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ReliefWeb - Updates on Hungary
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    Source: European Union
    Country: Afghanistan, Algeria, Austria, Bulgaria, Croatia, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iraq, Italy, Malta, Pakistan, Poland, Slovenia, Sweden, Syrian Arab Republic, World

    European Economic and Social Committee

    Synthesis Report 16 March 2016*

    KEY MESSAGES

    The European Economic and Social Committee wholeheartedly appreciates the important role civil society is playing in the current refugee crisis. Without its response, the tragic humanitarian situation which has unfolded in many European countries could have been even more catastrophic. Through its commitment to giving a voice to those involved, the EESC has undertaken 11 fact-finding missions - to Austria, Sweden, Greece, Hungary, Germany, Croatia, Slovenia, Italy, Malta, Poland and Bulgaria. On the basis of the results of these missions, and of the considerable experience of its members, the EESC, as a representative and supporter of organised civil society, presents its key messages to the Member States and EU institutions for addressing the refugee crisis:

    a. The European Union and the Member States must work together to achieve a genuine common European asylum system, as stipulated in Article 78 TFEU, as well as a fair distribution of refugees. Common EU criteria to determine whether a person is entitled to international protection should be reinforced and properly implemented.

    b. The Dublin regulation must be reviewed, taking account of the fact that countries of first arrival are often only transit countries for the refugees.

    c. The European Union and the Member States should allocate sufficient national resources (staff, funding and infrastructure) to the reception of and assistance to refugees. If civil society organisations fulfil the tasks of Member States, as happens in many places, governments should compensate them accordingly. Furthermore, CSOs need easier access to EU funding.

    d. Member States are responsible for implementing the mandatory requirements of the Geneva Convention. The European Council, European Commission and European Parliament should acknowledge responsibility for actively supporting Member States, in order to allow them to deal with the refugee crisis.

    e. The achievements of the Schengen System must be preserved. Effective external border controls are a precondition to maintaining it. Securing borders must not mean shutting out those who need protection for humanitarian reasons, in accordance with the Geneva Convention.

    f. Refugees need safe, regular routes to come to the EU, in order to avoid further deaths, human rights violations and exposure to smuggling and trafficking. A more coordinated approach from all of the European and international stakeholders involved is needed.

    g. The European Union and its Member States should support refugees in the countries neighbouring conflict zones.

    h. Information campaigns should dissuade economic migrants from risking their lives trying to reach the EU. Orders to return people whose asylum claims have been rejected, should be enforced. Stories by returnees should serve as a deterrent and to counter the biased information being spread by smugglers. i. Frontex's mandate and resources must be strengthened in order to improve search and rescue operations. Frontex should play a bigger role in the registration at the external borders.

    j. In order to make the relocation mechanism fully functional, registration at Europe's external borders must be obligatory, all planned hotspots need to become operational and active 24/7 and more hotspots need to be considered. Member States should live up to their promise to deploy staff to the hotspots and make additional resources available.

    k. Asylum seekers need to be given up-to-date information about their rights and obligations on their arrival and in a language they understand. Refugees, in particular the most vulnerable ones, and the volunteers who work with them need appropriate psychological assistance. Medical services should be provided at arrival points.

    l. Cooperation and coordination among civil society organisations (CSOs) and with their governments needs to be improved and professionalised to ensure they are sustainable. Members States must establish a clear line of responsibility for the often cross-cutting issue of reception of and assistance to refugees and ensure the coordination of public authorities at various levels.

    m. The EU should do more to coordinate humanitarian efforts and ensure a larger EU presence and visibility in the countries that are the main destinations for refugees, for instance through the European Commission's Humanitarian Aid and Civil Protection department (ECHO) or a similar body.

    n. Due account needs to be taken of the concerns of the local population. However, any hate speech, misinformation about refugees and xenophobic discourse must be firmly counteracted and the positive contributions of refugees must be highlighted in order to change the way they are portrayed in the media. Refugees should be seen not as a threat but as an opportunity for Europe's economic and social model.

    o. More than ever, it is important to implement strong economic policies in order to stimulate growth and job creation for all. Assistance for refugees and their integration is an economic stimulus in itself. Growth and jobs help counter hostility against refugees.

    p. Sustainable long-term integration policies, covering skills screening and recognition, education and training, including civic education and language courses, need to be applied as soon as possible if a positive outcome of the asylum procedure is to be expected. Labour market participation should be fostered in cooperation with the social partners. Investment in integration measures will pay off in the medium and long term, while the cost of no integration would be huge.

    Following the fact-finding missions, the EESC is now better prepared to contribute to the resolution of the refugee crisis and to policies for the integration of refugees. As a representative of organised civil society, the EESC, will be channelling its needs, observations and recommendations towards the EU institutions, European citizens and their organisations. By adding our expertise, as well as European and global perspectives, the EESC will further contribute to the development of EU policies in the area of asylum and migration.


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    Source: European Union
    Country: Afghanistan, Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Greece, Hungary, Iraq, Montenegro, Pakistan, Serbia, Syrian Arab Republic, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Turkey, World

    Introduction

    Concept

    The Western Balkans Risk Analysis Network (WB-RAN) performs monthly exchanges of statistical data and information on the most recent irregular migration developments affecting the region. This information is compiled at Frontex Risk Analysis Unit (RAU) level and analysed in cooperation with the regional partners on a quarterly and annual basis. The annual reports offer a more in-depth analysis of the developments and phenomena which impact the regional and common borders, while the quarterly reports are meant to provide regular updates and identify emerging trends in order to maintain situational awareness. Both types of reports are aimed at offering support for strategic and operational decision making.

    Methodology

    The Western Balkans Quarterly is focused on quarterly developments as reflected by the seven key indicators of irregular migration:

    (1) detections of illegal bordercrossing between BCPs, (2) detections of illegal border-crossing at BCPs, (3) refusals of entry, (4) detections of illegal stay,

    (5) asylum applications, (6) detections of facilitators, and (7) detections of fraudulent documents.

    The data presented in the overview are derived from monthly statistics provided within the framework of the WB-RAN and reference-period statistics from common border sections of neighbouring EU Member States (Croatia, Bulgaria, Greece, Hungary and Romania). In addition, the Western Balkans Quarterly is drawing from FRAN Quarterly reports and also from data analysed in the framework of other risk analysis networks (FRAN,
    EDF-RAN).

    Structure

    The first part offers a general situational overview broken down by main areas of work of border-control authorities and police activities related to irregular migration.
    The second part presents more in-depth featured risk analyses of particular phenomena. As the current issue of the Western Balkans Quarterly is the fifth following a new approach adopted for risk analysis quarterlies, the structure of the report may still be subject to some readjustments.

    Changes in data scope after Croatia’s entry to the EU

    Important changes in the collection and use of data for Western Balkans Quarterlies were introduced upon Croatia’s joining the EU in July 2013. Firstly, data for Slovenia, which now has no external borders with non-EU Western Balkan countries, have not been included in the report since the third quarter of 2013. Slovenian historical data were also excluded from the tables in order to make the comparison with previous quarters analytically meaningful.
    Secondly, as the Croatian-Hungarian and Croatian-Slovenian border sections are now internal EU-borders and so they are no longer covered by this report.

    Thirdly, after joining the EU, Croatian data on illegal stay data are limited to detections at the border. More precisely, Croatia’s illegal stay data only include cases detected on exit, while inland detections are not included. The analysis of the illegal stay indicator takes this fact into consideration.

