Immigration to Europe

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Immigration to Europe has a long history, but increased substantially in the later 20th century. Western European countries, especially, saw a high growth in immigration after World War II and many European nations today (particularly those of the EU-15) have sizeable immigrant populations, both of European and non-European origin. In contemporary globalization, migrations to Europe have accelerated in speed and scale. Over the last decades, there has been an increase in negative attitudes towards immigration, and many studies have emphasized marked differences in the strength of anti-immigrant attitudes among European countries.[1]

Beginning in 2004, the European Union has granted EU citizens a freedom of movement and residence within the EU, and the term "immigrant" has since been used to refer to non EU citizens, meaning that EU citizens are not to be defined as immigrants within the EU territory. The European commission defines "immigration" as the action by which a person from a non-EU country establishes his or her usual residence in the territory of an EU country for a period that is, or is expected to be, at least twelve months. Between 2010 and 2013, around 1.4 million non-EU nationals, excluding asylum seekers and refugees, immigrated into the EU each year using regular means, with a slight decrease since 2010.[2]


Historical migration into or within Europe has mostly taken the form of military invasion, but there have been exceptions; this concerns notably population movements within the Roman Empire under the Pax Romana; the Jewish diaspora in Europe was the result of the First Jewish–Roman War of AD 66–73.

With the collapse of the Roman Empire, migration was again mostly coupled with warlike invasion, not least during the so-called Migration period (Germanic), the Slavic migrations, the Hungarian conquest of the Carpathian Basin, the Islamic conquests and the Turkic expansion into Eastern Europe (Kipchaks, Tatars, Cumans). The Ottomans once again established a multi-ethnic imperial structure across Western Asia and Southeastern Europe, but Turkification in Southeastern Europe was due more to cultural assimilation than to mass immigration. In the late medieval period, the Romani people moved into Europe both via Anatolia and the Maghreb.

There were substantial population movements within Europe throughout the Early Modern period, mostly in the context of the Reformation and the European wars of religion, and again as a result of World War II.

From the late 15th century until the late 1960s and early 1970s, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Germany, Norway,[3] Sweden,[4] Denmark, Belgium, Portugal, Spain and the United Kingdom[5] were primarily sources of emigration, sending large numbers of emigrants to the Americas, Australia, Siberia and Southern Africa. A number also went to other European countries (notably France, Switzerland, Germany and Belgium). As living standards in these countries have risen, the trend has reversed and they were a magnet for immigration (most notably from Morocco, Somalia, Egypt to Italy and Greece; from Morocco, Algeria and Latin America to Spain and Portugal; and from Ireland, India, Pakistan, Germany, the United States, Bangladesh, and Jamaica to the United Kingdom).

Migration within Europe after the 1985 Schengen Agreement[edit]

As a result of the 1985 Schengen Agreement, there is free travel within Europe. Citizens of European Union member states and their families have the right to live and work anywhere within the EU because of EU citizenship but citizens of non-EU or non-EEA states do not have those rights unless they possess the EU Long Term Residence Permit or are family members of EU citizens. Nevertheless, all holders of valid residence permits of a Schengen State have the unrestricted right to travel within the Schengen Area for tourist purposes only, and for up to three months.

A large proportion of immigrants in western European states have come from former eastern bloc states in the 1990s, especially in Spain, Greece, Germany, Italy, Portugal and the United Kingdom. There are frequently specific migration patterns, with geography, language and culture playing a role. For example, there are large numbers of Poles who have moved to the United Kingdom and Ireland and Iceland, while Romanians and also Bulgarians have chosen Spain and Italy.[6] In fact, with the earlier of the two recent enlargements of the EU, although most countries restricted free movement by nationals of the acceding countries, the United Kingdom did not restrict for the 2004 enlargement of the European Union and received Polish, Latvian and other citizens of the new EU states. Spain was not restricted for the 2007 enlargement of the European Union and received many Romanians and Bulgarians as well other citizens of the new EU states.[citation needed]

Many of these Polish immigrants to UK have since returned to Poland, after the serious economic crisis in the UK. Nevertheless, free movement of EU nationals is now an important aspect of migration within the EU, since there are now 28 member states, and has resulted in serious political tensions between Italy and Romania, since Italy has expressed the intention of restricting free movement of EU nationals (contrary to Treaty obligations and the clear jurisprudence of the European Court of Justice).

