According to the first comprehensive estimates published over a decade ago, there were between 3.9 and 4.8 million unauthorized immigrants in Europe, about half of them in the United Kingdom and Germany.

The Pew Research Center study, based on data from the 32 EU Member States and Efta and international organizations, revealed that the range was well above that of 2014 (3 million to 3.7 million), but had decreased slightly from the peak of 4.1 million reached in 2016 compared to 2016. million.

The study also revealed that unauthorized immigrants in Europe came from many different countries, had arrived relatively recently and were mostly young and male.


Andrew Geddes, director of the Migration Policy Center at the European University Institute in Florence, said the study presented a "rigorous, robust and credible" picture of a problem that many Europeans had "lost" confidence in the ability of their governments – and the EU – to deal with competence ".

Victoria Rietig, of the German Council for Foreign Relations, said that it was agreed in Germany that illegal immigration was bad for security, for people who live in the shadows, for social cohesion "but that the debate had become" toxic and more and more ideological ".

The study found that Germany, the United Kingdom, Italy and France, which together represent about 50% of the total European population of 500 million, represent about 70% of immigrants. Germany and the United Kingdom alone account for about half.

According to the authors of the study, between 1 million and 1.2 million unauthorized migrants were living in Germany in 2017, about twice the number recorded in 2014, but a slight decrease compared to 2016. From 800,000 1.2 million were settled in the United Kingdom, 500,000 to 700,000 in Italy and 300,000 people. to 400,000 in France.

The study found that in Germany, the ratio of authorized immigrants to unauthorized immigrants globally corresponded to the European average of four to one, while in the United Kingdom, ratio was closer to one for one, which meant that there were almost as many unauthorized immigrants as allowed. In Italy and France, authorized immigrants were six times fewer than the unauthorized.

The number of unauthorized immigrants in Germany has almost doubled between 2014 and 2016, while the number of migrants in the UK has barely changed. The authors of the report stated that most unauthorized UK immigrants were "probably people who have exceeded the validity of their visa, or asylum seekers remained in the UK after not having seen their case approved ".

The study found that the other 28 EU / Efta countries had between 1.2 and 1.4 million unauthorized immigrants, many of whom were under 100,000 and several, including Austria, the Czech Republic, Greece, Spain and Switzerland and 200,000.

Just under a third of unauthorized immigrants in Europe in 2017 came from countries in the Asia-Pacific, including Afghanistan and Pakistan, 23% came from non-EU European countries. EFTA countries such as Russia and Turkey, 21% came from the Middle East and North Africa, including Syria and Iraq, and 17% came from sub-Saharan Africa, including Nigeria and the United Arab Emirates. Eritrea. In the United Kingdom, 52% came from the Asia-Pacific region.


According to the study, 56% of all unauthorized immigrants had lived in their country of residence for less than five years and 16%, between five and nine years. In Germany, 66% had arrived since 2014, while in the United Kingdom, nearly six out of ten had been in the country for five years or more.

Just over half were men and 65% were under 35, according to the study.

The report notes that unauthorized immigrants represent less than 1% of the total population of Europe in 2017.

The study defined unauthorized immigrants as non-EU / Efta nationals living in the block without a residence permit, including persons who had arrived without permission, had exceeded their visa or were stayed when ordered to leave.

Children of unauthorized immigrants were included in the estimates, as were people whose asylum applications were pending and whose future in Europe was uncertain. Most of them arrived without authorization and a majority of requests have now been rejected, the report says.

Experts say public attitudes towards immigration are becoming more nuanced, even in countries where far-right populist parties are in power or arguing. the power.

Geddes said that in most European countries, people now recognize that immigration is "a complex subject, with complex compromises – it is not a binary issue of opening or closing." A Pew survey carried out in 2018 revealed that the majority in several countries was favorable to the expulsion of unauthorized immigrants but also to the reception of refugees fleeing war and violence, many of whom arrived without authorization.