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August 31, 2012 |  7 comments |  Print  Your Opinion  

Franck Düvell

EU Fares Better in Preventing and Reducing Irregular Migration than the US

Franck Düvell: In the EU irregular migrants mainly enter legally and overstay whilst in the US they mainly enter clandestinely. Thus, in the EU, irregular immigration is primarily an internal control issue, whilst in the US it is primarily an external border control issue. In the EU where there are more regularizations and legal migration channels, there are less irregular immigrant populations. This seems like a viable solution.

The EU and the US are affected and respond to irregular migration in different ways generating different trends:

  • In the EU, there are 700 million international arrivals, including 13 million Schengen and UK visa holders (2010); each year, (detected) irregular immigrants represent around 100,000 (2010) to 150,000 (2011) or 0.021-0.031 percent of all international arrivals.
    In the US, there are 400 million arrivals, including 36 million visa holders (2009); in addition 556,000 (2009) irregular immigrants are detected representing 0.14 percent.
  • In the EU, it is assumed that 10 percent of all irregular migrants arrive clandestinely, half by boat, and many are actually asylum seekers, all others arrive legally and then overstay.
    In the US around 60-70 percent of all IMs arrive clandestinely, usually over-land, and most are labour migrants; only 30-40 percent are visa overstayers.
  • In the EU, irregular immigration flows fluctuate around 100-140,000 apprehensions annually, had been decreased after 2008 but increased after the Arab spring in 2011.
    In the US the inflows seem to be rather stable, 556,000 in 2009.
  • In the EU, the stock of irregular immigrants is 0.39-0.77 percent of the total population (1.9-3.8 mio. of 499 mio.).
    In the US, the stock of IMs is 3.6 percent of the total population (11 mio. of 305 mio.) (all 2008).
  • In the EU, the stock of irregular immigrants has been decreasing, from 5.3 in 2002 to 3.8 million maximum in 2008.
    In the US, the stock has been increasing from 9 million in 2000 to 11 million in 2009.
  • In the EU, from 1996 to 2008, 3-4 million irregular migrants plus another 500,000 or so were since regularised, with further amnesties ongoing or being prepared in Poland and Ireland.
    In the US, no large-scale regularisation was implemented between 1986 and 2012.
  • In the EU around 230,000 irregular immigrants were returned/removed.
    In the US around 280,000 were returned/removed (both 2010).

Table 1: Irregular migration EU-US compared, 2009/10

Graphic 1: Irregular immigrants in                         Graphic 2: Clandestine entrants compared
the EU and US, maximum estimates                       to regular entrants in the EU and the US

This comparison shows that (a) in the US over six times more irregular immigrants try to enter and six times more irregular immigrants stay than in the EU (in relative terms); (b) the US requires visa from seven times more people than the EU (relatively), nevertheless irregular migration is higher than in the EU; (c) the prevalence of overstaying in the EU implies that irregular migration is less a border control but more an internal control issue, in the US illegal border crossing prevails implying that irregular immigration is primarily a border and secondly an internal control issue; (d) the EU's (sea) borders are more deadly than the US's (land) borders; and (e) the EU has relatively and comparably significantly lower levels of irregular migration than the US.

From this data, four conclusions can be drawn. First, the phenomenon, except maybe the IM population in the US, is comparably miniscule. It can hardly be graphically presented, whilst public and political attention appears disproportionally high. Second, strict visa requirements and border controls as in the US tend to result in higher levels of irregular entry and in irregular immigrants staying longer, who then accumulate and thus rise in numbers. In contrast, in the EU there are more legal migration channels and easier access to visa or visa free entry, which leads to more legal, more mobile and less sedentary migrant and irregular immigrant populations.

Third, regularizations, as in the EU, significantly decreases the irregular immigrant population, whilst rejecting such politics, as the US does, results in a protracted large irregular immigrant population. Fourth, stricter internal immigration and labor market controls, as enforced in several EU countries (random passport checks, visa checks at public services, raids etc) limit irregular immigrants' opportunities to stay, though they come as a cost as they tend to drive irregular immigrants deeper into the shadow economy, deprive them of their access to fundamental rights and increase their vulnerability. In the US internal and labor market controls are weak and thus enable irregular immigrants to stay, with fewer negative consequences for their human rights situation. In sum, preventing irregularity, i.e. through more legal migration channels, including return incentives, and reversing irregularity, i.e. through regularization seems the most efficient and humane way of addressing the issue.

This contribution is mainly based on two sources, Düvell, Franck & Bastian Vollmer (2011), "European Security Challenges. Improving US and EU Immigration Systems," Florence: Robert-Schuman Centre for Advanced Studies, European University Institute, and Koslowski, Rey (2011), "The evolution of border controls as a mechanism to prevent illegal immigration. Improving US and EU Immigration Systems," Florence: Robert-Schuman Centre for Advanced Studies, European University Institute.

Franck Duvell, PhD is a senior researcher at the Centre on Migration, Policy and Society (COMPAS), University of Oxford, UK. He has researched and published extensively on European and international migration and migration policy matters.

This article is published as part of the
"Border Policies: Lessons for Improvement" theme week.

