Statistics on enforcement of immigration legislation
- Data extracted in June 2016. Most recent data: Further Eurostat information, Main tables and Database. Planned update: July 2017
This article presents the European Union (EU) 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 , illegally present in the Member State’s territory or subject to an obligation to leave the territory of Member States . The indicators in this article 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.
Following the need for more information on enforcement of immigration legislation, which resulted from the recent evolution of the immigration flows, several EU Member States  provided on a voluntary basis more variables related to the return of non-EU citizens based on Eurostat methodology.
According to the available data, there was a significant increase in the irregular migration to the EU between 2013 and 2015, especially in the number of non-EU citizens found to be illegally present in the Member State’s territories. The number of persons issued with an order to leave followed the same trend but with a lower increase intensity (see Figure 1). The situation for individual EU Member States however varies in trend and level due to specific national factors such as national wealth, history and culture, geographical position, type and length of borders, border infrastructure, border control, judicial procedures, national policy and the legal framework related to irregular migration.
- 1 Main statistical findings
- 1.1 Number of apprehensions in the EU has increased more than three times between 2014 and 2015
- 1.2 Citizenship and other characteristics of non-EU citizens found to be illegally present in the EU
- 1.3 Number of non-EU citizens ordered to leave has increased between 2013 and 2015
- 1.4 About 194 000 non-EU citizens returned to their country of origin in 2015
- 1.5 New statistics on returns for 2014
- 1.6 Over two thirds of all refusals to enter the EU were reported by Spain and Poland
- 1.7 Entry refusals by border type
- 1.8 Citizenship of the persons refused entry to the EU-28
- 1.9 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
Number of apprehensions in the EU has increased more than three times between 2014 and 2015
Following a period of decrease (from 2008 to 2013), in 2014 the number of non-EU citizens found to be illegally present in the EU-28 increased to close to 670 000, and one year after this value tripled to around 2 136 000 in 2015 (see Figure 1). This increase is related to the recent migration flows affecting several EU Member States. However, the situation recorded does not necessarily reflect a growth in the numbers of non-EU citizens staying in EU territory illegally, since some Member States may have changed their policy on the checks they perform, thereby influencing the number of apprehensions (see footnote 2).
The most affected Member States in 2015 with over 50 000 illegally present persons apprehended were Greece (911 470), Hungary (424 055), Germany (376 435), France (109 720) and Austria (86 220). These five Member States accounted for 89 % of all apprehensions recorded in the EU. In Luxembourg, Malta, Latvia, Estonia, Slovenia, Sweden, Slovakia, Romania, Lithuania, Denmark, Ireland, Croatia and Cyprus the number of apprehensions were lower in 2015 with less than five thousand cases in each of these countries (see Map 1).
Citizenship and other characteristics of non-EU citizens found to be illegally present in the EU
Over a three-year period (2008–10), Albania ranked first as the country of origin of non-EU citizens found to be illegally in the EU, followed by Afghanistan. The ranking alter slightly over next two years (2011 and 2012) and significant changes were recorded between 2013 and 2015: the Syrians presented the highest number of non-EU citizens apprehended in the EU, their apprehensions increasing from 32 025 in 2013 to 857 740 in 2015 (see Figure 4 and Table 1).
Looking at the last two years, the highest increase from 2014 to 2015 concerned Syrians (118 785 vs 857 740), the result of the conflict taking place in their country (see Figure 4). A similar trend was already observed for Afghan migrants whose number reached 408 550 in 2015. Exponential increases in the number of apprehensions were also observed in the case of citizens from other unstable countries such as Iran, Iraq, Pakistan, and to a lesser extent Bangladesh, Palestine and Sudan. In all of these countries the numbers of apprehensions have at least doubled.
The data disaggregated by sex for the number of apprehended non-EU citizens illegally present in the EU-28 indicate that irregular migration is predominantly a male issue (see Figure 3). Most of the non-EU citizens apprehended were young males aged between 18 and 34 (42 % of the total number of apprehensions). However, the share of female third country citizens apprehended has increased from 9 % in 2008 to 20 % in 2015 . As regards the age characteristics of these citizens, around 230 000 children (aged 0–17) were apprehended on grounds of illegal stay in the EU-28 in 2015, which is 17 % of all non-EU citizens found to be illegally present in the EU. Close to 62 % of those apprehended were aged 18–34 and around 20 % were aged 35 or over.
Number of non-EU citizens ordered to leave has increased between 2013 and 2015
In 2015 over 530 000 non-EU citizens were issued with an order to leave an EU Member State, 36 % of which were recorded as being returned to a non-EU country (193 565 persons) (see Figure 1). The gap between the decisions to leave and the effective returns represents the unknown cases (e.g. voluntary returns without the authorities being informed, disappearances of persons after issuance of the leave order or cases not properly recorded or not confirmed by the border authorities).
The total number of orders to leave EU countries decreased by 11.6 %, from 603 000 in 2008 to 533 000 in 2015, while the number of non-EU citizens returned to a non-EU country decreased by 8.4 %, from about 211 000 in 2008 to about 194 000 in 2015.
