A common policy on illegal immigration

Author: House of Lords

Author Organisation: Select Committee on The European Union

Date: 2002



The objective of this report is to present the results of an inquiry conducted by Sub-Committee F of the Select Committee of the European Union on the possibility of a European common policy on illegal immigration. The report complements the committee's earlier report on a European immigration policy.


This inquiry was undertaken by Sub-Committee F of the Select Committee of the European Union. In order to experience at first hand some of the issues related to illegal immigration, members of the sub-committee visited the Red Cross Centre at Sangatte; had talks in Calais with a range of interested parties; and visited the Immigration Crime Team at Heathrow and the Home Office Removal Centre at Harmondsworth. The sub-committee also visited Brussels to discuss the issues arising out of the Commission of the European Communities' Communication on a Common Policy on Illegal Immigration with officials of the EC and the Council Secretariat, members of the UK Permanent Representation, members of the European Parliament, and representatives of Eurojust, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees [UNHCR] and the European Institute for Law Enforcement Co-operation [EULEC]. The report is also based on the oral and written submissions submitted to the committee in response to its call for evidence.

Key findings

The report reveals that illegal immigration is a major challenge to all member states of the European Union. Although data about the scale of illegal immigration is very sparse, there are good reasons for thinking that it is likely to continue to grow. The main findings are that:

  • There is a need for a common approach at EU level
  • There is an urgent need for effective measures to reduce illegal immigration and, in particular, illegal working
  • Member states are concentrating on control measures to the exclusion of positive measures, such as opening up channels of legal immigration and working with countries of origin
  • It will be difficult for the UK to participate fully in a common policy on illegal immigration as long as it declines to participate in other EU policies on immigration 

Conclusions and Recommendations

The committee endorses the communication proposing a comprehensive approach to combine positive action in countries of origin with improved control measures and a common EU policy. The committee concludes that the communication raises important questions of policy to which the attention of the House of Lords should be drawn, and recommends the report for debate.

Some of the main conclusions and recommendations are:

  • More could and should be done across the EU to increase the opportunities for legal immigration in order to meet identified labour shortages
  • If legitimate ways for foreign workers to enter the labour market were increased and accelerated, governments would have no justification for turning a blind eye to illegal working and would have an incentive to crack down on it more effectively
  • Significant levels of illegal immigration undermine the whole structure of legal migration and place increasing strain on a country's social acceptance of immigrants
  • The committee welcomes plans for improving data collection on asylum and immigration and, in particular, the proposal to establish a European Migration Observatory for monitoring and analysing migratory flows
  • In devising measures to control illegal immigration, governments must ensure that they scrupulously observe their human rights obligations
  • Some form of regularisation of long term illegal immigrants is unavoidable if a growing underclass of people in an irregular situation is not to be created
  • Working with third countries, both source and transit countries, to reduce 'push factors' and to establish effective systems for controlling migration, is an essential dimension of the fight against illegal immigration. Although third countries should be made aware that co-operation in tackling illegal immigration into the EU is an important issue in its external relations, neither EU humanitarian aid nor core areas of development policy should be made conditional upon such co-operation

Other more specific recommendations and conclusions relating to visa systems, Europol and Eurojust, employer sanctions, and other policy and procedural issues are also made.

Title Information:

Select committee on the European Union 37th report, HL Paper 187

Web Link: www.parliament.the-stationery-office.co.uk/pa/ld200102/ldselect/ldeucom/187/18701.htm


Search our database of asylum and refugee research in London More


Register with us to receive ICAR's newsletter. More