Whereas only a minority of refugees and other migrants reach EU irregularly, the majority of persons actually come regularly. Many undocumented migrants have arrived via regular channels and have subsequently fallen into an irregular situation, for instance by overstaying residence permits or as a consequence of bureaucratic obstacles, working in undeclared or grey economy. While ‘the irregular migrant’ as a rights holder remains an invisible category for official Member State and EU policies, this does not take away from the fact that all migrants – irrespective of their status – obtain the same set of basic human rights as all citizens, deriving not only from International/European treaties, but also from, EUs Fundamental Rights Charter, national constitution, and court decisions. Nonetheless, many undocumented migrants are systematically denied those elements that uphold the right to dignity and constitute a basic standard of living and face a violation of their fundamental rights. They lack access to public healthcare, education, adequate housing and accommodation, labour protections and essential social security.
The lack of a ‘firewall’ - formalised separation between service provision and immigration control, whether in law, or in practice, directly impacts the social inclusion work of local and regional actors and authorities in fulfilling their commitments and responsibilities to protect the fundamental rights of undocumented people. Furthermore, local service providers are dependent on National and EU funding in order to remain operational. However, with narrowing definitions of those entitled to benefit of the services implemented through funding provided (often implicitly and/or explicitly excluding undocumented migrants), the gap in services has become an increasing reality and threat. The criminalisation of undocumented migrants, and of humanitarian assistance to the undocumented, exacerbates their social exclusion and pushes them into more precarious positions and increases vulnerability to abuse and exploitation.