28 February 2014

A new report by the EU border agency Frontex shows that most persons detected crossing irregularly into the EU between July and September 2013 were Syrians. Syrians also submitted more applications for asylum than any other nationality. According to the report, 13,963 Syrians submitted asylum applications in the third quarter of 2013, nearly double the number of applications in the previous quarter. More than two-thirds of the applications were submitted in Sweden, Germany and Bulgaria.

According to the report, there were in total 42,618 migrants detected crossing into the EU irregularly between July and September 2013 – almost twice the number in the same period in 2012. The agency underlines that there were more people detected crossing the EU maritime borders irregularly than during the height of the 2011 Arab Spring.

The Frontex report also states that in the third quarter of 2013, the Bulgarian land border with Turkey became one of the five most important border sections where migrants, mainly Syrians and Afghans, crossed to Europe. There was a 600% increase in the number of migrants crossing the Bulgarian-Turkish border compared to the previous year. This was the largest increase at the EU level, and was accompanied by an increase in asylum applications. Bulgaria reported more than 2,000 asylum applications in these three months, which is drastic increase when compared to the previous year.

However, last week, UNHCR raised concerns over the current low numbers of asylum seekers arriving to Bulgaria through the Turkish border. Whilst there were thousands of migrants arriving in Bulgaria in the last months of 2013, in January 2014 there were only 132 migrants crossing and 113 arrived during the first twenty days of February. The UN Agency is concerned about the measures taken by the Bulgarian Government to restrict access to its territory, namely the placement of 1,500 police officers at the border and the plans to construct a 33 km fence.

Over 2.4 million people fleeing Syria, half of whom are children, are currently registered as refugees. In comparison, just 81,000 Syrians had sought protection in the EU, Norway and Switzerland by the end of February 2014; representing only 3% of the total number of people who have fled.

This article originally appeared in the ECRE Weekly Bulletin of 28 February 2014
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