In Europe, between 3.9 and 4.8 million migrants without a valid residence permit lived in 2017. This estimate comes from the Washington Pew Institute in a recent study. It refers to figures from the 28 EU states and the four European EFTA states Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland.
As “unauthorized migrants”, the institute counts all people who live in their country of residence without having an appropriate permit. This includes asylum seekers who are still waiting for a decision on their application and therefore have only a temporary residence permit, as their future residence status is unclear. Likewise, the category of visitors whose visa has expired and children of unauthorized migrants, even if they have never migrated themselves, are born in Europe but have not obtained a nationality.
For 2014, the institute expects still from 3 to 3.7 million unauthorized migrants in Europe, for 2016, it estimates a number between 4.1 and 5.3 million. The increase in these numbers between 2014 and 2016 is mainly due to the refugee flow in 2015, when more than 1.3 million people sought asylum in the 28 EU and four European EFTA states. The figures show that since 2016, the number of unauthorized migrants in Europe has fallen again – though not very strongly.
Migrants less than one percent of the population
About a quarter (20 to 24 percent) of unauthorized migrants living in Europe in 2017 are still awaiting an asylum decision, according to the study. Excluding these people, the Pew Institute estimates the number of unauthorized migrants for 2017 to be significantly lower: 2.9 to 3.8 million. However, this also means a significant increase in this group compared to 2014 (2.4 to 3.2 million).
Approximately half of the unauthorized migrants live according to the study in Germany and Great Britain: For 2017, their number in Germany is between 600,000 and 700,000, for the UK between 800,000 and 1.2 million. It is followed by Italy (300,000 to 600,000), France (300,000 to 400,000), Greece and the Czech Republic (100,000 to 200,000 each).
An increase in the number of unauthorized migrants due to the refugee summer of 2015 is also clearly evident at the country level: If the Pew Institute expects 300 to 400,000 illegal migrants in Germany in 2014, then between 2015 and 2000, 500,000 to 800,000 are between 200,000 and 800,000. In the United Kingdom, too, the number of illegal migrants was the highest in 2016, the year after the refugee crisis, at between 900,000 and 1.3 million, before falling again.
Despite this increase in numbers, the Pew study reveals that unauthorized migrants make up less than one percent of the total European population of more than 500 million people in the 28 European Member States and the four European EFTA states. Among the approximately 24 million foreigners in these countries, less than one in five was an unauthorized migrant in 2017. Four percent of them still had an ongoing asylum procedure pending. That means, according to the study, that the number of foreigners with a valid residence permit is about four times higher than the number of unauthorized migrants.
And another comparison draws the Pew study: In the United States in 2017, the number of unauthorized migrants was more than twice as high as in Europe (10.3 to 10.7 million). At around three percent, they also account for a significantly higher proportion of the total population than in Europe.