August 22, 2014

Illegal immigration into the European Union at an all-time high

Peripheral European countries such as Spain, Italy, and Greece are facing a challenging influx from the Middle East and Africa due to continuing instability caused by the Arab Spring. Northern European countries including Sweden, the UK, France, and Germany are also facing a large numbers of arrivals.

Italy is receiving the strongest flow of migrants and, according to The Economist, over 100,000 may already have arrived in the country by sea this year. At the height of the Arab Spring in 2011, the equivalent figure was 60,000.

There are serious risks associated with large numbers of migrants traveling illegally by sea. Methods of transportation are often unsafe and overcrowded. In 2013, a vessel from Libya sank off the coast of Lampedusa killing at least 359. Greece has had similar incidents, such as a case in January this year where twelve people died after their boat capsized while it was being towed back to Turkish waters.

In terms of hosting asylum seekers, France had a backlog of 66,000 applications last year, with estimates of up to 400,000 illegal immigrants in the country. Sweden has a population of 9.5m, but hosts 12.5% of the EU’s total 435,000 asylum cases.

Pia Orrenius has written extensively about enforcement and illegal migration. Evidence suggests enforcement acts as a deterrent, increases the wages of native workers, and results in more positively selected migrant flows.

She also acknowledges that there are drawbacks to greater border enforcement, such as migrants resorting to smuggling, and taking riskier crossings that increase the likelihood of death. Internal enforcement also encourages informal sector employment, where employers can avoid taxation and regulation.

Writing in the Japan Times, journalist Hugh Cortazzi summarized some of the major concerns in the EU regarding immigration. 

"A few immigrants have taken advantage of the right to free movement to move and claim benefits in another EU state. There is a problem, but it has been greatly exaggerated in the media."

He continues: "The positive case for immigration needs to be made more forcibly. Feeble concessions to popular prejudices will only damage the national interest."

Corrado Giulietti has gathered evidence which supports the positive case that immigration decisions are not made on the basis of receiving social benefits.

Learn more about the effects of migration.

Related articles:
Enforcement and illegal migration by Pia Orrenius
The welfare magnet hypothesis and the welfare take up of migrants by Corrado Giulietti
Do immigrant workers depress the wages of native workers? by Giovanni Peri
Do migrants take the jobs of native workers? by Amelie F. Constant
Superdiversity, social cohesion, and economic benefits, by Paul Spoonley