This week, the EU Border Agency Frontex released a report showing a 50% decrease in the number of people detected entering the EU irregularly in 2012, compared with the previous year. Only 73,000 persons were detected crossing irregularly into the EU, a record low number since systematic data collection began in 2008.

In particular, a major drop in arrivals per week was seen on the Greek-Turkish land border, which fell from 2,000 in August to 10 arrivals in October 2012. In parallel, there was a 912% increase in unauthorised border crossings detected in the Aegean Sea, between Greece and Turkey.

Last December, François Crépeau, UN Special Rapporteur on the human rights of migrants, stated, following a visit to the region, that the enhanced border controls at the Greek-Turkish land border under operation “Aspida” (“Shield”), which included the deployment of approximately 1,800 border police officers coupled with the construction of a fence and the Frontex operation “Poseidon Land”, have resulted in a renewed influx of irregular migrants via the islands of the eastern Aegean Sea. As Crépeau noted, the migrants arriving in the islands are routinely detained, either in coast guard facilities or police stations.

Frontex attributes the drop in the Greek – Turkish land border to operation Shield and also acknowledges the presence of “pent-up migratory pressure inside Turkey representing a risk of resurgent irregular migration on that route when the Aspida operation ends”.

Frontex also notes that due to the situation in Syria, there was an increase of Syrians entering irregularly the EU. In 2012, 7,903 Syrians were detected crossing into the EU irregularly, which is almost four times more than in 2011. However, most people detected crossing into the EU irregularly are still Afghans, but with significantly reduced numbers from the previous years.

According to Eurostat figures, Afghans and Syrians were the main groups of asylum seekers in the EU in 2012.

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This article originally appeared in the ECRE Weekly Bulletin of 26 April 2013
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