    Changes in data scope after Kosovo’s entry to the WB-RAN*

    Starting from the first quarter of 2014, data from Kosovo* on key indicators of irregular migration have been included in the reporting, making it possible to get a more comprehensive picture of the irregular movements in the region. However, as there are no historical data available for Kosovo*, the new data have some impact on the comparison of the examined period with previous quarters. When necessary for analytical purposes, some comparison can be made also excluding data from Kosovo*, which is noted in the text


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    Source: European Union
    Country: Afghanistan, Albania, Algeria, Bangladesh, China, Côte d'Ivoire, Croatia, Czechia, Denmark, Eritrea, Finland, France, Gambia, Germany, Greece, Guinea, Hungary, India, Iran (Islamic Republic of), Iraq, Italy, Morocco, Nigeria, Norway, occupied Palestinian territory, Pakistan, Qatar, Russian Federation, Serbia, Somalia, Spain, Sweden, Syrian Arab Republic, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Tunisia, Turkey, United Arab Emirates, Viet Nam, World

    Summary

    In 2015, Member States reported more than 1 820 000 detections of illegal border-crossing along the external borders.

    This never-before-seen figure was more than six times the number of detections reported in 2014, which was itself an unprecedented year, with record monthly averages observed since April 2014.

    The year 2015 began with extremely high levels for the month of January (over 20 000 detections, against the 2009–2014 January average of 4 700 detections), and each subsequent month set a new monthly record. In July, a turning point was reached with more than 100 000 detections, coinciding with a change in the law in the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia allowing migrants to legalise their stay for a 72-hour period after they express a wish to apply for international protection. It resulted in a further increase of the flow and throughout the summer months scenes of chaos from the border areas spoke of a situation that appeared out of control. In September, public bus and train services were requisitioned in Western Balkan countries and in some Member States to transport migrants, but the flow continued to grow until October. As of November, the situation eased a little, but the EU’s total for December, at over 220 000 detections, was still way above the figure for the entire 2013.

    There is no EU system capable of tracing people’s movements following an illegal border-crossing. Therefore it is not possible to establish the precise number of persons who have illegally crossed two sections of the external borders of the EU. Only an estimate of about 1 000 000 persons can be provided, based on the assumption that all migrants first detected irregularly crossing in Greece were then detected for a second time re-entering the EU from the Western Balkans.

    The largest number of detections was reported on the Eastern Mediterranean route (885 386), mostly between Turkey and the Greek islands in the Eastern Aegean Sea. However, few applied for asylum in Greece and instead crossed the border to the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia and continued through the Western Balkans, initially towards the Hungarian border with Serbia, where they applied for asylum, and then to their final destinations in the EU. As of mid-September, the flow shifted towards the Croatian border with Serbia, following the construction of a temporary technical obstacle in Hungary and the establishment of transit areas for immediate processing of asylum applicants with the possibility of return to Serbia.

    In contrast, on the Central Mediterranean route, the number of detections of illegal border-crossing was about 154 000, a slight decrease compared to the previous year, but this figure was still higher than total detections recorded for the entire EU in 2011, i.e. the year of the Arab Spring (141 051). The decrease was due to a lower number of Syrians (about 40 000 in 2014, and 7 448 in 2015), who seemed to have shifted to the Eastern Mediterranean route.

    On the Western Mediterranean route, the cooperation between Spain and Morocco is key in maintaining detections on the land route between the two countries at a relatively low level. As a result, sub-Saharan migrants, who tended to make a sea crossing to Spain, now increasingly opt for departing from Libya.

    On the Western African route, which connects Senegal, Mauritania and Morocco with the Spanish Canary Islands after a treacherous journey on the Atlantic Ocean, the numbers remain negligible despite an increasing trend of departures from Morocco. This low number is attributed to the joint surveillance activities and effective return of those detected crossing the border illegally.

    On the Eastern land border, a new route emerged in 2015 at the land borders of Norway and Finland with the Russian Federation (the so-called Arctic route). The main targeted border crossing point (BCP) was the Norwegian BCP of Storskog, which registered an unusually high number of applications for asylum in 2015 (over 5 200). The situation in Norway eased in December, when the Russian Federation resumed its practice of preventing the exit of travellers without a travel document that would allow them to enter the EU. However, at the onset of 2016, the situation remains a concern in Finland, though with fewer cases than in Norway so far.

    Those declaring to hail from Syria (594 059) and Afghanistan (267 485) represented the highest share of detections of illegal border-crossing on entry to the EU in 2015. While Syrians undeniably constitute the largest proportion, their exact number is difficult to establish due to the fact that many other migrants also claim to be from Syria in order to accelerate their travel. Establishing the identity of a large number of poorly documented migrants is one of the main challenges border-control authorities are confronted with.

    Since 2014, the number of detected West Africans has been steadily increasing, to reach over 64 000 detections in 2015, of whom nearly 85% on the Central Mediterranean route. In contrast to East Africans, who tend to apply for asylum in other Member States, West Africans apply for asylum in Italy and in fact account for the largest share of asylum applicants in this country.

    While Greece and Italy have been under particularly intense pressure as the two main entry points reporting several thousand arrivals per day, the large-scale inflows of migrants have been a new experience for several other Member States.

    The main challenges include the widening of the surveillance areas, the growing need for and the extension of search and rescue operations, the lack of facilities to receive and accommodate thousands of persons over a short time, the lack of expertise to detect non-typical travel documents, difficulties in addressing fraudulent declarations of nationality or age, and non-systematic entry of fingerprints to the Eurodac. Last but not least, the process of registration at the borders should more thoroughly take into account the risks to internal security.

    The Paris attacks in November 2015 clearly demonstrated that irregular migratory flows could be used by terrorists to enter the EU. Two of the terrorists involved in the attacks had previously irregularly entered through Leros and had been registered by the Greek authorities.

    They presented fraudulent Syrian documents to speed up their registration process.

    As the vast majority of migrants arrive undocumented, screening activities are essential to properly verify their declaration of nationality. False declarations of nationality are rife among nationals who are unlikely to obtain asylum in the EU, are liable to be returned to their country of origin or transit, or just want to speed up their journey. With a large number of persons arriving with false or no identification documents or raising concerns over the validity of their claimed nationality – with no thorough check or penalties in place for those making such false declarations, there is a risk that some persons representing a security threat to the EU may be taking advantage of this situation.

    The unprecedented number of detections of illegal border-crossing has also led to a surge in violent incidents along the EU’s external borders. People smugglers, motivated by profit, increasingly put migrants’ lives at risk and even threaten border guards to recover boats or escape apprehension. Also, situations when a large number of people are crossing the border en masse have led to violence requiring public order policing, a task for which border-control authorities are neither adequately equipped nor trained.

    It is dauntingly difficult to estimate fatalities among migrants irregularly crossing the border because it is not possible to keep an accurate tally of missing persons. Frontex does not record these data and can only report the number of bodies recovered during Joint Operations.

    In 2015, 470 dead bodies were reported in the Mediterranean area, an increase of 112% compared to 2014. According to IOM estimates, more than 3 770 persons went missing or died in the Mediterranean area in 2015.

    In spite of the popular perception that mass migration may pose a threat of the spread of infectious diseases, WHO ‘Public Health Aspects of Migration in Europe’ (PHAME) indicates that there is no evidence to suggest such connection.

    Refugees and migrants are mainly exposed to the infectious diseases that are common in Europe, independently of migration. The risk that exotic infectious agents will be brought to Europe is extremely low.

    In a situation of continued pressure on the EU’s external borders, it is presumed that these challenges will be best addressed in a coordinated manner, requiring harmonised application of legislation and pooling of resources. In addition, efforts should be pursued in the area of returns. Indeed, in its European Agenda on Migration, the Commission states that ‘one of the incentives for irregular migrants is the knowledge that the EU’s return system – meant to return irregular migrants or those whose asylum applications have been refused – works imperfectly.’ Frontex has created scenarios to form a basis for an annual monitoring of changes in the environment in which the Agency operates. Very different stakeholders can make use of these scenarios to develop their own internal strategies or monitor how these strategies fit into a changing environment.

    Seven scenarios are outlined in the present report, spanning a large variety of possible futures.


