Can illegal immigrants get social security benefits?

Claudio Fava, rapporteur. - (IT) Madam President, ladies and gentlemen! Four minutes should be enough to give you a summary of two years of hard but hopefully useful work that Parliament has been involved in alongside the Commission with its proposal and the Council. The aim of the work was to develop a guideline that for the first time stipulates sanctions for employers who profit from the work of illegal immigrants.

I believe that we have succeeded in changing the philosophy behind this directive, which has so far been limited to combating illegal immigration. The compromise text agreed with the Council also offers some protection for those immigrants who are forced into undeclared work and who are often detained against their will by criminal organizations. Otherwise, Madam President, there would have been the risk that we would punish them twice, on the one hand as exploited workers who are often forced to accept unreasonable working conditions, and on the other hand as illegal immigrants who have to be returned to their countries of origin, with a ban on deportation, which in many countries spans several years.

In this context, we have provided in Articles 7 and 14 that in cases involving minors, in cases of serious exploitation or trafficking in human beings, the Member States must issue rules for the issuing of temporary residence permits, the period of which can be extended until all due remuneration has been paid. We would have liked to extend this possibility to all illegal immigrants, but the return directive adopted last year prevents that. I wasn't one of those who supported them.

We have, however, succeeded in introducing a rule which enables Member States to apply more favorable measures to immigrants with regard to the issue of residence permits. Article 10 is, in my opinion, the most important one. For the first time, it provides for criminal measures to be imposed in the worst cases, including those involving minors.

I think the additional sanctions set out in Article 8 are important. They include the withdrawal of licenses, the closure of facilities in particularly serious cases and the exclusion of state aid financed from European funds. Otherwise we would have been guilty of extraordinary hypocrisy: we would have punished employers with one hand and with the other hand we would have given them generous subsidies.

I think it is extremely important that we have succeeded in including a definition of remuneration that, without any form of discrimination, equates the payments due to illegal immigrants with those of regular employees.

We have included temporary employment agencies in the scope of the directive. In certain countries - including my own - it is these organizations in particular that are all too willingly willing to recruit illegal workers and employ them under the worst of exploitative conditions. Just think of the cases where illegal farm workers were hired - an issue that has long been in the headlines.

We have successfully asked that unions be allowed to represent immigrants in civil and administrative proceedings. In the previous text, third parties were mentioned in general, but trade unions are now explicitly mentioned.

We can only see how things are going after a transition phase. That is why we asked the Commission to report to Parliament and the Council after the directive had been in force for three years, in particular as regards the regulation of inspections, residence permits, sanctions and subcontracting.

As regards subcontracting - the relevant Article 9 has been the subject of discussions between Parliament and the Council and within the Council itself - your rapporteur would like to see responsibility extended over the entire contractual chain, as originally proposed by the Commission. The Council and Parliament or part of Parliament wanted to completely exclude subcontracting, but we reached a compromise solution that I think is workable: dual responsibility. However, this should not prevent us from introducing further laws on this subject in the future. That is why, for my part, and on behalf of the other undercover rapporteurs, whom I would like to thank warmly for the cooperation over these two years, I will ask the Council tomorrow to add a statement to the compromise text, on which we will vote. It is intended to mean that the provisions of Article 9 do not interfere with future legislative initiatives on subcontracting.

Madam President, in summary, I believe that with this directive we are envisaging a Europe in which immigration is finally a matter of shared responsibility and the subject of recognized rights, not just laws against immigrants.

Jacques Barrot, Vice-President of the Commission. - (FR) Madam President! I would of course like to thank Mr Fava and the Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs.

Considerable efforts have been made by various parties to reach a first reading agreement. Given the large majority in favor of this in the Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs a few days ago and in the Permanent Representatives Committee just before Christmas, I think we will probably succeed.

Of course, this text does not fully meet the original objectives. However, the Commission has no hesitation in supporting this compromise. This directive gives us the opportunity to put in place an effective instrument, a common framework for preventing the employment of illegally resident third-country nationals.

