In response to pressure from Ministers of the Interior from certain member states, the European Union is investing considerably in expanding border controls and plans to extend labour market inspections within the EU.
In both cases, according to theoretical and empirical research, it remains to be seen whether this will actually achieve the aspired reduction in illegal immigration. Expanding border controls increases the risks and cost of entering a country illegally to the point where there is increased danger to life and limb.
According to current research, the increase in inspections within national borders may help limit opportunities for immigrants without status to engage in legal employment. However, it is doubtful whether the proposed instruments are suitable for achieving this goal. With reference to the proposed directive pertaining to employer sanctions from May 2007, we have shown that the measures proposed for restricting illegal employment (and thus illegal immigration) are based on false assumptions. Our observations indicate that extended employer obligations and inspections would for the main part prevent irregular migrants from taking up legal, taxable employment – a relatively insignificant scenario in Europe. Moreover, it is doubtful whether additional inspections of the type and to the extent recommended can in fact be implemented. According to current findings, the real difficulty currently lies in enforcing employer sanctions.
If implemented effectively, the proposed reinforcement and extension of employee rights could help to curb particularly exploitative employment relations, because in such cases it could be advantageous to employees to take legal action in pursuit of outstanding remuneration, despite the threat of deportation. This right to sue for outstanding remuneration, however, would pertain to a particularly weak and poorly informed group of employees. Without support and guidance it is unlikely that they will be able to exercise the right. Failure to exercise this right would, in turn, result in failure to meet the goal of preventing particularly blatant cases of social dumping. As the Commission's proposal observes, affected employees need the support and advice of independent bodies, but whereas there are quantitative benchmarks for increasing the intensity of inspections, that is not the case here, which could potentially render the proposal useless.
Neither at the European nor the national level has the efficiency or effectiveness of investments in the intensification of migration control been systematically evaluated. In an evaluation of German labour market inspections, the Federal Audit Office has identified a considerable and urgent need for research. Otherwise there is a danger that, by increasing monitoring, employers will be unnecessarily burdened with bureaucracy and considerable amount of public finances will be expended without achieving the declared aim of reducing incentives for illegal immigration.