PICUM Bulletin — 31 August 2015
- United Nations
- European Policy Developments
- National Developments
- Health Care
- Labour and Fair Working Conditions
- Undocumented Women
- Undocumented Children and Their Families
- Detention and Deportation
- Publications and other Resources
- PICUM IN THE NEWS
Nearly 15,000 undocumented migrants have been detained in the past six months, both at the borders - trying to go in or out of the country - and inside the country, according to the Bulgarian Deputy Minister of Interior, Philip Gounev. He stated that migrants and refugees do not want to stay in Bulgaria but the transit to other European countries is made very difficult for them. The Minister of Interior, Rumiana Bachvarova, announced that the Bulgarian government is considering a joint operation between border police and the army along the border regions in order to better police the borders with Macedonia and Greece.
Sources: Dnevnik, 22 August 2015; Mediapool, 21 August 2015
After ‘Counting the dead’ (see PICUM Bulletin 15 April 2014), the Migrants’ Files, a consortium of journalists from over 15 European countries, published ‘The Money Trails’ on 18 June 2015. In this article the journalists show that between 2002 and 2013, €225 million was spent on 39 research and development projects to manage European borders. Three companies obtained most of the funding: Airbus, with participation in ten projects via 14 subsidiaries; Finmeccanica, involved in 16 projects through 13 subsidiaries; and Thales, with participation in 18 projects via 13 subsidiaries. Since its launch in 2004, Frontex has cost almost one billion euro. The walls surrounding the Spanish exclaves of Ceuta and Melilla cost almost ten million euro a year to maintain, and since 2011, Italy has paid over 17 million euro to give equipment to Libyan authorities. Deportation is another costly policy: since 2000, the 28 EU member states, Norway, Lichtenstein, Switzerland and Iceland have deported millions of people, which has cost at least 11.3 billion euro. The authors estimate that migrants spend over €1 billion a year to come to Europe. To read the ‘Money Trails’, click here.
Source: The Migrants Files, 18 June 2015
FRANCE / French Commission on Human Rights denounces agreements between France and the UK regarding migrants’ attempting to enter the Eurotunnel
In a recommendation published on 2 July 2015, the National Consultative Commission on Human Rights (Commission nationale consultative des droits de l’homme, CNCDH) denounced the agreements between the UK and France concerning the issue of migrants in the French port town of Calais trying to go to the UK. The CNCDH argues that the agreements make France the armed branch of the UK’s migration policy. The CNCDH strongly regrets that France deprives migrants of their right to leave the country to apply for asylum in the UK. The document also calls for more funding for emergency shelters, as it establishes that the number of migrants in Calais has increased from between 300 and 400 at the end of 2013 to between 2,500 and 3,000 in June 2015, including about 300 women and several hundred unaccompanied children. The recommendation was published in the context of reports of over 3,000 attempts by migrants to enter the Eurotunnel terminal during July 2015. According to the Institute of Race Relations (IRR), at least 13 people died between May and July 2015. Doctors of the World are struggling with the increased number of seriously injured migrants, with more than 90 people a day seeking help. IRR also highlights that media has focused on the disruption and numbers of attempts to enter the Eurotunnel and not on the wider issues, including the lack of solidarity between EU member states. The blog Passeurs d’hospitalités (Facilitating Hospitality) which regularly reports on the situation of migrants in Calais, noted that disruptions in the Eurotunnel were initially due to a strike of ferry workers. Recent spending to prevent migrants from crossing into the UK will include £12 million (approx. 15 million euros) from the UK to bolster physical security in the Nord-Pas-de-Calais, £1.4 million to create a secure waiting area for lorries and another £7 million of funding towards increasing security at the Channel Tunnel railhead at Coquelles.
Sources: Le Monde, 3 July 2015; The Guardian, 29 July 2015; The Guardian, 29 July 2015; The Telegraph, 1 August 2015; Institute of Race Relations, 30 July 2015; Passeurs d’hospitalités, 1 August 2015
FRANCE / Railworkers trade union denounces the increased controls in stations and trains near the Italian border
In an open letter to the president of the French National Railway Company (Société nationale des chemins de fer français, SNCF) the secretary general of the railworker section of the General Confederation of Transport Unions (Fédération CGT des Cheminots) denounced the role that the company is playing in helping the border police at the train stations near the Italian border. A part of the train station of Menton-Garavan has been put at the disposal of the border police. Most of the train stations in the area are surrounded by police vehicles and the systematic checks of all trains arriving from Italy have created delays in the train schedule of the entire region. In his letter, the Secretary General of the union condemns the fact that the company is going beyond its role and giving its employees the tasks of border control agents. The letter is accessible here.
Source: L’Humanité, 22 June 2015
According to the EU border control agency Frontex, about 107,500 people arrived irregularly in the EU in July 2015, compared to about 70,000 in June. This is more than three times as many as registered in July last year. Most arrived on Greek islands such as Lesbos, Chios, Samos and Kos in the Aegean off Turkey, where nearly 50,000 people were recorded. The UN Refugee Agency UNHCR stated that the number of people arriving in Greece in July alone (50,242) exceeds the number of arrivals in Greece for the whole year of 2014. Amnesty International stated that the Frontex news report is yet more confirmation for the need for more regular channels for migrants to come to Europe. In the period between January and April 2015, over 1,700 migrants and refugees died or disappeared compared to 99 who died or disappeared between end of April and June after European governments finally stepped up their search-and-rescue operations. In total, nearly 340,000 irregular migrants and refugees have arrived so far this year in the EU, mainly in Italy, Greece and Hungary. This is a 175% rise compared to the same period in 2014.
