5 facts about the illegal immigrant population in Europe

Europe is one of the world’s top destinations for international migrants. In recent years, their population has grown as high numbers of immigrants have entered Europe, including some seeking asylum.

1- In 2017 unauthorized immigrants account for nearly one-in-five immigrants in Europe without EU or EFTA citizenship. The region’s 3.9 million to 4.8 million unauthorized immigrants accounted for less than 1% of Europe’s total population (500 millions).

2- Asylum seekers waiting for a decision on their application accounted for nearly one-quarter of Europe’s unauthorized immigrant population in 2017. This group totaled nearly 1 million at the end of 2017, up from about 600,000 in 2014. Driving this increase were the roughly 1.3 million asylum applications filed in 2015, when a surge in asylum seekers arrived in Europe. Asylum seekers have legal standing in Europe while they await a decision on their case, but have an uncertain legal position going forward. Most asylum seekers entered Europe without permission, and in recent years the majority have had their asylum applications rejected. Not counting asylum seekers, the estimated number of unauthorized immigrants in Europe was 2.9 million to 3.8 million in 2017, up from 2.4 million to 3.2 million in 2014.

More than two-thirds of Europe’s unauthorized immigrants lived in Germany, the UK, Italy and France in 2017

3- Four countries – Germany, the UK, Italy and France – account for 70% of Europe’s unauthorized immigrants. Germany had an estimated 1.0 million to 1.2 million unauthorized immigrants in 2017, while the UK had 800,000 to 1.2 million. Together, these two countries had about half of Europe’s total. Italy had an estimated 500,000 to 700,000 unauthorized immigrants, followed by France with 300,000 to 400,000. The remaining European countries had an estimated 1.2 million to 1.4 million unauthorized immigrants.

4- Unauthorized immigrants in Europe are from all over the globe. About 30% came from countries in the Asia-Pacific region in 2017, while another 23% were citizens of the handful of European countries that are not part of the EU or EFTA. About one-in-five (21%) were from the Middle East-North Africa region. Another 17% were from countries in sub-Saharan Africa, and 8% came from countries in the Americas.

5- About half of Europe’s unauthorized immigrants have arrived in the region recently, and most are young. In 2017, more than half of Europe’s unauthorized immigrants (56%) had arrived in the past five years, while 27% had arrived 10 years ago or more. About two-thirds were less than 35 years old (65%), and about half were male (54%).


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