Migration and migrant population statistics
- Data extracted in March 2017. Most recent data: Further Eurostat information, Main tables and Database. Planned article update: April 2018.
This article presents European Union (EU) statistics on international migration, population stocks of national and non-national citizens and data relating to the acquisition of citizenship. Migration is influenced by a combination of economic, environmental, political and social factors: either in a migrant’s country of origin (push factors) or in the country of destination (pull factors). Historically, the relative economic prosperity and political stability of the EU are thought to have exerted a considerable pull effect on immigrants.
In destination countries, international migration may be used as a tool to solve specific labour market shortages. However, migration alone will almost certainly not reverse the ongoing trend of population ageing experienced in many parts of the EU.
- 1 Main statistical findings
- 2 Data sources and availability
- 3 Context
- 4 See also
- 5 Further Eurostat information
- 6 External links
Main statistical findings
A total of 4.7 million people immigrated to one of the EU-28 Member States during 2015, while at least 2.8 million emigrants were reported to have left an EU Member State. These total figures do not represent the migration flows to/from the EU as a whole, since they also include flows between different EU Member States.
Among these 4.7 million immigrants during 2015, there were an estimated 2.4 million citizens of non-member countries, 1.4 million people with citizenship of a different EU Member State from the one to which they immigrated, around 860 thousand people who migrated to an EU Member State of which they had the citizenship (for example, returning nationals or nationals born abroad), and some 19 thousand stateless people.
Germany reported the largest total number of immigrants (1 543.8 thousand) in 2015, followed by the United Kingdom (631.5 thousand), France (363.9 thousand), Spain (342.1 thousand) and Italy (280.1 thousand). Germany reported the highest number of emigrants in 2015 (347.2 thousand), followed by Spain (343.9 thousand), the United Kingdom (299.2 thousand), France (298 thousand) and Poland (258.8 thousand). A total of 17 of the EU Member States reported more immigration than emigration in 2015, but in Bulgaria, Ireland, Greece, Spain, Croatia, Cyprus, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Latvia and Lithuania, the number of emigrants outnumbered the number of immigrants.
Relative to the size of the resident population, Luxembourg recorded the highest rates of immigration in 2015 (42 immigrants per 1 000 persons), followed by Malta (30 immigrants per 1 000 persons), Austria and and Germany (both 19 immigrants per 1 000 persons) — see Figure 1. The highest rates of emigration in 2015 were reported for Luxembourg (22 emigrants per 1 000 persons), Cyprus (20 emigrants per 1 000 persons) and Malta (20 emigrants per 1 000 persons).
In 2015, the relative share of national immigrants, in other words immigrants with the citizenship of the EU Member State to which they were migrating, within the total number of immigrants was highest in Romania (87 % of all immigrants), Lithuania (83 %), Hungary (56 %), Croatia (55 %), Latvia (52 %), Estonia (52 %) and Portugal (50 %). These were the only EU Member States to report that national immigration accounted for more than half of the total number of immigrants — see Figure 2. By contrast, Luxembourg, Germany and Austria reported relatively low shares, as national immigration accounted for no more than 5 or 6 % of their total immigration in 2015.
Information on citizenship has often been used to study immigrants with a foreign background. However, since citizenship can change over the life-time of a person, it is also useful to analyse information by country of birth. The relative share of native-born immigrants within the total number of immigrants was highest in Lithuania (74 % of all immigrants), followed by Romania (66 %) and Poland (50 %). By contrast, Italy, Spain, Luxembourg, Austria and Germany reported relatively low shares of native-born immigrants, less than 10 % of all immigration in 2015.
Immigration to the EU-28 from non-member countries was 2.7 million in 2015
In 2015, there were an estimated 2.7 million immigrants to the EU-28 from non-member countries. In addition, 1.9 million people previously residing in one EU Member State migrated to another Member State.
An analysis by previous residence reveals that Luxembourg reported the largest share of immigrants coming from another EU Member State (91 % of its total number of immigrants in 2015), followed by Slovakia (80 %) and Romania (71 %); relatively low shares were reported by Italy (26 % of all immigrants), as well as Bulgaria, Slovenia and Sweden (all 28 %) — see Table 3.
