FRAN Q4 2017


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In the fourth quarter of 2017, the number of detections of illegal border-crossing (IBC) between Border Crossing Points at the EU’s external border was at the lowest level for a fourth quarter since 2013, and at the second-lowest level for any quarter since the EU-Turkey Statement entered into force. The 39% fall compared to Q4 2016, reflects in particular strong decreases on the Central Mediterranean and the Western Balkan routes, against which stood strong relative increases on the Western Mediterranean sea route and on the Eastern Mediterranean route.

On account of intensified activities of the Libyan Coast Guard the Central Mediterranean route registered a strong relative decrease compared to Q4 2016 (-72%) and the lowest quarterly aggregate number of illegal border-crossings since Q1 2015. The sudden uptick in launches from Tunisia (almost exclusively Tunisians), recorded already in Q3 2017, continued in Q4 2017 (3 770).

On the Eastern Mediterranean route, despite the season, the flow stayed at a high level, in fact the second-highest quarterly total since the implementation of the EU‑Turkey Statement was recorded, despite the commitment exhibited by the Turkish side to border control. In particular, the large share of Syrians observed in Q3 2017 continued. Meanwhile, at the land border the strong influx of Turkish migrants continued (making up 44% of the flow).

On the Western Mediterranean Sea route, yet another record number of detections was recorded, with a quarter that exceeded the annual total of any year in FRAN historical data before 2016. This record high occurred notwithstanding intense patrolling activities and preventions of departure by Moroccan and Algerian maritime assets. Of the 9 444 detections on both the sea and land route, 8 662 (92%) claimed to be minors. The mostly male minors from Algeria and Morocco in debriefings professed to have been sent by their families to earn a living in Europe. In contrast, on the Western Mediterranean land route, the number of illegal border crossings fell to a record low of a mere 47 detections.

On the Western Balkan route, a new subroute from Greece via Albania, Montenegro and Bosnia and Herzegovina, to Croatia, has been emerging.

As regards other FRAN indicators and again in comparison to Q4 2016, the fall of the numbers of return decisions, effective returns as well as asylum applications coincides with the fall in illegal border crossings. Even though there are gaps in the data reported by Member States for clandestine entry, the decline in the numbers reported for this indicator may well be due to the difficulty to detect clandestine entries. Finally it is worth noting that detected illegal stays on exit saw moderate increases.