The European Commission proposed a legislation on Wednesday to severely punish employers, who hire illegal immigrants, and measures to create new channels for legal jobs in the European Union (EU) to discourage illegal immigration.
The European Union's executive arm said it is determined to tackle the "pull factor" for illegal immigrants created by employers providing illegal jobs.
"It is vital to acknowledge that the near certainty of finding illegal work in EU member states is the main driving force behind illegal immigration from third countries. Not only is this illegal employment unlawful, it is also harmful," said Franco Frattini, European Commission vice president in charge of justice, freedom and security affairs.
The proposal for a directive, which needs the approval from the 27 EU member states and the European Parliament, requires member states to inspect at least 10 percent of their companies every year.
Currently, checks on staff records were rare, with just over 2 percent checked last year. As a result, the risk of employment of illegal immigrants being discovered was practically non-existent.
Under the proposal, employers would have to undertake certain checks before recruiting a third-country national and notify a competent national authority.
Those who cannot give proof that they have complied with those obligations will be liable to fines and other administrative measures.
EU member states would, however, be required to provide for criminal penalties in four serious situations -- repeated infringements, employment of a significant number of illegal immigrants, particularly exploitative working conditions and if the employer knows that the worker is a victim of human trafficking.
Apart from the proposal for legislation, the commission on the same day proposed pilot projects to create new channels for legal jobs in the EU so that illegal immigration is less tempting.
The commission proposed the negotiation of "mobility partnerships" with third countries that are ready to work actively to fight illegal migration.
In return, the third countries will get more mobility between their countries and the EU for their citizens, in terms of legal migration opportunities and short-stay visa issuing.
The commission proposed to start rapidly the negotiation of a limited number of pilot partnerships so as to test the feasibility of the concept.
"Mobility partnerships can make a major contribution to joint management of migration flows in a spirit of shared responsibility," said the commission.
Another concept proposed by the commission is the so-called "circular migration," under which workers from a certain third country will go back and forth between EU and their country depending on job availability.
The idea is to create a scenario where the EU can get workers from outside the bloc to fill its labor gap and at the same time prevent illegal migration as the workers will return to their home country when the contract expires.
The scheme will also allow third country nationals, who are already settled in the EU, to work in their country of origin while retaining their main residence in an EU member state.
The commission said it is ready to look at the possibility of supporting innovative pilot schemes to test the feasibility of this concept.
It is estimated that between 4.5 million and 8 million illegal immigrants are staying in the EU, with an increase by 350,000 to 500,000 every year. But most of them are not skilled to meet the EU's labor market needs.