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Committee on Justice and Home Affairs - The Impact of Illegal Immigration

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Committee on Justice and Home Affairs




Recent estimates of illegal migrants in the EU range between 4.5 and 8 million, with an estimated increase by 350 000 to 500.000 per year:

'At the same time the EU needs to strengthen its relationships with its neighbors and other countries in an effort to manage better migration. “ (Franco Frattini, Vice President of the European Commission, responsible for Freedom, Security and Justice).

With an ever-rising tide of illegal immigrants at its shores – is the EU a safe heaven for the oppressed and poor or a closed bulwark? What measures could be contained in a common European immigration policy at and outside the borders of Europe

The Impact of Illegal Immigration

Few data exist on the impact of illegal immigration on European society, even rough estimations are missing or – if presented – are contradictory. Generally, illegal immigrants are primarily perceived as a social threat. This perception could have many reasons, for example, feelings of social and residential insecurity, fear of a higher crime rate, xenophobic tendencies, etc. but, as mentioned previously, there is a lack of evidence to support such theories.

Another perception is the awareness of this kind of immigrant group as being vulnerable. Here, discussions about the costs of such immigration generally abound, but a variety of actors are also articulating the problem of possible care and aid options. On the one hand, it is a problem of security and immigration policy, and, on the other hand, it is a problem of social care and human rights. With regard to costs, Italy has provided information comparing the costs of measures to tackle illegal immigration with that for integration. In 2003, €164.7 million, and in 2004, €115.6 million was spent on tackling illegal immigration, with, in 2003, the budget for expulsion being €12.7 million. By comparison, the budget in 2004 for the integration

of immigrants was €29 million. With regard to the economic situation in the Member States, there is indeed evidence of wage dumping (i.e. paying illegal immigrants less than the wage paid to legal workers), which is partly even debated with regard to immigration groups themselves, so that one immigration group is substituted by the other, supplying labour at lower

wages. However, there is almost no research on this, although there are some case studies on economic cost benefit analysis. The costs and benefits ratio is dependent on cycles and fluctuations of immigrants and on the differentiation of various economic niches and immigration groups. One can indeed speak of the large degree of taxes lost through illegal work and of

education spending. But as mentioned above, the educational integration of children with illegal residence background is rather low in most Member States. This has an impact on employment and the problems of achieving an economic balance in the national economy with regard to filling niches and occupations in demand.

Illegal immigration has become an important topic in Europe. First of all, a phase of transition can be observed in this field: this refers to legal, governmental and administrative structures, the collection of data and information, as well as institution-building processes in general. Secondly, in all Member States, illegal immigration is perceived as a threat undermining state authority, security, coherence, safety and economics on the one side, and as a problem pertaining to the settlement of a vulnerable and uncontrollable immigration population on the other.

The degree of prevention and control of illegal third-country immigrants differs between Member States, with Italy investing a huge amount of state budgeted money into this field, and Germany and Austria seeming to be the two Member States with the most money and activities invested in the security and control arrangements. In all Member States, arrangements and measures are still not fully implemented. Several international legal framework conventions and treaties are guaranteeing the basic rights of illegal immigrants, which are mainly articulated by NGOs, human rights groups and other such agencies. Government co-operation, institutional framework activities, co-operation, and the institutionalization of new measures, are wide-ranging and difficult to characterize. Here too, investigations and information-collecting are considered necessary. All

Member States have developed their frameworks and invested in checks and

controls. These controls include external state actions, such as the imposition of visas and tighter border controls, domestic actions with residence and work permits, and with co-operative efforts within the Member States. Furthermore, data systems and IT installations have been developed and used in most Member States. There are also bilateral co-operations regarding border data and border controls.




Furthermore, various bilateral and multilateral treaties have been improving cooperation with the countries of origin and transit. In particular, for Germany, various co-operations of local, regional and federal administrations in increasing the effectiveness of control are mentioned.

In most Member States, a central security issue relates to human trafficking and smuggling. Here, co-operative measures on various levels have been implemented.

In conclusion, however, it must be affirmed that the situation in each Member State is different and, due to the lack of data, it is difficult to make comparisons. References are made regarding stocks and profiles of illegal immigrants with regard to certain case studies and estimations. However, in Greece for example, there are even labour market studies which include illegal immigrants. Return policies have been established on various levels and with various instruments, but are mainly in the discussion phase as far as becoming European legislation is concerned. The general problem with illegal immigrants is their fear of being discovered and controlled, leading them to rarely access social services and educational facilities.

Despite the above-mentioned international agreements guaranteeing basic rights of illegal immigrants, national policies in favour of illegal immigrants are nearly nonexistent, although in some Member States there are, for example, restrictions on controls in the area of educational services.

The social situation of illegal immigrants is precarious, though it differs according to the region and Member State, as well as to the immigrant groups examined and their social and cultural baggage, such as problems pertaining to their economic situation.

Illegal immigrants work under rather precarious conditions or are at least under threat of being discovered, blackmailed, or eventually removed from the Member State. Political participation is more or less non-existent in the Member States. However, there are organisations active in the area and several platforms available offering participation possibilities for illegal immigrants.

The impact of illegal immigration on a particular Member State is outlined. This has to do with the problems of humanitarian rights and vulnerability of these immigration groups. Most data are not representative but show that the costs of controlling illegal immigration are rather high. The welfare system might have been included in dealing with, for example, educational obligations, but even here the costs are marginal.



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