The EU, immigration and asylum seekers


There are about 12 million refugees in the world and 75% of them live in the poorer countries of Asia and Africa and about 22% in Europe. From the beginning of the 1990s however, the flow of persons seeking international protection in the EU has been such that member states recognised they needed to find common solutions, and since 1999 the EU has been working towards a Common Asylum Policy, though each member state retains its own rights of admission to its territory.

The Geneva Convention, that gives protection to those fleeing persecution in their own country, The European Convention on Human Rights (1950) and the UN Convention on Refugees (1951) are central to the aims and principles of EU policy making in this area. But divergent views on immigration make it difficult to frame a definitive policy. The EU has absorbed one and a half to two million immigrants a year since 2002. The smuggling and people-trafficking networks that have taken hold across the EU make it difficult to give firm numbers.

Student Factsheet 3


  1. Which countries in the EU are most affected by problems of immigration and asylum ?
  2. What is the difference between an asylum seeker, a refugee, an immigrant and an illegal immigrant ?
  3. How do illegal immigrants get into EU countries ?
  4. Where are the main entry points in Europe for illegal immigrants ?
  5. Are asylum seekers and migrants treated the same in all EU member states ?
  6. Has the EU got policies in place to help regulate migration ?

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