Another migration trend has been that of Northern Europeans moving toward Southern Europe. Citizens from the European Union make up a growing proportion of immigrants in Spain, coming chiefly from the United Kingdom and Germany, but also from Italy, France, Portugal, The Netherlands, Belgium, etc. British authorities estimate that the population of UK citizens living in Spain is much larger than Spanish official figures suggest, establishing them at about 1,000,000, with 800,000 being permanent residents. According to the Financial Times, Spain is the most favoured destination for Western Europeans considering to move from their own country and seek jobs elsewhere in the EU.[7][8][9][10][11][12][13]

Immigration from outside Europe since the 1980s[edit]

While most immigrant populations in European countries are dominated by other Europeans, many immigrants and their descendants have ancestral origins outside the continent. For the former colonial powers France, Britain, the Netherlands, Belgium, Spain, and Portugal, most immigrants and their descendants have ties to former colonies in Africa, the Americas, and Asia. In addition, Germany, Austria, Switzerland, the Netherlands, and Belgium recruited Turkish and Moroccan guest workers beginning in the 1960s, and many current immigrants in those countries today have ties to such recruitment programs.

Moroccan immigrants also began migrating substantially to Spain and Italy for work opportunities in the 1980s. In the Scandinavian countries of Sweden, Denmark, Norway, and Finland, the bulk of non-Western immigrants are refugees and asylum seekers from the Middle East, East Africa, and other regions of the world arriving since the 1980s and 1990s. Increasing globalization has brought a population of students, professionals, and workers from all over the world into major European cities, most notably London, Paris, and Frankfurt. The introduction of the EU Blue Card in May 2009 has further increased the number of skilled professional immigrants from outside of the continent.

Illegal immigration and asylum seeking in Europe from outside the continent has been occurring since at least the 1990s. While the number of migrants was relatively small for years, it began to rise in 2013. In 2015, the number of asylum seekers arriving from outside Europe increased substantially during the European migrant crisis (see timeline). However, the EU-Turkey deal enacted in March of 2016 dramatically reduced this number, and anti-immigrant measures starting in 2017 by the Italian government further cut illegal immigration from the Mediterranean route.

Some scholars claim that the increase in immigration flows from the 1980s is due to global inequalities between poor and rich countries.[14] In 2017, approximately 825,000 persons acquired citizenship of a member state of the European Union, down from 995,000 in 2016.[15] The largest groups were nationals of Morocco, Albania, India, Turkey and Pakistan.[16] 2.4 million non-EU migrants entered the EU in 2017.[17][18] In addition, cheaper transportation and more advanced technology have further aided migration.

Case study: Migration to the Nordic countries in 2000–2015[edit]

Most European countries are becoming more multicultural due to increased immigration. Since 2000 the immigrant populations of many northern and western European countries have more than doubled. However immigration policies vary from country to country. The Nordic countries serve as an example: while Norway and Sweden used to have a generous immigration policy, Denmark and Finland have restricted immigration. The latter have experienced an increase in their immigrant populations between 2000 and 2015 (4.5 percentage points in Denmark and 3.3 in Finland), but this is much less than the drastic relative increase in Norway (9.3) and Sweden (7.0).

The table below shows the percentage of the total population in the Nordic countries that are either (1) immigrants or (2) children of two immigrant parents.

first and second generation immigrants
Nr Country 2000 2010 2015 2016 2017
1  Sweden [19] 14.5% 19.1% 21.5% 22.2% 23.2%
2  Norway [20][21][22][23] 6.3% 11.4% 15.6% 16.3% 16.8%
3  Denmark [24] 7.1% 9.8% 11.6% 12.3% 12.9%
4  Iceland [25][26] 3.2% 8.9% 10.0% 10.8% 12.0%
5  Finland [27] 2.9% 4.4% 6.2% 6.6% 7.0%


For decades, Danish immigration and integration policy was built upon the assumption that with the right kind of help, immigrants and their descendants will eventually tend to the same levels of education and employments as Danes. This assumption was disproved by a 2019 study by the Danish Immigration Service and the Ministry of Education, while the second generation non-Western immigrants do better than the first generation, the third generation of immigrants with non-Western background do no better education and employment wise than the second generation. One of the reasons was that second generation immigrants from non-Western countries marry someone from their country of origin and so Danish is not spoken at home which disadvantages children in school. Thereby the process of integration has to start from the beginning for each generation.[28]

