FRAN Q3 2017


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In the third quarter  of  2017,  the  overall  number of detected illegal border-crossings at the EU’s external borders fell, which runs counter to the typical quarterly trend. The  magnitude  of  this  decrease  is  highlighted by comparison with the previous quarter  (-34%),  and  the  same  quarter  of  2016 (-40%). It would be a mistake, however, to conclude that the overall migratory pressure at the external borders of the EU has been easing, as all major routes actually registered higher numbers, except for one. The slump in the overall number resulted  from  a  strong  fall  in  detections of  migrants  arriving  in  Italy  on  the  Central Mediterranean route, which was only partially compensated by increases on all other major routes. Indeed, the strongest increases in absolute numbers were those on the Eastern Mediterranean (+7 929) and the Western Mediterranean (+2 468) route.

The Central Mediterranean route experienced a noticeable turnaround in Q3 2017, falling  to  almost  one-third  of  registered  detections  seen  in  Q2  2017  showing  the  lowest number of irregular migrants since the first quarter of 2015. For the first time since  the  EU-Turkey  statement  was  implemented,  the  registered  numbers  on  the Central Mediterranean route for August and September fell below those on the Eastern Mediterranean. Whereas the number of migrants arriving in Italy from Libya  fell,  there  were  more  departures  from Algeria and, even more so, from Tunisia  (from  295  in  Q2  2017  to  1  901  in  Q3  2017). As a result, irregular migrants from certain Maghreb  states  (Tunisia  and  Algeria) increased their share in the flow.

On the Western Mediterranean route, Moroccans  and  Algerians  made  up  almost  the entirety of the strong increase in the flow  (97%  of  the  increase  of  2  468  vis-à-vis  Q2  2017)  to  yet  another  all-time  high  observed on this route. The 6 668 irregular migrants apprehended represent a relative increase of 123% compared with one year  ago,  sustained  by  increases  on  both  the land (+257%) and the sea (+112%) route. A comparison of the number of West Africans  registered  on  this  route  suggests  that  a  large-scale  shift  from  the  Central  to the Western Mediterranean route has not occurred.

On the Eastern Mediterranean route, the migratory flow more than doubled in relation to Q2 2017. The 46% increase compared with the same quarter of 2016 was due to both  strong  increases  on  the  sea  (+46%)  and on the land (+45%) route. In particular, increases were seen for Syrians, Iraqis, Afghans and Turks. Similarly, on the Western Balkan route, a 74% rise in detections compared with Q2 2017 occurred, fuelled mostly by increased numbers of detected Pakistani and Afghan citizens crossing the EU’s external border for the second time.

Finally,  the  Black  Sea  route  was  temporarily used in Q3. Five large fishing boats, launched in Turkey, were intercepted carrying a total of 472 migrants, 435 of which were Iraqis.

Compared with Q3 2016, all FRAN indicators showed decreases. Apart from the fall in illegal border-crossings, the most visible decrease was observed in the number of refusals of entry. However, it was mostly the  effect  of  over  30  000  fewer  refusals  being  issued  to  Russian  citizens,  which  masked  increased  refusals  for  almost  all  other nationalities.