Statistics on enforcement of immigration legislation
- Data extracted in May 2017. Most recent data: Further Eurostat information, Main tables and Database. Planned update: May 2018.
This article presents indicators on the enforcement of immigration legislation (EIL). It provides statistics on: non-EU citizens who were refused entry at the external borders of the EU ; non-EU citizens who were illegally present on the territory of an EU Member State; and non-EU citizens who were ordered to leave the territory of an EU Member State . Each of these indicators can be regarded as an official record of persons subject to the enforcement of immigration legislation, providing a general overview of the outcomes of territorial surveillance and control procedures in the EU.
- 1 Main statistical findings
- 1.1 Almost one million non-EU citizens were apprehended in the EU in 2016, which was approximately 50 % less than in 2015
- 1.2 Non-EU citizens found to be illegally present in the EU were typically young and male
- 1.3 Number of non-EU citizens ordered to leave EU territories stood at almost 500 000 in 2016
- 1.4 Almost 230 000 non-EU citizens were returned to their country of origin in 2016
- 1.5 In 2016, almost 50 % of all refusals to enter the EU were reported by Spain
- 1.6 Entry refusals by border type
- 1.7 Citizenship of persons refused entry into the EU
- 1.8 Grounds for entry refusals
- 2 Data sources and availability
- 3 Context
- 4 See also
- 5 Further Eurostat information
- 6 External links
- 7 Notes
Main statistical findings
Figure 1 provides an overview of the information available for the EU pertaining to non-EU citizens who were subject to the enforcement of immigration legislation. Note that the situation for individual EU Member States was varied, reflecting specific national characteristics, such as national wealth, history and culture, geographical position, type and length of borders, border infrastructure, border control, judicial procedures, national policies and the legal context of irregular migration.
Almost one million non-EU citizens were apprehended in the EU in 2016, which was approximately 50 % less than in 2015
Among the five main indicators for statistics on the enforcement of immigration legislation, the data on non-EU citizens found to be illegally present grew at the most rapid pace in recent years (2013-2016). After a gradual reduction in the number of non-EU citizens found to be illegally present on the territories of the EU Member States between 2008 and 2013, a significant increase was observed between 2013 and 2015: by far the biggest increase was recorded in 2015, when the flow of irregular migrants entering the EU reached unprecedented levels. Although the figures remained high in 2016, almost one million apprehensions across the EU, there was a sizable reduction compared with 2015 (a drop of more than 50 %) — see Figure 1. The number of non-EU citizens who were issued with an order to leave the EU followed a similar pattern to that for apprehended persons, as numbers initially fell during the period 2008-2013, increased in both 2014 and 2015, and then fell again in 2016 (although this time to a level which was below that recorded in several earlier periods for the time series).
The number of non-EU citizens found to be illegally present in the EU stood at 2.2 million in 2015 (see Figure 1), falling to 983 860 in 2016; this decline reflects not only a reduction in the number of irregular migrants following unusual migration flows in recent years, but also changes in national policies among the EU Member States in reaction to these events, which may have impacted on how checks on illegally present non-EU citizens were performed/enforced. Note that double-counting of the same person by different EU Member States cannot be excluded.
The EU Member State which apprehended the largest number of illegally present non-EU citizens in 2016 was Germany (370 555), followed by Greece (204 820), France (91 985), the United Kingdom (59 895) and Austria (49 810); these five Member States together accounted for about 80 % of all apprehensions in the EU. At the other end of the range, four of the relatively small Member States — Luxembourg, Malta, Latvia and Estonia — each recorded less than one thousand illegally present non-EU citizens being apprehended in 2016 (see Map 1).
Figure 2 looks in more detail at the five EU Member States where — during the period 2008-2016 — the highest number of persons who were found to be illegally present were apprehended: Germany, Greece, France, the United Kingdom and Spain; the patterns observed in each of these varied considerably. In Greece and Germany, there was a peak in the number of illegally present non-EU citizens in 2015, which was almost repeated the following year in Germany, whereas in Greece the number decreased by 78 % (from 911 470 recorded in 2015 to 204 820 in 2016).
