The deteriorating international economic situation is paralleled by an expanding market of undocumented labour. Workers from developing countries may be induced to migrate by companies and other entrepreneurs giving a false impression of working conditions and the value of remuneration. Agents for this trade often make promises of obtaining work permits and visas for the immigrants which they may or may not carry out.
Because of the demand for cheap unskilled labour in industrialized countries to carry out menial tasks that nationals no longer want to do, recruiting programmes have been set up in certain underdeveloped countries giving false hopes to the impoverished and unemployed. Although if they are successfully transplanted they earn higher wages than at home, they are in no position to benefit from this owing to the higher cost of living in industrialized countries and the need to send money home to the family. Many immigrants recruited in this way enter illegally and pay a high price to an agent or middle man. They may or may not obtain permits later. They face deportation and prison sentences and a total loss of their cash outlay if they are caught by the authorities. They are usually transported and housed in appalling conditions and are very often paid below minimum wage. Exploiters are often their own countrymen. Governments and firms tacitly condone unjust working and living conditions.
There is no reliable data available for illegal migrant workers but it is estimated that they outnumber legal migrant workers by as much as 7 to 1 (Human Rights Watch 2000). They come mainly from Africa, Asia and the Middle East, although since the fall of communist regimes countries of central and eastern Europe are now providing a significant proportion.