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    Source: European Union
    Country: Afghanistan, Austria, Bulgaria, Denmark, Finland, Germany, Hungary, Italy, Netherlands, Sweden, Syrian Arab Republic, United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, World

    Asylum applicants considered to be unaccompanied minors

    Slightly more than half are Afghans

    In 2015, 88 300 asylum seekers applying for international protection in the Member States of the European Union (EU) were considered to be unaccompanied minors. While their number always stood between 11 000 and 13 000 in the EU over the period 2008-2013, it almost doubled in 2014 to reach slightly more than 23 000 persons, then nearly quadrupled in 2015.

    In 2015, a substantial majority of unaccompanied minors were males (91%) and over half were aged 16 to 17 (57%, or 50 500 persons), while those aged 14 to 15 accounted for 29% (25 800 persons) and those aged less than 14 for 13% (11 800 persons). Around half (51%) of asylum applicants considered to be unaccompanied minors in the EU in 2015 were Afghans.

    Four in 10 applied for asylum in Sweden

    In 2015, the highest number of asylum applicants considered to be unaccompanied minors was registered in Sweden (with almost 35 300 unaccompanied minors, or 40% of all those registered in the EU Member States), followed by Germany (14 400, or 16%), Hungary (8 800, or 10%) and Austria (8 300, or 9%). Together these four Member States accounted for three-quarters of all asylum applicants considered unaccompanied minors registered in the EU in 2015.

    Largest share of unaccompanied minors among young asylum seekers in Italy

    The largest shares of unaccompanied minors among all young asylum applicants in 2015 were recorded notably in Italy (where 56.6% of all asylum applicants aged less than 18 were unaccompanied in 2015) and Sweden (50.1%), followed by the United Kingdom (38.5%), the Netherlands (36.5%), Denmark (33.7%), Finland (33.2%) and Bulgaria (33.1%). In total in the EU, unaccompanied minors accounted for almost a quarter (23.0%) of all asylum applicants aged less than 18 in 2015.

    1 out of 2 unaccompanied minors originates from Afghanistan

    Most of the asylum applicants considered unaccompanied minors in the EU Member States were Afghans (51% of the total number of unaccompanied minors registered in 2015). Of the 45 300 Afghans considered unaccompanied minors in the EU in 2015, more than half were registered in Sweden (23 400). Afghans represented the most numerous citizenship of asylum seekers considered unaccompanied minors in fifteen EU Member States.

    Syria (16% of the total number of unaccompanied minors) was the second main country of citizenship of asylum seekers considered unaccompanied minors in the EU Member States in 2015. Of the 14 300 Syrians seeking protection in the EU Member States and considered unaccompanied minors in 2015, 7 in 10 applied in one of the following three Member States: Germany (4 000), Sweden (3 800) and Hungary (2 200).


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    Source: European Union
    Country: Afghanistan, Albania, Austria, Bulgaria, Croatia, Greece, Hungary, Iraq, Romania, Serbia, Slovenia, Syrian Arab Republic, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Turkey, World

    Large-scale migration flow and border management/security

    The numbers of non-regional migrants transiting the Balkans reached unprecedented and extraordinary levels during 2015 with over 2 million illegal border crossings reported by all the countries in the region. For comparison, this was roughly 30 times more than in 2014.

    For several years, the main routes have remained the same: Turkey-Greece-former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia-Serbia-Hungary/Croatia and Turkey-Bulgaria-Serbia-Hungary/Croatia.

    This extraordinary situation resulted in the largest migratory crisis in Europe since the Second World War.

    The steep increase in migratory pressure in the Eastern Aegean brought about a range of political decisions from attempts to prevent irregular migration to inter-governmental agreements on facilitated transit across the region towards the main destination countries (e.g. Germany).

    The countries in the region adapted to the rising migratory flows in response to the decisions taken by their neighbours or the main destination countries. The aim was to avoid a situation where people would become stranded.

    These high-level decisions also reflected the enormity of the challenges as numbers started to rise to several thousand people per day. This resulted in temporary inability of some countries to perform border-control tasks as stipulated by relevant legislation, including the Schengen Borders Code and the EURODAC regulation.

    At the end of 2015, the European Commission initiated an infringement procedure against Greece and Croatia for failing to implement the EURODAC regulation.

    Uncoordinated measures and shift of focus resulting in displacement/redirection of the flow

    After a summer of chaotic scenes when many migrants forced their way across different borders and thousands of people walked along the main highway between Budapest and Vienna, the Hungarian government decided to erect physical barriers along the entire border with Serbia. As a consequence, the flow shifted towards the Croatian-Serbian and then the Croatian-Hungarian border. After the latter was also fenced off by Hungary on 15 October 2015, the flow was redirected towards the Croatian-Slovenian border.

    During the entire period, the flow continued to accelerate as migrants were taking advantage of the organised transportation.

    This acceleration was also supported by confusing media messages regarding restrictive or welcoming measures planned by the main transit and destination countries (as migrants were attempting to reach the destinations which would welcome them ahead of transit restrictions in the region or policy changes in their destination countries).

    Proper verification of the country of origin remained almost impossible

    Even later decisions to restrict passage for migrants who did not originate from conflict areas (i.e. not Syrian, Iraqi or Afghan) were difficult to implement.

    Verifying the country of origin of persons at the moment of the crossing remained very limited. Most authorities were confronted with a lack of interpreters and screeners, and mainly relied on the documents that migrants presented to attest their nationality. None of these documents bore security features, which made them easy to abuse.

    More coordination after October 2015

    At the end of October 2015, the European Commission organised a mini summit where leaders representing Albania, Austria, Bulgaria, Croatia, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Romania, Serbia and Slovenia agreed to improve cooperation and step up consultations between the relevant authorities along the route.

    They also agreed on a 17-point plan of pragmatic operational measures that eventually made it possible for the countries to start reapplying national border management legislation and the EU law in this field.

    Main lessons learned The unprecedented massive flows of people along the Western Balkan route proved to be unmanageable for the border authorities involved. These flows also exposed clear limits of border controls in the absence of uniform EU-wide migration and asylum policies.

    All contingency plans were designed with lower numbers in mind and with a presumption that the arriving people would not refuse to follow the existing procedure.

    Some people also refused to be registered and wanted to continue their journey by crossing to the next country as quickly as possible. Clashes with the authorities and between different ethnic groups were regular occurrences in such circumstances.

    Perhaps the biggest lesson is the fact that perceptions and rumours matter a lot. Many would-be migrants from Syria, Iran, Iraq, North Africa or Pakistan decided to travel to Greece en masse after they became convinced that the Western Balkan route was open, fast and cheap and that some EU Member States would accommodate them. These perceptions proved to be very difficult to dispel.

    In conclusion, the 2015 migratory crisis resulted from a mixture of compounding factors, including the prolonged war in Syria, advancing Daesh and a growing threat from Taliban insurgency in Afghanistan. However, by far the most influential factors allowing for the astonishing daily figures were the introduction of a facilitated transport corridor across the Western Balkans and a temporary suspension of national and EU border-management legislation.


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    Source: European Union
    Country: Afghanistan, Albania, Austria, Bangladesh, Belgium, Bulgaria, Cyprus, Czechia, Denmark, Eritrea, Estonia, Finland, France, Gambia, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iran (Islamic Republic of), Iraq, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Mali, Montenegro, Netherlands, Nigeria, Norway, Pakistan, Poland, Romania, Russian Federation, Senegal, Serbia, Slovenia, Somalia, South Sudan, Spain, Sudan, Sweden, Switzerland, Syrian Arab Republic, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Turkey, Ukraine, United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, World

    Executive Summary

    The 2015 Annual Report on the Situation of Asylum in the European Union aims to provide a comprehensive overview of the number and nature of applications for international protection made in the EU+ (1). It examines how those applications were processed and indicates important developments at EU+ and national level in order to describe the functioning of the Common European Asylum System (CEAS) in each of its key aspects.

