Eritreans second most apprehended nationality in first quarter
The European Agency for the Management of Operational Cooperation at the External Borders of the Member States of the European Union Frontex reports that Eritreans were the second most apprehended nationality in the Central Mediterranean in the first quarter of 2014.
According to the agency, the number of Malian nationals apprehended in the Central Mediterranean, has increased by more than 1 000 persons since the previous quarter to 1 753, thus ranking first among all migrant nationalities on this route in Q1 2014.
The second and third ranking nationalities were Eritreans and Syrians with 1 522 and 1 268 detections respectively. Their increase was enormous compared to Q1 2013, when only 3 and 85 persons of these nationalities were reported on the Central Mediterranean route.
Compared to the first quarter of 2013, in Q1 2014 Italy reported a sevenfold increase in illegal border-crossings, while numbers in Greece more than doubled. Detections at Italy’s sea border represented almost 50% of all detected illegal border-crossings that quarter.
More Eritreans detected
In January and February, Eritreans were detected in far lower numbers than during the previous months, but in March 2014 Italy reported more than 1 000 detections. Syrians reached an all-time high for this time of the year, with more than 1 300 arriving in boats, mainly to Sicily. As in Q4 2013, around 1 200 Gambians were detected trying to reach Europe in rubber or wooden boats.
The number of detections of illegal border-crossing showed that more Eritreans were caught crossing illegally state borders – by around fourteen times – compared to the same period 2013, followed by Malians and Gambians, but on different levels.
The reports states that document fraud committed by nationals from different countries in the Horn of Africa often shows similar patterns. Three quarters of all incidents related to this region’s nationals are detected during secondary movements after illegal entry into the EU (see chapter ‘Illegal border-crossings: Central Mediterranean’). In Q1 2014, Member States reported 193 cases of document fraud committed by Eritrean and 151 by Somali nationals, compared to Q1 2013 an increase of 159 and 19, respectively.
By the end Q1 2014, migratory movements across Italy’s sea border resumed quickly after the winter seasonal decline. Of note was the speed at which migration appeared to regain momentum: in March the number of arrivals in Italy and Malta reached the exceptionally high levels of summer 2013. Also, analysis of the different waves of migrant boats that have targeted Italy’s sea border since November 2013 suggests development of the logistical & organisational capacities of the criminal groups which facilitate the gathering and embarkation of migrants along Libya’s coast.
Interviewed Somalis and Eritreans said that the facilitators provided them with no water or food and only around 30 litres of fuel because, they would be rescued by Italian authorities after two days at sea anyway. Eritreans had to pay USD 20 if they wanted to have a life jacket.
Shifting migration patterns
Increased operational activity in the Eastern Mediterranean led to a fall in detections of illegal border-crossing. Since Bulgarian authorities started a special police operation at the Bulgaria-Turkey border, migratory movements originally displaced by Greek operation Aspida from Greece’s border to Bulgaria’s fell substantially. The fact that the overall number of illegal border-crossings on the Eastern Mediterranean route was still higher than 2013 can be attributed to detections made in the Aegean Sea.
The land border with the biggest increase of illegal border-crossings, compared to both Q4 2013 and Q1 2013, was around Spain’s enclaves: Ceuta and Melilla. The number of persons entering Spain via that route tripled comparing to Q1 2013. While migrants with sufficient funds used the services of people-smuggling networks to reach Spain, hidden in motor vehicles, the majority of those trying to reach Spanish territory opted to simply climb the fences, often in large groups.
The attempted borders breaches at Spain’s enclaves were part of a general shift from sea borders to land borders on the Western Mediterranean route. The reasons for that may include strengthened surveillance at sea.
This period saw an increasing number of asylum applications. Although this indicator shows a clear decline at the beginning of each year, the annual total asylum seekers has risen by almost 20% annually since 2010. Simultaneously, asylum seekers increasingly focus on top destination countries. Since 2010, the proportion of applications for asylum in Germany and Sweden grew from around 33% to 50% of the total reported to FRAN.