PICUM Bulletin — 23 August 2016
- 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
- Other News
According to the Missing Migrants Project of the International Organization for Migration (IOM), over 4,027 migrants and refugees have died so far in 2016. This is over 1,000 more fatalities than occurred through the first seven months in 2015. More than three-quarters of migrant deaths recorded in 2016 occurred in the Mediterranean (3,120). Most migrants arrived in Greece, followed by Italy and Spain.
Source: International Organization for Migration (IOM), press release, 2 August 2016
A total of 87 bodies of migrants were recovered on a beach near Tripoli in Libya between 22 and 26 July 2016. Many migrants continue to try to make the crossing across the Mediterranean relying on people smugglers. Thousands have been intercepted at sea by the Libyan coastguard and transferred to detention centres. Since 2011, Amnesty International has collected scores of testimonies from former detainees detailing degrading conditions, violence and sexual abuse at the centres (see PICUM Bulletin 5 July 2016).
Source: AlJazeera, 26 July 2016
Since the closure of the Balkan route, Italy has again become one of the main reception countries for migrants and refugees. This included the rescue of a total of 6,530 migrants and refugees in the Mediterranean in several operations between 28 July and 1 August 2016. Some 2,150 migrants and refugees were rescued from boats and dinghies near Sicily on 18 separate operations on 22 July 2016, according to the Italian Coast Guard. On 19 July 2016 approximately 3,200 migrants and a corpse were taken from the Mediterranean Sea in the course of 25 emergency operations coordinated by the Operations Centre of the Coast Guard in Rome under the Ministry of Infrastructure and Transport. The rescue operations were carried out by the Italian navy ships, the EUNavfor Med mission, the Migrant Offshore Aid Station (MOAS), and Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF). According to the United Nations refugee Agency (UNHCR), over 93,500 migrants and refugees have arrived in Italy by sea in 2016.
Source: Stranieriinitalia, 20 July 2016; The Local, 1 August 2016; Euronews, 24 July 2016
According to an agreement signed on 23 June 2016 by the police authorities of the province of Udine in Italy and the Austrian state of Carinthia, repatriations of irregular migrants on the border between the two countries will be accelerated. Citizens from third countries who are detained after having entered Italy irregularly can be sent back immediately to Austria and vice versa, if this decision is taken within 24 hours after the irregular crossing of the border. For the purposes of determining the nature of the person’s border crossing, the permit issued in one of the two countries along with a train ticket or other means of transport, hotel invoices, fiscal receipts or motorway toll payments evidencing passage will be considered valid proof of irregular entry into the other country. The agreement clarified that if migrants are apprehended during the joint patrols of the two countries’ police forces, readmission can also take place without documentary evidence. On the other hand, readmission cannot take place if the person is an asylum seeker in a third country adhering to the Dublin convention. The agreement replaces a previous document signed by Italy and the Austrian state of Carinthia on 23 June 2000 and will be valid for an initial three-month period.
Sources: Ansa, 24 June 2016; Il Messaggero, 24 June 2016
The Italian organization Associazione Ricreativa e Culturale Italiana (ARCI), released a report on 28 June 2016 entitled “Steps in the process of externalization of border controls to Africa, from the Valletta Summit to today” analysing how the EU has taken steps to externalise EU border control and has used development policy instruments to encourage African nations to deter migration. The analysis highlights the monetarisation of the relationship between the EU and Africa, with the dual aim of encouraging development and forcing African countries to cooperate on migration by closing their borders and by readmitting their nationals. ARCI says this approach overlooks the real causes of most of the movements of people from the region, which are often totalitarian regimes, conflicts and the persecution of specific groups of the population. The report also highlights that development funds are not always used for development projects, but to strengthen border controls as well as frequently allocated to countries that infringe fundamental human rights. ARCI stresses the importance of increasing national and European development funds, but says these must be in no way be linked to migration control. In its view, developmental aid policies should be bound to requirements of respect for human rights and the feasibility of real democratic processes. Click here to read the full report
Source: ARCI, 28 June 2016
Ahead of a high-level summit of the United Nations to address large movements of refugees and migrants to be held on 19 September 2016 in New York, an informal hearing was held on 18 July as part of the preparatory process. The hearing included panels on reframing the narrative on migration and refugees in the context of the 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda; upholding and protecting the human rights and dignity of all refugees and migrants in the context of large movements and achieving a Global Compact for safe, regular and orderly migration. Panellists included representatives of the UN and different civil society organisations and initiatives working on migrants and refugees. Following the hearing, the Global Migration Group (GMG) in cooperation with PICUM organised a high-level dialogue on 20 July, entitled “Responding to Large Movements of Refugees and Migrants: Human Rights Protection, Labour Market Options and a Global Compact for Migration”. The event aimed to explore the human rights protection gaps to which migrants in vulnerable situations are exposed; the human rights-based responses needed to ensure their protection; and to build a common understanding among various stakeholders around the human rights of migrants in vulnerable situations. The concept note of the event is available here. More information on the upcoming UN summit on migrants and refugees in September is available here.
