Unauthorized immigration to EU member states, much of it by people fleeing desperate circumstances, has dominated the headlines in recent years. Although unprecedented refugee streams stole the spotlight in 2015, unauthorized economic migrants continue to make up a sizable share of inflows.
By some counts, over a million migrants from Africa, Asia, and the Middle East entered Europe in 2015, braving the waves of the Mediterranean Sea in attempts to reach the shores of Greece, Italy, or Spain. While some EU nations have been welcoming, others, along with their neighbors, are panicking. In late summer, shortly after Angela Merkel's commitment to take in 800,000 migrants, Germany abandoned the Dublin Regulation and began processing Syrian refugees. But as the numbers grew more intense, Austria, Hungary, and the Netherlands closed their borders and Macedonia, Serbia, Croatia, and Slovenia limited entry to migrants who could prove they were from Syria, Iraq, or Afghanistan. Sweden also tightened its borders, limiting the inflow to the few migrants with identity papers and issuing only temporary residence permits to new arrivals.
The EU also began calling on transit nations like Turkey to do more to stem the flow. Meanwhile, the signs of burgeoning migrant populations are everywhere. Thousands of migrants are camped out near Calais in hopes of crossing the English Channel. In Germany, an estimated 42,000 asylum seekers have been living in tents since they arrived in late summer. Swedish authorities also briefly resorted to housing newcomers in refugee tent camps, the first such extreme measures since the 1990s Bosnian war.2 Meanwhile, the shores of Lesbos are littered with discarded rubber dinghies and the life vests of migrants who made it to Greece. Only some of these migrants will ultimately qualify for asylum. Some are economic migrants who, without a visa, are defined as unauthorized immigrants.
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