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Up to 4.8m unauthorised migrants lived in Europe in 2017 - that's less than 1% of the population

An ‘unauthorised migrant’ was defined as a foreigner who entered the country illegally, or asylum seekers waiting to be processed.

174-migrant-rescued-from-alboran-sea A woman holds a baby on a rescue vessel at the Port of Malaga. Source: Jesus Merida

BETWEEN 3.9 MILLION AND 4.8 million unauthorised immigrants lived in Europe in 2017, the US-based Pew Research Center said today.

The figures “accounted for less than 1% of Europe’s total population of more than 500 million,” it said.

For the study, an ‘unauthorised migrant’ was defined as a foreigner who entered the country illegally, those whose residence permit has expired, are under expulsion orders, or asylum seekers with pending decisions, Pew said.

Pew analysed data from the European Union and European Free Trade Association countries (Switzerland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Iceland).

The US researchers said the number of unauthorised migrants in Europe peaked in 2016 at between 4.1 and 5.3 million.

unite-for-solidarity-protest-in-frankfurt Hundreds of Seebrucke activists marched through Frankfurt in August to call for the provision of safe harbours for refugees in Europe. Source: Michael Debets

In 2017, 30% of the migrants were from the Asia-Pacific region, including Afghanistan.

The next largest group – 23% of the total – were from European countries not in the EU or the European Free Trade Association.

Another 21% were from North Africa and the Middle East; 17% from sub-Saharan Africa, and 8% from the Americas.

Unevenly spread

While each European nation had some unauthorized immigrants in 2017, “the largest numbers were in Germany and the UK, amounting to about half of Europe’s total.”

Substantial numbers also lived in Italy and France, although France had a relatively lower number possibly because some unauthorised migrants can obtain residency after living there for several years, Pew said.

Italy is the first stop for many migrants crossing the Mediterranean – and the country’s relatively large population of unauthorised migrants (700,000) may be due to tight frontier controls at bordering nations, according to Pew.

Together the four countries are “home to more than two-thirds (70%) of Europe’s unauthorised immigrants,” the report said.

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arrival-of-73-migrants-to-malaga-port-spain-07-aug-2019 Spain's Maritime Rescue service rescued a total of 73 migrants aboard a dinghy crossing the Alboran Sea in August. Source: SIPA USA/PA Images

Most of these unauthorized migrants (56%) had lived in European countries for less than five years as of 2017, and about half were awaiting a decision on their asylum applications.

Most of the migrants were males under the age of 35 who had arrived in the previous five years or less. Half of the migrants were seeking asylum, compared to 20% in the United States, according to Pew.

In the US case, the undocumented migrant population is 10.3 – 10.7 million and represents about three percent of the population.

The overwhelming majority come from Latin America, and about half come from Mexico.

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