On 24 June 2016, the United Nations Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights adopted their concluding observations on the sixth periodic report of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. The report expresses concern about the impact of regressive policies on the enjoyment of economic and social rights. The Committee is particularly concerned that refugees and asylum-seekers that have received a negative decision on their application, continue to face discrimination in accessing health care services. The Committee notes that the Immigration Act of 2014 has further restricted the access to health services for temporary and undocumented migrants. For this reason, the Committee recommends that the UK takes steps to ensure that temporary and undocumented migrants, asylum seekers whose claims have been rejected, and refugees have access to all necessary health care services, and reminds the UK that health facilities, goods and services should be accessible to everyone without discrimination, in line with article 12 of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.
Source: The News Statesman, 29 June 2016; The Centre for Welfare Reform 28 June 2016
European Policy DevelopmentsTop
The European Parliament, the Council of the EU and the European Commission reached an agreement on the Commission’s proposal for a European Border and Coast Guard, on 22 June 2016. The European Border and Coast Guard Agency will be an evolution of Frontex with more resources and responsibilities, including for carrying out deportations, with a new dedicated Return Office to coordinate and organise removal operations, at the request of one (or several) member state(s), or as proposed on its own initiative. The proposal to also carry out forced removal operations from one third country to another was deleted through negotiations with the European Parliament, according to the compromise text leaked by Statewatch. Additional activities of the new Agency also include, among others, an increased mandate to work with and in third countries, and the introduction of the ‘right to intervene’. In cases when there is a ‘disproportionate pressure’ and a member state is not taking ‘sufficient action’ or requested Agency support to do so, the Council (based on a proposal from the Commission) may adopt a decision identifying the measures to be implemented by the Agency and requiring the member state to cooperate in their implementation. The Agency’s permanent staff will be more than doubled and it will be able to purchase its own equipment. In terms of fundamental rights compliance, the Regulation introduces a complaints mechanism for individuals who allege rights violations. Some amendments to strengthen the mechanism in terms of accessibility and good administration were included in the compromise text, but follow up remains administrative without any duty to pursue criminal justice measures and the Parliament proposal to include a specific provision on adequate resourcing left aside. Negotiations resulted in several references to search and rescue, in particular inclusion in the tasks of the Agency the provision of technical and operational assistance to member states and third countries in support of search and rescue operations for persons in distress at sea which may arise during border surveillance operations. Several political groups voted against the legislation, including GUE-NGL, Greens/ EFA and EFDD. For analysis of the Commission proposal please see two reports from CEPS here and here and a study for the European Parliament here.
Source: European Commission, 22 June 2016; BBC, 6 July 2016
Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) and European Union ministers informally agreed on a new standard European travel document on 23 June 2016 to accelerate deportations of third country nationals irregularly staying in EU member states, that are not in possession of the necessary travel documents. The regulation would establish the format, security features and technical specifications for a uniform European travel document. The overall purpose of the regulation is to address reasons why the current European travel document established in 1994 is not always used by member states or recognised by third countries. As well as technical specifications, the preamble says that the issuance of travel documents and the recognition of the European travel document for return should be part of cooperation and negotiations with third countries on readmission agreements (either with the EU or a member state), as well as other bilateral agreements and arrangements not related to return and readmission, and in return-related cooperation not covered by formal agreements. The informal compromise text needs to be formally endorsed by the European Parliament and the Council of Ministers. The debate and vote in the plenary of the European Parliament are scheduled for 14 and 15 September. The association AEDH had called for the LIBE Committee to reject the proposal, citing, among others, concerns regarding its use when people’s identities and nationalities have not been ascertained, to forcibly remove them to the country of their presumed nationality. AEDH also notes the context of the plans to include of the travel document into negotiations with third countries - the planned new Partnership Frameworks with third countries (see PICUM Bulletin 5 July 2016) - which have been strongly condemned in a joint statement co-signed by 140 NGOs .
