In the second quarter of 2017, the overall number of detected illegal border-crossings at the EU’s external borders was approximately on a par with the corresponding quarter of 2016, i.e. just after the EU-Turkey statement was signed and the Western Balkan route effectively closed. As the statement still holds and the Eastern Mediterranean and Western Balkan routes are ever more difficult to traverse successfully, the reduction on these two routes is made up for by increases in the Central Mediterranean and Western Mediterranean.
Diverging trends have been observed along the different migratory routes. At almost 60 000 irregular migrants, the Central Mediterranean route recorded almost as many irregular migrants as during all-time highs of migratory pressure in the summer of 2015 (Q2, Q3) and 2016 (Q3). Given the relative decrease reported on other routes, the detections made on the Central Mediterranean route now account for 78% of the overall number of detected irregular migrants. The number of East Africans travelling along this route is decreasing (for example, the number of Eritreans almost halved compared with one year ago). This decline, however, is more than made up for by migrants from West and North Africa but also from Asia, in particular Bangladesh.
The Eastern Mediterranean route continued to register the second highest number of irregular migrants in Q2, albeit with a decrease of 16% compared with the previous year. The decrease was mainly the result of a decreased number of migrants from South Asia. In turn Syrians – accounting for roughly one-third of the migrants – remained the main nationality detected on the Eastern Mediterranean route.
The number of detections of illegal border-crossing on the Western Balkan route dropped for the sixth consecutive quarter. The decrease of 80% in comparison with the second quarter of 2016 reflects the ongoing effort to curb this flow by countries located along the route. Compared with the previous year, the 2 224 detected migrants, most of whom crossed the EU’s external borders for the second time and having transited Serbia, were comparatively less frequently detected at the Hungarian border, but more often at the Romanian border.
On the Western Mediterranean route, a roughly 150% rise in the number of migrants compared with Q2 2016 was observed, which means that it increased for the fifth consecutive quarter. Unrest in Morocco’s Rif region has created an opening for more departures from this country in general and contributed to the increased number of departures from the western coast in particular, which in Q2 saw the use of high-capacity boats capable of transporting large numbers of migrants. These departures of migrants sailing along the Atlantic coast are largely responsible for the surge in the number of arrivals of Moroccan migrants to 809 in Q2 2017 from a mere 92 detected in Q2 2016.
A comprehensive look at the FRAN indicators reveals that they have all either declined or stayed roughly unchanged, with the notable exception of detected clandestine entries, which increased by 31% in relation to Q2 2016.