Sources: UNHCR News Stories, 18 August 2015; Reuters, 18 August 2015; Amnesty International Press Release, 19 August 2015; Amnesty International, Press release 8 July 2015
Spain was criticised in June 2015 for violations of the right to non-discrimination on grounds of race, and for breaching its obligations under the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination. The Spanish organisation Comité René Cassin (René Cassin Committee) submitted a communication to the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD) criticising the direct discrimination that sub-Saharan migrants face in Spain where they are prevented from exercising their right to asylum. The organisation submitted the communication on behalf of a Malian migrant, Abdoulaye Mara, who attempted to cross the border in Melilla on 11 March 2015 with the intention to seek asylum, but was immediately returned to Morocco. The new Spanish Law on Public Security explicitly allows for the immediate and collective expulsion (“devoluciones en caliente”) of migrants without due process at the Spanish southern borders in Ceuta and Melilla (See PICUM Bulletin 5 June 2015). The organisation confirms that the new asylum offices opened by the Spanish Ministry of Interior in March 2015 at the country’s southern border are only receiving migrants from Syria and that sub-Saharan migrants have no access to them.
Sources: El Diario, 26 June 2015; El Confidencial, 22 June 2015
The Special Rapporteur on trafficking in persons, especially women and children, Maria Grazia Giammarinaro, presented her first thematic report at the 29th session of the Human Rights Council in June 2015. The thematic report outlines the vision for her mandate and the thematic priorities she intends to focus on. This includes the link between trafficking, migration and conflicts, as well the prevention of trafficking, with a particular focus on trafficking for labour exploitation. Ms Giammarinaro aims to pursue a human rights-based and victim-centred approach to promote and protect the human rights of victims of trafficking, especially women and children. The report highlights the specific assistance, protection and support needed for migrant children who become victims of trafficking. It also stresses that appropriate procedures must be put in place to assess the best interests of the child in every case. To read the full report (A/HRC/29/38), please click here.
Agreement has been reached on final outcome document ‘Transforming our World: The 2030 Agenda for Global Action’ that will constitute the new sustainable development agenda which will be adopted by world leaders at the Sustainable Development Summit in September 2015. The document presents an agenda for global action, with 17 Sustainable Development Goals and 169 targets. The introduction to the Agenda sets out that it will work to ensure that human rights and fundamental freedoms are enjoyed by all regardless of their status. International migration is recognised as a multi-dimensional phenomenon of major relevance for the development of countries of origin, transit and destination, and there is also recognition of the need to cooperate internationally to ensure safe, orderly and regular migration involving full respect for human rights and the humane treatment of migrants, refugees and displaced persons. Explicit references to migration are made in Target 8.8, which aims to protect the labor rights of all workers, including migrant workers; Target 10.7 with the aim to facilitate orderly, safe, regular and responsible migration and mobility of people, including through the implementation of planned and well-managed migration policies; and in Goal 17 which includes capacity building support to increase availability of high-quality, timely, reliable and disaggregated data. Ahead of to the Financing for Development (FfD) Conference at which the major Means of Implementation for the Sustainable Development Goals framework (SDGs) were to be decided in Addis Ababa on 13-16 July, child-focused organisations issued recommendations on investing in children. The European Commission’s 2013 Recommendation on “Investing in Children” was noted as an important standard for a universal, rights-based approach to social investment in children everywhere. On 15 July negotiators agreed on the Addis Ababa Action Agenda which reaffirms “the need to promote and protect effectively the human rights and fundamental freedoms of all migrants, especially those of women and children, regardless of their migration status”. To find out more about key points of the agenda, click here.
European Policy DevelopmentsTop
EUROPEAN COMMISSION / Working Document on the obligation to take fingerprints and on the implementation of the Eurodac Regulation
The European Commission published, on 27 May 2015, a Working Document describing practices that member states should follow in order to fulfill their obligation under the Eurodac Regulation to fingerprint all undocumented migrants apprehended on the territory of the state and all asylum seekers over 14 years of age. The working document includes suggested procedures for member state authorities to forcibly fingerprint undocumented migrants and asylum seekers in case of refusal to cooperate. The document includes practices such as detention, for as short a time as possible and necessary, and the use of physical coercion, as a last resort, in full respect of the principle of proportionality, by officers trained in the proportionate use of coercion. The document is available here.
The European Commission published, on 27 May 2015, an EU Action Plan against migrant smuggling (2015-2020). The Action Plan covers the period from 2015 to 2020 and details concrete actions aimed at preventing and countering migrant smuggling. Actions proposed by the European Commission include setting up a list of suspicious vessels as well as ad hoc platforms to enhance cooperation and exchange of information with financial institutions. The document also reiterates the intention of the European Commission to enhance the “effectiveness of the EU system to return irregular migrants […], in full respect of the standards and safeguards that ensure a dignified and humane return, in line with the EU Return Directive”. The Action Plan is available here.
Source: European Commission, Press Release 27 May 2015
The Frontex Consultative Forum on Fundamental Rights published, on 9 July 2015, its second Annual Report (2014). The report provides an overview of the activities of the Consultative Forum and the recommendations made to Frontex and its Management Board in 2014. The report concludes that there is still a need to ensure that standards and procedures effectively ensure protection of human rights of those arriving at the European Union’s external borders as allegations of human rights violations in the operational areas of Frontex coordinated joint operations continue. Among others, the report states that the Consultative Forum recommended putting more emphasis on the use of accurate terminology and stressed the importance of a child-sensitive approach to be adopted by border guards and other relevant actors at external air borders when approaching accompanied and unaccompanied children. The report is available here.
