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‘Invisible workers’ in Europe: addressing the urgent need for regularisation and access to social rights

Ada MARRA (Switzerland, SOC)
©Council of Europe

According to the Assembly, Europe is home to around 4-5 million undocumented persons, including many ‘invisible workers’. They participate in the labour market without legal recognition but remain “fragile socio-economically – with poor or no access to socio-economic rights and at high risk of abuse, exploitation or even forced labour”.

In a resolution, based on a report by Ada Marra (Switzerland, SOC), the Assembly said that “by accepting the marginalisation of undocumented workers, member States tolerate inequality of treatment, discrimination and vulnerability which carry the potential for abuse and exploitation of persons”.

Recognising the urgent need to address this issue, PACE proposes a set of good practices for member States to adopt in regularising the status of undocumented workers and facilitating their integration.

Some of these include providing multilingual information on official procedures, ensuring that changes in employment do not affect residence status, enabling direct applications by undocumented workers themselves and streamlining admissibility criteria, granting residence and work permits to those who cooperate with authorities in reporting abuses, considering family situations in admissibility criteria, and ensuring access to healthcare for all undocumented workers.

The Assembly also highlighted the importance of access to justice for undocumented or irregular workers, emphasising the need to separate courts from migration authorities to enable workers to exercise their rights without fear of deportation.