Source: European Parliament Press Release, 23 June 2016
On 22 April and 19 May three applications were filed with the Court of Justice for the European Union (CJEU) against the European Council for annulment of the EU-Turkey statement , under Article 263 Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU). Two of the applications were brought on behalf of Pakistani nationals in the “No Borders Refugee Camp” in Lesbos, Greece (Case T-257/16; Case T-192/16); the third (Case T-193/16 NG) was brought by an Afghan national living in the “Onofiyta Refugee Camp” in Athens, Greece. Their request for annulment of the "EU-Turkey statement" puts forward several legal arguments, including: failure to comply with the procedures for agreements between the Union and third countries set out in the TFEU; failure to apply the Temporary Protection Directive (2001/55/EC); incompatibility with fundamental rights, notably with Articles 1 (human dignity), 18 (right to asylum) and 19 (protection in the event of removal, expulsion or extradition) of the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights; invalidity due to serious flaws in the current Greek asylum system at all levels, as found by the European Court of Human Rights and Court of Justice; incompatibility with the prohibition of direct and indirect refoulement; invalidity based on the unlawful conclusive assumption that Turkey is a safe country; and invalidity on the grounds of the prohibition of collective expulsion. The applicants have requested that the case will proceed under an expedited procedure.
Source: European Database of Asylum Law, 19 May 2016.
EUROPEAN COURT OF HUMAN RIGHTS / Court condemns France in five cases concerning detention of migrants and of child migrants
The European Court of Human Rights on 12 July 2016 issued five judgements in cases against France concerning administrative detention of children who are accompanying their parents during the deportation process. The Court concluded, as it had in its previous case law, that there was a violation of Article 3 (prohibiting torture) in view of the children’s young age (which ranged from 7 months to 4 years, at the time of their detention) and the duration (up to 18 days) and conditions of their administrative detention. The Court considered that conditions in administrative detention centres are sources of anxiety for young children, even where material conditions in certain centres are appropriate, and held that only short term placements in centres adapted for children can be compatible with the European Convention on Human Rights. It further emphasised that domestic authorities must ensure that placement in administrative detention is a measure of last resort for which no alternative measure is available, where under-aged children are concerned.
Sources: European Court of Human Rights Press Release, 12 July 2016; CRIN Mail, 22 July 2016
Judgments available here:
- A.B. and others v. France (Application no. 11593/12) (French)
- R.M. and others v. France (Application no. 33201/11) (French)
- R.K. and others v. France (Application no. 68264/14) (French)
- A.M. and others v. France (Application no. 24587/12) (French)
- R.C. and others v. France (Application no. 76491/14) (French)
CROATIA / EUROPEAN COURT OF HUMAN RIGHTS / Right to family reunification for migrants must include same-sex couples
The European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) recently fined Croatia €15,000 for discriminating against same-sex couples by refusing to grant a residence permit on the ground of family reunification to a same-sex partner, in the case of Pajić v. Croatia (available here). While noting that while the European Convention on Human Rights does not impose a general obligation on states to authorize family reunification on its territory, states nonetheless must exercise their immigration policies in a way that is compatible with a foreign national’s human rights, including his or her right to respect for private or family life (Article 8) and the right not to be subject to discrimination (Article 14). This means that if states choose to recognise a right to family reunification, they have to recognise it both to heterosexual and homosexual couples, absent an objective and reasonable justification for treating them differently. The Court found no such justification in this case, which was brought by Bosnian national who claimed the Croatian authorities breached her right to family and a private life under Article 8 by not granting her a residence permit in 2011 on the basis of her union with her female Croatian partner. The Croatian police had refused to grant her a temporary residence permit, quoting the Foreigners’ Act of 2011, which grants permits only to foreigners in heterosexual marriages or non-marital partnerships. The Court found and violation of Article 14 in conjunction with Article 8.
Source: Balkan Insights, 23 February 2016
FRANCE / EUROPEAN COURT OF HUMAN RIGHTS / Woman’s right to remain in France affirmed despite ruling on right to an effective remedy
The European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) ruled on 16 June 2016 in the case of R.D. v France (available here in French) that a fast tracked procedure in relation to an asylum application did not deprive a migrant of her right to an effective remedy. The case concerned a Guinean national, R.D., who was arrested following an attempt to leave France on a false passport. The woman, having fled Guinea where she suffered violence at the hands of her father and brothers, was served with an order for immediate removal to Guinea and her subsequent application for asylum was rejected. Before the Court, she claimed that she was denied an effective remedy (under Article 13) because the asylum application had been processed under an expedited procedure, without an automatic stay on deportation proceedings. The Court found no breach of Article 13, noting that the applicant had renounced an earlier opportunity to apply for asylum under the normal procedure, and that it had been open to her to raise her concerns about a possible violation of Article 3, were she returned to Guinea, had she pursued an appeal of the deportation proceedings. The Court nonetheless concluded that returning R.D. to Guinea would amount to a breach of article 3 of the Convention on the basis that Guinea was unable of ensuring protection for women in the situation of plaintiff.