Source: Frontex News, 9 July 2015
NETHERLANDS / COURT OF JUSTICE OF THE EUROPEAN UNION / Case of two undocumented migrants who were labelled ‘risk to public policy’
In a judgment issued on 11 June 2015, the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU), clarified the interpretation of Article 7(4) of the EU Return Directive. The judgment concerned the case of Mr Zh and Mr O, undocumented migrants who were both apprehended in the Netherlands in different circumstances and ordered to leave the country with immediate effect on grounds that they constituted a ‘risk to public policy’ and were not allowed time to depart voluntarily from the Netherlands. The Court clarified that the concept of ‘risk to public policy’ referred to in Article 7(4) of the EU Return Directive must be determined according to its usual meaning in everyday language, together with a contextual and purposive analysis. In particular, the Court concludes that the assessment of a ‘risk to public policy’ should be carried out on an individual case-by-case basis to determine whether the personal conduct of the third country national concerned poses a genuine and present risk to public policy. The Court clarified that member states cannot rely solely on the fact that the person concerned was suspected, or had been convicted, of a criminal offence to justify a finding that they posed a ‘risk to public policy’ in line with Article 7(4). Professor Steve Peers’s analysis of the judgment is available here. The full judgment in case C 554/13 (Z. Zh. V Staatssecretaris voor Veiligheid en Justitie and Staatssecretaris voor Veiligheid en Justitie v I. O.), issued on 11 June 2015, is available here.
The EU Ombudsman, Emily O’Reilly, published her Annual Report 2014 on 26 May 2015, which highlights the EU Ombudsman’s work concerning the Joint Return Operations carried out by Frontex in cooperation with EU member states. Concerning undocumented migrants, the report states that the ombudsman pursued her work in 2014 to look into how Frontex ensures respect for the wellbeing of migrants during deportation flights. She also wanted to know how independent monitoring can be guaranteed during flights, and how Frontex’s Code of Conduct for joint return operation is implemented.
While the situation for undocumented migrants in Paris remains problematic (see PICUM Bulletin 3 July 2015), 222 artists have signed an open letter asking Anne Hidalgo, the Mayor of Paris, to find a more sustainable solution. Since the eviction of the camp near the La Chappelle metro station on 2 June 2015, the migrants have been moving from one place to another, either relocated to emergency accommodation or forcefully evicted by the police. There are not enough places to accommodate all the migrants arriving from Italy or Calais. The government proposed an action plan on 17 June 2015 to create 9,500 places in shelters for refugees and asylum seekers and 1,500 places in shelters for migrants in transit. Bernard Cazeneuve, the Minister of Interior, also announced the creation of “expulsion centres”.
Sources: 20 Minutes, 10 July 2015; Le Monde, 8 July 2015
A man who had housed undocumented migrants was charged for help to irregular migrants. He was active in migrants’ rights organisations and had been hosting a family from Armenia who had been denied asylum, since September 2014. During the spring, the family was questioned by the police who then summoned their host twice and held him in custody. Previously, in December 2012, however, the law on the offence of aiding irregular stay was amended, and it is no longer possible to prosecute someone for aiding irregular stay if it aims to preserve the integrity or the dignity of a person. Several organisations denounced what they called an attempt at criminalising solidarity. A support committee was formed and a petition launched that gathered more than 1,500 signatures. The trial was held on 15 July 2015 and the man was discharged by the court.
Sources: France Bleu Roussillon, 9 July 2015; France 3 Languedoc Roussillon, 15 July 2015
A law reform was passed by the Greek Parliament on 8 July 2015 (See PICUM Bulletin, 3 July 2015). The new Law 4332/2015 mainly regulates access to citizenship and introduces the possibility for children born in Greece, when attending the first year of elementary school, to access full citizenship rights. The bill was passed with 172 votes in the 300-seat parliament. The reform also includes provisions in line with the EU Seasonal Workers’ Directive (Directive 2014/36/EU on the conditions of entry and stay of third-country nationals for the purpose of employment as seasonal workers) and provides for increased protection and access to a humanitarian residence permit for migrants victims of trafficking, labour exploitation and domestic violence.
Sources: Greek Ombudsman, 9 July 2015; European Commission, European Web Site on Integration, 9 July 2015; Keep Talking Greece, 9 July 2015
Department of Justice officials are considering a Migrant Rights Centre Ireland (MRCI) proposal aimed at regularising the status of up to 20,000 undocumented migrants living and working in the Republic of Ireland. Only to those residing in Ireland over the past four years would be eligible for the proposed regularization scheme, and anyone with a serious criminal conviction would be excluded. A two-year probationary period would apply and a person granted residence could earn their way to citizenship. However, individuals would not have access to social security or social housing during the period. The most common nationalities among undocumented people living in Ireland include people from the Philippines, China, Mauritius, Brazil and Pakistan. MRCI’s research indicates that undocumented migrants encounter significant problems in accessing basic and essential services, such as health and education, and they are particularly concerned about the vulnerable situation of the estimated 5,000 children of undocumented parents. A poll carried out by Red C Research on behalf of MRCI showed that 69% of respondents agreed with the statement “undocumented people in Ireland should be granted the opportunity to earn the right to live and work in the country”. The figure rises to 79% when talking about undocumented children.
Sources: The Irish Times, July 9, 2015; Migrant Rights Centre Ireland, Press Release, June 2015
The Association AIDES has published an online petition directed at the French Prime Minister, Manuel Carlos Valls, challenging the deportation of gravely ill foreigners. Deportations of seriously ill people are occurring with growing frequency in France, particularly from detention centres, and often contrary to the medical advice provided by doctors of the regional health agencies. This petition follows a public protest on 17 June 2015 bringing together several French organisations (AIDES, La Cimade, Médecins du Monde, La Case de Santé, ODSE, Observatory for the Right to Health of Foreigners). The petition is available here.