    Introduction

    The EASO Annual Report on the Situation of Asylum in the EU is drawn up in accordance with Article 12 of the EASO Regulation (3). Its objective is to provide a comprehensive overview of the situation of asylum in the EU (and includes information on Norway and Switzerland) (4), describing and analysing flows of applicants for international protection, major developments in legislation, jurisprudence, and policies at the EU/national level and reporting on the practical functioning of the Common European Asylum System (CEAS). As in previous years, the report aims to provide analysis based on independent sources of information and helps identify the areas where improvement is most needed (and thus where EASO and other key stakeholders should focus their efforts) in line with its declared purpose of improving the quality, consistency and effectiveness of the CEAS. The report makes no claim to be exhaustive. State-specific examples mentioned in the report serve only as illustrations of relevant aspects of the CEAS.

    The report takes due account of information already available from a wide range of sources. For the purpose of this report, EASO received information from Member States, EU institutions, civil society, international organisations, and academia.

    In accordance with its role under Article 35 of the Geneva Convention of 28 July 1951 relating to the Status of Refugees, which is reflected in the EU Treaties and the asylum acquis instruments, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees made a special contribution to this report (also referred to as UNHCR input).

    Primary information was obtained by EASO from EU+ countries through an Annual Report Matrix (and where needed, clarifications were sought bilaterally) (5). Information was also received via questionnaire responses made as part of the drafting of the European Migration Network’s Annual Report. To avoid duplication with the Annual Report on Immigration and Asylum, the European Commission was consulted during the drafting process and actively contributed.

    The EASO Network of Court and Tribunal members contributed to the report by providing relevant examples of national case law.

    The Report also takes account of additional information based on publicly available sources (6), duly referenced. Contributions were also specifically sought from civil society with a call for input from the EASO Executive Director to the members of the EASO Consultative Forum, inviting them to provide information on their work relevant for the functioning of the CEAS.

    The EASO Annual Report covers the period from 1 January to 31 December 2015 inclusive, but also refers to major recent relevant developments in the year of writing.


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    Source: European Union
    Country: Afghanistan, Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Greece, Hungary, Iraq, Montenegro, Pakistan, Serbia, Syrian Arab Republic, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Turkey, World

    In the second quarter of this year, the number of migrants detected at the borders of Western Balkan countries plunged 88% from the previous three months to 26 488. The figure is slightly higher than in the first quarter of 2015, before the region experienced a massive increase in migrants who had previously arrived on the Greek islands from Turkey. Afghans became the top reported nationality, accounting for a 36% share of the total non-regional migration flow, while Syrians dropped to the second place with 16%.

    Meanwhile, in the April-June period the number of people smugglers arrested increased by nearly a fifth from the first quarter to 307.


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    Source: European Union
    Country: Afghanistan, Greece, Hungary, Jordan, Lebanon, Slovakia, Turkey, World

    I. MIGRATION

    1. The European Council took stock of the latest developments concerning the EU's comprehensive migration policy, highlighting the importance of implementation. The debate focused in particular on the external dimension.

    Protecting the external borders

    1. The entry into force of the European Border and Coast Guard Regulation on 6 October and national efforts are important steps in strengthening control of our external borders and getting 'back to Schengen' by adjusting the temporary internal border controls to reflect the current needs. Member States are now deploying staff and equipment to the European Border and Coast Guard, so as to reach full capacity for rapid reaction and returns by the end of the year.

    2. The European Council calls for a swift adoption of the revised Schengen Borders Code enforcing systematic controls on all travellers crossing EU external borders and calls on the Council to establish its position on an entry/exit system before the end of 2016. It looks forward to the forthcoming Commission proposal for setting up a European Travel Information and Authorisation System (ETIAS), to allow for advance security checks on visa-exempt travellers and deny them entry where necessary.

    Tackling migratory flows

    (a) Preventing illegal migration along the Central Mediterranean route

    1. More efforts are needed to stem the flows of irregular migrants, in particular from Africa, and to improve return rates. Recognising the significant contribution, including of financial nature, made by the frontline Member States in recent years, the European Council:

    • recalls the importance of continuing to work towards the implementation of a Partnership Framework of cooperation with individual countries of origin or transit, with an initial focus on Africa. Its objective is to pursue specific and measurable results in terms of preventing illegal migration and returning irregular migrants, as well as to create and apply the necessary leverage, by using all relevant EU policies, instruments and tools, including development and trade;

    • recalls the need to tackle the root causes of migration in the region, including by supporting displaced persons in the region, thus helping to prevent illegal migration, and underlines the contribution of the Valletta Action Plan and the proposed External Investment Plan in this context. It welcomes the New York Declaration for Refugees and Migrants and calls on all global actors to shoulder their responsibilities in this respect;

    • takes note of the Commission's "First progress report on the Partnership Framework with third countries under the European Agenda on Migration";

    • calls on the High Representative, including in her role as Vice-President of the Commission, to present at the December European Council meeting progress with the five selected African countries and the first results achieved in terms of arrivals and returns. It will set orientations for further work on compacts and consider extending the approach to other countries;

    • invites all actors to continue close cooperation on the compacts with a view to intensifying operational delivery, and Member States to reinforce national administrative processes for returns.

    (b) Maintaining and tightening control of the Eastern Mediterranean route

    1. A lasting stabilisation of the situation on the Eastern Mediterranean route requires the further implementation of the EU-Turkey statement and continued support for countries along the Western Balkans route. The European Council calls for:

    • further efforts to accelerate returns from the Greek islands to Turkey, in line with the EU-Turkey statement, in particular by enhancing the efficiency and speed of asylum procedures;

    • the rapid appointment of permanent coordinators in the Greek hotspots;

    • Member States to respond in full to the calls for resources identified by the relevant EU agencies as being necessary to assist Greece;

    • further progress on the full range of commitments vis-à-vis all Member States contained in the EU-Turkey statement, including as regards visa liberalisation. Co-legislators are invited to reach agreement within the next few weeks on the revision of the suspension mechanism applied to visas.

    1. The European Council welcomes the progress made on developing compacts with Lebanon and Jordan to enhance support for refugees and host communities in both countries, and the signing of the "EU-Afghanistan Joint Way Forward on Migration Issues" on 2 October to tackle challenges linked to irregular migration and improve practical cooperation on returns, readmission and reintegration.

    (c) Remaining vigilant about other routes

    1. The EU will continue cooperation with other countries and closely monitor flows along other migration routes, including the Western Mediterranean, so as to be able to rapidly react to developments.

    Addressing other elements of the comprehensive strategy

    1. The European Council calls upon:

    • EASO to ensure that the asylum intervention pool becomes operational as soon as possible to support at any time and in sufficient numbers frontline Member States. To that effect, Member States will communicate as soon as possible the necessary experts to EASO and EASO will complement Member States' efforts by providing the necessary training and by contracting as required additional experts or services, with the support of the Commission;

    • Member States to further intensify their efforts to accelerate relocation, in particular for unaccompanied minors, and existing resettlement schemes1;

    • the Council to agree before the end of the year on its position on the External Investment Plan, which is aimed at boosting investments and job creation in partner countries, with a view to swift agreement with the European Parliament in the first half of 2017.

    1. The European Council also calls for work to be continued on the reform of the Common European Asylum System, including on how to apply the principles of responsibility and solidarity in the future. The European Council will revert to the issue in December.

    1 This is without prejudice to the position of Hungary and Slovakia, as contained in the Court proceedings launched relating to Council Decision n°2015/1601, and to the position of Poland, which has intervened in support of the applicants.

    Press office - General Secretariat of the Council
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    Source: European Union
    Country: Austria, Bulgaria, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Sweden, World

    Over the past year, responses to the migration situation in the European Union (EU) have directly affected several fundamental rights referred to in the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union, as reported in FRA’s monthly reports. The focus of this October report on the migration situation outlines some of the persistent key issues in four areas of concern that have emerged since September 2015, namely: unaccompanied children; safety and protection at reception facilities; impact on local communities; and violence and hate speech against migrants. These key issues remain areas in need of priority action by the EU Member States.

    MAIN FINDINGS

    One year on from the first report on the migration situation in the EU in September 2015, the following main findings highlight persistent problems in four areas of concern – unaccompanied children; safety and protection at reception facilities; impact on local communities; and violence and hate speech against migrants. Each of these continues to require priority action by the Member States.

