In the third quarter of 2013 there was a massive influx of irregular migration in the Central Mediterranean. This, combined with sustained detections in the Ionian and Eastern Aegean Seas, meant that there were more detections of illegal border-crossing at the maritime borders of the EU than during any stage of the Arab Spring in 2011. Concurrent with this influx, there were more applications for international protection in the EU than in any other period since data collection began for this indicator in 2008.
In Q3 2013, Syrians were the most detected nationality at the EU level in terms of several different indicators of irregular migration, such as detections of illegal border-crossing (across several locations and border types), clandestine entries, illegal stay in several Member States, and document fraud at both the external border and on intra-Schengen flights. Syrians also submitted more applications for asylum than any other nationality. Hence, without doubt Syrians were the most common nationality reported for the FRAN indicators of irregular migration in Q3 2013 and there are few signs of this changing to any significant degree in the short or medium term.
Over the last few years there have been some extraordinary trends in the number of asylum applications submitted in the EU, in terms of: (a) the total volume of applications submit-ted; (b) the increasing concentration of applications submitted by the top nationalities; and (c) the increasing proportion of applications received by the top Member States. In 2011 there was an increase associated with the initial stages of the Arab Spring, as well as large numbers of applications submitted by nationals of the Western Balkan countries.
Over the last one and a half years there has also been a dramatic increase in the number of applications submitted by Syrians, and in Q2 2013 there were more applications sub-mitted by a single nationality than ever be-fore, i.e. Russian nationals of Chechen origin submitting applications in both Poland and Germany. Resulting from these effects, some of which are still detectable in the FRAN data, in Q3 2013 there were more asylum applications submitted in the EU than ever be-fore, with an increasing concentration in the top three Member States: Germany, Sweden and the UK.
In Q3 2013, 42 618 detections of illegal border-crossing were reported at the EU level, which is very nearly double the number during the same period in 2012, and a fourfold increase compared to the beginning of the year. This dramatic rise was almost exclusively due to increased detections reported from the Italian blue border, specifically in Sicily and Lampedusa. The most commonly detected migrants were from Syria and Eritrea and, to a lesser extent, from Somalia and Egypt. In most cases, migrants arrived in boats from Libya but Egyptians departed from their own country. Across the region the use of large iron mother-ships, with smaller vessels for boarding and disembarking on tow, became more common. There were also in-creased detections of Syrians and Eritreans in Apulia and Calabria, and as a result, these nationalities ranked top at the EU level and detections of Eritreans increased more than any other nationality compared to a year previously.
Tragically, there were several major incidents of boats capsizing in the Central Mediterranean resulting in massive loss of life, including women and children. Intelligence gathered during interviews suggests that migrants subject to frequent racial attacks are gathering in increasing numbers in Libya, and that the political stability and internal security in Egypt are both worsening. Hence, the migration pressure in the Central Mediterranean region is likely to remain at a high level.
After Sicily and Lampedusa, the next border section to be most affected by illegal border-crossings during the third quarter of 2013 was the Hungarian land border with Serbia, where detections have fluctuated dramatically throughout 2013 in response to a series of legislative changes aligning the treatment and detention of asylum seekers to EU standards; detections at this border section nearly doubled in relation to a year ago but were reduced by 50% compared to the previous quarter.
In Greece, where detections have tended to be concentrated in recent years, the overall number of detections of illegal border-crossing remained stable between the second and third quarters of 2013 but was still sufficiently high for Greece to be rank second among all Member States for this indicator. This is be-cause Greece continues to be affected by two independent flows of irregular migration: at its borders with Turkey and Albania.
Until the launch of the Greek operation Aspida in August 2012, the Greek land border with Turkey had for many years been the main entry point to illegally cross the border into the EU. Since then detections have dropped to negligible levels but have risen elsewhere, particularly at the Eastern Aegean Sea and on the Bulgarian land border with Turkey, now ranking fourth and fifth among all border sections. In these locations detections in-creased going into the third quarter of this year, mostly of Syrians and, to a lesser extent, Afghans. In Bulgaria the 600% increase in detections of illegal border-crossing compared to a year previously was the largest increase at the EU level and was accompanied by an increase in asylum applications.
At the Greek land border with Albania, detections of illegal border-crossing remained stable compared to the previous year, al-most exclusively involving Albanian circular migrants. Detections of Albanians using fraudulent documents to gain entry to Greece decreased in Q3 2013, but the number of Albanian refused entry and detected as illegal stayers increased to the highest level in Greece for several years. Given that Albanians were also widely detected in other Member States, particularly using fraudulent documents to enter the UK from the Schengen area, and as illegal stayers and subject to decisions to leave in France, the pressure of irregular migration from this nationality remains high.Document fraud increased in the third quarter of 2013 both in terms of detections at the external border and also of migrants making secondary movements within the Schengen area, or attempting entry to the UK from the Schengen area. Spain, Italy, France and Greece reported the most detections on entry at the external border together accounting for more than half of all detections at the EU level. For the second quarter in a row Spain has reported more detections than ever be-fore, the most common of which were Moroccans detected in either Melilla or Ceuta.