According to the Danish Ministry of Finance, non-Western immigration will cost the public expenses 33 billion DKK annually (about 4.4 billion euro) for the foreseeable future due to the low levels of employment. Therefore, they result in higher expenses for social benefits and pay less tax. Western immigrants and their descendants contributed 14 billion DKK annually due to their high level of employment.[29]


As of 2008, the French national institute of statistics (INSEE) estimated that 5.3 million foreign-born immigrants and 6.5 million direct descendants of immigrants (born in France with at least one immigrant parent) lived in France. This represents a total of 11.8 million, or 19% of the population. In terms of origin, about 5.5 million are European, four million Maghrebi, one million Sub-Saharan African, and 400,000 Turkish. Among the 5.3 million foreign-born immigrants, 38% are from Europe, 30% from Maghreb, 12.5% from Sub-Saharan Africa, 14.2% from Asia and 5.3% from America and Oceania[30][31] The most significant countries of origin as of 2008 were Algeria (713,000), Morocco (653,000), Portugal (580,000), Italy (317,000), Spain (257,000), Turkey (238,000) and Tunisia (234,000). However, immigration from Asia (especially China, as well as the former French colonies of Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos), and from Sub-Saharan Africa (Senegal, Mali, Nigeria and others), is gaining in importance.

The region with the largest proportion of immigrants is the Île-de-France (Greater Paris), where 40% of immigrants live. Other important regions are Rhône-Alpes (Lyon) and Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur (Marseille).

Among the 802,000 newborns in metropolitan France in 2010, 27.3% had at least one foreign-born parent and about one quarter (23.9%) had at least one parent born outside Europe.[32][33] Including grandparents; almost 40% of newborns in France between 2006 and 2008 had at least one foreign-born grandparent. (11% were born in another European country, 16% in Maghreb, and 12% in another region of the world.)[34]


In January 2015 the "immigrant population" in Norway consisted of approximately 805,000 people, including 669,000 foreign-born and 136,000 born in Norway to two immigrant parents. This corresponds to 15.6% of the total population.[35] The cities with the highest share of immigrants are Oslo (32%) and Drammen (27%). The six largest immigrant groups in Norway are Poles, Swedes, Somalis, Lithuanians, Pakistanis and Iraqis.

In the years since 1970, the largest increase in the immigrant population has come from countries in Asia (including Turkey), Africa and South America, increasing from about 3500 in 1970 to about 300,000 in 2011. In the same period, the immigrant population from other Nordic countries and Western Europe has increased modestly from around 42,000 to around 130,000.

United Kingdom[edit]

London has become multiethnic as a result of immigration.[36]

In 2014 the number of people who became naturalised British citizens rose to a record 140,795 - a 12% increase from the previous year, and a dramatic increase since 2009. Most new citizens came from Asia (40%) or Africa (32%); the largest three countries of origin were India, Pakistan and Bangladesh[37] with Indians making the largest group.[citation needed] In 2005, an estimated 565,000 migrants arrived to live in the United Kingdom for at least a year, primarily from Asia and Africa,[38] while 380,000 people emigrated from the country for a year or more, chiefly to Australia, Spain and the United States.[39]

In 2014 the net increase was 318,000: immigration was 641,000, up from 526,000 in 2013, while the number of people emigrating (for more than 12 months) was 323,000.[40]


The total immigrant population of the country is now of 5 million and 73 thousand, about 8.3 percent of the population (2014). However, over 6 million people residing in Italy have an immigration background. Since the expansion of the European Union, the most recent wave of migration has been from surrounding European nations, particularly Eastern Europe, and increasingly Asia, replacing North Africa as the major immigration area. Some 1,200,000 Romanians are officially registered as living in Italy, replacing Albanians (500,000) and Moroccans (520,000) as the largest ethnic minority group, but independent estimates put the actual number of Romanians at double that figure or perhaps even more.[citation needed] Others immigrants from Central-Eastern Europe are Ukrainians (230,000), Polish (110,000), Moldovans (150,000), Macedonians (100,000), Serbs (110,000), Bulgarians (54,000) Germany (41,000), Bosnians (40,000), Russians (39,600), Croatians (25,000), Slovaks (9,000), Hungarians (8,600). Other major countries of origin are China (300,000), Philippines (180,000), India (150,000), Bangladesh (120,000), Egypt (110,000), Perù (105,000), Tunisia (105,000), Sri Lanka (100.000), Pakistan (100,000), Ecuador (90,000) and Nigeria (80,000). In addition, around 1 million people live in Italy illegally. (As of 2014, the distribution of foreign born population is largely uneven in Italy: 84.9% of immigrants live in the northern and central parts of the country (the most economically developed areas), while only 15.1% live in the southern half of the peninsula.)[41][42][43][44]