Regarding the gender distribution of immigrants to the EU Member States in 2015, there were slightly more men than women (56 % compared with 44 %). The Member State reporting the highest share of male immigrants was Germany (63 %); by contrast, the highest share of female immigrants was reported in Cyprus (57 %).
Immigrants into EU Member States in 2015 were, on average, much younger than the total population already resident in their country of destination. On 1 January 2016, the median age of the total population of the EU-28 was 42.6 years. By contrast, the median age of immigrants to EU-28 in 2015 was 27.5 years.
There were 35.1 million people born outside of the EU-28 living in an EU Member State on 1 January 2016, while there were 19.3 million persons who had been born in a different EU Member State from the one where they were resident. Only in Hungary, Ireland, Luxembourg, Slovakia and Cyprus was the number of persons born in other EU Member States higher than the number born outside of the EU-28.
On 1 January 2016, the number of people living in the EU-28 who were citizens of non-member countries was 20.7 million, while the number of people living in the EU-28 who had been born outside of the EU was 35.1 million
The number of people residing in an EU Member State with citizenship of a non-member country on 1 January 2016 was 20.7 million, representing 4.1 % of the EU-28 population. In addition, there were 16.0 million persons living in one of the EU Member States on 1 January 2016 with the citizenship of another EU Member State.
In absolute terms, the largest numbers of non-nationals living in the EU Member States on 1 January 2016 were found in Germany (8.7 million persons), the United Kingdom (5.6 million), Italy (5.0 million), Spain (4.4 million) and France (4.4 million). Non-nationals in these five Member States collectively represented 76 % of the total number of non-nationals living in all of the EU Member States, while the same five Member States had a 63 % share of the EU-28’s population.
In relative terms, the EU Member State with the highest share of non-nationals was Luxembourg, as non-nationals accounted for 47 % of its total population. A high proportion of non-nationals (10 % or more of the resident population) was also observed in Cyprus, Estonia, Latvia, Austria, Ireland, Belgium and Germany.
In most EU Member States, the majority of non-nationals were citizens of non-member countries (see Table 5); the opposite was true only for Belgium, Ireland, Cyprus, Luxembourg, Hungary, Malta, the Netherlands, Slovakia and the United Kingdom. In the case of Latvia and Estonia, the proportion of citizens from non-member countries is particularly large due to the high number of recognised non-citizens (mainly former Soviet Union citizens, who are permanently resident in these countries but have not acquired any other citizenship).
In all of the EU Member States except for the Czech Republic, Estonia, Latvia and Luxembourg, the number of people born in a non-member country was larger than the number of people with citizenship of a non-member country.
Table 6 presents a summary of the five main groups of foreign citizens and foreign-born populations for the EU Member States and EFTA countries (subject to data availability).
Romanian, Polish, Italian, Portuguese and British citizens were the five biggest groups of EU-citizens living in other EU Member States in 2016 (See Figure 6).
An analysis of the age structure of the population shows that, for the EU-28 as a whole, the foreign population was younger than the national population. The distribution by age of foreigners shows, compared with nationals, a greater proportion of relatively young working age adults. On 1 January 2016, the median age of the national population in the EU-28 was 44 years, while the median age of non-nationals living in the EU was 36 years.
Acquisitions of citizenship
Acquisitions of citizenship were down by 5 % in 2015
The number of people acquiring the citizenship of an EU Member State in 2015 was 841.2 thousand, corresponding to a 5 % decrease with respect to 2014. This decline occurred after another consecutive year of decrease.
Italy had the highest number of persons acquiring citizenship in 2015, at 178.0 thousand (or 21 % of the EU-28 total). The next highest levels of acquisition of citizenship were in the United Kingdom (118.0 thousand), Spain (114.4 thousand), France (113.6 thousand) and Germany (110.1 thousand).
In absolute terms, the highest increases compared with 2014 were observed in Italy, as 48 100 more residents were granted Italian citizenship, followed by Belgium (8.3 thousand) and France (8.0 thousand). By contrast, the highest decreases in absolute terms were observed in Spain (91.5 thousand fewer persons were granted Spanish citizenship than in 2014), Ireland (7.5 thousand) and Greece (7.0 thousand).