Source: European Database of Asylum Law, 16 June 2016
On 26 May 2016, the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) communicated the case of Raoufi and others v Greece (available here, in French), concerning the detention of three Afghan applicants in the first reception centre in Chios, known as VIAL, on 20 March 2016, the day in which the EU-Turkey deal entered into force. The applicants claim that the conditions of their detention constitute a breach of Article 3 of the Convention, which prohibits torture. On 12 June 2016, a separate application for emergency measures was filed (available here) on behalf of 51 individuals of Syrian, Afghan and Iraqi nationality (including children) held in Chios, claiming violations of Article 2 (right to life) and 3 (prohibition of torture) of the European Convention on Human Rights, on the basis of their de facto detention in degrading and unsafe conditions, without access to necessary medical care or food, following the EU-Turkey deal; as well as a violation of Article 5 (right to liberty and security) due to the arbitrariness of their detention and the failure of authorities to inform them of the reasons for detention. On 24 June 2016, their application was denied, without reasons.
Source: European Database of Asylum Law, 26 May 2016; Gisti.org, 28 June 2016.
A series of attacks in Bavaria, Germany has led to a renewed debate if there should be more stringent control of migrants and refugees entering the country despite the fact that one of the attackers had German nationality and mainly targeted people of foreign origin. On 24 July 2016, a 27-year old Syrian who had a status of suspended deportation (‘Duldung’) killed himself and injured 12 others after detonating a bomb at a music festival in Ansbach, Bavaria. According to reports, he attempted to commit suicide before. The attack followed a shooting on 22 July in a shopping centre in Munich by an 18-year German-Iranian who was reportedly inspired by Anders Breivik, a Norwegian with a far-right ideology who killed over 70 people on the same day in 2011. The shooter’s victims were mostly of foreign origin. The shooting left nine people dead, and over 20 injured. The shooter had reportedly been treated for depression before. These attacks were preceded by an axe and knife attack one week before on a train near Würzburg, Bavaria, by a young Afghan refugee who was allegedly inspired by Islamic State (IS). Chancellor Angela Merkel of the Christian Democratic Party (CDU) reiterated that Germany would continue to accommodate refugees. However, several other politicians at national and regional levels as well as parts of the population stated that legislation allowing migrants and refugees to enter the country should be more restrictive. Most criticism of Angela Merkel’s stance has come from politicians of the CDU’s sister party in Bavaria, the Christian Social Union (CSU). The party’s Bavarian Prime Minister, Horst Seehofer, publicly distanced himself from Angela Merkel’s position and called the situation threatening and said that among the migrants and refugees, some have potential for violence. The President of the Advisory Board of German Foundations for Integration and Migration (Sachverständigenrat deutscher Sitftungen für Integration und Migration), Haci Halil Uslucan, criticised that the debate did not accurately consider that the Munich shooter acted out of a racist motivation and stated that a more neutral debate would benefit prevention of attacks. The Federal German Police has lately been rejecting entry to an increasing number of migrants at the border of Bavaria and Austria who do not meet requirements to enter the country and do not want to apply for asylum. In July 2016, the German police registered 2,600 migrants and refugees at the border with Austria of whom about half, 1,300, were rejected entry. Meanwhile, the police registered more entries at the border with Switzerland. The majority comes from Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, Albania and Serbia.
Sources: Die Welt, 31 July 2016; Der Tagesspiegel, 30 July 2016; Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (FAZ), 25 July 2016; Süddeutsche Zeitung, 29 July 2016; EU Observer, 25 July 2016.
A report launched by the Advice on Individual Rights in Europe (AIRE) Centre and the European Council on Refugees and Exiles (ECRE) on 13 July shows that refugees and migrants in Greece continue to face challenges in applying for asylum due to increased procedural complexity, a lack of simple and accessible information, as well as significant gaps in legal assistance. The report also draws attention to important weaknesses in procedures for identifying and effectively processing the asylum applications of the most vulnerable. The report follows a visit to Greece between 28 May and 6 June and highlights the longstanding efforts of Greek lawyers and NGOs in the field. Recent figures from Refugee Crisis Management Coordination Body show that there are over 57,000 migrants and refugees in Greece. The AIRE Centre and ECRE call on EU member states to comply with their obligations under the Dublin Regulation, and to engage in the relocation scheme in good faith in order for asylum seekers in Greece, and across Europe, to move safely and benefit from effective legal channels. To read the full report, click here.
The fee required in Italy for the issuing or renewal a residence permit for migrants is too high, the Court of Milan affirmed in a ruling on 8 July 2016. The cost for foreigners ranges from €100 to €245, which is about eight times higher than the amount paid by Italian citizens for the renewal of their identity card. The Court held that the fee was disproportionately high and contrary to the principle of equal treatment enshrined in the European Directive 109/2003. As a result, the Ministry of Interior, the Ministry of Economy and the Presidency of the Council of Ministers have been ordered to partially repay the six applicants, as well as all migrants who will be asked to pay the fee after the entry into force of the judgment. The ruling of the Court of Milan followed an earlier decision in May 2015 of the Regional Administrative Tribunal in Rome recognising that the EU Court of Justice had found that the fee constituted an undue economic obstacle to obtaining a residence permit; and the state’s subsequent failure to amend its legislation accordingly. Read the decision of the Court here (in Italian).