Caravan protesting European closed borders policies in Pamplona

Since 2000, Spain has absorbed around six million immigrants, adding 12% to its population. The total immigrant population of the country now exceeds 5,730,677 (12.2% of the total population). According to residence permit data for 2011, more than 710,000 were Moroccan, another 410,000 were Ecuadorian, 300,000 were Colombian, 230,000 were Bolivian and 150,000 were Chinese; from the EU around 800,000 were Romanian, 370,000 (though estimates place the true figure significantly higher, ranging from 700,000 to more than 1,000,000) were British,[45][46][47][48] 190,000 were German, 170,000 were Italian and 160,000 were Bulgarian. A 2005 regularisation programme increased the legal immigrant population by 700,000 people that year.[49][50][51][52][53] By world regions, in 2006 there were around 2,300,000 from the EU-27, 1,600,000 from South America, 1,000,000 from Africa, 300,000 from Asia, 200,000 from Central America & Caribbean, 200,000 from the rest of Europe, while 50,000 from North America and 3,000 from the rest of the world.[54]


Portugal, long a country of emigration,[55] has now become a country of net immigration, from both its former colonies and other sources. By the end of 2003, legal immigrants represented about 4% of the population, and the largest communities were from Cape Verde, Brazil, Angola, Guinea-Bissau, the United Kingdom, Spain, France, China and Ukraine.[56]


Immigrants (red) and emigrants (blue), Sweden 1850-2007

In 2014 the "immigrant population" in Sweden consisted of approximately 2.09 million people, including 1.60 million foreign-born and 489,000 born in Sweden to two immigrant parents. This corresponds to 21.5% of the total population.[57]

Of the major cities Malmö has the largest immigrant population, estimated to be 41.7% in 2014.[58] However, the smaller municipalities Botkyrka (56.2%), Haparanda (55.5%) and Södertälje (49.4%) all have a higher share of immigrants. In the Swedish capital Stockholm 31.1% (in 2014) of the population are either foreign-born or born in Sweden by two foreign-born parents.[59]

In 2014 127,000 people immigrated to Sweden, while 51,000 left the country. Net immigration was 76,000.[57][60]

Sweden has been transformed from a nation of emigration ending after World War I to a nation of immigration from World War II onwards. In 2009, Sweden had the fourth largest number of asylum applications in the EU and the largest number per capita after Cyprus and Malta.[61][62] Immigrants in Sweden are mostly concentrated in the urban areas of Svealand and Götaland and the five largest foreign born populations in Sweden come from Finland, Yugoslavia, Iraq, Poland and Iran.[63]


Immigration has been a major source of population growth and cultural change throughout much of the history of Finland.[64] The economic, social, and political aspects of immigration have caused controversy regarding ethnicity, economic benefits, jobs for non-immigrants, settlement patterns, impact on upward social mobility, crime, and voting behavior.

At the end of 2017, there were 372,802 foreign born people residing in Finland, which corresponds to 6.8% of the population, while there are 384,123 people with a foreign background, corresponding to 7.0% of the population.[65] Proportionally speaking, Finland has had one of the fastest increases in its foreign-born population between 2000 and 2010 in all of Europe. The majority of immigrants in Finland settle in the Helsinki area, although Tampere, Turku and Kuopio have had their share of immigrants in recent years.


On 1 January 2011 there were almost 229,000 people (11.1%) living in Slovenia with foreign country of birth. At the end of March 2002 when data on the country of birth for total population were for the first and last time collected by a conventional (field) census, the number was almost 170,000 (8.6%). Immigration from abroad, mostly from republics of former Yugoslavia, was the deciding factor for demographic and socioeconomic development of Slovenia in the last fifty years. Also after independence of Slovenia the direction of migration flows between Slovenia and abroad did not change significantly. Migration topics remain closely connected with the territory of former Yugoslavia. Slovenia was and still is the destination country for numerous people from the territory of former Yugoslavia. The share of residents of Slovenia with countries of birth from the territory of former Yugoslavia among all foreign-born residents was 88.9% at the 2002 Census and on 1 January 2011 despite new migration flows from EU Member States and from non-European countries still 86.7%. [5]

Middle East migrants pass through Slovenia on their way to Germany, 22 October 2015

Other countries[edit]