Disparities in migration policies, as well as administrative, statistical and legal (legal acts, judicial procedure, etc.) systems contribute to differences among EU Member States. Any changes in these factors can influence the resulting statistics.
Of the 533 000 persons ordered to leave an EU Member State in 2015, 24.3 % were in Greece, 18.6 % in France, 16.3 % in the United Kingdom and 12.6 % in Germany. Greece recorded the highest number of orders to leave the country (104 575 ), followed by France (79 950), the United Kingdom (70 020), Germany (54 080), Belgium (31 045), Spain (33 495), Italy (27 305) and the Netherlands (23 765).
Significant decreases between 2014 and 2015 (over 5 000 persons) were recorded for France (– 45 000), Spain (– 9 700) and the Netherlands (– 10 000). On the other hand, significant increases were recorded for Greece (+ 31 000), Germany (+ 20 000), Bulgaria (+ 8 000) and Hungary (+ 6 000).
Non-EU citizens most frequently issued with an order to leave the EU (more than 30 000 orders) in 2015 (see Figure 5) were from Syria (53 985), Albania (41 785), Afghanistan (38 890) and Morocco (31 810). High numbers were also reported for Iraq (30 230), Pakistan (23 290), Kosovo (21 320), Ukraine (19 495), Algeria (16 065), India (15 225) and Serbia (14 180). Nigeria, Iran, Bangladesh, and Tunisia were also among the top 15 countries with orders to leave ranging from around 10 000 to 13 000 each. Compared with 2014, the highest absolute increases were recorded for Iraq (+ 24 000), Afghanistan (+ 15 000), Kosovo and Albania (both + 12 000).
About 194 000 non-EU citizens returned to their country of origin in 2015
In 2015 around 36 % of the non-EU citizens who had been issued with an order to leave the territories of EU Member States were returned to their country of origin (outside of the EU). From 2008 to 2015, the number of returns to third countries decreased by 8 % from 211 000 to 194 000. The trends in the last seven years did not register big fluctuations, and ranged from a peak of 212 000 returns in 2009, to a low of 167 150 returns in 2011.
In 2015 Albanians (34 765) topped the list of non-EU citizens effectively returned to a non-EU country after an order to leave (see Figure 6), followed by Kosovars (17 065), Ukrainians (15 025), Serbians (12 880), Indians (8 800) and Moroccans (8 575). Kosovo has seen by far the largest increase of year-on-year returns compared with 2014 (when only 3 370 persons were returned). Other countries with high numbers of returns were Pakistan, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia and Russia which presented over 5 000 returns each.
New statistics on returns for 2014
According to one of the new datasets available since reference year 2014, which contains 2015 data for 21 countries (19 EU Member States, Norway and Liechtenstein), 44 % of the non-EU citizens left voluntarily the Member State's territories. This percentage varies considerably between Member States, presenting values from 4 % voluntary returns in Hungary and 6 % in Denmark to 91 % in Romania and 93 % in Poland (see Figure 7). However the difficulties in recording voluntary cases and the limitations of data availability have a significant impact on the resulting figures and the comparability between countries is therefore limited.
Over two thirds of all refusals to enter the EU were reported by Spain and Poland
In 2015, around 298 000 non-EU citizens were refused entry at the external borders of the EU-28. There was an overall 3.8 % increase in the number of refusals that was due mostly to the increase of refusals in Poland (around 10 120 more) and France (around 4 380 more). More than two thirds of the refusals were recorded in Spain (168 345) and Poland (30 245). Over half of the total number of EU-28 entry refusals (about 57 %) were recorded by Spain, and mainly concerned Moroccan citizens (97 %) refused entry at Ceuta and Melilla (Spanish territories that share a physical border with Morocco). Figure 8 illustrates the ‘Spain effect’ on the entry refusal data.
The total number of EU-28 entry refusals has dropped by over 50 % (from 635 000 in 2008 to 298 000 in 2015) with different trends across EU-28 Member States. In 2015 the total number of entry refusals in Spain was three times less than in 2008 (168 345 vs 510 010), while Spanish entry refusals as a proportion of the total number of entry refusals in the EU-28 decreased from 80.3 % in 2008 to 56.6 % in 2015 (see Table 3). The opposite trend was reported by Poland: from 2008 to 2015 there was an increase in both the number of refusals and the share of Polish refusals in the EU-28 total. However, the total number of entry refusals has varied considerably in Poland between 2008 and 2015.
Hungary also saw a significant increase in entry refusals (from 5 530 in 2008 to 11 505 in 2015), while Greece recorded an increase between 2008 and 2011 (2 055 vs 11 160). This trend was reversed over the following three years (9 415 in 2012; 6 995 in 2013 and 6 445 in 2014) and increased again in 2015 to 6 890 refusals (see Table 3).
Entry refusals by border type
In 2015 the largest number of refusals were recorded at the external land borders (81 %), followed by refusals at air borders (16 %). Only a small proportion of non-EU citizens were refused entry at sea borders (3 %). These differences were influenced by the refusals at the land border by Spain and therefore maintained over the last years. However, the situation varied from one country to another, where some types of border did not apply.