The Commission will keep a watchful eye on the inspections. The compromise text recommends more targeted, more qualitative inspections and the coming years will show whether these qualitative criteria have been met and whether the obligation of the Member States to identify, on the basis of a risk assessment, the employment sectors in which a particularly large number of people are illegally employed on their territory is really real was effective. This is our wish in order to combat the employment of illegally resident third-country nationals and also to impose sanctions on all employers who take advantage of these people. Monitoring the implementation of the provisions relating to inspections will therefore be a particular priority in future Commission reports on the application of this Directive.

There are of course also positive results from this compromise, especially the consensus that has been reached on the difficult question of subcontracting. I noticed that Mr Fava was hoping for a statement from the Council and Parliament. Personally, I don't see any obstacles.

The Commission welcomes the fact that the directive recommends the imposition of criminal penalties in particularly serious cases where these penalties are both necessary and proportionate. They are necessary for stronger deterrence, since administrative sanctions alone are not enough in the most serious cases to deter unscrupulous employers. They are appropriate in the context of an instrument that is supposed to stand in line with the ambitious European objective of combating illegal immigration. In this context, the Commission appreciates the fact that the criminalization of those who employ victims of human trafficking has found its way back into the final compromise.

Madam President, ladies and gentlemen, This directive is an important first step in the fight against illegal immigration. It targets the actions of unscrupulous employers and protects immigrant workers, who are mostly the victims in such cases.

This directive should be adopted and implemented quickly. The Commission will support and accompany this process in the implementation phase by convening regular expert meetings at Member State level to discuss any problems that may arise. The directive is an important instrument and the Commission will do whatever it takes to ensure that this instrument is used effectively.

I would like to thank Parliament, Mr Fava and the Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs (LIBE).

Edit Bauer, draftsman for the opinion of the Committee on Social Affairs and Employment. - (SK) It is hoped that the adoption of laws against employers who employ illegal immigrants from third countries will be an effective tool for reducing the "pool factor" of illegal immigration. On the other hand, however, you can also see its possible impact in terms of improving the playing field and I also believe that it will help in the fight against human trafficking.

But there are also those who believe that this directive will not add any value. However, in the absence of a comparable legal instrument at Community level, the added value is high for some Member States, while it may not be so obvious for others, which already have such legislation.

The discussions with the Commission and the Council on possible compromises focused on specific problem areas. First: the question of the client's liability for obligations under the Subcontractor Act, in relation to which the draft recommendation limits the liability for the actions of direct subcontractors. Second, the means of putting in place effective procedures to enable illegal immigrants to claim outstanding wages, where we have followed the principle of non-discrimination and have looked for a way to provide illegal immigrants with available assistance and opportunities to get their wages even after returning to their country of origin. Third, the potential consequences of postponing the repatriation of an illegal immigrant until he is paid. I should like to point out that postponing such a decision would greatly undermine and possibly destroy the purpose of the proposed legislation. Finally, the issue of inspections has been left to the Member States, knowing that labor inspection has an essential role to play in the implementation of the legislation.

There are undoubtedly different perspectives on how to solve this and other problems in this design. Decisions will be made on some of these as they are implemented. Finally, I would like to thank Mr Fava, the Commission and the French Presidency for the successful insertion of the compromises.

Esther de Lange, draftsman for the opinion of the Committee on Women's Rights and Gender Equality. - (NL) I too would like to thank the rapporteur for his work, without neglecting the efforts of the shadow rapporteur for the Group of the European People's Party (Christian Democrats) and European Democrats, Simon Busuttil, and the rapporteur on social affairs, Edit Bauer. It is thanks not least to their efforts that the compromise that has been reached ultimately serves what it is intended to do, namely to use the prospect of work as an incentive for illegal immigration by punishing workers who are illegally present in the European Union To withdraw soil.

Contrary to what some parties in this Parliament tried to achieve in the first instance, this piece of legislation has not become an instrument for the gradual legalization of illegal immigrants. In fact, the debate on legal immigration takes place elsewhere. However, as rapporteur for the Committee on Women's Rights and Gender Equality, I believe that gender issues relating to this group of people who are illegally present in the European Union and who, as has already been said, are often victims of exploitation , more attention should be paid.

