Legal migration into the EU is actually impossible for many. For starters, it is not possible to ask for asylum in European embassies outside the EU.
And since the EU has no asylum system, immigrants have to turn to the Member State, in which they first arrived, according to the so-called "Dublin II". This puts a disproportionate burden on Greece, Italy and Spain. Especially in Greece the treatment of asylum seekers is so bad that the United Nations refugee organisation speaks of a humanitarian crisis. Many Member States have decided to no longer send immigrants back to Greece.
In 2012 around 320,000 people have applied for asylum in the Member States. Less than a third of all applicants were granted protection in first instance decisions.
In total around 1.7 million people have immigrated into the EU in 2011.
To be an economic burden, immigrants either need to take more welfare benefits than they contribute or have a negative impact on the labour market.
But do they come to the EU only to pocket welfare payments? No. Asylum seekers flee dire situations in their home countries. Upon arrival they are legally prohibited from work for several months. Labour migrants come to labour. Unemployment rates of immigrants are higher and they pay fewer taxes, because of linguistic barriers and lower salaries. But they claim less welfare benefits. Then, do labour immigrants take away work from nationals? Not really. Most labour migrants are low-skilled and more likely to be fired than nationals. If they are employed because of their specific skills, then that is because those skills cannot be found on the national labour market.
How can they be a burden? They are not. Statistically, migration has a very small impact on the EU economy, around 1% of GDP. In some Member States it is positive, in others negative.
When referring to the regular labour market this statement is simply false. Immigrants tend to be employed in manual-routine type jobs. But statistics show that they have not driven nationals out. Instead nationals have taken up other, slightly more complex jobs in their field. Some of them were even better paid (even if only 0.6% on average).
Black labour is another problem. But it concerns all employees in low-skilled jobs, not only immigrants, even though in most Member States discrimination hinders many immigrants from taking up regular employment. Inside the EU, the directive for posting workers in another Member State has been used as a loophole for wage-dumping. During the reform of the directive the Greens made sure Member States can apply stricter controls against wage dumping.
Between 1.9 and 3.8 million people live in the EU with irregular status. But most of them never had to swim across the Mediterranean or venture through mountains at the Greek border. They came by plane, and did not require an entry visa. They are from countries whose citizens are exempt from this rule. Then, they simply stayed longer than they were allowed.
But not everyone can enter the EU like that. For many the only option to come to the EU is the irregular crossing of EU borders, often with the expensive help of smugglers. Even people who could righteously claim asylum in the EU have to choose this way, for they cannot ask for asylum in European embassies in their home countries.
In 2013 around 31,000 people have tried to cross the Mediterranean Sea, according to official statistics. In Greece alone around 2,000 were pushed back without examination of their cases, and against international law. Another 2,000 did not survive the journey. Since 2000 23,000 have died on their way to Europe.