To counter illegal immigration, the EU is working to strengthen border controls, improve handling of new arrivals, and make the return of illegal immigrants more efficient. The EU is also promoting legal labor migration and handling asylum claims more effectively.
Read more about the EU’s response to the refugee challenge.
What is irregular migration
Irregular migration means that people from non-EU countries move across EU borders without meeting the legal requirements to enter, stay or reside in one or more EU countries.
Number of irregular border crossings into Europe
In 2015, the number of illegal border crossings into the European Union increased dramatically. According to data from Frontex, the EU border agency, more than 1.8 million illegal border crossings took place, the highest number ever recorded. Since then, the number of illegal border crossings has decreased dramatically.
In 2021, about 140,000 people entered the European Union illegally. This decrease is attributed to several factors, for example the enhanced border control measures in the European Union, cooperation between EU countries, and a decrease in the number of refugees fleeing conflict zones.
More facts and figures about asylum and migration in the EU.
Enhance border management and security
The absence of border controls between the Schengen countries must be accompanied by tightening controls at the external borders of the Union. The members stressed the seriousness of the situation in a decision issued in April 2016.
Systematic checks for everyone at the external borders of the EU and Schengen
Systematic checks at the EU’s external borders for everyone entering the EU, including EU citizens, were introduced in April 2017. In October 2017 Parliament gave its support for a common electronic system to speed up checks at the external borders of the Schengen area and register all travelers who are not are citizens of the European Union.
Permit for travelers from non-EU countries exempt from visa requirements – ETIAS
The European Travel Information and Authorization System (ETIAS) is an electronic program which means that travelers from visa-free countries must have an electronic travel authorization before traveling to the European Union. The permit will be valid for three years or until the passport expires and will allow multiple entries into the Schengen Area for stays of up to 90 days in a six-month period.
It will be launched in 2024.
Reforming EU border controls for illegal immigrants
In April 2023, the European Parliament endorsed its position on the revised procedure and the handling of irregular migrants at the EU’s external borders, and will now begin negotiations with the Council.
The changes aim to better address the complexities and challenges of managing migration while ensuring that the rights and needs of irregular migrants are respected and protected.
The proposal proposes the possibility of a faster and simplified asylum application procedure immediately after the examination. These requests must be processed within 12 weeks, including appeals.
If the application is rejected or denied, the applicant whose application was rejected must be reinstated within 12 weeks.
The new rules will also limit the use of detention. While the asylum application is being investigated or the return procedure is being processed, the asylum-seeker must be received by the EU country. Incubation should only be used as a last resort.
EU states should establish independent mechanisms to monitor and assess reception and detention conditions to ensure respect for EU and international refugee laws and human rights.
Monitoring migrants at the borders of the European Union
The European Parliament also approved in April 2023 its position on the revision of the screening regulation. Members will now begin negotiations with the Board. The revised screening rules will apply at EU borders for people who do not meet the requirements for entry into an EU country and who apply for international protection at the border crossing. The rules include identification, fingerprinting, security checks, and an initial assessment of health and vulnerability.
The examination procedure should take up to five days, or ten in emergency cases. The national authorities then decide whether to grant asylum or initiate return procedures.
European Border and Coast Guard Agency
In December 2015, the European Commission submitted a proposal for the creation of a European Border and Coast Guard in order to strengthen control and security at the EU’s external borders and to support the work of the National Border Guard. The new body was launched in October 2016 and unites the work of Frontex and the national authorities responsible for border control. There are plans to give the agency a permanent force of 10,000 border guards by 2027.
Integrated Border Management Fund
In a decision taken by the House of Representatives in July 2021, the new Integrated Border Management Fund approved the allocation of 6.24 billion euros to it. The new fund will help improve member states’ ability to monitor borders, while respecting basic rights. It should also contribute to the common harmonized visa policy, and introduce protection measures for particularly vulnerable people arriving in Europe, especially unaccompanied children.
The fund will work closely with the new Homeland Security Fund, focusing on combating terrorism, organized crime and cybercrime. Parliament also approved the fund in July 2021 with a budget of €1.9 billion.
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