Estimates of the number of third-country nationals staying illegally in the European Union are imprecise and vary between 4.5 and 8 million. Unfortunately, these estimates are not broken down by gender, and they do not take into account the gender issues that illegal migrant women may have. I would like to draw your attention to the fact that illegal migrant women are particularly at risk and are often victims of forced labor, human trafficking and violence. The authorities dealing with these problems therefore need special training.

As always, this is about effective surveillance. I am pleased that the arbitrary 10% surveillance level originally proposed has been discarded and a risk-based approach has been included in the compromise text. The reports that appeared in the Belgian newspaper De Standaard last summer about house slaves in certain embassies in Brussels a stone's throw from the Berlaymont building show that these scenarios are not far-fetched. I would therefore like to say to the European Commission that trying is better than studying. Live up to your responsibilities and take a critical look at how countries are handling this legislation and whether they are applying it effectively.

Simon Busuttil, on behalf of the PPE-DE Group. - (MT) This law, Madam President, is probably one of the first to address the phenomenon of illegal immigration directly through legal means, and this law is finally here. That was sorely needed and I am therefore extremely pleased that we have succeeded in reaching an excellent compromise here. What exactly did we achieve with this law? We have targeted one of the main reasons people choose to immigrate illegally. We have targeted the incentive. What incentive are you talking about here? The incentive for someone who lives in Africa, for example, to risk their life to get to another country in the belief that they will find work there - even if it is illegal. From now on we are sending out the clear message that illegal employment will no longer be tolerated and that it no longer makes sense to go to Europe in the wrong belief that there is work here. This is absolutely impossible from now on. As the previous speaker said, it is important that this instrument is not used to regularize illegal situations, but that it send out a clear message that illegal employment can no longer be tolerated. This is enforced through effective financial, administrative and even criminal measures and sanctions. These also serve to make it clear to employers that we will no longer tolerate the hiring of employees without the appropriate permission. Thanks.

Stavros Lambrinidis, on behalf of the PSE Group. - (EL) Madam President! Here in the European Parliament we have succeeded in fundamentally changing the aim of the directive that is being debated here today. Claudio Fava is to be congratulated on this. First of all, we succeeded in introducing an obligation to pay outstanding remuneration to deported illegal immigrants. Secondly, we managed to get strict and binding criminal penalties in place for employers who employ immigrants in unacceptable living conditions. Third, we secured the right for unions and other bodies to go to court on behalf of immigrants, and fourth, we enforced the right to grant temporary or long-term residence permits to illegal immigrants who uncover criminal organizations. In other words, we are now treating illegal immigrants as human beings after all, without legalizing illegal immigration, and for this reason we support this compromise.

However, there is still a dangerous discrepancy between the way police deal with illegal immigrants and the reality in many Member States. The application of the directive will therefore also require special attention. Thousands of illegal immigrants could thus be driven into poverty, parallel societies and crime, and although we have proven unable or unwilling to expel them, these illegal immigrants could ultimately be left without work.It is a fact that today many illegal immigrants in Europe are engaged in activities that Europeans do not want to do, which is why we should finally talk at this point about common rules for legal immigration to Europe and ways of legalizing these people, instead of always new rules for their expulsion.

Finally, the absolute need to tackle the undeclared work market does not seem to concern only illegal immigrants; it concerns primarily legal immigrants, it concerns millions of European citizens whose rights as workers are trampled by their employers on a daily basis and it concerns the fact that labor laws are trampled without substantial scrutiny or sanctions. The legal basis of the directive at issue today should therefore, in my opinion, be the fight against undeclared work in Europe in general, and not against immigration in particular. The fact that immigrants are targeted in Europe whenever something goes wrong poses a major threat to social cohesion in our countries. Of course, illegal immigration must also be combated. However, when we demonize people fleeing the misery in their own country in the hope of a better life, we are making it too easy for us.

Jeanine Hennis-Plasschaert, on behalf of the ALDE Group. - (NL) For many years the European Union has been grappling with millions of illegal immigrants on its territory and the pressure to find a solution is growing steadily. The pressure is immense and, to be honest, rightly so. Indeed, if we want a feasible and reliable migration policy with which we grant refugees the right to protection and allow legal migration transparent options, then an approach that takes into account all the discouraging and encouraging factors that lead to illegal immigration is a necessary step.

