PICUM Bulletin — 14 marzo 2011
Please find below the first edition of the PICUM Bulletin which will be sent out every two weeks to provide you with up to date and regular information on news items and policy developments concerning the basic social rights of undocumented migrants in Europe as well as in other key geographic areas of interests. We invite you to share this Bulletin widely with colleagues, partners and friends who you believe would be interested in supporting the mission and work of PICUM.
Feel free to send us your feedback which is always most appreciated. Thank you!
The PICUM Team
- United Nations
- European Policy Developments
- Undocumented Women
- Labour and Fair Working Conditions
- Health Care
- Undocumented Children and Their Families
- National Developments
- Detention and Deportation
- Publications and other Resources
- Other News
ITALY / DEATH AT BORDER / Nearly one hundred North-African migrants have died or were never located in their attempt to reach Europe in the past month
Following the recent uprising in Tunisia, more than 5,000 migrants arrived on the island of Lampedusa, Italy, in the past month, but others died or were never located. Fortress Europe reported two missing persons and two rescued on 5 March, one death and one missing person on 12 February and 13 deaths and other 40 missing passengers in a collision between the Tunisian coast guard and a boat carrying migrants on February 13th. According to the French agency AFP, survivors reported that the Tunisian police deliberately rammed into the boat in international waters, while an Italian helicopter was policing the area.
Source: Fortress Europe, 15 February 2011
ITALY/EU / Europe fears influx following unrest in North African countries: Amnesty’s recommendations to the JHA Council on 24-25 February
EU Foreign Ministers have expressed concern about Libya’s threat to end co-operation to counter irregular migration to Europe. In February more than 5,000 irregular migrants from Tunisia arrived at Italy's Lampedusa Island, in the wake of Tunisia's revolution. Italy’s Minister of Interior Roberto Maroni asked the European Commission for financial aid and for the use of FRONTEX vessels and human resources to manage the influx of migrants to Italy, calling it “an exodus of biblical dimensions”. Following the decision of Commissioner Malmström to agree to these requests and some worrying statements made by some right-wing politicians, calling the Italian government to not accept asylum applications, Amnesty International sent a series of recommendations to the Hungarian Interior Minister, Chair of the JHA Council, on how the EU and the member states should respond to the migration challenges posed by the unrest in North Africa. The document can be downloaded here:
Source: BBC News, 21 February 2011; Amnesty International
At least three people drowned after jumping from a Greek ferry as it was docking at Souda, Crete, after transporting some 1,200 evacuees from conflict-ridden Libya. The incident occurred early on 6 March and 16 people are still unaccounted for. The victims were from Bangladesh. Another 22 people are receiving hospital treatment.
Source: Fortress Europe, 6 March 2011
On 8 February the Ministry of National Defense of Mexico (Sedena) reported that the army had released 47 migrants (44 Guatemalans and 3 Mexicans) and have seized 102 kg of cocaine in Reynosa (Tamaulipas). The National Commission on Human Rights has said that up to 20,000 immigrants in 2010 were kidnapped by organized crime gangs that require their family to pay a ransom or they are recruited as assassins.
Source: El País, 9 February 2011
A verdict of the Dutch Council of State (De Raad van Staat) on 12 January 2011 ruled that undocumented migrants can no longer be stopped at the border and directed to detention centres. The Council ruled there is insufficient legal basis for these kinds of border checks, as they are illegal under Schengen agreements.
Source: Elsevier, 13 January 2011
Fifty-seven Somalis drowned when their boat capsized in rough seas off southeast Yemen on 20 February, the UNHCR said. Fifty-four of those who died were refugees and three were smugglers. Only one survived. The incident was the largest loss of life in the seas between Somalia and Yemen in a single incident since January 2008 when 114 people had drowned.