According to a Yougov poll in 2018, majorities in all seven polled countries were opposed to accepting more migrants: Germany (72%), Denmark (65%), Finland (64%), Sweden (60%), United Kingdom (58%), France (58%) and Norway (52%).[66]

A February 2017 poll of 10 000 people in 10 European countries by Chatham House found on average a majority (55%) were opposed to further Muslim immigration, with opposition especially pronounced in a number of countries: Austria (65%), Poland (71%), Hungary (64%), France (61%) and Belgium (64%). Except for Poland, all of those had recently suffered jihadist terror attacks or been at the centre of a refugee crisis. Of those opposed to further Muslim immigration, 3/4 classify themselves as on the right of the political spectrum. Of those self-classifying as on the left of the political spectrum, 1/3 supported a halt.[67]


In Denmark, the parliamentary party most strongly associated with anti-immigration policies is the Danish People's Party.

According to a Gallup poll in 2017, two out of three (64%) wished for limiting immigration from Muslim countries which was an increase from 2015 (54%).[68]

According to a 2018 Yougov poll, 65% of Danes opposed accepting more migrants into the country.[69]


According to a 2018 Yougov poll, 64% of Finns opposed accepting more migrants into the country.[69]


In France, the National Front seeks to limit immigration. Major media, political parties, and a large share of the public believe that anti-immigration sentiment has increased since the country's riots of 2005.

According to a 2018 Yougov poll, 58% of the French opposed accepting more migrants into the country.[69]


In Germany, the National Democratic Party and the Alternative for Germany oppose immigration.

In 2018, a poll by Pew Research found that a majority (58%) wanted fewer immigrants to be allowed into the country, 30% wanted to keep the current level and 10% wanted to increase immigration.[70]

According to a 2018 Yougov poll, 72% of Germans opposed accepting more migrants into the country.[69]


Public anti-immigrant discourse started in Italy in 1985 by the Bettino Craxi government, which in a public speech drew a direct link between the high number of clandestine immigrants and some terrorist incidents.[71][72][73][74] Public discourse by the media hold that the phenomenon of immigration is uncontrollable and of undefined proportions.[75]

According to poll published by Corriere della Serra, one of two respondents (51%) approved closing Italy's ports to further boat migrants arriving via the Mediterranean, while 19% welcomed further boat migrants.[76]

In 2018, a poll by Pew Research found that a majority (71%) wanted fewer immigrants to be allowed into the country, 18% wanted to keep the current level and 5% wanted to increase immigration.[70]


In Norway, the only parliamentary party that seeks to limit immigration is the Progress Party. Minor Norwegian parties seeking to limit immigration are the Democrats in Norway, the Christian Unity Party, the Pensioners' Party and the Coastal Party.

According to a 2018 Yougov poll, 52% of Norwegians opposed accepting more migrants into the country.[69]


A 2015 opinion poll conducted by the Centre for Public Opinion Research (CBOS) found that 14% thought that Poland should let asylum-seekers enter and settle in Poland, 58% thought Poland should let asylum-seekers stay in Poland until they can return to their home country, and 21% thought Poland should not accept asylum-seekers at all. Furthermore, 53% thought Poland should not accept asylum-seekers from the Middle East and North Africa, with only 33% thinking Poland should accept them.[77]

Another opinion poll conducted by the same organisation found that 86% of Poles think that Poland does not need more immigrants, with only 7% thinking Poland needs more immigrants.[78]

Despite above in year 2017, 683 000 immigrants from outside of EU arrived to Poland. 87.4% out of them immigrated for work. "Among the EU Member States, Poland issued the highest number (683 thousand) of first residence permits in 2017, followed by Germany (535 thousand) and the United Kingdom (517 thousand)." [79]


In response to the high immigration of 2015, the anti-immigration party Sweden Democrats rose to 19.9% in the Statistics Sweden poll.[80]

In late 2015, Sweden introduced temporary border checks on the Øresund Bridge between Denmark and Sweden and public transport operators were instructed to only let people wih residence in Sweden board trains or buses. The measures reduced the number of asylum seekers from 163 000 in 2015 to 29 000 in 2016.[81]

In 2018, a poll by Pew Research found that a small majority (52%) wanted fewer immigrants to be allowed into the country, 33% wanted to keep the current level and 14% wanted to increase immigration.[82]

According to a 2018 Yougov poll, 60% of Swedes opposed accepting more migrants into the country.[69]


Switzerland has a history of anti-immigration which dates to the early 1970s and the campaigns of James Schwarzenbach. Since the 1990s, the topic has been dominated by the conservative-liberal Swiss People's Party, led by Christoph Blocher.

