To secure the EU's external borders, member countries cooperate in naval patrols to interdict illegal migrants at sea and share data to prevent failed asylum-seekers from applying in more than one country. But internal borders within the 27-member EU are being steadily dismantled. According to a recent OECD study, 44 percent of migrants in Europe are now workers from other European countries.
Agreements on the free movement of labor leave governments little wiggle room for restricting the number of such immigrants or controlling the kind of jobs they take. Family reunification accounts for another 28 percent of all immigrants to Europe.
In Britain, where limiting non-European migration was a central feature of the May national elections, almost half of all the foreigners in the country are European, with newly arrived Eastern Europeans taking the brunt of public hostility.
"Immigration is a proxy issue because there is a shortage of housing, prices shot through roof, and public services are declining, so inevitably people blame immigrants for those issues," said Sunny Hundal, a British writer and commentator on immigration and race issues. "The problem is that most people want to limit EU immigration, which is the bulk of immigration, but we can't do that legally."
European governments can expel EU migrants who lose their jobs and apply for welfare in the host country. The Netherlands and Britain, among others, have erected barriers to family-reunification visas by setting the legal marriage age for foreigners at 21 rather than 18 as it is for citizens.