At least 5.5 million immigrants live illegally in the European Union and the majority of them will remain in the EU, a Council of Europe report shows.

Starting with 1981, about 20 national regulation programs allowed in almost four million immigrants with an unregulated status to work there, says a report of the British expert John Greenway presented at the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, quoted by AFP.

The report argues that there is a vital need to control illegal immigration for the sake of European future development.

British Parliament representatives said that the issue couldn't be ignored any longer. In Spain alone, in 2005 there were more than 570.000 immigrants that got legal permits.

In Italy over the past years local authorities implemented five programs of regulation and 1.4 million immigrants benefited from them. In Greece, out of the estimated 200,000 - 400,000 illegal immigrants, some 170.000 requested legal papers.

However, even though Great Britain faces a great number of illegal immigrants, authorities never initiated such programs.

In France, the law on migration, adopted in July 2006 favors qualified immigrant recruitments but imposes harsh conditions for their families.