One commonly used indicator is the ‘naturalisation rate’, defined here as the ratio between the total number of citizenships granted and the stock of non-national residents at the beginning of the same year. The EU Member State with the highest naturalisation rate in 2015 was Sweden (6.7 acquisitions per 100 non-national residents), followed by Portugal and Poland (with 5.2 and 3.7 acquisitions per 100 non-national residents respectively).
Some 727.2 thousand citizens of non-member countries residing in an EU Member State acquired EU citizenship in 2015, corresponding to a 8 % decrease with respect to 2014. As such, citizens of non-member countries accounted for 86 % of all persons who acquired citizenship of an EU Member State in 2015. These new EU-28 citizens were mainly from Africa (31 % of the total number of citizenships acquired), North and South America (14 %), Asia (21 %), and Europe outside of the EU-28 (20 %). Citizens of EU Member States who acquired citizenship of another EU Member State amounted to 104.9 thousand persons, thus accounting for 12 % of the total. In absolute terms, the main groups of EU-28 citizens acquiring citizenship of another EU Member State were Romanians becoming citizens of Italy (14.4 thousand persons) or Germany (3.0 thousand persons), Poles becoming citizens of Germany (5.9 thousand persons) or the United Kingdom (3.8 thousand persons), Italians becoming citizens of Germany (3.4 thousand persons) or Belgium (1.1 thousand persons), Portuguese becoming citizens of France (3.1 thousand persons) or Luxembourg (1.2 thousand persons), Bulgarians becoming citizens of Germany (1.7 thousand persons) or Italy (1.1 thousand persons), Greeks becoming citizens of Germany (3.0 thousands persons) and Croatians becoming citizens of Germany (3.3 thousand persons).
In Luxembourg and Hungary the majority of new citizenships granted were to citizens of another EU Member State. In the case of Luxembourg, Portuguese citizens accounted for the largest share, followed by French, Italian, German and Belgian citizens, while in the case of Hungary EU nationals acquiring citizenship were almost exclusively Romanians.
As in previous years, the largest group of new citizens in the EU Member States in 2015 were citizens of Morocco (86.1 thousand, corresponding to 10.2 % of all citizenships granted), followed by citizens of Albania (48.4 thousand, or 5.7 %), Turkey (35.0 thousand, or 4.2 %), India (31.0 thousand, or 3.7 %) and Pakistan (26.3 thousand, or 3.1 %). Compared with 2014, the number of Moroccan citizens acquiring citizenship of an EU Member State decreased by 7.1 %. The largest shares of Moroccans acquired their new citizenship in Italy (38 %), Spain (28 %) or France (22 %).
Data sources and availability
Emigration is particularly difficult to measure; it is harder to count people leaving a country than those arriving. An analysis comparing 2015 immigration and emigration data from the EU Member States (mirror statistics) confirmed that this was true in many countries — as a result, this article focuses on immigration data.
Eurostat produces statistics on a range of issues related to international migration flows, non-national population stocks and the acquisition of citizenship. Data are collected on an annual basis and are supplied to Eurostat by the national statistical authorities of the EU Member States.
Basis for data collection
Since 2008 the collection of migration, citizenship and asylum data has been based on Regulation 862/2007; the analysis and composition of the EU, EFTA and candidate countries groups as of 1 January of the reference year are given in the implementing Regulation 351/2010. This defines a core set of statistics on international migration flows, population stocks of foreigners, the acquisition of citizenship, residence permits, asylum and measures against illegal entry and stay. Although EU Member States may continue to use any appropriate data according to national availability and practice, the statistics collected under the Regulation must be based on common definitions and concepts. Most EU Member States base their statistics on administrative data sources such as population registers, registers of foreigners, registers of residence or work permits, health insurance registers and tax registers. Some countries use mirror statistics, sample surveys or estimation methods to produce migration statistics. The implementation of the Regulation is expected to result in increased availability and comparability of migration and citizenship statistics.