Last summer the Council and Parliament reached an agreement in the form of the so-called return directive, which mainly deals with illegal immigrants themselves, while our topic today is employers who do not hesitate to employ illegal immigrants. Such behavior is not only a strong incentive for illegal immigrants, it inevitably prepares the ground for cases of abuse and exploitation.

There is no question, in my opinion, of the importance of a harmonized European policy on this matter. Because without internal borders, Member State A can worry as much as it wants: if Member State B hardly wastes a thought on the problem of employing illegal immigrants, the protest of Member State A remains nothing more than a voice that fades into nothing.

After a rather leisurely start, after intensive negotiations with the Council, we now have a compromise which I think is acceptable and I would like to thank the rapporteur for his constructive and pragmatic way of working. He brought a breath of fresh air to the matter, which cannot be said of some of his parliamentary colleagues who insist on this accompanying written declaration at all costs and who are putting on a stage show that is not exactly conducive to Parliament's image. My group will accept that too.

It should also be clear, however, that once this directive has been adopted, it is up to the Member States to take action on their part. It should be clear that neither the European Commission nor the European Parliament hold a magic wand for determination and assertiveness. The Council was firmly against a binding percentage statement regarding the inspections and this is precisely where the problem often lies - as many in this Parliament, including the Commissioner, have already said. All that remains for me at this point is to urge you to show this assertiveness and to ensure that we are no longer left with empty words on patient paper, because nobody benefits from that.

The proposal is another step in the right direction on the question of a comprehensive immigration policy. However, there is still a long way to go, so we must persevere now. In this context, I would like to conclude with the question of all the questions that were on the tip of the tongue today: why is the Council not taking part in today's debate? From my point of view, that is absolutely unacceptable.

Zdzisław Zbigniew Podkański, on behalf of the UEN Group. - (PL) Madam President, the European Union cannot cope with illegal immigration. This is proven by numerous facts and this is also made clear in Mr Fava's explanation, where we can read, among other things, that "According to estimates (...) between 4.5 and 8 million illegal immigrants are in the EU, and their number (...) is steadily increasing, mainly because of the easy access to illegal work. ”The mere fact that numbers between 4.5 and 8 million are mentioned shows that we are not even able to precisely determine the scope of this problem. And yet many, and especially the younger Member States of the EU, are affected by economic migration.

Millions of Poles and citizens of other countries are now moving within the EU to the old member states. These citizens are subject to the same evils and are in the same position as third-country migrants. Illegal employment is a form of exploitation of workers as they are deprived of the benefits of health insurance or pension rights, the exploitation of young people and even human trafficking. We can only overcome this phenomenon if we have strict legal sanctions and use them consistently.

Jean Lambert, on behalf of the Verts / ALE Group. - Madam President! We very much appreciate the work of Claudio Fava in the Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs and of Edit Bauer in the Committee on Employment and Social Affairs. I think that we in this Parliament will have to get used to the improved way of working together on policies that link employment and migration.

As has already been said, part of the European Union's common immigration policy should be to combat the pull factor of potential employment, which is often found in the informal economy and affects vulnerable and unorganized workers. However, it can also be used when there are vacancies that cannot be filled from the national workforce, and Member States do not issue enough work permits or, due to a cumbersome bureaucracy, do not respond quickly enough to applications that are useful for the labor market would be able to react. In addition, there are people for whom a return to their country of origin - for example to Zimbabwe - is not possible and who are often without rights and therefore somehow have to survive, a problem for which we have not yet found a solution.

The majority of Member States in theory already have measures in place to deal with the problem of illegal migration and one might think that this would be a sign of an apparent obligation to act. But the proposals for inspections that the Commission had included in its original document were completely watered down and Parliament had to fight to get at least what is now anchored in Article 15 through. Hopefully these inspections will not only affect small businesses, but will also scrutinize some of the larger businesses that rely heavily on the grassroots on unsafe workers. It is for this very reason that subcontractor liability has been extremely important to many of us in this Parliament. Some of us feel that what we are being fobbed off with is once again a watered-down version of the Commission's original proposal.