Source: The New York Times, 24 February 2011
UN Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Migrants Jorge A. Bustamante undertook an official visit to South Africa from 24 January to 1 February 2011. This is first mission ever to the country by an independent expert mandated by the UN Human Rights Council to monitor and report on the human rights situation of migrants. During his visit, Mr. Bustamante focused on a wide range of issues, including irregular migrants and asylum seekers, access to health services of migrant workers and education of migrant children. Mr. Bustamante visited the cities of Pretoria, Johannesburg, Polokwane, Musina and Cape Town, where he met with representatives of the government and the judiciary, as well as representatives of international and civil society organizations working on issues related to the human rights of migrants.
Source: United Nations Office at Geneva, 21 January 2011
European Policy DevelopmentsTop
COUNCIL OF EUROPE / Human Rights Commissioner asks European governments not to detain migrant children
Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights, Thomas Hammarberg, called on EU governments to change their approach in detaining migrant children, as the present policy is not humane and conflicts with the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. Thousands of migrant children are detained every year in Europe, having to endure prison-like conditions, despite having committed no crime. This is a clear violation of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.
Source: ECRE Weekly Bulletin, 11 February 2011; Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights, 8 Feburary 2011
On February 8, the former Belgian Prime Minister Frank Vandenbroucke formally handed over the findings of the European homelessness report to EU Employment, Social Affairs and Inclusion Commissioner, László Andor. The recommendations in the report include a development of a comprehensive EU Strategy on Homelessness as well as stronger commitment towards the respect for the human dignity and fundamental rights of all persons in the European Union, regardless of their legal status. This means that they should be able to access accommodation, social and health support to meet at least their basic needs until a sustainable solution to their situation which is in line with human dignity has been found.
Sources: The Parliament.com, 8 February 2011; Feantsa, 8 February 2011
The European Parliament (EP) adopted a Resolution on ‘Reducing health inequalities in the EU’ on March 8th, in which it calls on Member States to tackle health inequalities in access to health care for undocumented migrants. The resolution is a significant step forward in ensuring equitable access to healthcare for all, with no discrimination linked to administrative status or financial resources. Even if the text is not legally binding for the EU member states, it is a clear message sent by the only directly elected body of the EU to European and national decision-makers to protect the rights and health of undocumented migrants, especially pregnant women and children.
Source: PICUM, 9 March 2011; European Parliament, 8 February 2011
After 44 days of hunger strike in Athens and Thesaloniki, the migrants stopped their fight on 9 March, accepting the last proposal of the Greek government. Celebrations among the migrants took place, as they considered that they fought and won a very strong battle against the Greek state. The proposal accepted gives them a "status of tolerance" for an unlimited time and until a permanent solution is reached. The migrants can also go back to their country and return to Greece if there is a humanitarian need, so they can get travel documents. Finally, all migrants present in the country for more than 8 years will be regularized, a measure that includes the 300 strikers but also all irregular migrants. The required number of days worked to be able to acquire papers has been reduced from 200 to 120. The Greek government was also pleased by the fact that no lives were lost, whereas the Greek Party of the left said: "This is a small battle won in the fight against repressing measures against migrants all over Europe. Europe and Greece cannot be a fortress anymore. The migrants have reasons to leave their countries and have every right to live in dignity". PICUM signed on to a public statement calling on the government to examine the claims of protection by the migrant workers.
Source: TVXS, 9 March 2011
ITALY / Undocumented migrants condemned for not respecting an expulsion order can also apply for regularisation
The Council of State has ruled that undocumented migrants who have not respected an expulsion order can apply for the 2009 regularisation for domestic workers. This ruling goes against the government decision to interpret more restrictively the access criteria of the regularisation. The decision follows the ruling by the Constitutional Court given in December 2010, saying that undocumented migrants with expulsion orders that are in destitute situations cannot be criminalized and the decision by the same Court in June 2010, rejecting the provision according to which, if an undocumented migrant commits a crime, his/her punishment should be one third higher than a normal one for the same crime (aggravating circumstance).
