Skip to content

Photo illustration by iStock

European Unauthorized Immigrant Population Levels Off

Recent Pew Research Center analysis shows that unauthorized immigration in Europe peaked in 2016 and has leveled off since. According to a November 2019 report, at least 3.9 million unauthorized immigrants—and possibly as many as 4.8 million—lived in Europe in 2017. That’s a marked increase from 2014 (3 million to 3.7 million unauthorized immigrants) but is relatively unchanged from the recent peak of 4.1 million to 5.3 million in 2016.

Overall, unauthorized immigrants account for less than 1 percent of Europe’s total population.

According to the center, the recent rise in Europe’s unauthorized immigrant population is “largely due to a surge of asylum seekers who mostly arrived in 2015.” More than 1.3 million people applied for asylum in EU member states or European Free Trade Association (EFTA) countries. Nearly a quarter of the unauthorized immigrants in 2017 were waiting for decisions on pending asylum applications.

Public sentiment about unauthorized immigrants remains mixed in Europe. A 2018 multinational survey from the Pew Research Center found that majorities in several European countries support the deportation of immigrants living in their countries illegally, but majorities across Europe support taking in refugees fleeing war and violence.