The issue of residence permits was raised, where Member States have the option of issuing it in particularly serious cases where there are complaints. I think that is a step forward - at least from the position of some Member States so far.

One of the issues that burned under the nails of many of us is pay - when it is not possible to determine how long we have been in employment - and the problems of paying national insurance contributions and taxes that many illegal workers, as we know, are faced with often withdrawn, but not necessarily passed on to the authorities.

For many of us, remuneration for work done is a matter of principle; in addition, businesses and economies have benefited from this work, so this is not a piece of legislation punishing illegal immigrants. In addition, if you see it as part of an overall policy, permanent return also means that people return to their country with what they have earned.

We have no guarantee that the Member States will ensure that people are rewarded. There is certainty that there will be mechanisms in place to enable lawsuits - but not that this money will actually be paid out. There is no guarantee that payment will be made. Some may argue that these people take the risk and take this risk; but in questions of human dignity and in the context of the general objectives of a common immigration policy, this is a serious problem.

From my group's point of view, it is therefore not entirely clear whether this proposal is about inspections or remuneration; other areas were completely watered down. We do not have the impression that the Member States are ready to make a commitment and will therefore not support this proposal.

Giusto Catania, on behalf of the GUE / NGL Group. - (IT) Madam President, ladies and gentlemen, between four and a half and eight million non-EU citizens are without legal residence in Europe - these are the figures given by the Commission.

This number is negligible when you consider that it represents just over 1% of the population of the European Union. This problem has certainly been exaggerated. It concerns workers who perform useful activities such as personal services or work in the tourism sector and who in the majority of cases have been taken into the labor market. It is about workers who are useful to our economy but who are being exploited to cut labor costs and enrich unscrupulous employers. It is about workers who often do jobs that EU citizens do not do.

We need these people, but they came to Europe illegally for one simple reason: they have no way of getting in legally. The same thing happened to the vast majority of people whose situation is now legal but who have come to the European Union illegally.

Another measure was needed: a measure that regulates the situation of these millions of people. What was required was some measure to free them from slavery, extortion, and exploitation. Instead, we now have a directive before us that picks up where the return directive leaves off. First of all, we decided how the expulsion should work; Today we decide on the possible catchment area of ​​deportations and also determine who should pay for them. With this policy, the exploited pay more than the exploiters. Unfortunately, there is no provision for general regularization, not even for those who confront themselves or report their exploiters or the crimes committed. Those affected migrate directly from being exploited through illegal employment to being expelled.

We need something else. We need a measure that favors legality and not the criminalization of those who are currently here illegally. We need a measure to combat xenophobia. Yesterday the Italian Interior Minister said: "We have to crack down on illegal immigrants". In other words, we have to be tough on the weak. I believe that with this directive we are promoting precisely this xenophobic attitude.

The European Union needs immigrants - as the Commission itself says: 50 million by 2060 - because we are in the middle of a demographic crisis. But we are not doing anything to help them immigrate. Instead, we are harmonizing the expulsion system and we decide today to expel those who are here illegally, even if they may be workers who have entered the European labor market.

I think this directive will have devastating consequences because it will continue to drive immigrants and the labor market underground and the exploitative crimes of unscrupulous bosses to increase.

Nigel Farage, on behalf of the IND / DEM Group. - Madam President! Illegal immigration is a problem made more difficult by the free movement of people. However, the wave of unrest currently sweeping through Britain is caused by legal migration and the European Union's own rules.

For 20 years the British trade unions thought - wrapped around Jacques Delors' finger - that the European Union was acting in their interests. But now the penny has fallen and they understand that British governments are simply unable to put British interests ahead of others.

And I'm afraid things will get a lot worse. Thousands of European workers will benefit from the currently pending extensive public financing projects such as the Olympic Games or housing construction. UK jobs for UK workers cannot be guaranteed while we are in the EU. The prospect of UK taxpayers funding foreign workers is, if you will, unacceptable.

But the government remains tough and says that the European Union is something wonderful. Well, that's hardly surprising. Peter Mandelson continues to receive £ 78,000 a year from the European Commission and will of course, depending on this, be drawing a pension in just a few years - a picture-perfect conflict of interests.