    Unaccompanied children

    • After one year, at registration and first reception, clear guidance and qualified staff to identify children at risk continue to be often missing (for example in Italy).

    • Age assessment procedures have generally not been applied at first reception facilities (particularly in transit countries), nor have they been adequately explained to children.

    • Delays persist in the appointment of guardians, in some cases for several months (Germany and Italy), thus delaying children’s access to protection, adequate reception and family reunification • To resolve delays in appointing guardians, some EU Member States assign these functions to reception staff (such as in Bulgaria and Italy). This may, however, compromise the independence and impartiality required from guardians.

    • Children continue to encounter legal and practical obstacles to access asylum procedures. Some Member States have begun to initiate asylum procedures in practice without a guardian being present (for example in Bulgaria, Greece and Italy).

    • The “ageing out” of children turning 18 during the procedure and prior to accessing asylum is a persistent concern in all Member States.

    • Providing adequate specialised facilities for unaccompanied children remains a challenge in several Member States (for example in Bulgaria, Hungary and Italy); Austria, Greece and Sweden have increased the number of such facilities.

    • Children mainly go missing from transit and temporary first reception facilities that do not meet children protection standards.

    • The legislation in some Member States (for example in Bulgaria, Hungary and Italy) prohibits the detention of unaccompanied children. However, Bulgaria and Hungary have detained unaccompanied children in practice. Greece holds unaccompanied children in detention to prevent absconding until they are placed in specialised facilities. Sweden also occasionally detains unaccompanied children. In Austria and Germany, the detention of older children is allowed by law.

    Safety and protection at reception facilities

    • The seven EU Member States reported on apply various protection and safety measures in reception facilities. Only Sweden has specific guidelines on protecting migrants and asylum seekers from violence and exploitation, which are, however, not always implemented in practice.

    • Most Member States have no specific mechanisms to prevent gender-based violence at reception o detention centres.

    • Several incidents of abuse and sexual assaults affecting women and children have been reported in Germany, Greece and Sweden.

    • Practices of ensuring sensitive and safe procedures for lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans and intersex (LGBTI) persons at reception facilities vary among the seven Member States; only a few have developed specific protection measures, such as offering separate housing, zero tolerance policies fo discriminatory behaviour by staff, or standard operating procedures to identify sexual and gender-based violence.

    Impact on local communities

    • Negative reactions towards asylum seekers and migrants have increased in many locations over the past year. These appear to relate to a lack of information about plans of authorities, as well as limited contact between local and refugee communities.

    • A shift of budget resources to the local level has covered the costs for accommodation and access to basic services in many EU Member States, unless these services are directly paid for by the federal budget (as in Hungary).

    • The integration of migrant and asylum-seeking children into schools has largely improved. The main receiving countries (Austria, Germany and Sweden) offer preparatory training prior to integrating children into regular classes. Sweden arranges schooling within a month.

    Violence and hate speech against migrants

    • Most of the seven EU Member States under review do not publish data on the use of excessive force by the police. Many incidents of police violence have been reported in the past year from Greece and Hungary, and isolated severe cases from Bulgaria and Germany. In some Member States (Germany, Greece and Sweden), violence and abuse were also reported on part of staff of (child) reception facilities.

    • Racist incidents against asylum seekers and third-country nationals increased in Germany, Greece and Sweden; such incidents also continued to occur in Austria and Italy, some of these being extremely violent.

    • Hate crime incidents include violent attacks against asylum seekers (with and without bodily injuries), property damage, arson attacks against reception and accommodation centres, homicide, threats to aid workers and service providers, and hostile demonstrations against refugees.

    • In Germany, politically-motivated violent attacks against asylum seekers and third-country nationals almost doubled during the past year. Every third day, a reception facility is subject to an arson attack. In Austria and Sweden, (planned) reception facilities are also regularly under attack. In Greece, demonstrations have taken place against hotspots and, at local level, against refugee children enrolling in schools.

    • With the exception of Austria, violent activities by local vigilante groups have been reported from all of the Member States covered, although attribution to a specific group is not always clear. In Bulgaria, the authorities endorsed members of vigilante groups detaining asylum seekers at the border.

    • Hate crime attacks by vigilante groups are not limited to border areas and asylum seekers but also regularly affect residing third-country nationals. The detection rate of these crimes is low. Many of them are not reported because the persons concerned are afraid of the police and/or a negative impact on their residence status and pending procedures.

    • Reports of hate speech in relation to the migration situation have increased in Austria, Bulgaria and Sweden.

    • Online hate speech remains difficult to investigate as many websites are based in foreign countries where hate speech does not constitute a criminal offence.


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    Source: European Union
    Country: Bangladesh, Côte d'Ivoire, Croatia, Greece, Hungary, Iraq, Italy, Libya, Morocco, Nigeria, Pakistan, Romania, Serbia, Syrian Arab Republic, Turkey, World

    There were more than 14 100 detections of illegal border crossings on the three main migratory routes into the EU in April, 2% higher than the number of detections from the previous month. The total number of detections in the first four months of 2017 fell 84% from the same period of last year to almost 47 000, even though Italy continued to see numbers higher than a year ago.

    Central Mediterranean

    In April, the number of migrants arriving in Italy through the Central Mediterranean route rose by 19% from March to 12 900. This brought the total for the first four months of the year to more than 37 200, 33% higher than the figure from the same period of 2016.

    Nationals from Nigeria, Bangladesh and Ivory Coast accounted for the largest number of the detected migrants. Since the beginning of 2017, the number of migrants from Bangladesh, Morocco and Pakistan has increased. A large number of them have been working in Libya for some time, but decided to leave in recent months because of the unstable situation there and limited employment possibilities.

    Eastern Mediterranean

    The number of migrants arriving on the Greek islands in the Aegean in April dropped by 46% from the previous month to 1 200. The figure was 68% lower than in April 2016, which was the first full month since the EU-Turkey statement came into effect, leading to a precipitous drop in arrivals.

    In April, the Turkish authorities prevented nearly 2 500 migrants from departing from Turkey (including cases where they responded to detections made by the Greek authorities). These figures are similar to those reported in March (2 600).

    In the first four months of this year, some 6 100 migrants reached the Greek islands, barely 4% of the number from the same period of 2016.

    Syrians and Iraqis accounted for the majority of detections on the Eastern Mediterranean route in April.

    Western Balkans

    There were fewer than 100 detections of illegal border-crossings in the Western Balkans in April. The reasons for the significantly lower number than in recent months is the fact that fewer migrants have been leaving Turkey through its land borders towards the Western Balkan route. Consequently, the migrants detected at EU’s border in the region are mainly those who have been residing in Serbia and have now been crossing into Hungary, Croatia and Romania.

    Note:

    The data presented in this statement refer to the number of detections of illegal border-crossing at the external borders of the European Union. The same person may attempt to cross the border illegally several times in different locations at the external border.


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    Source: European Union
    Country: Afghanistan, Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Cyprus, Denmark, Eritrea, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iran (Islamic Republic of), Iraq, Italy, Netherlands, Nigeria, Pakistan, Romania, Russian Federation, Somalia, Spain, Sweden, Syrian Arab Republic, Turkey, Ukraine, World

    In 2016, almost 1.3 million applications for international protection were made in the EU+. This was a 7 % decrease compared to 2015 when close to 1.4 million applications were lodged. However, the significant increase in asylum applications over the past two years led to a growth in decisions issued at first instance: in 2016, EU+ countries issued close to 1.15 million first-instance decisions, an increase of 84 % compared to 2015. Also decisions issued in second instance rose in 2016 compared to 2015, by 21%. The overall recognition rate stood at 61% for first instance decisions and increased compared to previous year.

    The highest numbers of asylum applicants recorded were citizens of Syria, Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan and Nigeria. The main receiving countries were Germany, Italy, France, Greece and Austria. There were 7 % more applicants awaiting a final decision on their application compared to 2015 which continued to put pressure on the asylum and reception systems of the EU+ countries.