Besides Spain and Poland, Hungary and Croatia also recorded a high number of entry refusals at their land borders in 2015 (around 11 385 and 8 680 respectively) (see Table 4). Other countries with high numbers of entry refusals at land borders were France (6 160), Greece (5 790), Romania (3 895), Slovenia (3 800), Lithuania (3 080) and Bulgaria (1 800). As regards air borders, the United Kingdom (10 790) and France (9 075) had the highest numbers of refusals, followed by Spain (5 025), Italy (4 665) and Germany (3 655). Refusal at air boarders were also high in the Netherlands, Ireland and Belgium with over 1 500 refusals each.
The United Kingdom and Italy reported the highest numbers of refusals at sea borders (3 215 and 2 760 respectively) for 2015. Spain, France, and Greece were also among the EU Member States with the highest number of refusals at sea borders, but their reported figures were much lower (540, 510 and 250 cases respectively).
Citizenship of the persons refused entry to the EU-28
The top five citizenships refused entry at EU-28 external borders in 2015 were Morocco (164 885), Ukraine (24 485), Albania (16 910), Russia (10 715) and Serbia (7 775). Moroccans were refused entry mainly at the land border of Spain; Russians and Ukrainians at the land border of Poland; and Serbians at the land borders of Hungary and Croatia. Albanians were mainly refused entry at Greek, Hungarian, Croatian and Slovenian land borders as well as at Italian sea and air borders (see Figure 9).
Albanians made up the highest number of refusals at sea borders (2 815), mostly at Italian sea borders (2 335), followed by Moroccans (660 of which 520 arriving in Spain). Ukrainian citizens recorded the third highest number of entry refusals at sea borders in 2015, with most being refused entry in the United Kingdom.
In terms of entry refusals at EU-28 air borders in 2015, Albanians again made up the highest number (4 330), mainly at the air border of Italy (1 425). Brazilians were second (2 855), mainly at the air borders of the United Kingdom (775).
Grounds for entry refusals
Looking at the reasons for entry refusal  in 2015, the highest number of non-EU citizens (around 42 085) were refused entry due to ‘no valid visa or residence permits’ (see Figure 10). Numbers were similar compared with 2014 figures (42 085 vs 42 530), but decreased in over 19 000 refusal compared to 2013. About 39 345 non-EU citizens were also refused entry due to ‘purpose and conditions of stay not justified’, an increase of over 10 000 cases in the last three years (29 200 in 2013 vs 39 345 in 2015).
Data sources and availability
The EIL statistics are based on administrative data provided by the national authorities in line with the requirements of Regulation 0862/2007 on the European 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 (Council Regulation (EC) No 562/2006) and reasons for refusals of entry.
The 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 0343/2003 and Regulation 1560/2003), since these cases are related to Dublin statistics. Please see the Schengen area map here.
The enforcement of migration law refers to two main issues: control of EU external borders and management of unauthorised non-EU citizens found on the territory of an EU Member State.
In this respect, 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 European Union (FRONTEX) as well as Regulation (EC) No 562/2006 of the European Parliament and of the Council establishing a Community Code on the rules governing the movement of persons across borders (Schengen Borders Code).
Regarding the management of irregular migrant populations, the so-called 'Return Directive' (115/2008)’ came into force at the end of 2010 to establish common standards of return for irregular migrants. The directive provides for clear, transparent and fair common rules for return and removal, the use of coercive measures, detention and re-entry, while fully 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) has been established. This specifies ‘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 the situational awareness and to increase reaction, capability at the ‘external borders’ of the EU for the purpose of detecting, preventing and combating illegal immigration and cross-border crime and contributing to ensuring the protection and saving the lives of migrants (EUROSUR)’.
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 its Articles 5 and 7.
The regulation facilitates the evidence-based decision-making of European migration policy, providing specifications on the data that should be submitted by EU Member States on the number of non-EU citizens refused entry at EU external borders, the number of non-EU citizens found to be illegally present and the number of removals of non-EU citizens whose presence was unauthorised.
All in all, irregular migration remains a phenomenon difficult to quantify at a time when an effective and humane return policy is an essential part of an open migration policy. Some of the indicators presented here provide guidance to that effect.
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 4.6.2004: 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 at national level. Double counting of individuals might be involved in the statistics at EU level if the same individual is found to be illegally present in more than one Member State.
- The EIL statistics refer to the concept of ‘external borders’ for all EU-28 Member States and EFTA countries even if some are not in the Schengen area. The ‘external borders’ of the Schengen area do not coincide with the ‘external borders’ of the EU-28 Member States due to the opt-out of the United Kingdom and Ireland and the inclusion in the Schengen area of the non-EU Member States Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland and the fact that Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus and Romania are not yet members of the Schengen area.
- Apprehension of person means such person is found to be illegally present.
- Belgium, Bulgaria, Denmark, Estonia, Spain, France, Croatia, Italy, Latvia, Hungary, Malta, Portugal, Romania, Slovenia and Slovakia.
- Share of the breakdown by sex and age calculated on the basis of the available data.
- The classification of the grounds of entry refusal comes from the Schengen Borders Code.
- Report from the Commission to the European Parliament and the Council of the implementation of Regulation (EC) No 862/2007).