United Kingdom[edit]

Anti-immigration sentiment in the United Kingdom has historically focused on African, Afro-Caribbean and especially South Asian migrants, all of whom began to arrive from the Commonwealth of Nations in greater numbers following World War II. Since the fall of the Soviet Union and the enlargement of the European Union, the increased movement of people out of countries such as Poland, Romania and Lithuania has shifted much of this attention towards migrants from Eastern Europe. While working-class migrants tend to be the focus of anti-immigration sentiment, there is also some discontent about Russian, Chinese, Singaporean and Gulf Arab multimillionaires resident in the UK, particularly in London and South East England. These residents often invest in property and business, and are perceived as living extravagant "jet-set" lifestyles marked by conspicuous consumption while simultaneously taking advantage of tax loopholes connected to non-dom status.

Policies of reduced immigration, particularly from the European Union, are central to the manifestos of parties such as the UK Independence Party. Such policies have also been discussed by some members of the largest parties in Parliament, most significantly the Conservatives.


By host country[edit]

2013 data[edit]

This is a list of European countries by immigrant population, based on the United Nations report Trends in International Migrant Stock: The 2013 Revision.[83]

Country Number of immigrants Percentage of
total number of
in the world
Immigrants as
percentage of
national population
 Russia 11,048,064 4.8 7.7
 Germany 9,845,244 4.3 11.9
 United Kingdom 7,824,131 3.4 12.4
 France 7,439,086 3.2 11.6
 Spain 5,891,208 2.8 9.6 (2016)
 Italy 5,721,457 2.5 9.4
 Ukraine 5,151,378 2.2 11.4
  Switzerland 2,335,059 1.0 28.9
 Netherlands 1,964,922 0.9 11.7
 Sweden 1,130,025 0.7 15.9
 Austria 1,333,807 0.6 15.7
 Belgium 1,159,801 0.5 10.4
 Belarus 1,085,396 0.5 11.6
 Greece 988,245 0.4 8.9
 Portugal 893,847 0.4 8.4
 Croatia 756,980 0.3 17.6
 Ireland 735,535 0.3 15.9
 Norway 694,508 0.3 13.8
 Poland 663,755 0.3 0.9
 Denmark 556,825 0.3 9.9
 Serbia 532,457 0.3 5.6
 Hungary 449,632 0.3 4.7
 Finland 446,434 0.3 8.1
 Czech Republic 439,116 0.2 4.0
 Moldova 391,508 0.2 11.2
 Azerbaijan 323,843 0.2 3.4
 Armenia 317,001 0.2 10.6
 Latvia 282,887 0.2 13.8
 Slovenia 233,293 0.2 11.3
 Luxembourg 229,409 0.1 43.3
 Estonia 209,984 0.1 16.4
 Cyprus 207,313 0.1 18.2
 Romania 198,839 0.1 0.9
 Georgia 189,893 0.1 4.4
 Lithuania 147,781 0.1 4.9
 North Macedonia 139,751 0.1 6.6
 Albania 96,798 0.1 3.1
 Bulgaria 84,101 0.1 1.2
 Andorra 45,086 0.1 56.9
 Isle of Man 44,688 0.1 52.0
 Iceland 34,377 0.1 10.7
 Monaco 24,299 0.1 64.2
 Bosnia and Herzegovina 23,197 0.1 0.6
 Liechtenstein 12,208 0.1 33.1
 Gibraltar 9,662 0.1 33.0
 San Marino 4,399 0.1 15.4
  Vatican City 799 0.1 100.0

2010 data for European Union[edit]

In 2010, 47.3 million people lived in the EU, who were born outside their resident country. This corresponds to 9.4% of the total EU population. Of these, 31.4 million (6.3%) were born outside the EU and 16.0 million (3.2%) were born in another EU member state. The largest absolute numbers of people born outside the EU were in Germany (6.4 million), France (5.1 million), the United Kingdom (4.7 million), Spain (4.1 million), Italy (3.2 million), and The Netherlands (1.4 million).[84][85]

