NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

European Union Overrun With Illegal Immigrants

April 30, 2002

While the United States is questioning its immigration policy and continuing to deal with the problem of its leaky Mexican border, it's hardly alone. Nor are new legal immigrants the only ones in the world who sometimes face a chilly reception. In the 15-member European Union, hundreds of thousands of so-called asylum seekers are denied normal lives by a web of bureaucratic constraints worthy of Kafka.

Meanwhile, the sore point of immigration and asylum have led to rightist political advances in France, Austria, Denmark, Italy and the usually liberal Netherlands. Last year 350,000 people openly sought refugee status in Europe -- and hundreds of thousands of illegals tried to enter the EU.

  • Greece has more than a million illegal immigrants, while Austria apprehended almost 49,000 illegals and more than 24,000 made asylum applications.
  • There may be 90,000 illegal immigrants in Belgium, 10 percent of all foreigners, and while there were only 10,000 asylum applications in Italy, conservative estimates are that 300,000 are there illegally.
  • France has about 400,000 illegals, and Germany's total could be as high as 1.5 million -- with 100,000 being smuggled in every year.
  • There are up to 1 million illegals in Britain, and even a small country like Portugal has at least 60,000 undocumented workers.

European immigration policy is a patchwork. In Greece, asylum seekers may work as soon as they apply for recognition, but receive no welfare checks. In France, Britain and Germany fugitives receive benefits, but their path to jobs is littered with restrictions. In Germany, for instance, asylum seekers must seek permission for every job they take to ensure they don't take work from a German -- or a foreigner with greater rights.

Source: Alan Cowell, "Migrants Feel Chill in a Testy Europe," New York Times, April 28, 2002.

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