    The crisis in Syria continued to be a key factor in the number of applications for international protection in the EU+. Syria was the top citizenship of applicants reported with its citizens accounting for 26 % of all applications in the EU+.

    In 2016, more than 65 000 unaccompanied minors (UAMs) applied for international protection in the EU+, 37 % less than the previous year. Afghan nationals lodged 37 % of all UAM applications in the EU+.

    Latest figures for the first months of 2017 show a further decrease in the number of lodged applications for international protection compared to the monthly numbers reported during 2016, 2015 and second half of 2014. But the numbers in first months of 2017 were still higher compared to first half of 2014. Syria remained the main country of origin of applicants recorded in the EU+ between January and May 2017. However, in that period Syrian nationals represented only 13 % of all applicants in the EU +, a significant change compared to previous year when, on average, one in four applications was lodged by Syrian nationals. In first four months of 2017, together with Syria, three other countries of origin – Afghanistan, Nigeria and Iraq – represented about one-third of all applicants in the EU+. Afghan nationals still accounted for the largest share among claimed unaccompanied minors. At the end of May there were more than 595 000 cases awaiting decision at first instance, of which 59 % were pending for longer than six months.


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    Source: European Union
    Country: Greece, Hungary, Italy, Slovakia, World

    Court of Justice of the European Union
    PRESS RELEASE No 88/17

    Luxembourg, 26 July 2017

    Advocate General’s Opinion in Cases C-643/15 and C-647/15 Slovakia and Hungary v Council

    That mechanism is actually a proportionate means of enabling Greece and Italy to deal with the impact of the 2015 migration crisis In response to the migration crisis that affected Europe in the summer of 2015, the Council of the European Union adopted a decision1 in order to help Italy and Greece deal with the massive inflow of migrants. The decision provides for the relocation from those two Member States to other EU Member States, over a period of two years, of 120 000 persons in clear need of international protection.

    The contested decision was adopted on the basis of Article 78(3) TFEU, which provides that ‘in the event of one or more Member States being confronted by an emergency situation characterised by a sudden inflow of nationals of third countries, the Council, on a proposal from the [European] Commission, may adopt provisional measures for the benefit of the Member State(s) concerned. It shall act after consulting the European Parliament’.

    Slovakia and Hungary which, like the Czech Republic and Romania, voted against the adoption of the contested decision in the Council,have asked the Court of Justice to annul the decision. In support of their actions they put forward grounds seeking to show (i) that the adoption of the decision was vitiated by errors of a procedural nature or arising from the choice of an inappropriate legal basis and (ii) that the decision was neither a suitable response to the migrant crisis nor necessary for that purpose.
    In the proceedings before the Court, Poland has intervened in support of Slovakia and Hungary, while Belgium, Germany, Greece, France, Italy, Luxembourg, Sweden and the Commission have intervened in support of the Council.

    In his Opinion delivered today, Advocate General Yves Bot proposes that the Court should dismiss the actions brought by Slovakia and Hungary.


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    Source: European Union
    Country: Austria, Bulgaria, Croatia, Czechia, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Poland, Romania, Serbia, Slovakia, Slovenia, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, World

    Twenty-four suspected people smugglers were arrested during an international operation coordinated by Frontex, the European Border and Coast Guard Agency, along with Austria and Germany.

    Known as Joint Action Day (JAD) Dual, the operation targeted cross-border crime in the Western Balkans region and at selected border crossing points at EU’s eastern border. It focused on the detection of facilitated illegal immigration and smuggling in excise goods. Its specific aim was to enhance the cooperation between EU member states and authorities at non-EU countries involved in the fight against cross-border crime, especially related to illegal immigration, stolen property and goods smuggling.

    In addition to the arrests of suspected people smugglers, 761 irregular migrants were detected and 119 people were refused entry. The authorities also recovered 19 stolen vehicles.

    During the operation also smuggled cigarettes, alcohol and drugs were detected, along with weapons and ammunition. The intelligence collected during JAD Dual will be used in investigations into criminal networks involved in migrant smuggling. Frontex-coordinated European Border Guard Team Members deployed at selected border crossing points at EU’s external land borders participated in the action along with customs authorities from several member states, Europol and Interpol experts.

    The JAD Dual was coordinated under the umbrella of the European Multidisciplinary Platform against Criminal Threats (EMPACT). JAD Dual is one of many joint action days taking place this year, which collectively are called Operation Dragon 2017. They bring together police and law enforcement authorities of EU member states, European agencies Frontex and Europol, as well as Interpol.

    A coordination centre was set up in Vienna to bring together liaison officers from member states dealing with migrant smuggling and trafficking in human beings and support investigations.

    The operation took place in Austria, Germany, Poland, Slovakia, Hungary, Croatia, Bulgaria, Romania, Greece, Slovenia, Czech Republic, Serbia and Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia.


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    Source: European Union
    Country: Australia, Austria, Belgium, Canada, China, Czechia, Denmark, Egypt, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Hungary, Iceland, Iraq, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Norway, Qatar, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Syrian Arab Republic, Turkey, United Arab Emirates, United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, United States of America

    On 5 April 2017, representatives of over 70 countries, international organisations and civil society came together in Brussels for the ‘Supporting the future of Syria and the region’ conference (Brussels conference) to build on momentum from the previous London and Kuwait conferences and mobilise funding to respond to the needs of the people affected by the Syria crisis. The EU, Germany, Kuwait, Norway, Qatar, the United Kingdom (UK) and the United Nations (UN) co-chaired this fifth pledging conference for Syria and the region. Multi-year pledges were made for the 2017– 2020 period and amounted to almost US$10 billion in grants, including US$6 billion for 2017 alone. International financial institutions and donors also announced almost US$30 billion in loans.

    This report summarises progress against pledges made by donors at the Brussels conference to respond to needs in Syria and in the neighbouring refugee-hosting countries – Jordan, Lebanon, Turkey, Iraq and Egypt. This is the fourth report in a series which tracks financial contributions against pledges made in 2016 and 2017 in response to the Syria crisis.

    This report presents an overview of the pledges made in April at the Brussels conference and a breakdown of grant and loan contributions as of 29 September 2017. Information was gathered directly from donors, and supplemented by Brussels conference documentation and data from the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA)’s Financial Tracking Service (FTS). A glossary of the terms used throughout is given at the end of the report, as are details of the data sources and methodology employed.

    1. OVERVIEW

    At the Brussels conference, donors pledged a total of US$9.7 billion in grants for the four-year period 2017–2020: US$6.0 billion for 2017 and US$3.7 billion for the following three years. By the end of the third quarter of 2017, just over 88% of the pledge total for the year has been met, with contributions of US$5.3 billion. At present, contributions remain US$0.7 billion short of the pledges made at the conference in April 2017. A further US$1.6 billion in grants has been contributed for the upcoming three years, representing 43% of forwardlooking pledges met.

    Combined, this means that six months on from the Brussels conference, 71% of grants pledges for the 2017–2020 period have been met, with contributions of US$6.9 billion. As some donors’ budget allocations are yet to be finalised and some may have different disbursement and reporting cycles, further details on planned contributions for 2017 and the remaining 2018–2020 period are yet to be made available.

    In terms of loans, US$30 billion was pledged at the Brussels conference for the 2017–2020 period, of which US$2.3 billion was on concessional terms. The data reported so far shows that donors have made available 14% of the total loans pledged, totalling US$4.3 billion and including at least US$864 million that is concessional in nature. However, full details on the terms of concessionality of specific loans are not yet available.