Country Total population (millions) Total Foreign-born (millions) % Born in other EU state (millions) % Born in a non-EU state (millions) %
 Germany 81.802 9.812 12.0 3.396 4.2 6.415 7.8
 France 64.716 7.196 11.1 2.118 3.3 5.078 7.8
 United Kingdom 62.008 7.012 11.3 2.245 3.6 4.767 7.7
 Spain 46.000 6.422 14.0 2.328 5.1 4.094 8.9
 Italy 61.000 4.798 8.5 1.592 2.6 3.205 5.3
 Netherlands 16.575 1.832 11.1 0.428 2.6 1.404 8.5
 Greece 11.305 0.960 9.6 0.320 2.3 0.640 6.3
 Ireland 3.758 0.766 20.0 0.555 14.8 0.211 5.6
 Sweden 9.340 1.337 14.3 0.477 5.1 0.859 9.2
 Austria 8.367 1.276 15.2 0.512 6.1 0.764 9.1
 Belgium 10.666 1.380 12.9 0.695 6.5 0.685 6.4
 Portugal 10.637 0.793 7.5 0.191 1.8 0.602 5.7
 Denmark 5.534 0.500 9.0 0.152 2.8 0.348 6.3
 Slovenia 2.050 0.228 11.1 0.021 1.8 0.207 9.3
EU 28 501.098 47.348 9.4 15.980 3.2 31.368 6.3

2005 data[edit]

According to the list of countries by immigrant population, based on the United Nations report World Population Policies 2005. The European countries that have the highest net foreign populations are:

Country Population Percentage Notes
 Russia 12,080,000 8.5
 Germany 10,144,000 12.3
 Ukraine 6,833,000 14.7
 France 6,471,000 10.2
 United Kingdom 5,408,000 9
 Italy 5,000,000 8.2
 Spain 4,790,000 10.8
  Switzerland 1,660,000 23
 Netherlands 1,638,000 10
 Austria 1,234,000 15

The European countries with the highest proportion or percentage of non-native residents are small nations or microstates. Andorra is the country in Europe with the highest percentage of immigrants, 77% of the country's 82,000 inhabitants. Monaco is the second with the highest percentage of immigrants, they make up 70% of the total population of 32,000; and Luxembourg is the third, immigrants are 37% of the total of 480,000; in Liechtenstein they are 35% of the 34,000 people; and in San Marino they comprise 32% of the country's population of 29,000.

Countries in which immigrants form between 25% and 10% of the population are: Switzerland (23%), Latvia (19%), Estonia (15%), Austria (15%), Croatia (15%), Ukraine (14.7%), Cyprus (14.3%), Ireland (14%), Moldova (13%), Germany (12.3%), Sweden (12.3%), Belarus (12%), Slovenia (11.1%), Spain (10.8%, 12.2% in 2010), France (10.2%), and the Netherlands (10%).[86] The United Kingdom (9%), Greece (8.6%), Russia (8.5%), Finland (8.1%), Iceland (7.6%), Norway (7.4%), Portugal (7.2%), Denmark (7.1%), Belgium (6.9%) and the Czech Republic (6.7%),[87] each have a proportion of immigrants between 10% and 5% of the total population.

The European countries with the smallest proportion of immigrants as follows are: Italy (4.3%, 8.3% in 2014), Albania (2%), Poland (2%), Bosnia and Herzegovina (1%), Bulgaria (1%) and Romania (0.5%, 2.1% in 2017).

2006 data[edit]

Eurostat data[88] reported in 2006 that some EU member states as receiving "large-scale"[need quotation to verify] immigration. The EU in 2005 had an overall net gain from international migration of 1.8 million people, which accounted for almost 85% of Europe's total population growth that year.[89] In 2004, a total of 140,033 people immigrated to France. Of them, 90,250 were from Africa and 13,710 from elsewhere in Europe.[90] In 2005, the total number of immigrants fell slightly, to 135,890.[91]

By origin[edit]

This is a breakdown by major area of origin of the 72.4 million migrants residing in Europe (out of a population of 742 million) at mid-2013, based on the United Nations report Trends in International Migrant Stock: The 2013 Revision.[92]

Area of origin Number of immigrants
to Europe (millions)
Percentage of total
number of immigrants
to Europe
Africa 8.9 12
Middle east 8.9 18.75
Asia 18.6 27
Europe 37.8 52
Latin America and the Caribbean 4.5 6
Northern America 0.9 1
Oceania 0.3 0.4
Various 1.3 2
TOTAL 72.4 100

Approximate populations of non-European origin in Europe (about 20 - 30+ millions, or 3 - 4% (depending on the definition of non-European origin), out of a total population of approx. 831 million):

