The challenge of responding to irregular immigration: European, national and local policies addressing the arrival and stay of irregular migrants in the European Union

Published 31 July 2017 / By Nicola Delvino

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The aim of this paper is to provide an overview of the most recent policy trends observed at international, European, national and sub-state governance level in relation to the arrival and presence in Europe of migrants with irregular immigration status. This paper aims to explain recent legal and policy developments on this issue, identify their main drivers and the direction of travel of current policy scenarios.

There are several dimensions of policies governing irregular immigration. On one side, policies on irregular immigration aim to prevent and reduce the unauthorised arrival of unwanted immigrants. On the other side, policies on irregular migrants address the treatment of irregular migrants once they have entered (or overstayed their stay permits) in breach of immigration rules. With regard to this second dimension, policy makers can develop different approaches depending on whether they decide to grant some form of accommodation to their irregular population and facilitate regularisations, or instead, focus on enforcing immigration rules, denying accommodating measures to encourage voluntary returns, and ultimately enforcing removals. These two policy approaches necessarily overlap, as strict enforcement cannot overlook European states’ obligations vis-à-vis irregular migrants’ fundamental (including social) rights, but at the same time tougher policies on the treatment of irregular migrants are often implemented to deter new irregular arrivals. In this paper, both policies focusing on immigration law enforcement and deterrence, as well as policies aimed at regulating the treatment of irregular migrants vis-à-vis their social needs will be analysed.

This background paper was produced for the Autumn Academy 2017.


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