More than 540 000 migrants have arrived on the Greek islands in the first ten months of the year, which was 13 times more than in the same period of 2014. Syrians continued to account for the largest number of arrivals, although in recent weeks the share of Afghan nationals has risen significantly.
Despite the worsening weather conditions in October, more than 150 000 people made the journey from Turkey to Greece last month compared to fewer than 8 500 in October 2014.
As a direct knock-on effect, in the January-October period some 500 000 detections of illegal border crossings were recorded on the EU’s external borders in the Western Balkans, mainly on Hungary’s and Croatia’s borders with Serbia. Most of the migrants detected in the region had earlier arrived on one of the Greek islands in the Aegean Sea and then left the EU to travel through the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia and Serbia. After Hungary constructed a fence on its border with Serbia and tightened border controls in September, the migrants have begun crossing Croatia’s border with Serbia in record numbers.
As part of its effort to assist Greece and Western Balkan states in dealing with the unprecedented migratory pressure, Frontex has strengthened Operation Poseidon Sea and deployed 114 officers on Lesbos and other Greek islands to support the local authorities in identifying, registering and fingerprinting of new arrivals. This includes 37 officers deployed at the Lesbos hotspot, where Frontex is completing a pilot project of an accelerated registration process to shorten the waiting time for the migrants and pave the way for relocation of asylum seekers.
Frontex has also offered to increase its presence on the Greek land borders with the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia and Albania, as well as Croatia’s border with Serbia.
“We are in close contact with Greece and Croatia to fine tune the kind of support these EU Member States expect from Frontex,” said Frontex Executive Director Fabrice Leggeri.
In contrast to the record numbers in Greece and the Western Balkans, the Central Mediterranean route saw the number of people crossing from Libya to Italy drop by half in October to 8 500 compared to the same month of 2014. This was in large part due to a shortage of boats available to smugglers, bringing the figure for the first ten months down to 140 000 versus nearly 155 000 in the same period of 2014.
Overall, the number of detections of illegal border crossings at the EU’s external borders between January and October stood at an unprecedented 1.2 million, four times the 282 000 recorded in all of last year.