  • Turks (including Turks from Turkey and Northern Cyprus): approx. 9 million (this estimate does not include the 10 million Turks within the European portion of Turkey);[93] of whom about 4 million in Germany and the rest in the Netherlands, Austria, the United Kingdom, France, Belgium, Sweden, Switzerland, Denmark, Italy, Bulgaria, Macedonia, Greece, Romania, Finland, Serbia and Norway. (see Turks in Europe)
  • Arabs (including North African and Middle Eastern Arabs): approx. 5 million; mostly in France, Italy, Spain, Germany, the United Kingdom, Greece, Sweden, the Netherlands, Denmark, Belgium, Norway, Switzerland, Finland and Russia. (see Arabs in Europe) Many Arabs in Europe are Lebanese and Syrian.
  • Black Africans (including Afro-Caribbeans and others by descent): approx. 5 million; mostly in France, the United Kingdom, Italy, Germany, Spain, the Netherlands and Portugal. (in Spain and Portugal Afro-Caribbean and Afro-Latin American are included in Latin Americans)[94]
  • Indians: approx. 2.5 million; mostly in the United Kingdom, Italy, the Netherlands, Germany, Ireland and Portugal.
    • Tamils: approx. 130,000 in the United Kingdom, France, Germany, Switzerland, Italy, the Netherlands, Norway and Denmark.
  • Pakistanis: approx. 1.1 million in the United Kingdom, but also 60,000 in Italy, Spain, and Norway.
  • Bengali: approx. 600,000 mostly in United Kingdom, but also 85,000 in Italy, 35,000 in France, Spain, Sweden, Finland and Greece.
  • Latin Americans (includes Afro-Latin Americans, Afro-Caribbeans, Native Americans, White Latin Americans, miscegenation, etc.): approx. 2.2 million; mostly in Spain (c. 1.8 million) but also in Italy, Portugal, the United Kingdom and some in Germany.[95]
  • Armenians: approx. 2 million; mostly in Russia, but also in France, Ukraine, Greece, Bulgaria, Spain, Germany, Poland, the United Kingdom and the Netherlands.
  • Berbers: approx. 2 million; mostly in France, Italy, the Netherlands, Belgium and Spain.
  • Kurds: approx. 2 million; mostly in Germany, France, Sweden, Russia, the Netherlands, Belgium and the United Kingdom.
  • Chinese: approx. 1 million; mostly in France, the United Kingdom, Russia, Italy, Spain, Germany and the Netherlands.
  • Filipinos: approx. 900,000; mostly in the United Kingdom, Italy, Spain, France, Germany, the Netherlands, Sweden, Austria and Ireland.[96]
  • Vietnamese: approx. 300,000; mostly in France, Germany, the United Kingdom, Poland, Norway, the Netherlands, Finland, Sweden, Denmark and Russia.
  • Iranians: approx. 250,000; mostly in Germany, Sweden, the United Kingdom, Russia, the Netherlands, France, Austria, Norway, Spain and Denmark.
  • Somalis: approx. 200,000;[97] mostly in the United Kingdom, Sweden, the Netherlands, Norway, Germany, Finland, Denmark and Italy.
  • Assyrians/Chaldeans/Syriacs: approx. 200,000; mostly in Sweden, Germany, Russia and The Netherlands.
  • Japanese: approx. 100,000; mostly in the United Kingdom and Germany.


Gallup has published a study estimating potential migrants in 2010.[98] The study estimated that 700 million adults worldwide would prefer to migrate to another country. Potential migrants were asked for their country of preference if they were given free choice.

The total number of potential migrants to the European Union is estimated at 200 million, comparable to the number for North America (USA and Canada). In addition, an estimated 40 million potential migrants within the EU desire to move to another country within the EU, giving the EU the highest intra-regional potential migration rate.[99]

The study estimates that about 500 million out of the 700 million potential migrants would be attracted by fifteen countries (the United States being most popular, attracting 166 million). Apart from the United States and Canada, the top desired target countries were predominantly European: the United Kingdom (46 million), France (39 million), Spain (31 million), Germany (26 million).[100]

The study also compared the number of potential migrants to their desired destination's population, resulting in a Net Migration Index expressing potential population growth. This list is headed by Singapore, which would experience population growth by +219%. Among European countries, Switzerland would experience the highest growth, by +150%, followed by Sweden (+78%), Spain (+74%), Ireland (+66%), the United Kingdom (+62%) and France (+60%). The European countries with highest potential population loss are Kosovo and North Macedonia, with -28% each.[101]

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External links[edit]