Source: La Repubblica, 26 February 2011
USA / Arizona legislators moving to introduce even more restrictions on migrants while groups in Utah attempted to impose a two year “time-out” on legislation
Arizona’s legislators are trying to give government new powers to strip away individual rights, to extend immigration enforcement into schools, public housing, hospitals and doctor’s offices. For example there are bills requiring hospitals to check every patient’s citizenship status, turning doctors and nurses into the immigration police, denying education to undocumented children by requiring proof of citizenship to enroll in any public or private school and criminalizing undocumented migrants who drive. The state’s business community, who is hurting financially because of a boycott that has reduced the number of conventions in the state, generally opposes the new round of restrictions. As well, the Governor has reportedly spent more than $1.5 million in donated funds defending herself and the state against lawsuits. The governor is paying the legal fees with money in her Border Security and Immigration Legal Defense Fund and to date, more than 43,000 individuals in all 50 states have contributed money to the fund, which has a balance of about $2.1 million. An editorial argues the bills will only do more harm and that all that separates the newest immigrants from previous waves is the lack of a working system to assimilate them. In the state of Utah, Latino groups pushed for legislatures to stop promoting bills for two years that targeted undocumented migrants and to give the federal legislature a chance to adopt a national solution. The proposal failed and the Senate committee will continue forward with other bils. A representative testifying in front of the committee from the Arizona Employers for Immigration Reform, said that Arizona’s “get-tough legislation” that Utah was considering copying led to higher unemployment as undocumented workers fled, and businesses that served and supplied them laid off employees.
Source: The New York Times, 23 February 2011; The New York Times, 26 February 2011; The Salt Lake Tribune, 24 February 2011; the Arizona Republic, 25 February 2011
PICUM NEWS / Video of Public Hearing at the European Parliament on health care for undocumented migrants
Following the adoption by the European Parliament of a resolution on ‘Reducing health inequalities in the EU’ on 8 February, PICUM has released the video of a Public Hearing which took place on 8 December 2010, organised by Médecins du Monde, the HUMA network, PICUM, the European Women's Lobby (EWL) and the European Anti-Poverty Network (EAPN), that highlighted how undocumented migrants – especially undocumented pregnant women and children – are threatened by both legislative and practical barriers when trying to access healthcare. The photos can be viewed on Flikr and you access the videos (EN-FR) of the Public Hearing on our website.
Source: PICUM, 9 March 2011; European Parliament, 8 February 2011
FRANCE / Mayotte social security tribunal recognises that France does not comply with the International Convention on the Rights of the Child
In Mayotte, there is no state medical assistance for undocumented minors. Following a rejection by the Social Security Fund to cover the medical expenses of undocumented children, the NGO Médecins du Monde called on the Tribunal of Social Security Affairs. On 6 February, the tribunal ruled that current lack of access to health care for undocumented children was against the International Convention on the Rights of the Child. At the moment, Mayotte is considered a territory of the French overseas collectivities (a.k.a COM) however the forthcoming inclusion of Mayotte as a French Overseas Department means that French law will have to be applied and France will have to ensure that Mayotte complies with France’s international obligations in terms of providing the right to access health care to all children regardless of their legal status.
Source: Médecins du Monde, 9 February 2011
In France, the draft law on immigration plans to restrict access to health care for severely ill migrants. Until now, a residence permit was delivered to severely ill foreigners if they had no “effective access” to treatment in their origin country. The draft law would retain instead the notion of “unavailability” of treatment in the origin country, thus refusing the residence permit for medical reasons. The National Assembly has re-introduced this notion, although the Senate had rejected it and many professionals and institutions expressed publicly against this measure. A petition for “Stopping restrictions to residence right for medical reasons”, is available on Aides website.
A coalition government has made a comprehensive framework agreement on migration policies giving more social rights to undocumented migrants. The government says that the new policy allows a long-term basis for a humane and orderly migration policy in accordance with the rule of law. The press conference did not reveal the exact outline of the framework agreement but it was mentioned that the deal would target three key issues on the rights of undocumented migrants; the right to health care, schooling, and to run businesses.