The main concern now is whether the xenophobic extreme right will profit from it. Because we don't want that either. UKIP wants to be able to present the British people with a non-racist agenda in the European elections that says it is time to put British interests first. We are not protectionist, but appeal to common sense. We want to protect our own borders and decide for ourselves who lives, works and lives in our country.

Andreas Mölzer (NI). - (DE) Madam President! The hope for well-paid work understandably has great appeal worldwide. Especially in bad economic times, the shadow economy grows, which of course leads many people to risk their own lives in search of the land of milk and honey. It is important to make it clear that illegal work will no longer be tolerated.

In this context, however, the recently discussed fundamental rights report raises a number of problems. It signals that violations of EU entry regulations are rewarded, as immigrants enjoy more protection than the European peoples, whose identity and social peace are threatened by mass immigration. If, in the future, every illegal immigrant can only be described as a person without a valid working paper, illegal immigration will be downright played down.

It should not be forgotten, however, that migrants without a residence permit must ultimately be expelled. So incentives such as mass legalization and the prospect of employment need to be removed. In addition, effective agreements must be negotiated with countries of origin on returns, and the border protection organization FRONTEX must finally be expanded so that effective use is possible.

Marian-Jean Marinescu (PPE-DE). - (RO) The current directive helps to consolidate the common policy on illegal immigration and is a first step in the fight against illegal employment by threatening employers with financial penalties. However, I should remind you that all Member States have national legislation on illegal employment and tax and contribution evasion. The application of these laws also helps to expose the employment of illegal immigrants.

I therefore believe that it is important that we have adequate rules in place, but that it is even more important that the Member States also ensure that they are applied consistently.I welcome the provisions in the final text on sanctions that are proportionate to the number of illegal workers, and on the fact that a reduction in these penalties can be agreed to if the employer is a natural person, third-country nationals without legal residence as domestic worker and employed for the provision of personal services, and when there are no particularly exploitative working conditions.

In the negotiations between the European Parliament and the Council, the concept of subcontractor liability was clarified and the amount of retroactive payments to be made by the employer was determined. I am convinced that the application of this directive will improve the situation with regard to respect for Community preference when filling posts.

I also believe that the application of this directive should be another reason for the Member States to lift the labor market restrictions imposed on EU citizens, as restricting employment opportunities for illegal immigrants opens up new opportunities for the EU to employ their own citizens.

Inger Segelström (PSE). - (SV) First of all, I would like to thank Claudio Fava and everyone else who made this report possible. In previous debates about future asylum, refugee and migration policy, we focused primarily on those who are here illegally, who are educated and are allowed to come to us, or on people who are simply poor and come to us and want to take care of their families.

Now we are putting the responsibility on employers who employ undocumented people. However, there wouldn't be so many undocumented people here if there weren't always irresponsible employers who are willing to pay and exploit them. In my opinion, it seems right to impose sanctions on employers and impose an information obligation on them, and if an employer has exploited someone, compensation should be paid for this even if that person has already returned to their home country.

However, there is one proposal that I would have voted against had it not been for a vote in committee to have the majority introduce less stringent rules on household chores. For me this is a question of equality, as it is mostly women who are employed in private households for low wages. The situation is even more difficult for this group than for those in multi-employee jobs, but I see this as a first step.

I regret today's news that the Swedish Conservative Government does not approve of the report which criminalizes responsible behavior and irresponsible behavior that exploits undocumented workers.

I am also seriously concerned about the comments we have received from the unions on the report. I hope we can resolve these issues before a decision is made. The same rules must apply to all employers, such as shared responsibility in connection with employment contracts; otherwise we will pave the way for loopholes and scams.

Ignasi Guardans Cambó (ALDE). - (ES) Madam President! The best way to ensure a controlled form of immigration that our society can deal with - economically and socially - is to combat illegal employment as well.

This does not mean that we should fight illegal immigrants ourselves, each with their own story, but rather the phenomenon of illegal immigration itself as the only way to justify and really allow controlled immigration, especially in today's world systematize.

Surely this should happen not only through those who are looking for work, but also through those who offer work. The fight against illegal immigration can not only be waged in the underground stations of London or Madrid, but must also be carried into the human resources departments of the many companies that employ and thus exploit illegal workers and deprive them of their rights.