In France and the United Kingdom, the number of illegally present non-EU citizens followed a pattern that was similar to the overall figures for the EU, falling between 2008 and 2013, rising in 2014 and 2015, before falling again in 2016 (in both cases to a level below that recorded in 2008).
Non-EU citizens found to be illegally present in the EU were typically young and male
Data disaggregated by sex for the number of apprehended non-EU citizens who were illegally present in the EU indicate that irregular migration was predominantly a male issue (see Figure 3). Most of the non-EU citizens apprehended were young males aged between 18 and 34 years (49 % of the total number of apprehensions in 2016). However, based on the information available for 20 of the EU Member States (incomplete data for Bulgaria, Germany, Greece, Spain, Croatia, Luxembourg, Portugal and Sweden), the female share of non-EU citizens who were apprehended increased from 13 % in 2008 to 24 % by 2016.
A more detailed analysis of the situation in 2016 reveals that persons aged 18-34 years accounted for 61 % of the total number of non-EU citizens illegally present in the EU who were apprehended, while 22 % were aged 35 years or over and some 161 380 were children (aged 0-17) who therefore accounted for the remaining 17 % of the total.
On the basis of available information, during the period 2008-2010, the highest number of non-EU citizens found to be illegally present in the EU was recorded among Albanian and Afghan citizens, followed during 2011 and 2012 by Afghan and Pakistani citizens. There was a major change as of 2013, when Syrian citizens accounted for the highest number of persons illegally present in the EU who were apprehended and this pattern was repeated in each of the next three years (2014-2016), with a notable peak of 859 035 persons in 2015 (see Table 1). Pakistani citizens were the second largest group of non-EU citizens apprehended in the EU during 2013, Eritrean citizens during 2014, and Afghan citizens in both 2015 and 2016.
Looking at the last two years, the number of non-EU citizens who were found to be illegally present in the EU generally declined between 2015 and 2016, likely reflecting new migrant policies being put in place. The largest reduction — in absolute and relative terms — was recorded for Syrian citizens, their numbers falling to 213 080 in 2016. Although this was still the highest number of non-EU citizens illegally present in the EU who had been apprehended, it was much closer to the second highest value recorded for Afghan citizens (151 825). A similar pattern of rapidly falling numbers in 2016 was observed for Afghans and Iraqi citizens with a decrease of well over 50 000 for both (-257 450 and -92 330 respectively).
Number of non-EU citizens ordered to leave EU territories stood at almost 500 000 in 2016
Following a period (2008-2013) when there were reduced numbers of non-EU citizens presented with orders to leave, there was a reversal in the pattern of developments between 2013 and 2015, followed once again by a decline in 2016, when the total number of non-EU citizens ordered to leave EU territories stood at 493 785.
Disparities in migration policies, administrative, statistical and legal acts, as well as judicial procedures contribute to some of the differences observed between EU Member States, with any changes in these potentially influencing the resulting statistics. That said, on the basis of information available for EU Member States in both 2008 and 2016 (excluding data for Denmark, Croatia and Luxembourg), the number of citizens ordered to leave the EU fell overall by almost one fifth (19.6 %) during the period under consideration.
Of the 493 785 persons ordered to leave EU Member States in 2016, 16.4 % were ordered to leave France, 14.2 % to leave Germany and 12.1 % to leave the United Kingdom; none of the other Member States recorded double-digit shares (see Table 2). The number of non-EU citizens ordered to leave Greece fell by 70 785 between 2015 and 2016, while the United Kingdom (down 10 125), Bulgaria (down 6 690) and Spain (down 5 650) were the only other Member States to report declines of more than a thousand persons in their respective numbers of non-EU citizens that were ordered to leave. It was more common to find that the number of non-EU citizens ordered to leave increased between 2015 and 2016: this was particularly the case in Germany (an increase of 15 925 persons), Finland (up 13 070), the Netherlands (up 9 185) and Poland (up 6 375).
