During the third quarter of 2012, several FRAN indicators varied radically compared to recent reporting periods. Firstly, there was a massive reduction in detections of illegal-border crossing compared to previous third quarters, widely attributed to in-creased operational activity by the Greek authorities since the beginning of August 2012 at their land border with Turkey. Secondly, there was the largest number of applications for asylum since data collection began in early 2008, for the most part due to increased applications submitted by Syrians. Finally, at BCPs there were the most refusals of entry and detections of clandestine entries since early 2009.
Overall, in Q3 2012 there were fewer detections of illegal border-crossing than in any previous third quarter, following the launch of two Greek Operations: Aspida (Shield), which involved the deployment of ~1 800 Greek police officers to the Greek land border with Turkey, and Xenios Zeus, which focused on the inland apprehension of illegally staying persons. The much-increased surveillance and patrolling activities at the Greek-Turkish land border, combined with the lengthening of the detention period to up to 6 months, resulted in a drastic drop in the number of detections of irregular mi-grants from ~2 000 during the first week of August to below ten per week in each of the last few weeks of October. Perhaps some-what predictably, there were increased detections of illegal border-crossing at both the Turkish sea border with Greece and land border with Bulgaria, indicative of weak dis-placement effects from the operational area. Also relevant in this area were several detections of significant amounts of heroin concealed in vehicles attempting to cross the Bulgarian-Turkish border.
Despite the clear impact of the Greek operational activities on the number of detections of illegal border-crossing, there is little evidence to suggest that the absolute flow of irregular migrants arriving in the region has decreased in any way. In fact, document fraud on flights from Istanbul increased once the Greek operations commenced. Hence, there remains a very significant risk of a sudden in-flux of migrants immediately subsequent to the end of the operations.
As far as nationalities are concerned, at the EU level migrants from Afghanistan continued to be the most widely detected across a range of indicators. For instance, Afghans ranked first in terms of detections of illegal border-crossing, clandestine entries at BCPs and illegal stay, and second for being subject to decisions to leave. Hence, this nationality is by far the most significant for irregular migration at the EU level. In contrast to most other nationalities, many detected Afghans had previously resided in Iran or Pakistan, rather than their home country. In Pakistan, energy shortages in many refugee camps may accelerate departures of Afghans; according to the UNHCR, 400 000 to 800 000 Afghans are expected to leave Pakistan during 2012 and 2013.
In Q3 2012 Syrian nationals were increasingly detected across a wide range of indicators and Member States, reflecting the desperate situation in their home country. For ex-ample, compared to the previous quarter, detections of illegal border-crossing doubled in Q3 2012 to nearly 4 000. As a result they ranked second at the EU level for illegal border-crossing. However, subsequent to increased operational activity at the Greek land border with Turkey, detections of Syrians fell significantly, although slower and to a lesser extent than it was the case for other nationalities, which reflects Syrians’ desperate plight. Each migrant detected illegally crossing the border into Greece is handed a decision to leave the country within 7 days and, so correspondingly, in Q3 2012 Syrians were also subject to twice as many decisions to leave compared with the previous quarter.
Most Syrians continued their journey on to other Member States, and so they were also increasingly detected as clandestine entries across the Western Balkans and using fraudulent documents travelling from Greek to (mostly) German airports. According to EDF-RAN data, on intra-Schengen flights the most commonly detected documents used by Syrians were counterfeit Greek and Romanian ID cards, image-substituted Bulgarian ID cards and stolen blank Greek residence permits. Finally, Syrian nationals submitted twice as many asylum applications as in the previous quarter.
As Greece is a Schengen exclave and also (mostly) a transit country, secondary movements from Greece to other EU Member States were still detected in very high numbers. For example, at the EU level there were more clandestine detections than in any other period since data collection began for this indicator in 2009, with most increases reported from the Western Balkans and of nationalities tightly coupled with those detected at the Greek border with Turkey. For instance, Slovenia reported more detections than any other Member State, mostly of Afghan migrants detected at the border with Croatia who were making secondary movements after initially entering the Schengen area in Greece.
Similarly, Afghan migrants, together with in-creasing numbers of nationals from Pakistan, Bangladesh and Syria, were also detected arriving on pleasure boats in the southern Italian blue borders of Calabria and Apulia after having initially entered the Schengen area in Greece. In fact, according to the FRAN data there were more detections in these regions than ever before. Finally, a wide variety of nationalities were also increasingly detected using fraudulent documents on flights from Greece to airports in other EU Member States, particularly in Germany.
Although Greece reported more than half of all detections of illegal border-crossing, there remained significant numbers reported from elsewhere, particularly the Central Mediterranean. According to FRAN data, in Q3 2012 there were more than 3 500 reported detections of illegal border-crossing on the main Central Mediterranean route (Italian Pelagic Islands, Sicily and Malta), a significant decrease compared to the same reporting period in 2011 during the peak associated with the Arab Spring, but still the highest reported so far in 2012, and higher than the pre-Arab Spring peak of 2010. Additionally, there were some significant increases of various nationalities such as Tunisians and Egyptians departing from their own countries, and Somalis and Eritreans departing from Libya. Several reports included details of how sub-Saharan migrants were often deceived, over-charged or even left to drown by their facilitators during the embarkation process.
Ranking third at the EU level for detections of illegal border-crossing, Algerians were also detected along a range of border sections, which is in contrast to most other nationalities which show strong preferences for single entry points. Algerians were equally detected at the Greek land border with Tur-key, the Spanish land border with Morocco and several areas of the Spanish sea border. In total, this amounts to a very significant pressure from Algerian migrants, which may be overlooked by a regional approach. Moreover, they were very rarely refused entry or detected with fraudulent documents, suggesting that they tended to avoid BCPs. However, with considerable detections they ranked fifth at the EU level as illegal stayers and seventh for decisions to leave, both mostly in Belgium, which indicates their final destination.
Albanians continued to be detected illegally crossing their land border with Greece at rates that remain significant at the EU level (5% of all detections) but with a slightly declining trend. They were, however, increasingly detected using counterfeit border-crossing stamps to fabricate travel histories and ex-tend periods of stay. They were detected mostly at their land border with Greece but also at the land border of Slovenia.
At the eastern borders, the cross-border smuggling of tobacco products was one of the most common offences. With respect to irregular migration, more Georgians were re-fused entry at the Polish border with Belarus mostly for Reason C: ‘No valid visa’. As there were fewer Georgians detected illegally crossing the green border this may suggest a change of modus operandi. This phenomenon is likely to lead to an increase in Georgians illegally staying in other Member States. A similar pattern was observed in 2009, when the increase corresponded to an increase in asylum applications of Georgian nationals in Poland.
There were more asylum applications sub-mitted than ever before, mostly due to a steady trend of Afghans and increasing numbers of Syrian nationals. However, these asylum seekers were joined by increasing numbers of migrants from Serbia and the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia sub-mitting applications in Germany.