After the FRAN indicators of illegal border-crossing between BCPs, illegal stay and asylum hit record levels in the second half of 2015, the values dropped significantly by the second quarter of 2016. The irregular migration pressure at the EU’s external borders has been continuously easing after October 2015. The total number of illegal border-crossings during the reviewed period amounted to less than half of the number reported one year before, but the level of irregular migration in Q2 2016 remained significantly higher than before the crisis year of 2015.
A closer look at the data reported by the Member States, however, indicates large differences in trends of irregular migration between the main routes.
At the EU’s external borders with Turkey, the migratory pressure has been constantly easing since last winter. First, the agreement between the EU and Turkey has removed the incentives to move on irregular routes to Greece and undermined the business model of people smuggling networks. Second, the developments on the Western Balkan route have discouraged many from making a dangerous sea crossing to reach the Eastern Aegean Islands.
A similar decline has been observed 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. Through the common efforts of Western Balkan countries to gradually stop the massive secondary migratory movements transiting the region, the number of detected illegal border-crossings reported from the Western Balkan route decreased by 90% between Q1 and Q2 2016.
Because of the steady decline in irregular migration on the Eastern Mediterranean and Western Balkan routes, in April 2016 the level of irregular migration reported from the Central Mediterranean route was for the first time in a year higher than on any other route. Across the Central Mediterranean Sea, the level of migratory flows was comparable with previous second quarters. As usual during this season, the number of boats departing from North African shores was rising as the maritime weather conditions were improving. Assets deployed in the Joint Operation EPN Triton, however, registered a growing importance of Egypt as departure place, even if Libya remained the most common country of departure for migrant boats.
In Q2 2016, the number of detections of illegal border-crossing reported by Spain on the Western Mediterranean route was higher than in any other second quarter since the FRAN data collection began. As many as 95% of all detections were made at the sea border with Morocco, mostly involving nationals of West African countries.In spite of the drastic general decrease in irregular migration, the number of detections of illegal stay remained high, well above the level that was commonly reported before the 2015 migrant crisis. Most illegal stayers were reported from Germany, closely followed by France.