increasing detections continued to be reported in July 2013 in the Central Mediterranean, indicating a resurgence of the irregular migration flow between North Africa (mostly Libya) and Italy.
The increase on the Western Balkan route which started in Q1 2013 coincided with a change in the asylum policy of Hungary as a measure to harmonise it with EU standards. From January 2013, asylum applicants were no longer sent to closed centres but to open centres. Migrants detected crossing the border illegally applied for asylum and soon afterwards absconded to continue their travel to other Member States. The peak was reached in June and the flow decreased in July. The decrease coincided with Hungary organising a media campaign in Kosovo* and the return of migrants from Kosovo*, on two charter flights to Pristina. Also in July, further amendments were introduced in the Hungarian asylum policy, in particular detailing the specific list of grounds for detention of asylum applicants in closed centres.
At the Greek border with Albania, in Q2 2013 Greece reported the first significant increase since visa liberalisation status was granted to Albanian citizens in December 2010. This in-crease concerned Albanian migrants moving to Greece as temporary workers.
In the Eastern Mediterranean area, detections were much lower (by nearly 70%) than in the second quarter of 2012, i.e. before the strengthening of operational activities implemented a year ago. The decrease is even more remarkable taking into account the volatile situation that prevails in the Middle East during the past 12 months, in particular in Syria.
Nevertheless, comparing the situation in Q1 and Q2 2013, detections in the Aegean Sea, i.e. the main area of detections on the East-ern Mediterranean route, increased significantly and there are reports of an increasing number of migrants stranded in Turkey and wishing to enter the EU. An example of this pressure was revealed in July 2013, subsequent to the reporting period, with the first detection on the Black Sea in Romania of two groups of Syrian migrants who had set sail from a small port near Istanbul.
In the Western Mediterranean, the overall number of detections in Q2 2013 showed a decrease compared to last year, even though diverging trends were observed at the land (Ceuta and Melilla) and sea borders. In Melilla, there were increasing attempts to cross the fence, with the Spanish and Moroccan authorities having to step up their surveillance measures. By contrast, detections at the sea were decreasing.
In terms of nationalities, migrants from Kosovo* recorded the highest increase between Q1 and Q2 2013, with virtually all detections reported from the green border between Hungary and Serbia.
As in 2012, the number of Syrians detected for illegal border-crossing increased strongly between the first and the second quarter, totalling 2 784 in Q2 2013. This represented an increase of 123% compared to the previous quarter, though the detections were still lower than at their peak (3 923) in Q3 2012. In Q2 2013, Syrians were mostly re-ported from the Aegean Sea, where for the first time they outnumbered Afghans, followed distantly by detections at the Bulgarian land border with Turkey. Following the Greek operation Aspida implemented at the land border between Greece and Turkey, most detections of Syrian nationals shifted from the land border to the sea border with Turkey.
As was the case in 2012, detections of Afghans increased between the first and second quarters; nevertheless, their total figure in the second quarter of 2013 was lower than in any other second quarter since 2008.
In Q2 2013 there were 33 216 refusals of entry at the external border, an increase of over 19% compared to the previous quarter. The increase was due to an extremely large number of Russians of Chechen origin refused entry because of lack of visas at the train BCP on the Polish border with Belarus. Immediately after being refused entry, they applied for asylum in Poland, but then travelled to Germany where they also applied for asylum. The phenomenon started in March and reached its peak in May 2013, and mostly concerned migrants travelling in family units. This sudden flow could have been triggered by rumours spreading in Chechnya about Germany granting asylum to Russians of Chechen origin.
Regarding other cross-border crimes, cigarette smuggling remained the most often reported criminal activity in Q2 2013. It re-gained momentum with the end of winter and the season-related better accessibility of areas close to the green border.As regards the impact of the Syrian conflict, in April 2013 the EU Counter-terrorism Co-ordinator warned that around 500 persons from EU countries were already fighting on the side of the insurgents. Their potential radicalisation and training in the use of weapons and explosives could make them a substantial threat upon return to their home countries.