The data on the acquisition of citizenship are normally produced from administrative systems. The implementation of the Regulation is expected to result in increased availability and comparability of migration and citizenship statistics.
As stated in Article 2.1(a), (b), (c) of Regulation 862/2007, immigrants who have been residing (or who are expected to reside) in the territory of an EU Member State for a period of at least 12 months are enumerated, as are emigrants living abroad for more than 12 months. Therefore, data collected by Eurostat concern migration for a period of 12 months or longer: migrants therefore include people who have migrated for a period of one year or more as well as persons who have migrated on a permanent basis.
Focusing on the definitions of age for migration flows, please note that 2015 data concern the respondent’s age reached or age at the end of the reference year for all EU Member States with the exception of Ireland, Greece, Austria, Romania, Slovenia and the United Kingdom (where data concern the respondent's age completed or on their last birthday).
Member States and EFTA countries by inclusion/exclusion of asylum seekers and refugees in the data on population reported to Eurostat in the framework of the Unified Demographic data collection Reference Year 2015
|Population as of 01.01.2016||Included||Excluded|
|Asylum seekers usual residents for at least 12 months||Belgium, Germany, Estonia, Ireland, Greece, Spain, France, Italy, Cyprus, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Austria, Portugal, United Kingdom, Switzerland||Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Croatia, Denmark, Latvia, Lithuania, Hungary, Malta, Poland, Romania, Slovenia, Slovakia, Finland, Sweden, Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway|
|Refugees usual residents for at least 12 months||Belgium, Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Denmark, Germany, Estonia, Ireland, Greece, Spain, France, Croatia, Italy, Cyprus, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Hungary, Malta, Netherlands, Austria, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovenia, Slovakia, Finland, Sweden, United Kingdom,Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway, Switzerland|
Note: Norway (Asylum seekers and refugees without residence permit are not included)
Member States and EFTA countries by inclusion/exclusion of asylum seekers and refugees in the data on migration reported to Eurostat in the framework of the Unified Demographic data collection Reference Year 2015
|Migration for 2015||Included||Excluded|
|Asylum seekers usual residents for at least 12 months||Belgium, Germany, Estonia, Greece, Spain, France, Italy, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Austria, Portugal, United Kingdom, Switzerland||Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Denmark, Ireland, Croatia, Cyprus, Latvia, Lithuania, Hungary, Malta, Poland, Romania, Slovenia, Slovakia, Finland, Sweden, Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway|
|Refugees usual residents for at least 12 months||Belgium, Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Denmark, Germany, Estonia, Ireland, Greece, Spain, Freance, Croatia, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Hungary, Malta, Netherlands, Austria, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovenia, Slovakia, Finland, Sweden, United Kingdom, Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway, Switzerland||Cyprus|
Note: Norway (Asylum seekers and refugees without residence permit are not included)
'Refugee' does not only refer to persons granted refugee status (as defined in Art.2(e) of Directive 2011/95/EC within the meaning of Art.1 of the Geneva Convention relating to the Status of Refugees of 28 July 1951, as amended by the New York Protocol of 31 January 1967) but also to persons granted subsidiary protection (as defined in Art.2(g) of Directive 2011/95/EC) and persons covered by a decision granting authorisation to stay for humanitarian reasons under national law concerning international protection
Asylum seeker: First-time asylum applications are country-specific and imply no time limit. Therefore, an asylum seeker can apply for first time in a given country and afterwards again as first-time applicant in any other country. If an asylum seeker lodge again an application in the same country after any period of time, (s)he is not considered again a first-time applicant.
Data on acquisitions of citizenship are collected by Eurostat under the provisions of Article 3.1.(d) of Regulation 862/2007, which states that: ‘Member States shall supply to the Commission (Eurostat) statistics on the numbers of (…) persons having their usual residence in the territory of the Member State and having acquired during the reference year the citizenship of the Member State (…) disaggregated by (…) the former citizenship of the persons concerned and by whether the person was formerly stateless’.
Focusing on the definitions of age for acquisitions of citizenship, please note that 2015 data concern the respondent’s age reached or at the end of the reference year for all EU Member States with the exception of Germany, Greece, Austria, Poland, Romania, Slovenia and the United Kingdom (where data concern the respondent's age completed or on their last birthday).