Sources: ASGI, 8 July 2016; Il Giornale, 11 July 2016
In a meeting between the Ministry of Interior, the National Press Federation and the association Carta di Roma on 14 July 2016 it was decided that hotspots in Italy will be opened to delegations of journalists. The media will be allowed to enter the hotspots on at least a monthly basis and at 12 hours’ notice. The total number of fully operational hotspots in Italy is four – Lampedusa, Pozzallo, Trapani and Taranto. So far, lawyers, journalists and civil society representatives had no access to Italy’s hotspots. Currently, the functioning of Italy’s hotspots is not regulated by any European directive or national laws. Media representatives, supported by several Italian NGOs, confirmed that this does not mean full access of the public to the hotspots but that it is still an important achievement in terms of transparency and ensuring respect for citizens’ right to be informed.
Sources: Stranieriinitalia, 18 July 2016; Vita, 19 July 2016; ONU Italia, 19 July 2016 ; Carta di Roma press release, 18 July 2016
A Swiss military helicopter was reported to have spent six hours searching for irregular migrants in the Brig area of the canton of Valais in Switzerland in July 2016, at a cost of CHF 65,000 (€60,000). Border guards in the area requested help from the army helicopter for a night-time search. There was no information if the search led to the apprehension of migrants. The cost of the helicopter – CHF 10,900 an hour – was criticised by Green politician Balthasar Glättli. Swiss border authorities confirmed that the operation took place, saying the exercise was aimed at reducing irregular migration. They have a number of helicopter hours allocated to these activities each year.
Source: The Local, 13 July 2016
CYPRUS / Migrant woman puts stillborn child in suitcase after fearing to seek medical help due to expired residence permit
A Filipino woman was remanded in police custody for eight days by the Nicosia District Court on 18 July 2016 after allegedly abandoning her stillborn child in a suitcase and instructing a friend to bury it. On 14 July the woman had arrived at Nicosia General Hospital hemorrhaging and suffering from exhaustion. She was reported to police by health professionals at the hospital where she was being treated, and subsequently charged with “concealment of child birth”, “participating in a conspiracy with another for the concealment of childbirth”, and “overstaying.” Reports indicate that the woman did not seek medical attention during her pregnancy because her visa had expired. Under Cypriot law, only Cypriot nationals, registered EU nationals and victims of trafficking are entitled to health care, with very limited exceptions. Civil society organisations have criticised the media for overstating the charges against her, as well as their failure to consider the situation of undocumented women who face extremely limited access to health services in Cyprus.
Sources: In Cyprus, 20 July 2016; KISA Press release, 22 July 2016; KISA press release 29 July 2016
The Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (KEELPNO) called for the closure of reception centres for migrants across Greece on 26 July 2016, following inspections of 16 centres in northern Greece. KEELPNO found that conditions in military barracks and industrial sites which accommodate hundreds of migrants pose a series of health risks for both the migrants and the general public. They specifically noted inadequate ventilation, inadequate access to running water and an accumulation of large quantities of trash and waste on the premises.
Source: Ekathimerini, 26 July 2016
The report “Neglected Trauma,” published by Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) on 15 July 2016, addresses the issue of mental health assistance to migrants and asylum seekers detained in Italy’s Emergency Reception Centres (CAS). The report calls on Italian and EU authorities to address mental health issues in the reception system and focuses on the effect that national reception policies and facilities have on the mental health of new arrivals. Data contained in the report was collected by MSF between July 2015 and February 2016 in different reception centres in Rome, Trapani and Milan. 87% of asylum seekers reported that they experienced psychological problems encountered during the reception phase. In that regard, the complexity of Italian bureaucracy can also contribute to post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), anxiety or depressive episodes. The report also found that there is often no active screening available to assess the need for mental health support and refers to scientific findings which show an increased risk and a higherincidence of mental disorders among migrants, specifically higher rates of psychosis, depression, PTSD, mood disorders, and anxiety disorders. Among others, the report recommends that the Prefecturesand local health authorities should ensure systematic joint monitoring of the facilities and detailedmonitoring of the quality of the services provided. Read the MSF report here.