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Gökhan  Tekir

August 31, 2012

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Dear Mr. Duvell,
Thank you for the great article. Certainly, concerning immigrant policies approach there is difference between the USA and the EU. I think the main difference emanates from the effects of the private business over the government policies, as you pointed out in your article. The illegal immigrants provide cheap labor to the employers who discourage their represantatives to adopt stricter laws against immigration.
The immigration policy is also ethnically sensitive issue in the USA. Most of the immigrants come from southern border of the USA. There is considerable Hispanic population in the USA. Therefore, the politicians do not want to alienate these voters. On the contrary, in the EU voters are far more extremist than the politicians about immigration issue so in order to gain support politicians are compelled to address the sensitivity of the population.
Best regards,
Gökhan Tekir
 
Tabatha  Robinson

September 3, 2012

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Gökhan,
I appreciate your consideration of the political contexts in the EU and the US. Is there any way to clear these political forces--the ethnic sensitivity and the extremism--and allow the immigration policy a clear platform on which to be discussed? Or do you think these outcomes are unavoidable?

Your response will make for better clarification on the policy memo.

Thanks,
Tabatha
 
Tabatha  Robinson

September 3, 2012

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Dr. Düvell,

Thank you very much for your article. I really appreciated how well you lay the situation out for us, comparing the numerical reality with the policies implemented.

You write: "In sum, preventing irregularity, i.e. through more legal migration channels, including return incentives, and reversing irregularity, i.e. through regularization seems the most efficient and humane way of addressing the issue."

Can you be more specific on what some of these successful return incentives might look like? Would they be specific to the EU or to the US or can both adopt the same ones?

Thanks a lot,
Tabatha
 
Gökhan  Tekir

September 4, 2012

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Dear Tabatha,
Regarding your question about the extremism and ethnic sensitivity in the EU and in the USA, I would give the EU more chance to resolve its problems. The EU was a civilization process which aimed to resolve nationalism and extremism which devastated Europe with two big wars. However, the EU has now a very divergent nature. The will of national governments overwhelm the will of the institutional body of the EU. The easy way for national governments to gain vote in the economic crisis to appeal the sensitivity of people by targeting immigrants and minorities. Even the European immigrants from periphery of Europe are not tolerated even though there is freedom of labor in the union. Romania and Bulgaria was not accepted to Schengen area although they are members of the EU with the rejection of Council of Ministers . I think, therefore, the divergent aspect of the EU prevents it from finding common solutions to common problems.
In the USA, there is an alliance between the employers and Hispanics. The employers want to hire cheap labor whereas the immigrants want to live and work in the USA. The politicians who do not want to alienate these groups are discouraged to take drastic measures. Easing immigration conditions might be beneficial for the state, which cannot track who works where so cannot tax and the immigrants who work in bad conditions. But this step of the state might not be well anticipated among the white population who concerns that immigrants are stealing their jobs. The policy which is to be taken should aim at alleviating the living conditions of immigrants and turning illegal immigrants to legal ones but also it should address the concerns of the citizens of the USA.
Thanks,
Gökhan
 
Unregistered User

September 4, 2012

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Dear Gokhan, dear Tabatha,

let me make a couple of comments:
(1) Also in the EU there is a discrete and indirect overlap of employers' interests and irregular migrants interest in that employers oppose internal immigration controls, may this be passport and visa checks upon recruitment or work place raids, it is an immigration controls versus entrepreneurial freedom conflict (and dilemma).
(2) My reference to return incentives means incentives to return for regular temporary migrants, hence discouraging them from overstaying. This is often framed (a) within a migration and development context, i.e. supporting migrants to return and supporting them as best as possible in investing their savings or (b) by decriminalising overstaying, as currently in Turkey where in course of an ad hoc regularisation policy the re-entry ban on overstaying was lifted which encouraged irregular immigrants to return as they do so in the believe that they can come back if they once wish.
(3) There is a certain myth about the employment and alleged exploitation of irregular immigrants. Research found that sometimes irregular immigrants earn surprisingly good salaries, notably once they have stayed in the respective country, learned the language and how to navigate the conditions (see Jordan and Duvell 2002, Irregular migration). This is because employers do not only want irregular immigrants because the are cheap but oftne they recruit them because it is the only workers that are available. And because they need them they are thus prepared to pay decent wages; in these cases not low wages or exploitation are the issues but the absence of contributions to national insurance schemes.
(4) Finally, I'm not aware of more extremist voters in the EU than in the US, the Alabama extremists, the tea party movement or the minutemen seem no more sensible to me than the right wing parties in the Netherlands, Finnland or Austria.

Best,
Franck
 
Gökhan  Tekir

September 6, 2012

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Dear Dr. Duvell,
Thank you for your response. I want to address some points that I disagree with you
I don't think encouraging temporary migrants would be a viable solution. The immigrants do want to stay in the country where they can have better life conditions than their home countries. After World War II Germany accepted immigrants from Eastern Europe and Turkey believing that someday they would return to their countries. But the immigrants did not. Now they are demanding cultural rights within German society which became very controversial issue. Germany experience may discourage countries to adopt a policy which encourage temporary immigrants.
I agree with your argument that employers recruit the immigrants because they are only workers available. The reason of this situation is local people do not want to do this job because they consider these jobs low profile jobs and worse conditions regardless of the salary. Thus, immigrants still work for worse jobs.
There are rightist movements in the USA and they gained power within four years. Paul Ryan from Tea Party movement is elevated to the Republican candidate of vice-presidency. But these movements are still considered as marginal factions in the context of American politics. In the EU the rightist parties dominate the political life. Their insensibility, as you pointed out, is equal but the rightist movement in the EU is much powerful in the USA.
Best regards,
Gökhan
 
Tabatha  Robinson

September 12, 2012

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Thank you all for your commentary and thank you for the clarifications, Franck. I am going to agree with you about the return incentives and wonder if it is possible for the EU and the US to adopt similar policies. I think it if were removed, especially in the case of the US, we would see a lot more circular migration between the US and sender countries.
 

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