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Questo articolo è un estratto del report Reducing Irregular Migration and Human Rights: an Impossible Combination? Report Research Project – January 2015, che potete leggere in versione integrale su Academia

What is irregular immigration

Irregular immigration denotes a form of migration that is “not regular” or is “unlawful” because of its violation of migration rules, without necessarily being “illegal” or “criminal”. Therefore, an “irregular migrant” is a migrant, who at some point in his/her migration, has contravened the rules of entry or residence. The term “irregular” is widely understood as a very broad concept and can refer to both stocks and flows of migrants. Since 2009 total EU migration from non EU Countries has seen first a sharp increase and an afterwards an equally sharp decline. The turning point, as the chart below indicates, appears to be 2010, after which we have seen a net reduction of non EU immigration in the European Union of 50,000 individuals per year. Data for subsequent years is not yet available.

The decrease of the numbers

There has been an overall decrease in the number of third country individuals who have been refused entry at EU border locations. Part of this may be due to a general decline in third countries residents seeking to enter the EU or it may have to do with increased deterrents that prevent third country individuals from seeking entrance in the first place.

However, a major increase in detections of illegal border crossings in the Mediterranean was detected in 2013. In 2012 the number of people crossing the EU external borders irregularly was 72437, according FRONTEX (European Agency for the Management of Operational Cooperation at the External Borders of the Member States) and a total of 77140 irregular entries have been reported for the first three quarters of 2013.

In 2012 80.6 % of the irregular migrants detected at the EU’s external borders were detected in the Mediterranean. Many more irregular border crossings in the Mediterranean were detected in 2013 than in 2012. And in the third quarter of 2013 almost 70 % of detections were made at the EU maritime borders, whereas at the same period in 2012 such detections accounted only for 40 %. Therefore, irregular migration into Europe cross the Mediterranean constitutes a growing category of irregular migration. This increase has resulted in part due to the increasing controls and operations at the EU’s land borders, and in part due to political conflicts in the greater Mediterranean region. Indeed the difficult economical situation, the lack of employment and the lack of democratic states which protect fundamental rights, as well as wars and poverty are some of the factors which push many third country nationals to migrate towards Europe.

Mixed migration

This kind of migration, although not very relevant in quantitative terms whether compared to other forms of migration, is of particular concern because of its mixed nature.

Mixed migration flows consist of various categories of migrants which arrive as irregular into EU with different protection needs and different motivations. They generally include refugees, asylum seekers, ‘economic migrants’, victims of trafficking, unaccompanied minors, single adults, families, children and other vulnerable people as well as smugglers. The complex and mixed nature of these flows poses huge challenges in terms of their management, which are simultaneously aimed at rescuing everyone whose life is in danger, combating trafficking of human beings, detecting and returning irregular migrants, ensuring access to asylum procedures for asylum seekers and providing adequate protection to vulnerable people.

A basic level of protection has to be granted to everyone, including economic migrants as prescribed by a number of international human rights law instruments and the
international law of the sea. The protection of migrants’ right to life, especially in the maritime context, shall be a primary consideration when developing policies aimed at addressing mixed migration flows, due to high number of deaths of migrants who cross the sea with leaky boat relying to smugglers, it is the first right to be not protected. Different categories of migrants are legally entitled to different levels of protection and thus require differentiated treatments. For this reason the screening of migrants in a mixed flow is a crucial yet very demanding phase to identify and attribute the status of immigrants before or just after their landing.

An effective and homogeneous EU policy

european policiesTo address and manage the phenomenon of irregular migration, it is necessary to have an effective and homogeneous EU policy. Despite the inclusion of common principles governing EU migration policies in the TFEU (Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union, Article 79 and 80), EU policies on this field remain fragmented, leaving the management of this issue to domestic jurisdiction. On one hand, that is understandable given the phenomenon of migration and irregular immigration do not have the same characteristics in all member states. However, migration policy must also be internally coherent in order to be effective. Tensions and contradictions within policies and legal provisions undermine the regulation of migration, making it more difficult to protect the interests of migrants, third countries and EU member states.

Global Approach to Migration and Mobility

Steps have been taken to harmonise the different aspects of EU migration policy. In 2008 the EU adopted its GAMM (Global Approach to Migration and Mobility) to unite all migration-related policies in a coherent manner. The overall goal of the GAMM is to encourage regular migration and to fight irregular migration through cooperation with third countries, both those from which migrants originate and those through which they transit, including by concluding mobility partnerships.
Nonetheless, the implementation of the GAMM has proved difficult, and the EU’s approach to migration has often been dominated by an excessively security-oriented approach. This type of approach rises from a criminalization and stigmatization of irregular migrants who are especially perceived as a problem rather than resource. This negative approach to immigration is in particular evident in the legal measures governing this area.

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Annalisa Morticelli
Coordinator Working Group, European Student Think Tank, Netherlands,
Visitor researcher, Faculty of Law, Bradford University, UK |
Civil Mediator, Rome, Italy | Legal pratictioner, Italy | Master's of Advanced Studies, Università degli Studi di Torino, Italy | Master's degree, Università degli Studi di Torino, Italy | Bachelor's degree, Università degli Studi di Torino, Italy