Sources: Relief Web, 15 July 2016
Labour and Fair Working ConditionsTop
A total of 35 migrant workers from Brazil, Nepal, Egypt and Albania were detained as part of a raid on several branches of the Byron Hamburgers chain of restaurants on 4 July 2016 in London. A senior worker in one of the branches alleged that staff had been told to attend a health and safety meeting in the morning of that day but immigration officials quickly arrived and started to interview people. The Home Office refused to respond to claims that it set up staff meetings on the false pretense they were for health and safety training. Byron Hamburgers published a statement arguing that they were unaware that employees were in possession of ‘counterfeit documentation’ until the Home Office brought it to their attention and that they carry out ‘rigorous right to work checks, but sophisticated counterfeit documentation was used in order to pass these checks’. Byron was also criticised on social media for the allegations of setting up staff meetings on false pretenses. On 29 July, activists of the London Black Revs and the Malcolm X Movement, let out thousands of cockroaches and locusts at two of Byron’s branches protesting the treatment of the migrant workers. This comes at a time of increasing numbers of immigration raids across the UK with an 80% rise in the number of raids in London between 2010 and 2015; on average almost 11 raids a day in London alone during this time period. Further, not all these raids were found to be carried out lawfully. In 2014, the Chief Inspector of Borders and Immigration published a report which found that as much as two-thirds of immigration raids were unlawful – particularly in relation to the misuse of the power to enter premises. The raids have been criticised by various quarters. Amelia Womack, the deputy leader of the Green party, said that people who work in the UK should be able to apply for residence so as to continue contributing to society economically.
Sources: The Guardian, 27 July 2016; Migrant’s Rights Network,11 July 2016; The Guardian, 31 July 2016
UK / Regulatory body clarifies that only licensed lawyers can advise destitute migrants on how to obtain benefits
The Office of the Immigration Services Commissioner (OISC) regulates the provision of immigration advice in the UK and requires that anyone providing individualized immigration advice be registered, unless he or she is a qualified lawyer registered with the appropriate regulatory body. It is unlawful for anyone who is not registered with OISC, or is not exempt from registration, to provide such advice and assistance. In June 2016, the OISC clarified that this regulation applies to anyone providing advice or assistance to an individual on changes in the conditions of their right to remain in the country. One of the conditions of leave to remain in the UK, under the Immigration Act 1971, is that a person has “no recourse to public funds” – that is, has no right to claim most benefits paid by the state. Migrants who become destitute may be eligible for the Destitute Domestic Violence (DDV) Concession application, which permits people who are in the UK on a temporary visa as a partner whose relationship has broken down because of domestic violence to claim public benefits for up to three months while an application for permanent residence is pending. To do so, they must make an application to change the NRPF condition of their residence permit. Under OISC’s regulation, sectors that are heavily relied on to provide individualised advice on applications to change the NRPF condition or the DDV concession, such as local authorities and volunteers, face criminal penalties if they are not registered with the OISC. They are limited to directing people to the OISC website to seek information and advising them to seek legal advice. This is likely to have significant implications both for migrants’ ability to obtain the assistance they need to access benefits to which they’re entitled by law; and for local authorities because, in the absence of legal aid for such matters, most immigration advisers will charge for advice and local authorities may be left covering the costs.
Source: NRPF Network, 7 June 2016.
Undocumented Children and Their FamiliesTop
On the occasion of World Refugee Day in June 2016, Eurochild released a series of interviews entitled “Turning the tide for children on the move”. The publication offers a snapshot of the situation of migrant and refugee children in different parts of Europe in both transit and destination countries. It is built on interviews with professionals working with and for children and families in Greece, Italy, Serbia, Hungary, Austria, Germany and France. Nine child rights professionals share the challenges they face on the ground and make recommendations to national governments and EU institutions for the protection of the rights of children and to ensure their access to services. To view the publication, click here.
The U.S. government announced the expansion of a programme on 26 July 2016 which would allow Central Americans to come to the U.S. as refugees. The U.S. has faced increased numbers of migrants arriving from El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras, largely said to be due to gang violence in these countries. Amy Pope, Deputy Homeland Security Adviser, recognised that efforts to deal with people who may have legitimate refugee claims have been insufficient. The U.S. government reached a protection transfer agreement (PTA)with Costa Rica to serve as a temporary host site for the most vulnerable migrants from El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras while they wait for their claims to be assessed. The UN will help identify the most vulnerable in the countries of origin. Costa Rica aims to host 200 individuals at a time for six-month periods under the new agreement. Only those who have been prescreened in their countries of origin will be eligible for travel to Costa Rica. People who travel to the country on their own will not be accepted into the programme. The announcement follows reports in January 2016 that more than 17,370 undocumented children and families from Central America were detained at the U.S. border in the last three months of 2015. Immigrant rights groups have a mixed reaction to the development. Greg Chen, Director of Advocacy at the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA), said the group was pleased the administration was directing more resources to refugees, but was concerned the plan still left gaps in protection for vulnerable groups.