INTERNATIONAL / World Health Organisation publishes report on sexual health and human rights, promoting non-discriminatory access for all including undocumented migrants
The World Health Organisation published a report entitled “Sexual health, human rights and the law” on 15 June 2015, providing legal and human rights-based arguments for the removal of legal and regulatory barriers to services, for ensuring access to information and education, for the decriminalisation of access to services and for laws addressing sexual and sexuality-related violence. The report describes sexual health as “fundamental to the physical and emotional health and well-being of individuals, couples and families, and ultimately of the social and economic development of communities and countries.” It is the result of research and broad consultation, including a meeting convened in Geneva in February 2008 of public health, legal and human rights experts to determine the project’s scope, design and content. The report includes a section on eliminating discrimination in access to health services, and on addressing the needs of specific populations, including undocumented migrants. The report acknowledges that “[un]documented migrants are particularly vulnerable to violations of their rights to sexual health services” and notes that under international human rights standards, the enjoyment of human rights, including access to health care, should be available to all individuals, regardless of their status, who are on a state’s territory or subject to its jurisdiction. The report argues that “excluding anyone from accessing needed health services results in preventable ill health” and is contrary to provisions enshrining non-discrimination in most states’ constitutions.The report is available here.
Labour and Fair Working ConditionsTop
The EU Agency for Fundamental Rights (FRA) launched the report “Severe labour exploitation: workers moving within or into the European Union. States’ obligations and victims’ rights” on 2 June 2015 during a joint conference with the Latvian Presidency of the Council of the EU in Brussels. The report explores various criminal forms of labour exploitation in the EU affecting migrant workers moving within or into the EU. The findings show that criminal labour exploitation is extensive in a number of industries, particularly agriculture, construction, hotel and catering, domestic work, and manufacturing, and also that perpetrators are at little risk of prosecution or of having to compensate victims. The findings show that migrant workers abstain from reporting labour exploitation to authorities out of fear that they will have to leave the country; due to not being informed about support services and their rights or they fear that the situation will get worse if they can no longer work. Findings are based on interviews with practitioners and experts as well as case studies. The report is available here. The launch of the report was followed by a side-event co-hosted by the Platform for International Cooperation on Undocumented Migrants (PICUM) and the European Trade Union Confederation (ETUC) in Brussels. The roundtable discussion brought together experts in the fields of trafficking, exploitation and migrant workers’ rights including the UN Special Rapporteur Maria Grazia Giammarinaro, representatives of the Office of the EU Anti-Trafficking Coordinator, the International Labour Organisation, UNESCO, trade unions and civil society organisations. The event discussed existing frameworks such as the Employers’ Sanctions Directive, the EU Anti-Trafficking Directive and the Victims’ Directive and concluded that there is a need to develop a more comprehensive human rights-based approach to assistance, protection and access to justice and redress; to create more regular channels for migrants to come and work in Europe; and to advocate for a “firewall”, a clear separation in law and practice between migration law enforcement authorities and access to social services or justice for undocumented migrants. To read more about the roundtable, click here.
The Spanish organisation, Fundación Surt (Surt Foundation) launched a report entitled “Fronteras difusas, víctimas invisibles. El tráfico de personas para la explotación laboral en el sector doméstico en España” (“Blurred boundaries, invisible victims: Towards an understanding of trafficking of human beings for labour exploitation in domestic work in Spain”) on 30 June 2015. The report is part of a wider European project entitled “Combating Trafficking in Women for Labour Exploitation in Domestic Work” in Cyprus, Greece, Lithuania and Spain. The report sheds light on the ‘invisible’ phenomenon of human trafficking for labour exploitation in the domestic work sector in Spain. It highlights that domestic work is an important sector of the Spanish economy as between 14% and 17% of Spanish households employ a domestic worker, that it is mostly carried out in the informal economy and that it is performed mainly by migrant women from specific regions (Latin America, Eastern Europe and North Africa). The report also points out some common trends in trafficking for labour exploitation in domestic work: the recruitment is often done individually by compatriots and family members, but also by Spanish nationals. Job placement agencies may also have a role in the recruitment and transportation of victims and traffickers take advantage of situations of special vulnerability such as the irregular status and language difficulties of the migrant women. To read the report (in Spanish), please click here.
Sources: El Diario, 1 July 2015; El Periódico, 1 July 2015
The Special Rapporteur on violence against women, Rashida Manjoo, presented the report on her country visit from 31 March to 15 April 2014 to the United Kingdom during the 29th session of the Human Rights Council in June 2015. The report examines the situation of violence against women and highlights, among other issues, the vulnerable situation of migrant domestic workers in the UK. The report includes abuses faced by migrant domestic workers, such as very long working hours, no holidays, accommodation in inadequate rooms and having their salaries withheld. It also highlights how some employers deliberately try to keep domestic workers uninformed and isolated, and mislead them about their residence status, their rights and the employer’s power to have them incarcerated or deported. Civil society organisations in the UK have also raised concerns about the new overseas domestic worker visa that ties domestic workers to their employers even in abusive employment situations. According to them, migrant domestic workers with the new visa are clearly experiencing worse treatment by employers, as compared to those who entered the UK on the previous visa with the right to change employers. To read the full report (A/HRC/29/27/Add.2), please click here.
Source: Kalayaan, July 2015
As part of the UK Conservative government’s plan to limit migration by 2020, further restrictions on non-European Union workers will come into effect in April 2016. One proposed measure is the deportation of 30,000 or more non-EU workers who do not earn more than £35,000 (€48,200) annually, after being in Britain for six years. The Royal College of Nursing (RCN), for instance, warned of the measure’s impact on the National Health System (NHS) at a time when demand on the health service is increasing. According to the UK Home Office, there might be exemptions where the UK has a shortage but the independent Migration Advisory Committee recommended against adding nurses to the shortage occupation list. David Cameron’s government previously announced that the new Immigration Bill will also include giving police the power to seize wages earned by undocumented migrants.
