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Migration and Home Affairs


Movement of persons to a new place of residence or transit that takes place outside the regulatory norms of the sending, transit and receiving countries.


Derived by EMN from IOM Glossary on Migration, 2019.


  • BG: незаконна миграция
  • CS: neregulérní migrace
  • DE: irreguläre Migration
  • EL: παράτυπη μετανάστευση
  • EN: irregular migration
  • ES: inmigración irregular
  • ET: ebaseaduslik ränne
  • FI: säännösten vastainen / laiton maahanmuutto
  • FR: migration irrégulière
  • GA: Imirce neamhrialta
  • HR: nezakonite migracije
  • HU: irreguláris migráció
  • IT: migrazione irregolare
  • LT: neteisėta migracija
  • LV: neatbilstīga migrācija (EU acquis); nelikumīga migrācija
  • MT: Migrazzjoni irregolari
  • NL: illegale migratie / irreguliere migratie
  • PL: migracja nieregularna
  • PT: migração irregula
  • RO: migrație neregulamentară / migraţie ilegală
  • SK: neregulárna migrácia / nelegálna migrácia
  • SL: nedovoljene migracije
  • SV: irreguljär migration
  • NO: irregulær migrasjon
  • KA: კანონიერი საფუძვლის გარეშე მიგრაცია 
  • UK: нерегулярна міграція
  • HY: անկանոն միգրացիա


  • illegal migration
  • undocumented migration
  • illegal immigration
  • unauthorised migration
  • clandestine migration

Broader Term(s)

Narrower Term(s)

Related Term(s)


1. 1.There is no universally accepted definition of irregular migration. From the perspective of destination countries it is entry, stay or work in a country without the necessary authorisation or documents required under immigration regulations. From the perspective of the sending country, the irregularity is, for example, seen in cases in which a person crosses an international boundary without a valid passport or travel document or does not fulfil the administrative requirements for leaving the country. There is, however, a tendency to restrict the use of the term to cases of smuggling of migrants and trafficking in human beings.
2. Defining irregular migration has been the subject of considerable debate. Terms such as illegal, undocumented, non-documented, and unauthorised migration can have different connotations in national policy debates. Due to this and the association with criminality the term 'illegal migration" should be avoided, as most irregular migrants are not criminals. Being in a country without the required papers is, in most countries, not a criminal offence but an administrative infringement.
3. While the UN use the term 'irregular' or 'undocumented' migration, the European Commission favoured for a long time the term 'illegal immigration', but more recently refers to 'irregular migration' as well.
4. The Council of Europe differentiates between illegal migration and irregular migrant. Referring to Resolution 1509 (2006) of the Council of Europe Parliamentary Assembly, ‘illegal’ is preferred when referring to a status or process, whereas ‘irregular’ is preferred when referring to a person.