In 2009, there was a significant decrease in illegal migration at the EU external borders compared to 2008. This decreasing trend was the result of two factors: firstly, employment opportunities, which are the main pull factor for illegal migration to the EU, were reduced by the global economic downturn, and secondly, there was a strong deterrent effect of more effective border controls between Western Africa and the Canary Islands, and between Libya and the Island of Lampedusa.
Most illegal migrants to the EU are from Middle Eastern and African countries. Greece now accounts for 75% of all detections of illegal border crossings in the EU. Illegal migrants who enter Greece illegally are increasingly reported transiting to other Member States via the Western Balkans or air routes using forged documents obtained in Greece. Following decreased departures from Libya and Western Africa, Turkey has now become the most important transit country for illegal migration to the EU.
Reduced employment opportunities for illegal migrants, combined with strengthened controls at the borders have resulted in a higher risk of unfounded international protection applications being used to enter the EU, which inevitably inhibits the rapid provision of protection for the third country nationals with legitimate claims.
Forged documents, particularly EU passports and ID cards, are frequently used by illegal migrants to enter to the EU. Forged documents are mostly used in association with other criminal activities or types of frauds, such as the abuse of social benefits. There is growing abuse of documentation by impostors. Unconfirmed identities undermine border controls and are a potential threat to the internal security of the EU, particularly if migrants are able to conceal a criminal or terrorist past.
There is an increasing risk of the use of regular, legal entry channels to enter the EU, with intent to overstay. Overstaying is probably the most common technique for illegal migration to the EU, mostly through the air borders.
There are concerns among the general public and policy makers about trafficking in human beings (THB) which is recognised as a form of modern slavery.Along both the Eastern land borders and the Western Balkan land borders, there are reports that border control authorities are confronted with cross border crime issues more frequently than illegal migration issues. On entry to the EU, the most common cross border crimes are the smuggling of excise goods, drugs or weapons, while on exit crimes are usually related to stolen assets.