Figure 4 presents information on non-EU citizens who were issued with an order to leave an EU Member State in 2015 and 2016. These were predominantly citizens of Albania (35 250 in 2016), Morocco (34 170), Iraq (33 660) and Afghanistan (30 325), while 20 000 to 30 000 citizens from each of Algeria, Pakistan and Ukraine were also ordered to leave.
A comparison with 2015 reveals that the largest absolute increases in numbers of citizens being ordered to leave EU territories were recorded for Ukraine (7 515), Algeria (5 860) and Iraq (3 430), while the largest absolute reductions in non-EU citizens being ordered to leave were recorded for Syria (40 605 fewer cases), Afghanistan (8 565 fewer) and Kosovo (7 775 fewer).
Almost 230 000 non-EU citizens were returned to their country of origin in 2016
In 2016, 226 150 non-EU citizens who had been issued with an order to leave the territories of an EU Member State were returned to their country of origin (outside of the EU). As such, this was the second consecutive year that there was an increase in the number of returns. However, there were generally modest changes observed over the last nine years for which data are available, with relatively minor fluctuations, as the number of non-EU citizens returned ranged from a minimum of 167 150 returns in 2011 to a relative peak (for the time series presented) in 2016 (see Figure 1).
In 2016, Albanians (42 640) topped the list of non-EU citizens returned to a non-EU country (see Figure 5), maintaining their top position from 2015 when there had been 34 780 Albanian citizens returned from EU territories. In 2016, the next highest numbers of returns were recorded for citizens of Ukraine (22 635), Iraq (17 065), Kosovo (13 040) and Serbia (12 245); there were no other countries for which more than 10 thousand of their citizens were returned .
A comparison between 2015 and 2016 shows that there was a considerable increase in the total number of citizens returned to Iraq, Albania, Ukraine and Afghanistan in 2016, whereas there were sizeable reductions in the number of citizens returned to Syria and Kosovo (see Figure 5).
In recent years there has been an increase in demand for more detailed information on the enforcement of immigration legislation, which has resulted from increased interest/awareness concerning developments of new statistics on returns. A majority of EU Member States have provided additional statistics to Eurostat (on a voluntary basis) with more detailed indicators concerning returns of non-EU citizens; this information is based on a harmonised set of methodological guidelines. One of these new data sets provides information on the type of returns: these data are available for 21 of the EU and EFTA Member States in 2016: Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Ireland, Spain, France, Croatia, Italy, Latvia, Luxembourg, Hungary, Malta, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovenia, Slovakia, Sweden, Liechtenstein and Norway. Among the 19 EU Member States, there were 73 665 returns in 2016, of which 56.2 % left the territory voluntarily, while 43.5 % were enforced returns; there were also a small number of non-classified returns in Italy (less than 1 % of the total).
Figure 6 shows that there was a great variation in the proportion of returns accounted for by voluntary and enforced returns in each of the EU Member States, as voluntary returns accounted for less than 9 % of all returns from Spain but for almost 96 % of all returns from Poland. However, it should be noted that there are considerable difficulties in recording voluntary cases and that comparability may therefore be limited.
In 2016, almost 50 % of all refusals to enter the EU were reported by Spain
In 2016, some 388 280 non-EU citizens were refused entry into the EU at one of its external borders. Nearly half (49.5 %) of the total number of refusals were recorded in Spain (192 135), with the next highest numbers in France (63 390) and Poland (34 485); together these three EU Member States accounted for three quarters of the total number of non-EU citizens refused entry into the EU in 2016 (see Figure 7 and Table 3). Note that the overwhelming share of non-EU citizens who were refused entry into Spain were Moroccan citizens who tried to enter one of the two Spanish territories on the African continent, namely, Ceuta and Melilla.
On the basis of available information for the EU Member States, the total number of people refused entry into the EU dropped from almost 635 000 in 2008 to a low of just under 287 000 in 2014, before starting to rise again in 2015 and 2016 (see Table 3). Excluding Croatia (for which only partial information exists), there was an overall reduction of 40.3 % in the total number of non-EU citizens refused entry into the EU between 2008 and 2016.