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    Source: European Union
    Country: Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Greece, Hungary, Montenegro, Romania, World

    Key Findings
    - Overall, the number of illegal border-crossings by non-regional migrants recorded at the green borders in Q1 2018 was slightly below the values of both Q1 and Q4 2017, in spite of seasonality; Indications that migrants are searching for alternative routing to bypass the enhanced controls on the main Serbia-centred corridor, continued being observed into Q1 2018.
    - Lower pressure reported at Serbia’s northern common borders with Croatia, Hungary and Romania.
    - Continued increase in migration pressure along the Albania.
    - Montenegro – Bosnia and Herzegovina – Croatia subroute and adjacent border sections.
    - Increase in the number of migrants trying to transit the borders hidden in means of transport (largely at the Croatian-Serbian border section).
    - Increase in the number of non-regional migrants detected for illegal stay within the region; this increase was signalled largely along the emerging sub-route.
    - The overall pressure at the Greece-former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia remained relatively stable compared to Q4 2017; However, less migrants were observed travelling south across this section.
    - The irregular flow of citizens of Western Balkan countries decreased and remained largely contained at the southern common borders with Greece.


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    Source: European Union
    Country: Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Greece, Hungary, Montenegro, Romania, World

    The migration flow continued to decrease remaining largely under control; coordination and cooperation remain crucial

    An array of response measures, ranging from coordinated enhancement of border-controls by the most affected countries to policy actions supported by the EU, introduced at the end of 2015 and maintained throughout 2016 and 2017, contributed to a marked reduction in the volume of the non-regional migration flow observed in the Western Balkans.

    Overall, on the Western Balkan route, the number of illegal border-crossings by non-regional migrants at and between border-crossing points (BCPs) decreased in 2017 to roughly 19 000 (down from over 260 000 in 2016). The decreasing trend observed during the last nine months of 2016 was mirrored in 2017. Each quarter of 2017 saw lower figures as the migratory pressure remained relatively stable and returned to manageable levels.

    The closure of the Western Balkans transit corridor in Q1 2016 was a crucial step towards tackling the migration crisis and bringing the pressure down to manageable levels.

    As regards enhanced border-controls, specific measures were implemented at key transit points in the Eastern Mediterranean, at main entry points at southern common borders of regional countries with EU Member States, as well as at main exit points in the north of the region, especially at EU Member States common borders with Serbia.

    At the southern common borders between the region and EU Member States the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Bulgaria, Greece and Serbia maintained their efforts both on their own (internal re-deployments) and with international support in the framework of either EC-funded interventions (in the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia and Serbia) or Frontex-coordinated JOs (in Bulgaria and Greece).

    In the north of the region Hungary strengthened border-controls by re-enforcing police presence, erecting technical obstacles while also redefining working procedures. Romania also implemented an array of measures aimed at deterring migration from Serbia, among which it increased its detection capabilities through redeployments of staff and equipment from other border police units or other national law enforcement structures. Croatia also continued to devote resources to maintaining enhanced controls at its common border with Serbia.

    In terms of policy responses, the EU‑Turkey Statement on Stemming irregular migration together with the implementation of the Hotspot approach on the Greek Aegean islands reduced and kept the migration flow from Turkey from re-escalating while preventing further movements towards the Western Balkans.

    The migration situation stabilised but coordination remains necessary

    As coordinated restriction measures were maintained in the Aegean Sea, in the south and north of the Western Balkan region, as well as in destination countries, the non-regional flow of irregular migrants considerably declined and stabilised throughout 2017.

    The enhanced restrictions, however, led to a number of migrants becoming stranded in different locations along the route (i.e. on the Aegean Islands, the Greek mainland, in Bulgaria and in Serbia). These persons maintained a certain pressure at specific border sections as they repeatedly attempted to cross them, in spite of the decrease in the volume of irregular migrants transiting the region.

    Considering that the underlying conditions for a rapid increase in migration pressure are still in place (i.e. large pool of would-be migrants in neighbouring regions or within the Western Balkans, signs of continued search for travel alternatives along other sub-routes such as the Albania-Montenegro-Bosnia and Herzegovina–Croatia corridor), continued cooperation and coordinated response measures remain of crucial importance, especially considering the precipitous growth of the migration flow in previous years.

    Generally stable regional migration flow mainly observed at the region’s southern common borders with Greece

    Most detected illegal border-crossings of regional migrants (around 76%) occurred in the south of the region (at the common land borders between Greece, Albania and the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia) and were, by and large, associated with Albanian circular migration to Greece.

    In the northern part of the region (Hungary, Croatia and Romania’s borders with Serbia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and Montenegro) only approximately 16% of the total illegal border-crossings by regional migrants were registered; for the most part they involved Kosovo* citizens attempting to reach Western European destinations and to a lesser extent Albanian and Serbian.

    A slight increase in the number of detected illegal border-crossings by nationals of Kosovo* was observed between August and October. This likely resulted from media rumours (i.e. articles alleging massive outflows from this area, which may have encouraged some nationals of Kosovo* to attempt migration). The authorities implemented prevention measures similar to those successfully used to tackle the 2014/15 Kosovo migration crisis (e.g. through checks on exit, profiling, refusals of exit limited number of licenses for transport companies etc.) which kept the situation from escalating.

    Cross-border criminality – firearms and drug smuggling

    Small-scale firearm detections at the borders; continued presence of small and light weapons (SALW) in the region

    Overall, the number of detections reported within the general area of responsibility of the regional border police forces continued to reveal generally small quantities of firearms and ammunition, mostly obtained for personal use. Detections involved both legally owned firearms used in illegal circumstances (e.g. hunting without a licence or out of season, ammunition forgotten in luggage while travelling across borders etc.) as well as illegally owned weapons.

    A number of cases involving the transportation of relatively large quantities of weapons (especially gas-powered ones) were detected during 2017, indicating the possibility of a cross-border dimension of the phenomenon. Most of these detections however occurred on entry to the region showing that a demand for gas-powered weapons exists.

    The estimated high number of firearms in the region following past conflicts and the gun culture remain some of the main drivers behind the illicit possession of such goods. Moreover, the potential profits are likely to be an incentive for criminal groups to engage in selling firearms and distributing them in neighbouring regions and the EU.

    Given the possible security impact of illegal firearms possession, closely monitoring the situation in the region is necessary.

    Locally produced cannabis – the main smuggled narcotic substance

    Local groups in Albania appear to have regained and further developed cannabis production capacity that was lost following police operations in 2014. Specifically, if the second half of 2014 and the whole of 2015 saw fewer detections of cannabis at the borders coupled with higher prices for the product, in 2016 and 2017 a re-saturation of the regional market with this type of narcotic substance could be observed (record quantities seized at the borders, lower prices on the black market).

    The fact that the climate of some of the countries in the region is conducive to cultivating cannabis plants outside (on vast swaths of land) without the need for special incubators makes producing and trafficking this type of drug an inherent vulnerability in the Western Balkans.


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    Source: European Union
    Country: Afghanistan, Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Eritrea, Guinea, Hungary, Iraq, Italy, Mali, Montenegro, Morocco, Serbia, Spain, Syrian Arab Republic, Tunisia, Turkey, World

    In the first seven months of 2018, the number of irregular border crossings into the EU via the top four migratory routes fell by 43 per cent from a year ago to about 73 500, mainly because of lower migratory pressure on the Central Mediterranean route.

    In July, some 14 900 irregular crossings were detected on the main migratory routes into the EU, 18% fewer than in the same month of last year.

    Western Mediterranean

    Last month, the Western Mediterranean migratory route accounted for more than half of all detections of illegal borders crossings into the EU. The number of migrants reaching Spain quadrupled from a year ago to nearly 8 800 in July.

    In the first seven months of 2018, there were some 23 100 irregular border crossings on the Western Mediterranean route, more than double the figure from a year ago.

    Nationals of Morocco, Guinea and Mali accounted for the highest number of arrivals in Spain this year. Migrants from sub-Saharan countries represented more than three-quarters of all detections on this route.

    Eastern Mediterranean

    In July, the number of irregular migrants taking the Eastern Mediterranean route stood at some 4 000, 17% fewer than in the previous month. But largely because of a significant increase of irregular crossings in recent months on the land borders with Turkey, the total number of migrants detected on the Eastern Mediterranean route in the first seven months of the year rose by three-quarters to around 29 500.