The ‘naturalisation rate’ should be used with caution because the numerator includes all modes of acquisitions and not just naturalisations of eligible residing foreigners and the denominator includes all foreigners, rather than foreigners who are eligible for naturalisation.
Citizens of EU Member States have freedom to travel and freedom of movement within the EU’s internal borders. Migration policies within the EU in relation to citizens of non-member countries are increasingly concerned with attracting a particular migrant profile, often in an attempt to alleviate specific skills shortages. Selection can be carried out on the basis of language proficiency, work experience, education and age. Alternatively, employers can make the selection so that migrants already have a job upon their arrival.
Besides policies to encourage labour recruitment, immigration policy is often focused on two areas: preventing unauthorised migration and the illegal employment of migrants who are not permitted to work, and promoting the integration of immigrants into society. Significant resources have been mobilised to fight people smuggling and trafficking networks in the EU.
Some of the most important legal texts adopted in the area of immigration include:
- Directive 2003/86/EC on the right to family reunification;
- Directive 2003/109/EC on a long-term resident status for non-member nationals;
- Directive 2004/114/EC on the admission of students;
- Directive 2005/71/EC for the facilitation of the admission of researchers into the EU;
- Directive 2008/115/EC for returning illegally staying third-country nationals;
- Directive 2009/50/EC concerning the admission of highly skilled migrants.
- Directive 2009/52/EC concerning employer sanctions;
- Directive 2011/95/EC on standards for the qualification of third-country nationals or stateless persons as beneficiaries of international protection, for a uniform status of refugees eligible for subsidiary protection, and for the content for the protection granted;
- Directive 2013/32/EU on common procedures for granting and withdrawing international protection;
- Directive 2013/33/EU on standards for the reception of applicants for international protection;
- Directive 2014/36/EU on seasonal workers;
- Directive 2014/66/EU on intra-corporate transferees;
- Directive 2014/67/EU on posted workers;
- Directive 2016/801/EU on students and researchers;
Within the European Commission, the Directorate-General for Migration and Home Affairs is responsible for the European migration policy. In 2005, the European Commission relaunched the debate on the need for a common set of rules for the admission of economic migrants with a Green paper on an EU approach to managing economic migration (COM(2004) 811 final) which led to the adoption of a policy plan on legal migration (COM(2005) 669 final) at the end of 2005. In July 2006, the European Commission adopted a Communication on policy priorities in the fight against illegal immigration of third-country nationals (COM(2006) 402 final), which aims to strike a balance between security and an individuals’ basic rights during all stages of the illegal immigration process. In September 2007, the European Commission presented its third annual report on migration and integration (COM(2007) 512 final). A European Commission Communication adopted in October 2008 emphasised the importance of strengthening the global approach to migration: increasing coordination, coherence and synergies (COM(2008) 611 final) as an aspect of external and development policy. The Stockholm programme, adopted by EU heads of state and government in December 2009, set a framework and series of principles for the ongoing development of European policies on justice and home affairs for the period 2010 to 2014; migration-related issues are a central part of this programme. In order to bring about the changes agreed upon, the European Commission enacted an action plan implementing the Stockholm programme – delivering an area of freedom, security and justice for Europe’s citizens (COM(2010) 171 final) in 2010.
In May 2013, the European Commission published the ‘EU Citizenship Report 2013’ (COM(2013) 269 final). The report noted that EU citizenship brings new rights and opportunities. Moving and living freely within the EU is the right most closely associated with EU citizenship. Given modern technology and the fact that it is now easier to travel, freedom of movement allows Europeans to expand their horizons beyond national borders, to leave their country for shorter or longer periods, to come and go between EU countries to work, study and train, to travel for business or for leisure, or to shop across borders. Free movement potentially increases social and cultural interactions within the EU and closer bonds between EU citizens. In addition, it may generate mutual economic benefits for businesses and consumers, including those who remain at home, as internal obstacles are steadily removed.