In 2016, the total number of refusals made in Spain was considerably lower (at 192 135) than in 2008 (when there had been 510 010 refusals); the share of Spanish refusals in the total number of refusals in the EU (excluding Croatia) decreased from 80.3 % in 2008 to 50.7 % in 2016. The opposite pattern was reported in France and Poland: between 2008 and 2016 there was an increase in both their respective numbers of refusals and the shares of French and Polish refusals in the EU total.
Entry refusals by border type
In 2016, the vast majority (84.4 %) of non-EU citizens who were refused entry into the EU were stopped at external land borders; the share of refusals at air borders was 13.0 %, while only a small proportion (2.7 %) of total refusals for entry into the EU were at sea borders. Note that some of the EU Member States are landlocked and hence, by definition, do not have any sea borders.
These differences by type of border were largely influenced by the high number of refusals recorded at external land borders in the Spanish territories of Ceuta and Melilla. Besides Spain, there were relatively high numbers of refusals at land borders in France, Poland and Greece in 2016 (see Table 4); none of the other EU Member States for which data are available recorded in excess of 10 thousand refusals at land borders. As regards air borders, the United Kingdom (10 145) and France (8 275) had the highest numbers of refusals, followed by Spain (6 085) and Italy (5 990); none of the other EU Member States for which data are available recorded in excess of 5 thousand refusals at air borders. Italy and the United Kingdom reported the highest numbers of refusals at sea borders (3 725 and 3 470 respectively) for 2016; none of the other EU Member States for which data are available recorded in excess of a thousand refusals at sea borders.
Citizenship of persons refused entry into the EU
Figure 8 shows the most common origins of citizens refused entry into the EU in 2016, with the data analysed according to the type of border across which they were trying to gain access. As noted above, the information presented is dominated by the high number (188 295) of non-EU citizens being refused entry into the EU at land borders between the Spanish territories of Ceuta and Melilla on one hand and Morocco on the other, while the total number of Moroccan citizens refused entry into the EU was 190 455. The next highest numbers of refusals were recorded for citizens of Albania (31 460), Ukraine (22 970) and Russia (14 815); Albanian citizens were mainly refused entry at Greek, Hungarian, Croatian or Slovenian land borders, or Italian sea and air borders, while the majority of the Ukrainian and Russian citizens who were refused entry into the EU tried to cross land borders with Poland.
Grounds for entry refusals
Looking at the reasons for entry refusal — which are based on the Schengen Borders Code — the highest number of non-EU citizens who were refused entry into the EU was recorded for those with no valid travel documents (54 995). Figure 9 shows that their number grew rapidly in 2016 when compared with 2015 (when there were 11 070 refusals as a result of non-EU citizens not having valid travel documents), and that this rapid increase could be largely attributed to the rising number of refusals at French borders. The next most common grounds for refusing entry of non-EU citizens into the EU in 2016 were not having a valid visa or residence permit and not being able to justify the purpose and conditions of stay.
Data sources and availability
EIL statistics are based on administrative data provided by national authorities in line with the requirements of Regulation (EC) No 862/2007 on statistics on migration and international protection. The compilation of these statistics draws on the terms used by the Schengen Borders Code, as in the case of the external borders concept (Regulation (EC) No 562/2006) and reasons for refusals of entry; for more information on the Schengen area, see here.
EIL statistics do not include outgoing asylum seekers who are transferred from one EU Member State to another under the mechanism established by the Dublin Regulation (Regulation (EC) No 343/2003 and Regulation (EC) No 1560/2003); these cases are covered by Dublin statistics.
The enforcement of migration law refers to two main issues: controlling the EU’s external borders and the management of unauthorised non-EU citizens found on the territory of an EU Member State; coordination between EU Member States regarding border controls has increased significantly over the last decade. The most noteworthy development concerns Regulation (EC) No 2007/2004 which established the European Agency for the Management of Operational Cooperation at the External Borders of the Member States of the EU (FRONTEX) as well as Regulation (EU) No 2016/399 establishing a Community Code on the rules governing the movement of persons across borders (the Schengen Borders Code).