It is for this very reason that we wholeheartedly welcome this directive. This directive frames the obligations of employers and the sanctions that must be imposed on employers who exploit workers without rights for their own benefit.

This guideline is balanced. The rapporteur is to be congratulated for achieving a fair compromise and a good balance on this matter.

I would particularly like to highlight the articles devoted to protecting the rights of exploited workers. They protect workers so that they can report the situation they are in. They protect them by giving them the opportunity to sue for their earnings, even though this does not result in a right to stay. However, work carried out illegally and without national insurance and remuneration will of course be remunerated regardless of the status of the illegally employed worker.

The sanctions are appropriate and proportionate. The subcontracting agreement to which the rapporteur referred in his speech is very important. It's especially important in practice, and that's what this is all about.

Allow me one last comment: the 24-month deadline for implementing this directive seems too long to me. I understand that can't be changed, but 24 months is too long and should be cut if possible.

IN THE CHAIR: LUISA MORGANTINI
Vice President

Ewa Tomaszewska (UEN). - (PL) Madam President! The employment of third-country nationals who are not legally resident in the European Union makes fair competition impossible and also provides the workers concerned with adequate protection.

First and foremost, I am thinking of safe working conditions and social security in the event of an accident at work. The number of illegal immigrants in the EU is estimated at 4.5 to 8 million people, most of whom find work in construction, agriculture, tourism and the hotel and service sectors. In some cases there is slave labor under exploitative conditions, as well as child labor. Illegal employment plays an important role in lowering employment standards.

This is why the right of trade unions to represent the interests of these workers is so important. The employee decides to employ an illegally resident person, so the employee should also be punished for breaking the law. Coordinated action from all EU countries is required here in order to solve all problems of illegal employment.

Mary Lou McDonald (GUE / NGL). - Madam President! There is an urgent need to protect workers from exploitation in these times of economic trauma and to ensure the arguments that conditions for European workers are not systematically restricted by the exploitation of vulnerable immigrant workers are irrefutable. The responsibility for this rests entirely with the governments and authorities of the Member States.

While Member States must take steps to regulate immigration, I very much regret that the fight against illegal immigration is the legal basis for these proposals. Indeed, fraudulent and exploitative employers should be combated and what we need right now is an agenda that is worker-friendly, not anti-immigrant.

The political and economic objective must be to end the exploitation of illegal migrants and to punish fraudulent employers and not to whip or criminalize immigrant or other workers. The application of criminal sanctions in this proposal should not be an EU competence and anyone who argues that the expulsion of immigrant workers is the solution to the problem of exploitation is wrong. This directive is not sufficiently balanced.

Johannes Blokland (IND / DEM). - (NL) Two years ago, Commissioner Frattini disclosed the plans to combat illegal employment, which is paving the way for a steady flow of illegal immigrants looking for work into the European Union. This situation is degrading and needs to be ended.

Madam President! However, I disagree with the rapporteur on the question of whether the European Union should raise questions of criminal law. I am against the inclusion of criminal law in the European catalog of tasks. Instead, what is needed here is an open method of coordination. I am therefore pleased that the amended compromise proposal is cautious about the application of criminal penalties. The financial penalties are enough of a deterrent to be careful in choosing workers. I hope that the factory inspections will encourage Member States to take criminal action as well.

Philip Claeys (NI). - (NL) It is to be welcomed that a directive is being introduced which penalizes employers of illegal immigrants. It is rightly stated that the opportunity to find work in the European Union is an attraction for illegal immigration. However, we should act as one and also tackle the other factors that attract immigrants. The most significant of these factors is the impunity for foreigners entering Europe illegally. Some Member States even reward illegal immigrants, the mass regularizations in Spain, Italy and Belgium are an example of this.

And then there is the hypocrisy of the so-called individual regularizations for humanitarian reasons. In the past year alone there were no fewer than a staggering 12,000 in a small country like Belgium. Illegal immigrants should be expelled, not regularized, as every regularized illegal immigrant attracts a whole host of new immigrants. Each Member State that regularizes immigrants does so on behalf of the other Member States. It is therefore not enough to fight employers. We have to deal with illegal immigration in its full context.