Sources: New York Times, 26 July 2016; The Guardian, 26 July 2016
USA / Texas reduces administrative barriers for birth registration of children of undocumented parents
Texas officials have agreed to expand the list of documents that allow undocumented parents to obtain birth certificates for their U.S.-born children. The policy change comes following a civil lawsuit by a group of Central American and Mexican parents against the State of Texas, after officials denied them birth certificates for their children, taken in May 2015 (see PICUM Bulletin 3 July 2015 and 17 December 2015). In autumn 2014, Texas stopped accepting the widely-used consular identification cards (matrículas), citing concerns around insufficient checks and risks of identify fraud. However, the shift to require a valid passport, with a valid visa, in order to issue mothers with their children’s birth certificates, directly discriminated against children of undocumented mothers, and affected their access to services including education and health care. Under the agreement, Texas registrars still will not accept matrículas, but must accept a form of secondary identification, such as a Mexican voter registration card or Salvadoran national identification, as well as two supporting documents. The list of qualifying supporting documents has been expanded by more than two dozen, and include documents such as a recent utility bill with current address, school transcript, lease, marriage certificate, mobile phone bill, or library card. The parents’ lawsuit has been stayed pending implementation of the new policy during the next nine months. Some of the families that sued have documents that meet the new criteria and are reapplying for birth certificates, while others are applying for identification from their countries of origin. In addition to accepting more forms of identification, Texas officials also agreed to train registrars, create posters and pamphlets explaining the requirements, and add a hotline for complaints that staff will review.
Source: Los Angeles Times, 25 July 2016
Detention and DeportationTop
AUSTRALIA / Company managing Australia’s offshore immigration detention centres could be liable for crimes against humanity, experts find
The Spanish company, Ferrovial, has been warned by professors at Stanford Law School that its directors and employees risk prosecution under international law for supplying services to Australia’s camps on Nauru and Manus Island in Papua New Guinea. Diala Shamas, a clinical supervising attorney at the International Human Rights and Conflict Resolution Clinic at Stanford Law School said her colleagues’ findings should be a warning to any company or country seeking to replicate Australia’s migrant policies elsewhere. Australia’s offshore detention centres have attracted widespread and consistent criticism since the country re-introduced its policy of “offshore processing” in 2012. Currently, people who arrive in Australia by boat seeking asylum without a visa are sent to either Nauru or Manus Island, where most are held in indefinite, arbitrary detention. At present, 843 men are being held on Manus Island, and 466 people, including 50 children, in the Nauru detention centre. Most have been held on the islands for nearly three years. The warning came as a new report was released on 25 July by rights advocacy group No Business In Abuse (NBIA) and the Melbourne-based Human Rights Law Centre advising Ferrovial to immediately cease all operations at the two camps and claiming that dozens of European and North American banks and investors are complicit in Australia’s offshore detention regime due to their financial backing for Ferrovial. Ferrovial said it would not be renewing its contract with the Australian government next year.
Sources: The Guardian, 25 July 2016
The administrative high court in Belgium condemned the Belgian Office for Foreigners in a ruling on 28 April 2016 that it may under no circumstances hold families with children in detention. It annulled several provisions under Belgian law, which made the detention of a family member possible, leading to this person being separated from his/her family to facilitate the removal of the family. It also annulled provisions allowing detention of entire families in detention centres in ‘exceptional circumstances’ without defining the conditions under which detention centres are suitable for families. The complaint was lodged by eight organisations: UNICEF Belgium, Defence for Children International Belgium, the League for Human Rights, Jesuit Refugee Service – Belgium, Brussels Youth Rights Service, Vluchtelingenwerk Vlaanderen, and PICUM members CIRE and the Minors in Exile Platform. All of these organisations welcomed the decision and called on the Belgian state to cease any form of detention of children based on their migration or residence status. They reaffirm that the practice contravenes the rights of children enshrined in the Convention on the Rights of the Child to which all European countries are parties.
Sources: La Libre, 20 June 2016; Joint press release 20 June 2016
According to the Finnish Immigration Service (MIGRI), migrants may be deported to Afghanistan, Iraq and Somalia, despite armed conflicts in these countries. A spokesperson for the Finnish Immigration Service stated that all pending applications for protection from people from these countries, totalling about 20,000, will be affected by this new decision. People from these countries can now only be granted protection if they can prove that they are individually at risk. Finland's centre-right coalition government has tightened immigration policies since the increase in migrant and refugee arrivals. In 2015, around 32,500 people applied for asylum in Finland (compared to 3,600 in 2014), with most of them coming from Iraq, Afghanistan and Somalia.