Regarding the management of irregular migrant populations, the so-called Return Directive (2008/115/EC) came into force at the end of 2010 establishing common standards for returning non-EU citizens illegally staying in the EU. The directive provides for clear, transparent, common and fair rules for return and removal, the use of coercive measures, detention and re-entry, while respecting the human rights and fundamental freedoms of the persons concerned.
In addition, Regulation (EU) No 1052/2013 established the European border surveillance system (EUROSUR). This provides ‘a common framework for the exchange of information and for the cooperation between EU Member States and FRONTEX’. The aim of this system is to improve situational awareness and to increase reaction capabilities at external borders of the EU for the purpose of detecting, preventing and combating illegal immigration and cross-border crime, while contributing to ensuring the protection and saving of migrant lives.
As regards measuring the enforcement of immigration legislation, the progress made so far on collecting harmonised data results from the adoption of Regulation (EC) No 862/2007, in particular Articles 5 and 7. This regulation aims to support evidence-based decision-making, providing specifications concerning the data that should be submitted by EU Member States on the number of non-EU citizens refused entry at the EU’s external borders, the number of non-EU citizens apprehended for being illegally present in the EU, and the number of non-EU citizens who were removed from EU territories as a result of their presence being unauthorised. Irregular migration remains a phenomenon difficult to quantify, especially during times when an effective and humane ‘returns policy’ is considered by many to form an essential part of migration policy.
Further Eurostat information
- Enforcement of Immigration Legislation (migr_eil)
- Third country nationals refused entry at the external borders — annual data (rounded) (migr_eirfs)
- Third country nationals found to be illegally present — annual data (rounded) (migr_eipre)
- Third country nationals ordered to leave — annual data (rounded) (migr_eiord)
- Third country nationals returned following an order to leave — annual data (rounded) (migr_eirtn)
- Third-country nationals who have left the territory by type of return and citizenship (migr_eirt_vol)
- Third-country nationals who have left the territory by type of assistance received and citizenship (migr_eirt_ass)
- Third-country nationals who have left the territory to a third country by type of agreement procedure and citizenship (migr_eirt_agr)
- Third-country nationals who have left the territory to a third country by destination country and citizenship (migr_eirt_des)
Methodology / Metadata
- Enforcement of immigration legislation (ESMS metadata file — migr_eil)
Source data for tables, figures and maps (MS Excel)
The EU legislative framework covering the enforcement of migration law and the operational cooperation between EU Member States is the following:
- Regulation (EU) 2016/399 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 9 March 2016 on a Union Code on the rules governing the movement of persons across borders (Schengen Borders Code)
- Regulation (EU) No 1052/2013 for the establishment of the European Border Surveillance System (Eurosur)
- Directive 2008/115/EC on common standards and procedures in Member States for returning illegally staying third-country nationals
- Regulation (EC) No 862/2007 on Community statistics on migration and international protection
- Communication COM(2004) 412 final of 4 June 2004: Study on the links between legal and illegal migration
- United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs (UN DESA), Trends in International Migrant Stock: The 2015 Revision
- OECD: International Migration Outlook 2016
- Immigration in Europe: Trends, Policies and Empirical Evidence, IZA DP No. 7778, November 2013, Sara de la Rica, Albrecht Glitz, Francesc Ortega
- Directorate General for Migration and Home Affairs (HOME)
- European Migration Network (EMN)
- EU aggregates are computed as the sum of the statistics available for the EU Member States at a national level. Double counting of individuals might be involved in the statistics for the EU if the same individual was found to be illegally present in more than one Member State.
- EIL statistics refer to the concept of external borders for all EU Member States and EFTA countries, even if some of these are not in the Schengen area. The external borders of the Schengen area do not coincide with the external borders of the EU Member States due to: opt-outs for Ireland and the United Kingdom from the Schengen area; Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus and Romania are not yet members of the Schengen area; Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland are part of the Schengen area but not members of the EU.