Carlos Coelho (PPE-DE). - (PT) Madam President, Mr Barrot, ladies and gentlemen! During this plenary session, we adopted various measures aimed at a uniform and comprehensive immigration policy. This common policy must primarily address legal opportunities for immigration and the integration of immigrants into host societies. With this in mind, two months ago we passed the Blue Card Directive and the Directive on a uniform application procedure for a combined permit to stay and work in the EU.

At the same time, we must fight effectively against illegal immigration and all forms of crime related to it. The aim of this initiative is to combat the pull factors for illegal immigration into the European Union and to put an end to the exploitation of illegal workers. Those who try at all costs to get into the EU - and sometimes pay with their lives - need to understand that there is only one possible route: legal immigration, with all its inherent rights and opportunities. It is estimated that there are between 5 and 8 million immigrants without legal residence in the European Union; a significant number of them are in low-skilled, poorly paid jobs and are sometimes excessively exploited. I congratulate the rapporteur, Claudio Fava, and especially my colleague, Edit Bauer, on their work and the compromise that has been reached.

I am in favor of combating illegal employment across the European Union. This directive aims to ensure that all Member States impose similar penalties on the employment of illegal immigrants and enforce them effectively. Depending on the gravity of the violation, three types of sanctions are possible: financial, administrative and criminal. In addition, employers are required to take preventive measures and monitor the immigration status of these people in order to prevent the employment of workers who are illegally present in the Union.

Wolfgang Kreissl-Dörfler, (PSE). - (DE) Madam President! First of all, I would like to congratulate my colleague Claudio Fava on this report and on the fact that an agreement was reached in the trialogue. Of course you can always ask for more and more can or could be achieved. But the fact that it has finally been recognized in the European Union that illegals must also be given rights if they are apprehended, that they must be protected from exploitative practices, that is an important step forward.

Of course, you have to see it integrated into an overall concept of migration, immigration. That is undisputed. But now there is one thing I no longer understand: when the Greens - Jean Lambert is no longer there - or the left on the so-called communist side, such as Giusto Catania, say that this does not work, that this is nothing again, that it is nothing can help, then I would like to say that it does not help to always promise people who live in these difficult situations a four-course meal, but not to give them their daily bread. That is cowardly, that doesn't help, and I have to ask myself what the Greens actually want if they always vote against when it comes to improvements for the people. We have already seen this in many reports and actions here.

In addition, it is not forbidden for the national states to finally set up proper controls, that the fines are also imposed, that companies that employ illegals are excluded from funding measures and from national as well as EU funds.

I would like the same tough approach that the nation states sometimes use against illegals, also against tax evaders or undeclared work. It is of course necessary for us to speak to our colleagues in the national parliaments, so that they also demand the rights that have been decided here for illegals. Of course, we also know one thing: if someone is illegally employed because he could no longer survive in his country, then he has no way to go to the police and say that he is being exploited here, just as little as a woman who is raping because they know that they can then be expelled.

That is why we will very clearly endorse this report. It is a first step in the right direction.

Alexander Alvaro (ALDE). - (DE) Madam President, Mr Vice-President! I believe that Mr Kreissl-Dörfler is absolutely right in what he said. I would like to thank Mr Fava for his report and for the excellent work he has done.

The report makes it clear that both sides must be held equally liable with regard to illegal employment, thus creating a legal balance. Illegal employment must be sanctioned and prohibited in all Member States.

In order to comply with this prohibition, employers must first be made responsible, but then it must also be the task of the competent authorities to monitor compliance with the prohibition and to enforce sanctions. The priority is to protect those people who are in such employment from being exploited.

Putting sanctions in law books is certainly a step. At the same time, there must be the will of the authorities to carry out more controls and to take action against violations. The text is a compromise found between the Council and the European Parliament and contains minimum standards.

Nonetheless, the possibility for Member States to deviate upwards or downwards from the requirements is not inspiring. We have taken a first step, let's go the rest of the way together. I think I can say - at least for myself and parts of my group, if not for the majority - that we can support this report with a clear conscience.