The situation of migrants in an irregular situation in the European Union

Objectives - Why this project and for whom?

The purpose of this project is to examine key aspects of the social situation of irregular immigrants in the European Union in order to assess the extent to which their fundamental rights are respected and protected. Areas covered by the research include health, housing, education, social care, employment status and fair working conditions, access to remedies as well as implications of immigration law enforcement.

Details - What does the project involve?

Existing secondary data have been collected and analysed as well as questionnaires addressed to authorities and civil society organisations in each of the EU Member States. In addition, migrants in an irregular situation as well as other actors have been interviewed in 10 EU Member States, namely Belgium, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Poland, Spain and Sweden.

The findings of this research will provide policymakers with a solid scientific basis with which to take actions required to ensure that the fundamental rights of irregular immigrants are protected. By examining current problematic situations and documenting good practices, this project also intends to give practitioners practical tools to promote the rights of irregular immigrants.

Innovation - What's 'new' about the project?

Through the collection of primary data from migrants in an irregular situation, the research will provide a snapshot of their views and opinions on a variety of topics. In addition, the research will provide some basic information on policies for all 27 EU Member States.

Outputs - What will the project deliver?

The research part of this project has been completed in 2011. Reports can be found in the Publications tab.

The reports formed the basis for the 2011 Fundamental Rights Conference organised by the FRA together with the Polish Presidency (see summary conclusions). The reports identify a number of areas that require action, including, among other things, the need to:

  • address the fundamental rights of migrants in an irregular situation who have been given a return decision but who have not been removed, and to have mechanisms in place that put an end to situations of legal limbo deriving from protracted circumstances of non-removability;
  • avoid disproportionate measures which undermine access by irregular migrants to basic rights (such as apprehensions near schools or hospitals and reporting requirements by social service providers) when detecting and apprehending irregular migrants;
  • remove legal and practical obstacles that make it difficult or impossible for migrants in an irregular situation to seek justice, for instance, when they are exploited or abused by employers.

In 2012 the FRA is engaging with relevant stakeholders in order to see how some of the actions can be implemented. For this purpose it has prioritised access to healthcare as well as the need to discourage detection practices which disproportionately affect access to fundamental rights.

FRA Programme: WP 2009, at 2.1.2; WP 2010 at 2.1.1

Related Information

Migrants in an irregular situation face obstructions in accessing their fundamental rights. They have no legal status and are therefore most vulnerable to exploitation and discrimination in key areas of social life.

They are affected by formal barriers to the enjoyment and exercise of rights, whereby certain rights (e.g. access to health services beyond emergency treatment) are only available to persons lawfully residing in the country. More often, however, it is practical obstacles which discourage irregular immigrants to approach public service providers (schools, medical facilities, etc.) or courts for fear of being identified as irregular and consequently removed from the territory. This results, for example, in persons in need of urgent medical treatment not seeking health care or victims of serious violations not seeking justice. Anti-smuggling legislation may also criminalise a wide range of support measures by private individuals, such as for instance the sheltering of migrants in an irregular situation.

Project Manager: 
Adriano Silvestri
Adriano Silvestri

Adriano Silvestri

Job Title: 
Head of Sector Asylum, Migration and Borders
Department: 
Freedoms and Justice Department
Email: 
migration@fra.europa.eu