Sources: Reuters UK, 22 June 2015; World Socialist Web Site, 9 July 2015; The Guardian, 3 August 2015
EUROPE / Cyprus signs and Ukraine ratifies Council of Europe Convention targeting violence against women
On 16 June 2015, the Cypriot Government signed the Council of Europe Convention on Preventing and Combating Violence against Women and Domestic Violence, also known as the Istanbul Convention. Also in June, the Ukrainian Parliament adopted a resolution on the plan of legislative support for reforms in Ukraine, which includes a timetable for the ratification of treaties. Under this plan, the law on the ratification of the Istanbul Convention will be adopted in the second quarter of 2016; relevant legislative amendments to meet the requirements of the Istanbul Convention are likely to be adopted beforehand. This brings the number of signatories of the Convention to 38, with the number of states having ratified the Convention standing at 18. The Istanbul Convention is the first legally binding European treaty specifically addressing violence against women and domestic violence and states that provisions should be implemented without discrimination on the ground of migration status. The Convention’s broad scope covers all forms of violence against women, and includes several provisions requiring states to take measures to address victims on spouse-dependent visas, including by making available an autonomous residence permit, suspending deportation proceedings to enable application for an autonomous permit, and making it possible to obtain a renewable permit for victims under certain circumstances. The official guidance note makes specific reference to irregular migrant women, highlighting that while they have a different legal status to asylum seekers, they share an increased risk of violence and face similar barriers to overcoming such violence. It also specifically recommends that states provide accommodation in specialised women’s shelters, and reiterates the Task Force to Combat Violence against Women’s 2006 recommendations that one “family place” should be available per 10,000 population – an important legal standard because of member states’ failure to provide these places, or to adequately fund organisations that do, is a key source of the difficulties facing undocumented women.
Sources: Mediterranean Institute of Gender Studies, June 2015; Council of Europe, June 2015
Undocumented Children and Their FamiliesTop
The Coram Children’s Legal Centre has issued a new fact sheet, providing information about when the ‘No Recourse to Public Funds’ (NRPF) condition is placed on people granted residence status on private and family life grounds, and outlining how families can prevent a NRPF condition being imposed and how to get one lifted. A recent study found children and families living with NRPF face poverty for long periods and are at risk of exploitation (see PICUM Bulletin 3 July 2015). The fact sheet is available here.
Source: Coram Children’s Legal Centre, Migrant Children's Project Newsletter, June 2015
UK / FRANCE / Civil society submits alternative reports to the Committee on the Rights of the Child review
The Committee on the Rights of the Child will review both the UK and France’s implementation of child rights in May 2016. In the UK, children’s charities launched a report on 1 July 2015 highlighting how the UK government breaches its obligations under the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), because it is not fully considering how its decisions affect children. There is a section on immigration and migration, citing a number of measures taken by the government that have had a detrimental effect on migrant children. This includes a failure to increase asylum support levels in line with inflation, the removal of free legal advice and representation for almost all immigration cases, the tightening of the Immigration Rules on long residence, and restrictions on access to secondary health care for migrants. The organisations underline how the burden of responsibility and cost is falling more and more on local authorities and that the overall impact has been a regression of migrant children’s rights. The situation of undocumented children is highlighted, and key concerns around deportations and detention are raised. An accompanying report ‘See it, say it, change it’ provides children’s views, including on administration of the immigration system and their treatment by Home Office and Border Agency staff. Based on the evidence in the report, children's rights organisations ask the government to put children at the centre of decision-making, including in the forthcoming budget. Both reports are available to download here. In France, the AEDE project – Acting Together for the Rights of the Child – submitted its joint civil society alternative report, which provides an overview of the situation of children's rights in France over the period 2009-2015 and proposes concrete steps for action. Children and young people were involved in its production. There is a whole section raising concerns about the rights of unaccompanied children (MIE), including lack of appropriate care, the use of bone x-rays in age assessments and lack of protection and residence status when children reach adulthood. A summary of the report is available in French and English.
Source: Eurochild eNews Bulletin July 2015
IRELAND / UN Committee on the Rights of the Child seeks clarity from Ireland on migrant children’s rights
The UN Committee on the Rights of the Child (CRC) has issued a ‘List of Issues’ for Ireland, whose implementation of child rights will be reviewed by the Committee in January 2016. The ‘List of Issues’ sets out a number of specific child rights issues the Committee seeks additional information on, having received the government’s report of its progress as well as the input of civil society. The Irish government has to reply in writing. Several of the issues relate to the rights of migrant children. The Committee has requested information regarding independent mechanisms for receiving complaints and conducting investigations in cases involving public bodies, including in issues regarding asylum, immigration, naturalisation and citizenship; on the criteria for the fulfilment of the “Habitual Residence Condition” in order to access social services, and measures, if any, taken to ensure that this condition does not result in children from asylum-seeking, refugee, migrant, and Traveller and Roma ethnic minority backgrounds being excluded from primary care, child benefits and social protection; on measures undertaken to ensure that asylum-seeking children and their families, as well as those in irregular migration situations, have access to independent legal advice; and on measures to ensure that unaccompanied minors are not left stateless or in a situation of legal ambiguity on their migration status upon obtaining the age of majority. The list of issues and other documents related to Ireland’s review by the CRC are available here.
The Migrants Rights Centre Ireland (MRCI) and the Young, Paperless and Powerful campaign group, made up of undocumented young people in Ireland who want to regularise their status, have released a video, which was also shared in an article published in the Irish Times. The short video features children and young people, sharing how Ireland is their home; how they might not be able to go to university, get a work contract or travel and other daily challenges they face because they are undocumented; the impacts this has on their relationships with friends, mental health and well-being; and their hopes and dreams, including getting secure residence status. Proposals being considered by the Department of Justice recommend a one-off, time-bound regularisation scheme. To watch the video and for further information, click here.