Source: Stockholm News, 3 March 2011
An undocumented woman in Texas who has a tumor along her spine and in between her vertebrae was unexpectedly discharged from the hospital on 11 February because she was undocumented, without insurance and therefore unable to pay. The growth has left her unable to use her right hand and if left untreated, could grow so large that doctors think she would not be able to breathe without having a tube inserted into her chest. She says that a Spanish-speaking doctor told her to leave the hospital immediately because she was undocumented. It is reported by the hospital that she was discharged because of her inability to pay, not her legal status. The hospital’s charity policy is so vague that there is no way to know how decisions to deny charity care are being made.
Source: Colorlines, 9 February 2011
USA / Arkansas legislature to take up bill which would deny health care and other social services to undocumented migrants
An Arkansas law introduced in the end of February pushes to prohibit the state from providing non-emergency benefits to undocumented migrants. The proposal is expected to go before the House State Agencies and Governmental Affairs Committee and would forbid the state agencies from providing benefits to anyone in the country irregularly. The proposal would not apply to cases involving emergency or life-saving measures. Those opposed to the bill say that it goes too far by denying essential services to some of the most vulnerable people in the state. For example, a major concern is that the proposal would cut off funding for prenatal care for women who are undocumented, child welfare and protection and some services for developmentally disabled children.
Source: NECN, 21 February 2011
Labour and Fair Working ConditionsTop
The Migrant Rights Centre Ireland (MRCI) welcomes the unequivocal decision made by the Labour Court which recommended that the operators of O’Callaghan Davenport Hotel reinstate the five women on strike at the hotel on their old minimum wage rate of €8.65, and to pay the women back wages that they would have earned had they not been removed from the roster by the hotel. The workers, five migrant women, who have been working in housekeeping at the Davenport Hotel between three and six years, began their picket on 17 February for refusing to sign new contracts, reducing their minimum wage by almost €1 per hour. MRCI recommends that the public support the Fair Hotels Campaign, which encourages hotels to sign up and commit to providing decent and fair conditions for their workers, including recognizing the right of their workers to trade union representation.
Source: MRCI, 7 March 2011
The Intermon Oxfam report “Andean migrant women: context, migration policies and management” highlights the precariousness and invisibility of the domestic sector in Spain. The report reveals that being a woman, immigrant and domestic employee is synonymous with a threefold discrimination faced by most women who choose to come to Spain in search of employment. Being women almost determine them to work as domestic employees and taking care of other people; the lack of foresight of the immigration policies contributes to the fact that the majority are irregular and the last one determines them when calling for their rights and decent working and wage conditions.
Source: Diario de Noticias, 2 March 2011
Following a decision of the International Conference of Working Women held in Copenhagen in 1910, the first official International Women’s Day was celebrated on the 8 March 1911. On the occasion of the 100th anniversary of International Women’s Day, PICUM takes this opportunity to also highlight that 2011 marks the 100th Session of the International Labour Conference of the ILO which will include on its agenda, decent work for domestic workers. Linking this focus on women’s rights and labour rights, PICUM recently stated that it is essential that EU Member States support the drafting process of the International Labour Organisation’s Convention and Recommendation on Decent Work for Domestic Workers to ensure the respect of the rights of domestic workers.
Source: ILO, 4 March 2011; PICUM, 8 March 2011
Following key findings which emerged from a workshop held in June 2010 to discuss challenges, opportunities and trends regarding the protection of undocumented women’s rights in Europe, PICUM has released a report entitled “Violence and Exploitation of Undocumented Migrant Women: Building Strategies to End Impunity”. The report highlights that despite contributing actively to maintaining Europe’s homes and caring for its most vulnerable members of society, such as children and the elderly, undocumented migrant domestic workers risk very poor working conditions and face various forms of violence including physical and psychological harm. PICUM’s report illustrates the extremely worrying situation across the EU, where national laws and policies openly discriminate against undocumented migrant women and offers key recommendations to tackle such policy challenges.