Sources: Finland Today, 17 May 2016; Reuters, 17 May 2016
The 6th report of the French NGOs Assfam, Forum Réfugiés, France Terre d’Asile, l’Ordre de Malte and La Cimade was released on 28 June 2016. It gathers and analyses data and testimonies concerning the conditions in 24 detention centres in France. The main finding is that the national migration policy breaches migrants’ fundamental rights. According to the report, between 2011 and 2015 over 230,000 people were detained in France and 48,000 in 2015 alone. These figures include a significant increase in the number of families with children being detained in detention centres in mainland France, from 24 families with 45 children in 2014 to 52 families with 105 children, as well as 11 children detained in other places of detention in mainland France, and 4 706 children detained in Mayotte. A lack of legal certainty leads to many persons with disabilities, pregnant women, children and victims of torture being placed in detention facilities with little regard for their vulnerabilities. The report also criticises the placement in detention of large groups of migrants as a result of the increase in the number of migrants in Calais. As a result of this, in certain detention centres some groups of migrants were managed collectively rather than each person individually, leading to violations of their rights. To view the report, click here.
Source: Le Monde, 28 June 2016
Human Rights Watch (HRW) has reported that Greek authorities regularly detain unaccompanied asylum-seeking and migrant children in small, crowded and unsanitary police station cells. Children are reportedly held there for weeks and months, waiting for space in shelter facilities. The detention of children in police station cells was originally intended as a short-term measure, due to a lack of sufficient and adequate accommodation for children. The National Centre for Social Solidarity (EKKA), the government authority responsible for managing the placement of unaccompanied children in shelters, stated that Greece has only 661 shelter spaces for unaccompanied children. As of 18 July, all facilities were full, and 1,394 requests for placement were pending. Meanwhile, hundreds of other migrant children were held in large detention centres. The children themselves described unsanitary, overcrowded cells, including dirty blankets, bugs, and lack of access to information or services such as counseling, legal aid and interpretation. Children also reported not being allowed to leave their small cells.
Source: Human Rights Watch, 19 July 2016
Nina Bernstein, a reporter for the New York Times, has authored a paper about the limits that investigative journalism faces in spurring detention reforms in the United States. The paper, which was published by the Global Detention Project on 26 July 2016, focuses on the relationship between investigative journalism and the early efforts of the Barack Obama administration to overhaul immigration detention by creating “a truly civil detention system.” The author addresses her own experience as a reporter trying to investigate individual cases of human rights abuses in immigration detention and concludes that possibilities of successfully challenging immigration detention through investigative journalism are currently slim. The author also notes that the Obama administration eventually reopened and expanded family detention, and the U.S. is now holding more women and children than ever, despite Obama’s campaign promise to introduce comprehensive immigration reform legislation. To download the paper, click here.
Publications and other ResourcesTop
The European Union Fundamental Rights Agency (FRA) published on 18 July 2016 a summary report on the role of local communities in handling increased numbers of migrant arrivals and in providing services for migrants. There is no general guidance or strategy for municipalities to deal with these challenges, giving rise to differing local responses. Drawing on data in seven EU member states, the FRA has identified several issues that most local areas share: Many local authorities do not actively inform the local population about the migration situation; in most places, responses of locals have been positive but at the same time, protests and attacks against migrants and refugees have taken place; a key challenge is to provide housing; schooling, language training and integration classes are an additional challenge. The June edition of the FRA’s regular update on migration and asylum developments provides information on new arrivals, criminal proceedings against those assisting irregular migrants, initial registration and processing, reception conditions, child protection, legal, social and policy responses and hate speech in different EU member states. To view the summary report, click here.
The UK organisation, Right to Remain, launched a hard copy of the ‘Right to Remain Toolkit’ on 4 July 2016. The toolkit aims to provide its users with a better understanding of the UK immigration and asylum systems and to allow them to take an active role in their own claims and procedures. The yellow action sections throughout the toolkit give examples and advice of practical steps people can take to strengthen their legal case, or to be protected from possible harm the asylum and immigration system can inflict. Cuts to legal aid (free, government-funded legal representation) mean that more and more people have no lawyer and are forced to navigate the very complicated systems without legal representation. The organisation launched an online version earlier this year, which was created using public donations following a crowdfunding appeal. The hardcopy version will complement the online version of the toolkit and is specifically aimed at those with little or no access to the internet. To access the online toolkit, click here.
Source: CORAM – Children’s Legal Centre Newsletter, June 2016.
An information campaign jointly developed by the Italian Ministry of Interior and the International Organization for Migration (IOM) was launched on 28 July 2016 with the name “AWARE MIGRANTS”. The campaign aims to raise awareness among potential migrants about the dangers of migrant routes crossing the desert and the Mediterranean. IOM Coordination Office for the Mediterranean Federico Soda stated that they are particularly concerned about gender-based violence and risks taken by unaccompanied children. Through social media, migrants can exchange their experiences. For more information on the campaign, click here.
Source: International Organization for Migration press release, 29 July 2016