Source: The Irish Times, 9 July 2015
A new report by The Children's Society “Cut Off From Justice: The impact of excluding separated migrant children from legal aid” found that the removal of legal aid for most immigration cases means that many children, including those in local authority care, are unable to access justice and are at risk of abuse or exploitation in their efforts to resolve their migration or residence status without legal aid, and as a result of their insecure or irregular status. Practitioners and young people told the Children’s Society that without legal aid children’s immigration claims are being avoided and remain unresolved, often leading to a transitional crisis for the child as they turn 18 and their residence status comes to bear more heavily on their access to services, such as housing, education and employment. Where children try to resolve their residence status on their own, they are having to gather witness statements, evidence about their past and risk having to represent themselves in court. Some young people have had to raise thousands of pounds to pay for legal advice themselves. The executive summary and full report are available to download here. Also in July, the British Government published its response to the recommendations of the justice committee in relation to civil legal aid and asserted that there was no need for a specific review of the impact of legal aid reforms on children, and the High Court found the legal aid Exceptional Case Funding scheme to be too complex, not providing the 'safety net' promised by Ministers and not ensuring applicants’ human rights are not breached. Read the judgment ( EWHC 1965 (Admin)) here. A Coram Children’s Legal Centre Migrant Children’s Project Fact Sheet on Exceptional Case Funding is available here.
Sources: Migrants Rights Network, Weekly Update, 20 July 2015; Coram Children’s Legal Centre Migrant Children’s Project, MCP July 2015 newsletter
The UN Human Rights Council adopted a resolution on the right to education on 1 July 2015. The resolution calls upon states to take all necessary measures, including sufficient budgetary allocations, to ensure inclusive, equitable and non-discriminatory quality education, and to promote learning opportunities for all. The resolution is available here.
The UN Human Rights Council adopted a resolution entitled ‘Unaccompanied migrant children and adolescents and human rights’ on 2 July 2015 (A/HRC/29/L.24). While the title of the resolution refers to unaccompanied migrant children, most of the recommendations contained pertain to the rights and well-being of all children affected by migration. For example, the resolution calls upon countries of origin, transit and destination to facilitate family reunification, to promote the welfare and the best interests of migrant children. It encourages states to continue to take into account the principle of the best interests of the child as a primary consideration, and to promote, protect and respect their human rights; encourages greater cooperation to reduce, mitigate and eliminate the causes and structural factors that make children feel compelled to migrate; and calls upon all states to ensure that their immigration policies are consistent with their obligations under international human rights law, and to promote the enjoyment of human rights by all migrants without discrimination. As a result of the resolution, the Human Rights Council Advisory Committee is developing a research-based study on the global issue of unaccompanied migrant children and adolescents and human rights, in which it will identify areas, reasons and cases where this issue arises in the world, and the ways in which human rights are threatened and violated, and make recommendations for the protection of the human rights of children and adolescents. The report is to be submitted to the Human Rights Council in September 2016. The resolution is available to download here.
Detention and DeportationTop
AUSTRALIA / Health professionals protest against new law forbidding disclosures about detention centres
A group of about 40 doctors, nurses, teachers and humanitarian staff working in Australian immigration detention centres wrote an open letter to the Australian Government on 1 July 2015, protesting against a new law, the Border Force Act (BFA), which makes it an offence for detention centre staff to make unauthorised public disclosures. On 11 July 2015, approximately 250 doctors, nurses and psychologists held a protest in front of the town hall in Sydney, Australia, to support health care workers who, they argue, are now prohibited by law from reporting instances of abuse in detention centres. A similar event took place in Melbourne the week before. The Border Force Act forbids disclosure by “an entrusted person” of protected information, and includes limited exceptions for disclosures to oversight bodies and child protection authorities. Violations of the law come with a penalty of up to two years’ imprisonment. Immigration Minister Peter Dutton said that the airing of general claims about conditions in immigration facilities will not breach the BFA. The law has nonetheless drawn criticism from the Australian Medical Association, the Australian Education Union and the World Medical Association, which has called on Prime Minister Tony Abbott to amend the law to include a public interest defense.
Sources: The Guardian, 11 July 2015; The Guardian, 5 July 2015; The Guardian, 2 July 2015
The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) in its opening current affairs debate has reminded European leaders that countries need to show solidarity in receiving refugees and support countries receiving the most migrants and refugees. “The parliaments of the Member States must take immediate measures to put an end to the detention of migrant children”, stated the Rapporteur General Doris Fiala. UN specialists are pleading for diverse alternatives to detention for children and families, such as the recording and/or filing of documents, deposits or guarantees, reporting obligations, liberty under surveillance, and assigned residence.
Source: Global Post,June 25, 2015.
The Cypriot organisation, KISA, visited the Mennoyia Detention Centre on 8 May 2015. According to the findings of the visit, presented as part of a press release issued on 12 May 2015, migrants currently detained at the Mennoyia Detention Centre are victims of several fundamental rights violations, including arbitrary, systematic, prolonged and repeated detention. The organisation recommends the Ministry of the Interior to engage in a stakeholder consultation, to include civil society organisations, in order to establish a policy for the protection of undocumented migrants who cannot be deported but remain in detention or are released without any substantial possibility of regularizing their stay in the country.
Source: KISA, 12 May 2015
The Global Detention Project (GDP) has identified challenges to efforts to end immigration detention of children and families, including the absence of an adequate definition of the immigration detention of children and inherent problems in developing realistic statistics to measure state activities. With the discussion paper ‘Children in Immigration Detention: Challenges of Measurement and Definition’, the GDP advances some preliminary proposals for characteristics or standards that should be included in assessments aimed at distinguishing between detention and non-detention institutional settings in which unaccompanied children are accommodated. Read the paper here.
Five organisations active in detention centres (la Cimade, France Terre d’Asile, Assfam, Forum Réfugiés and Ordre de Malte) published their annual report on detention on 30 June 2015. According to the report, 49,537 people were detained in the 25 French detention centres in 2014. Since 2013 there has been an increase in the number of detentions (from 45,500 to almost 50,000), the average length of detention (from 10 days to 12.3 days) and the number of children detained. Almost 5,700 children were detained in 2014, 57% more than in 2013. About half are detained in overseas territories. The situation is particularly dire on the island of Mayotte (Indian Ocean), where the most migrant children are detained. The organisations also condemn the use of detention as a means to disperse migrant populations, especially in Paris and Calais.
