Estimates and guesstimates of irregular migration in Southern Europe ‘travel’ freely and uncritically among experts, journalists and policy makers without it being clear who produced them first and how. Their source may not be clear, their direction, however, definitely is: these numbers are routinely used as a means of arousing public anxiety about migration and exercising pressure for policy responses. The studies conducted under the auspices of CLANDESTINO project critically explore the sources of data and estimates of irregular migration and, in particular, the validity and reliability of the methods used in their production. In doing so, they show why and how migrants become irregular and whether and how they can achieve legal status.

A peculiar aspect of irregular immigration in Italy is represented by its relative dimension when compared with flows and stock of regular migrants. As far as amnesties of undocumented migrants in Europe are concerned, Italy closely competes with Spain for a double record: the highest number of general regularization processes and the largest number of immigrants who obtained a legal status through one of these programs. Moreover, irregularity has been a phase in the life of most immigrants in Spain, as the results of surveys, regularizations and demographic data show. Regularity increases with the time of stay, but irregularity is a common way of entry: 40% of those arrived during 2006 were still irregulars at the end of this year. Concerning Greece, although it is close to impossible to accurately determine the size of an irregular population, it appears that the general trend is one of declining numbers of irregular migrants compared to the 90s.

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