Read the report (EN, FR, ES)
Undocumented Children and Their FamiliesTop
A Practical Guide for non-accompanied minor foreigners (Mena) was published by the Brussels Children’s Rights Services. In Belgium, any unaccompanied minor foreigner can benefit from support and help of a tutor. This guide provides magistrates, tutors and other professionals with information on the Law on tutorship and its practical framework, on existing shelters, addressing also the question of detention, on the different possibilities to get a residence permit in Belgium, and on the access to social rights, including education, health, work and social protection. Some professionals and institutions can get the Guide for free.
Information available at : 02/210.94.91 – e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org Service droit des Jeunes - Plate-forme Mineurs en exil- www.sdj.be - www.mena.be
BELGIUM / Minister of Sports wants to reform law to allow undocumented children to join football clubs
The Minister of Sports of the French Community, André Antoine, wishes to introduce a reform of the law on sports to permit undocumented children to sign up to a football club. FIFA regulations currently require children to provide key documents in order to join a football club. The suggested reform of the 2006 sports law will permit all children from joining a football club regardless of the legal status of their parents. The reform will only enter into force if the evaluation of the reform, being carried out in February, is successful. Once adopted, the new law will take precedent over the FIFA regulations.
Source : Le Vif L’Express - Belgium, 24 January 2011
On March 8, the Court of Justice of the European Union issued an important opinion on the issue of citizenship, immigrant’s rights and children rights. The question submitted to the Court by a Belgian tribunal was whether the fact that a child is a citizen of the European Union confers a right of residence and a right to work to his non-citizen parents. The case involved two undocumented Columbian parents of a child born in Belgium. Under Belgian law, the child was a Belgian citizen at birth. In the European Union legal system, citizenship of the Union follows automatically the citizenship of a member state. The plaintiffs claimed that by refusing them the right to reside legally and to work in Belgium, and constraining them to leave the European territory or to be separated from their child, the Belgian authorities were depriving their child of the rights he is entitled to as a citizen of the European Union. The Court holds that a citizen of the European Union cannot be deprived of the "of the substance of the rights" attached to such a status, and that when this citizen is a child, the “genuine enjoyment of these rights” implicates that his parents are allowed to live and work in the same country. This judgment has significant practical implications. Although some European countries already recognize a right of residence to the non-citizen parents of a citizen-child (France, for example), the Court decision will probably mean that every state of the EU has to allow such rights.
Source: RTBF, 8 March 2011
In an appeal case started by the Dutch State, a court in The Hague ruled on 11 January 2011 that the State cannot evict an Angolan mother and her three children from the asylum seekers centre in Ter Apel after their application failed. The family had appealed successfully on the grounds of ECHR’s article 8 on respect for one's private and family life. The court had ruled previously that children cannot be evicted and thus left on the streets, to which the State proposed a solution in which mother and three children were to be separated. The court has now ruled that children staying with their mother outweighs the State’s interest in executing its immigration policy.
Source: Rechten Nieuws, 8 February 2011
The draft of Immigration Regulations, presented on 8 February by the government, establishes the right of unaccompanied immigrant minors to appoint an independent defence in cases of repatriation. For the group Draria, the draft leaves important outstanding issues, such as recognizing their right to work.
Source: Periódico Diagonal, 9 February 2011
Undocumented migrants who have children with Spanish citizenship will be able to get a temporary one-year residence permit, as long as the child lives with them and is economically dependent on them. After being in a regular situation for one year, the parents may receive another permit through a standardized process according to their situation and requirements as is established in Article 122 of the Regulation Draft which implements the text of the Immigration Law adopted in December 2009.
Source: El País, 9 Febuary 2011
ZH, an undocumented migrant from Tanzania, was granted permission by the UK Supreme Court to remain in the UK with her two children who were born in the UK. ZH had arrived in the UK in 1995 and applied three times for asylum but was unsuccessful and was told by immigration officials that “the children could be reasonably expected to leave the UK with their mother”. The Supreme Court ruled that “her removal from the UK would "constitute a disproportionate interference with her right to respect for her private and family life, guaranteed by article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights".” The court highlighted that priority was given to considering the best interest of the children.
