Asylum seekers and ‘sans-papiers’ are some of the most vulnerable groups of the EU population, finds Caritas Europa’s third report on poverty in Europe, which highlights poverty and social exclusion of migrants in Europe.
Migrants are at a much higher risk of impoverishment than EU citizens for a number of reasons.
Many countries in Europe make a distinction between the right to reside and the right to seek employment. This results in immigrants, even the ones legally living in the country, not being allowed to work. They are more likely to find themselves in so-called atypical employment situations, like temporary and part-time jobs or even informal employment. They are therefore much more likely to earn below-average wages, to be deprived of social rights and benefits such as holiday and sick leave, and to work longer hours.
Migrants are often dependent of council or social housing, of which there is, in most European countries, a shortage, due to privatisation on the one hand and, in some countries, growing poverty on the other hand. This leaves the migrants in a weak position on the private housing market. Often, they end up in so-called migrant ghettos, under poor living conditions at sometimes still unreasonable costs.
As a result of poor living conditions, migrants are more exposed to health risk than the average of the population. Still, they often lack health-care insurance. In addition to that, they are sometimes discriminated by health-care personnel. For those migrants whose resident permits depend on having a job, falling ill may mean having to leave the EU. For irregular workers, it usually means being left without an income.
Education and training is, as Caritas Europe says, an “essential stepping stone out of poverty”. Still, migrants have, in many countries, on average much lower education levels than nationals. Due to language and legal barriers, immigrants who do have skills and qualifications are often unable to apply them and end up in sectors of the labour market for which they are overqualified.
Participation in public life
In the majority of European countries, migrants have no voting rights at all. In some countries, they have local voting rights if they have a legal status. Irregular migrants have no political rights at all. This excludes them from decision-making on the community in which they live and deprives them of means to improve their situation.