The European Commission presented a European Agenda on Migration (COM(2015) 240 final) outlining immediate measures to be taken in order to respond to the crisis situation in the Mediterranean as well as steps to be taken in the coming years to better manage migration in all its aspects on 13 May 2015.
The European migration network annual report on immigration and asylum (2015) was published in June 2016. It provides an overview of the main legal and policy developments taking place across the EU as a whole and within participating countries. It is a comprehensive document and covers all aspects of migration and asylum policy by the Directorate-General for Migration and Home Affairs and EU agencies.
Legislative documents - European Agenda on Migration
Press material - European Agenda on Migration
- Acquisition of citizenship statistics
- Asylum statistics
- Fertility statistics
- Migrant integration statistics introduced
- Population and population change statistics
- Population structure and ageing
- Residence permits statistics
Further Eurostat information
- EU Member States granted citizenship to almost 900 000 persons in 2014 — News release on 113/2016
- Foreign citizens accounted for fewer than 7% of persons living in the EU Member States in 2014 — News release 230/2015
- People in the EU: who are we and how do we live? — Statistical books 2015 edition
- EU Member States granted citizenship to almost 1 million persons in 2013 — News release on 119/2015
- European social statistics — Pocketbooks 2013 edition
- EU Member states granted citizenship to more than 800 000 persons in 2010 — Statistics in focus 45/2012
- Nearly two-thirds of the foreigners living in EU Member States are citizens of countries outside the EU-27 — Statistics in focus 31/2012
- Migrants in Europe — A statistical portrait of the first and second generation — Statistical books
- 6.5% of the EU population are foreigners and 9.4% are born abroad — Statistics in focus 34/2011
- Acquisitions of citizenship on the rise in 2009 — Statistics in focus 24/2011
- Demographic Outlook — 2010 edition
- Immigration to EU Member States down by 6% and emigration up by 13% in 2008 — Statistics in focus 1/2011
- Population grows in twenty EU Member States — Statistics in focus 38/2011
- Migration and citizenship data
- International migration (t_migr_int)
- Population (t_demo_pop)
- Migration and citizenship data
- Immigration (migr_immi)
- Immigration by age and sex (migr_imm8)
- Immigration by five year age group, sex, and citizenship (migr_imm1ctz)
- Immigration by five year age group, sex and country of birth (migr_imm3ctb)
- Immigration by age , sex and broad group of citizenship (migr_imm2ctz)
- Immigration by age, sex and broad group of country of birth (migr_imm4ctb)
- Immigration by sex, citizenship and broad group of country of birth (migr_imm6ctz)
- Immigration by sex, country of birth and broad group of citizenship (migr_imm7ctb)
- Immigration by five year age group, sex, and country of previous residence (migr_imm5prv)
- Immigration by age group, sex and level of human development of the country of citizenship (migr_imm9ctz)
- Immigration by age group, sex and level of human development of the country of birth (migr_imm10ctb)
- Immigration by age group, sex and level of human development of the country of previous residence (migr_imm11prv)
- Emigration (migr_emi)
- Acquisition and loss of citizenship (migr_acqn)
- Acquisition of citizenship by sex, age group and former citizenship (migr_acq)
- Residents who acquired citizenship as a share of residents non-citizens by former citizenship and sex(%) (migr_acqs)
- Acquisition of citizenship by sex, age group and level of human development of former citizenship (migr_acq1ctz)
- Loss of citizenship by sex and new citizenship (migr_lct)
- Immigration (migr_immi)
Methodology / Metadata
- Acquisition and loss of citizenship (ESMS metadata file — migr_acqn_esms)
- Population (ESMS metadata file — demo_pop_esms)
- International migration statistics (ESMS metadata file — migr_immi_esms)
Source data for tables and figures (MS Excel)
- Knowledge Centre on Migration and Demography
- European Commission — Migration and Home Affairs
- Legislative documents — European agenda on migration
- Press materials — European agenda on migration
- Irregular migration and return
- Common European Asylum System
- European Asylum Support Office
- Return policy
- Legal migration
- European Union Democracy Observatory on Citizenship
- European Web Site on Integration
- OECD — International migration (feed)
- The CLANDESTINO project on irregular migration in the EU
- United Nations Development Programme