Sources: France 24, 30 June 2015; Le Monde, 30 June 2015
A police operation took place in Tangier on 2 July 2015 to evict sub-Saharan migrants. This was part of a wave of operations that started on 29 June 2015 with the eviction of a building where many migrants lived. Two Ivorian men died during these forced evictions. The Moroccan NGO GADEM (Groupe antiraciste d’accompagnement et de défense des étrangers et migrants) has condemned the unlawful and discriminatory nature of the evictions, arrests and deportations. The organisation denounces a xenophobic climate which creates tensions between Moroccans and sub-Saharan migrants. GADEM’s press release is accessible here.
Source: RFI, 4 July 2015
A new study ‘Detained Youth: The fate of young migrants, asylum seekers and refugees in Libya’ by the Mixed Migration Hub (MHub), reveals a consistent pattern of children and young migrants, refugees and asylum seekers held in arbitrary detention in squalid, cramped conditions for months at a time without any form of due process. The study explores the experiences of detention of young migrants, asylum seekers and refugees in Libya between November 2012 and November 2014, drawing on in-depth interviews with 45 former detainees (85% of whom were unaccompanied children or young people) in Italy, Malta, France and UK. Key findings centre around reasons for migration, the journey to Libya, the circumstances and the conditions of detention and life after detention. Serious rights violations, including allegations of violence and brutality, are said to be commonplace. The study highlights the ingenuity, determination and courage of young migrants, and suggests that the absence of a humane and orderly framework for handling migration in Libya is a contributing factor to the numbers of people willing to risk their lives in the Mediterranean to reach the safety of Europe. The executive summary is available in English and in Arabic. Download the full report here.
The Spanish association Karibu, which works for the rights of African migrants and refugees, released in June 2015 its report “Subsaharianos en el CIE de Madrid” (Sub-Saharan people in detention in Madrid). The report provides figures on the number, age and background of the detained migrants as well as testimonies and profiles. The report’s conclusions include that information on immigration detention and conditions is scarce, that many people who cannot be deported are detained and individual cases are not assessed sufficiently. Medical assistance in the detention centre in Madrid is outsourced to a company and medical consultations do not regularly take place. The full report is available here (in Spanish).
The National Commission for the Prevention of Torture (NCPT) issued on 9 July 2015 a report on the deportation of migrants. The report is based on the Commission’s observations when accompanying 41 transfers and 41 deportations between May 2014 and April 2015. The Commission noted that there was a differentiated use of coercive measures, but also found that in some cases people, including people in very vulnerable situations, were completely immobilised. The Commission condemned this abuse and recommended that authorities only use complete immobilisation for persons who resist physically. The report is available in French, German and Italian.
Source: National Commission for the Prevention of Torture, Press Release, 9 July 2015
The Bureau of Investigative Journalism has found that UK border and asylum officers are sending children to adult detention centres despite clear evidence they are children and without referring their cases to social services, as guidelines dictate in such circumstances. Five children have been found in the Yarl’s Wood detention centre since the beginning of 2015, the Bureau has established. Other figures released by the Refugee Council in June reveal that since 2010 at least 127 children have been found classified as adults in UK detention centres. Guidelines state that those claiming to be children should be given the benefit of the doubt and referred to social services for an official age assessment. However, if their appearance or demeanour “very strongly suggests that they are significantly over 18 years of age”, officials are allowed to decide themselves and send them to a detention centre. The Bureau has found that children as young as 14 have been assessed to be adults, with immigration officers making decisions based on the person’s appearance with no apparent suggestion the person is “significantly over 18″. Age assessments with social workers are more thorough, with the interview process lasting up to three hours and covering a child’s upbringing, educational history and other issues. Government policy states anyone undergoing an age assessment should be first released from detention into the community and stay there until the results are known. The Bureau has found that social workers have been sent to perform age assessments inside at least four adult detention centres in the last three years. The Bureau’s investigation also found that incorrect age assessments are costing British taxpayers in court and legal fees. Experts recommend government policy be changed to ensure that all those who claim to be children undergo a lawful and more thorough age assessment from social services.
Sources: Bureau of Investigative Journalism, 22 June 2015; Coram Children’s Legal Centre, Migrant Children's Project Newsletter, June 2015
US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) announced in a memorandum on 29 June 2015 a new policy that allows transgender detainees to be held in women’s facilities. The change aims to better protect a population more vulnerable to sexual abuse while in detention. These changes will take effect gradually as ICE employees are trained under the new system. According to ICE’s deputy assistant director for custody programs, who will also supervise changes under the new system as National LGBTI coordinator, the guidelines provide the necessary tools and resources to adequately accommodate and protect transgender detainees, 75 of whom he estimates are in ICE custody. No official records of the number of transgender detainees currently exist, but this will change under the new system, which will record a detainee’s gender identity. The new rules address concerns about the risks that transgender women face when being held in centres with men, or in isolation for extended periods. For instance, a 2009 study by the University of California at Irvine showed that transgender women in men’s prisons in California were 13 times more likely to be sexually assaulted than other inmates; and a 2013 Government study found that 20% of victims of sexual abuse in detention were transgender. Concerns have been expressed, however, about implementation of the new system and how consistently it will be applied.