    The largest number of migrants on this route so far this year were nationals of Syria and Iraq, although Afghans accounted for the largest number in July.

    Central Mediterranean

    The number of migrants arriving in Italy via the Central Mediterranean route in July fell to about 1 900, down 83% from July 2017. The total number of migrants detected on this route in the first seven months of 2018 fell to roughly 18 200, 81% lower than a year ago.

    So far this year, Tunisians and Eritreans were the two most represented nationalities on this route, together accounting for more than one-third of all the detected migrants there.

    Western Balkans

    The main migratory route in the Western Balkans from Serbia to Hungary and Croatia continues to see low numbers of irregular migrants. However, a parallel route via Albania, Montenegro and Bosnia and Herzegovina, as well as from Serbia to Bosnia Herzegovina, has seen increased migratory pressure.

    Note: The data presented in this statement refer to the number of detections of irregular border-crossing at the external borders of the European Union. The same person may attempt to cross the border several times in different locations at the external border.


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    Source: European Union
    Country: Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Eritrea, Guinea, Hungary, Iraq, Italy, Mali, Montenegro, Morocco, Serbia, Spain, Syrian Arab Republic, Tunisia, Turkey, World

    EU Frontex

    In the first half of 2018, the total number of irregular border crossings into the EU nearly halved from a year ago to about 60 430, mainly because of lower migratory pressure on the Central Mediterranean route.

    In June, some 13 100 irregular crossings were detected on the main migratory routes into the EU, 56% fewer than in the same month of last year.

    Western Mediterranean

    Last month, the Western Mediterranean for the first time became the most active migratory route into Europe. The number of migrants reaching Spain jumped 166% from a year ago to nearly 6 400 in June. In the first half of 2018, there were some 14 700 irregular border crossings on the Western Mediterranean route, almost double the figure from a year ago.

    Nationals of Morocco, Guinea and Mali accounted for the highest number of arrivals in Spain this year.

    Eastern Mediterranean

    In June, the number of irregular migrants taking the Eastern Mediterranean route stood at some 3 600, nearly a third fewer than in the previous month. But because of a significant increase of irregular crossings in recent months on the land borders with Turkey, the total number of migrants detected on the Eastern Mediterranean route in the first six months of the year stood at around 24 300.

    The largest number of migrants on this route in the first half of the year were nationals of Syria and Iraq.

    Central Mediterranean

    The number of migrants arriving in Italy via the Central Mediterranean route in June fell to about 3 000, down 87% from June 2017. The total number of migrants detected on this route in the first half of 2018 fell to roughly 16 100, down 81% from a year ago.

    So far this year, Tunisians and Eritreans were the two most represented nationalities on this route, together accounting for more than a third of all the detected migrants there.

    Western Balkans

    The main migratory route in the Western Balkans from Serbia to Hungary and Croatia continues to see low numbers of irregular migrants. However, a parallel route via Albania, Montenegro and Bosnia and Herzegovina, as well as from Serbia to Bosnia Herzegovina, has seen increased migratory pressure.

    Note: The data presented in this statement refer to the number of detections of irregular border-crossing at the external borders of the European Union. The same person may attempt to cross the border several times in different locations at the external border.


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    Source: European Union
    Country: Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Eritrea, Guinea, Hungary, Iraq, Italy, Mali, Montenegro, Morocco, Nigeria, Pakistan, Serbia, Spain, Sudan, Syrian Arab Republic, Tunisia, World

    In the first nine months of 2018, the number of irregular border crossings into the EU via the top four migratory routes fell by a third from a year ago to about 100 100, mainly because of lower migratory pressure on the Central Mediterranean route.

    In September, some 12 900 irregular crossings were detected on the main migratory routes into the EU, 21% fewer than in the same month of last year.

    Western Mediterranean

    For the third consecutive month, the Western Mediterranean migratory route accounted for half of all detections of illegal borders crossings into the EU. The number of migrants reaching Europe via this route reached nearly 6 500 in September, four times the number from the same month of last year.

    In the first three quarters of 2018, there were some 35 500 irregular border crossings on the Western Mediterranean route, more than double the figure from the same period a year ago.

    Nationals of Morocco, Guinea and Mali accounted for the highest number of irregular migrants crossing this route this year. People from sub-Saharan countries represented more than three-quarters of all detections in the Western Mediterranean.

    Eastern Mediterranean

    In September, the number of irregular migrants taking the Eastern Mediterranean route stood at some 5 400, 25% less than in September 2017. But mainly because of a significant increase of irregular crossings in recent months on the land border with Turkey, the total number of migrants detected on the Eastern Mediterranean route in the first nine months of the year rose by 40% to around 40 300.

    The largest number of migrants on this route so far this year were nationals of Syria and Iraq, although for the second consecutive month Afghans accounted for the most monthly arrivals.

    Central Mediterranean

    The number of migrants arriving in Europe via the Central Mediterranean route in September fell to about 900, down 85% from September 2017. The total number of migrants detected on this route in the first three quarters of 2018 fell to roughly 20 900, 80% lower than a year ago.

    So far this year, Tunisians and Eritreans were the two most represented nationalities on this route, together accounting for more than one-third of all the detected migrants there. They were trailed by nationals of Sudan, Pakistan and Nigeria.

    Western Balkans

    The main migratory route in the Western Balkans from Serbia to Hungary and Croatia continues to see low numbers of irregular migrants. However, a parallel route via Albania, Montenegro and Bosnia and Herzegovina, as well as from Serbia to Bosnia Herzegovina, has seen continuing migratory pressure.

    Note: The data presented in this statement refer to the number of detections of irregular border-crossing at the external borders of the European Union. The same person may attempt to cross the border several times in different locations at the external border.


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    Source: European Union
    Country: Afghanistan, Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Eritrea, Guinea, Hungary, Iraq, Mali, Montenegro, Morocco, Serbia, Spain, Syrian Arab Republic, Tunisia, World

    In the first 11 months of 2018, the number of irregular border crossings into the EU fell by 30% from a year ago to about 138 000, mainly because of lower migratory pressure in the Central Mediterranean. A month before the end of the year, 2018 remains on track to see the lowest number of illegal border crossings since 2014.

    In November, about 8 800 irregular border crossings were detected on the main migratory routes into the EU, 44% lower than in the same month of last year.

    Western Mediterranean

    The Western Mediterranean remained the most active migratory route, accounting for more than half of all monthly detections of illegal border crossings in Europe. In November, the number of irregular migrants taking this route rose 29% from the same month of last year to 4 900.

    In the first 11 months of 2018, almost 53 000 irregular migrants arrived in Spain via this route, more than double the figure from the same period a year ago.

    Nationals of Morocco, Guinea and Mali accounted for the highest number of irregular migrants crossing this route this year.

    Eastern Mediterranean

    In November, the number of irregular migrants taking the Eastern Mediterranean route stood at 2 700, a drop of 42% as compared with November 2017.

    However, the total number of migrants detected on the Eastern Mediterranean route in the first 11 months of the year rose by 30% to around 50 900, mainly because of an increase in crossings at the land borders.

    The largest number of migrants on this route so far this year were nationals of Syria, Afghanistan and Iraq.

    Central Mediterranean

    The number of migrants arriving in Europe via the Central Mediterranean route in November fell to about 900, down 83% from November 2017. The total number of migrants detected on this route in the first 11 months of 2018 fell to roughly 22 800, 80% lower than a year ago.

    So far this year, Tunisians and Eritreans were the two most represented nationalities on this route, together accounting for more than one-third of all the detected migrants there.

    Western Balkans

    The migratory route in the Western Balkans from Serbia to Hungary and Croatia continues to see low numbers of irregular migrants. However, a parallel route via Albania, Montenegro and Bosnia and Herzegovina, as well as from Serbia to Bosnia Herzegovina, has seen continuing migratory pressure.

    Note: The data presented in this statement refer to the number of detections of irregular border-crossing at the external borders of the European Union. The same person may attempt to cross the border several times in different locations at the external border.