Source: BuzzFeed, 29 June 2015
US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) deported thousands of unaccompanied children from Mexico and Canada aged under 14 years old between 2009 and 2014, without documenting how they screened and determined that the children would be safe, according to a recent audit by the US Government Accountability Office (GAO). For children under 14 from most countries, the screening process used to determine whether children could be endangered by being repatriated involves a judge. Mexican and Canadian children are exempt from this rule and are instead asked a set of questions by a border patrol officer or agent. Under the Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act, border agents try to determine whether the child is a victim of trafficking, could become a victim of trafficking, has a fear of persecution and is competent to make decisions about his or her situation. GAO found that agents made inconsistent screening decisions, had varying levels of awareness about how they were to assess certain screening criteria, and did not consistently document the rationales for their decisions. For example, CBP policy states that unaccompanied children (UAC) under 14 are presumed generally to be unable to make an independent decision, but GAO's analysis of CBP data and a random sample of case files from fiscal year 2014 found that CBP repatriated about 93% of Mexican UAC under age 14 from fiscal years 2009 through 2014 without documenting the basis for decisions. GAO recommends that the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), among other things, provide guidance on how agents and officers are to apply UAC screening criteria, ensure that screening decisions are documented, develop processes to record reliable data on UACs’ care, and document the interagency process to transfer UAC from DHS to the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). The Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service (LIRS) has also released a report entitled ‘At the Crossroads for Unaccompanied Migrant Children’, detailing the challenges and shortcomings of the current practices for apprehension and placement of UAC and a comprehensive set of policy recommendations for the care and protection of UAC. The report is available here.
Sources: The Guardian, 17 July 2015; US Government Accountability Office, 14 July 2015; Newswire, 23 July 2015
In a statement on 13 July 2015, the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) spokesperson Richard Rocha announced that ICE would now “generally not detain mothers with children, absent a threat to public safety or national security, if they have a received a positive finding for credible or reasonable fear and the individual has provided a verifiable residential address.” The new policy was announced in June 2015 by Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson, who stated: “I have reached the conclusion that we must make substantial changes in our detention practices with respect to families with children. In short, once a family has established eligibility for asylum or other relief under our laws, long-term detention is an inefficient use of our resources and should be discontinued.” New facilities in Texas (the Karnes City Family Detention Centre and the Dilley Family Detention Centre) and in Berks County, Pennsylvania were opened after nearly 70,000 family units were apprehended at the US-Mexico border in 2014. According to ICE in July, a total of 2,172 women and children were detained in these facilities. ICE officials have begun reviewing the cases of families and will release some women and children while they pursue their efforts to remain in the US. The administration will also evaluate detention practices to review the cases of families detained beyond 90 days. The announcements follow months of pressure from immigration advocates, lawyers and policymakers to stop the detention of mothers and children. All three facilities will remain operational and will continue to hold women and children who have been recently apprehended or who are not approved for release. Mothers and children have been held in family detention centres for as long as one year. Hunger strikes and attempted suicides are not uncommon in these centres. Critics of detention conditions also include former staff. A social worker who worked at the detention centre in Karnes County, for instance, resigned stating that what she was supposed to do was unethical and endangered her license.
Sources: W0AI News Radio, 14 July 2015; Huffington Post, 13 July 2015; International Business Times, 13 July 2015; ThinkProgress, June 25, 2015; Los Angeles Times 25 August 2015
Publications and other ResourcesTop
The European Migration Network (EMN) published its Annual Report on Immigration and Asylum 2014, in June 2015. According to the report, in 2014, nearly 228,000 migrants entered the EU irregularly, which is an increase of 159% compared to 2013. The reports also cites Eurostat data on trafficking in human beings: Between 2010 and 2012, EU member states registered 30,146 victims of trafficking, both EU and non-EU citizens. According to available data, the possibility of issuing temporary residence permits to third country nationals is under-used. While 2,171 non-EU citizens were registered as victims of trafficking in 2012, only 1,124 obtained a residence permit.
The Spanish organisation Red Acoge launched the second part of its campaign ‘Immigrationalism’: “#CutTheLabels” (‘Inmigracionalismo’: #CortaConLasEtiquetas) on 23 June 2015. The campaign aims to challenge sensationalist reporting on migration by the media. A new video aims to raise awareness about the emphasis on the nationality or the country of origin in certain news items. To watch the video and visit the new English website of the campaign, please click here.
The European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights (FRA) launched the second wave of the European Union Minorities and Discrimination Survey (EU-MIDIS II) in 2015. The survey collects data on respondents’ socio-economic status, their experiences of discrimination, criminal victimisation, and rights awareness, and includes questions on residence status and migration plans. The data collected by this survey will provide evidence on core indicators measuring progress, particularly in the implementation of National Roma Integration Strategies, as well as selected indicators on migrant integration. The project builds on the first EU-MIDIS survey from 2008, as well as on FRA’s 2011 Roma survey, which was carried out in 11 EU member states. Next steps include country-specific interviewer briefings at the beginning of September 2015 and the main stage fieldwork, which will commence in all EU member states in mid-September 2015 and is planned to continue for about four months. First results are expected in the second half of 2016, with further results to be published in 2017. For more information about the survey, click here.
The Platform for International Cooperation on Undocumented Migrants (PICUM) published a video, entitled ‘Migration is not a Crime’ in August 2015 which advocates for a human rights based approach towards migrant arrivals and for regular channels for migrants to come to Europe. The video animation, which was produced by the animation designer Roald Seeliger, is available here.
PICUM IN THE NEWSTop
PICUM Advocacy Officer, Kadri Soova, was quoted by Radio France International in a piece discussing the European Union’s struggles to cope with increased numbers of migrant arrivals and mentioning repressive measures of EU migration policy.
Radio France International, 19 August 2015
PICUM Programme Officer, Maria Giovanna Manieri, took part in a discussion on the Broadcasting Company MSNBC on the situation of migrants residing in Calais, France and addressing issues of policies and operations aiming to deter migrants and refugees arriving at EU borders.
MSNBC, 5 August 2015
This newsletter was compiled by PICUM, with a contribution from Borislav Gerasimov