Source: BBC News, 1 February 2011
USA / Legislative bills debated in Colorado and Arkansas which would benefit or deny rights to undocumented students
Three undocumented students joined lawmakers at a press conference in support of a bill that would make it easier for them to go to college. The Colorado Senate Bill 126 would provide unsubsidized in-state college tuition to undocumented students who have attended at least three years of high school in Colorado. Essentially, undocumented students would pay more than legal residents who get in-state tuition, but significantly less than out-of-state residents who attend Colorado's colleges and universities. Those against the bill are against the fact that the undocumented students will still be receiving in-state tuition, which means that the public is still offering a subsidy. In the state of Arkansas, the House Education Committee voted and refused to consider a bill which would require undocumented migrants to pay out-of-state tuition at Arkansas' public colleges and universities. The bill would require students to have U.S. citizenship or lawful presence in the country in order to qualify for in-state tuition.
Sources: Fox 31, 2 February 2011; Arkansas Business.com, 22 February 2011
Detention and DeportationTop
In Belgium, incidents occurred on 20 February in the Steenokkerzeel 127bis detention centre. During the day, several associations demonstrated in front of the centre in solidarity with detainees on hunger strike since the week before. Asylum seekers who wanted to denounce their detention conditions started a fire, some threatening to hang themselves, others climbing on the roof. On Sunday evening, about thirty detainees were evacuated to other centres of Merksplas, Vottem and Bruges. The local police declared there were no injuries.
Source: RTBF, 21 February 2011
In France, the Mesnil-Amelot detention centre experienced an escalation of daily violence during the week of 4 February 2011. An Algerian was deported despite injuries due to resisting to two previous deportation attempts in the previous days; a Moroccan was deported despite having swallowed razor blades; a detainee was taken for deportation although hospitalized for self-inflicted injuries but then brought back to the detention centre following the reaction of passengers in the plane. In the same centre the same week, the NGO CIMADE met three young men saying they are minor, one of them terrified and refusing to eat, and two other detained persons, one denounced by the Post Office and another one arrested while filing a regularisation request.
Source: Cimade, 4 February 2011
The UK Border Agency (UKBA) has apologised for holding an 11-year-old girl in an immigration removal centre on Christmas Day in defiance of a pledge by the Coalition Government to end such cases. The child was detained overnight with her mother and adult sister at Tinsley House near Gatwick Airport after being refused admission to Britain. They were deported on Boxing Day. The incident, disclosed to The Independent, has infuriated ministers because they had promised to end child detention for immigration purposes by Christmas.
Source: The Independent, 3 February 2011
USA / Organizations urge for the Prison Rape Elimination Act to be included in US immigration facilities
Human Rights Watch joined a host of organizations in writing a letter and urging for President Obama to apply the Prison Rape Elimination Act standards to detainees in US immigration facilities. On 3 February 2011, The US Justice Department released proposed standards under the law for detecting, preventing, reducing, and punishing sexual abuse of people in government custody. The standards would exclude detainees in US immigration facilities even though the law calls for establishing standards for all federal, state, and local confinement facilities. The Prison Rape Elimination Act, passed unanimously by Congress and signed into law in 2003 affirmed a national imperative to protect everyone in government custody, adults and children, from sexual abuse. The National Prison Rape Elimination Commission (NPREC) was created under the law to study the causes and consequences of prison rape and to recommend national standards to eliminate it.
Source: Human Rights Watch, 15 February 2011
Publications and other ResourcesTop
On 8 February, Médecins du Monde released a series of seven short documentaries entitled “Mayotte, paroles de sans-papiers” (“Mayotte, words of undocumented migrants”). These documentaries provide an opportunity to see the extraordinary situations faced by undocumented migrants in Mayotte and give them a voice to share their experiences. The documentaries are only available in French.
Source : Médecins du Monde, 8 February 2011
On 8 March, the Fundamental Rights Agency published a report about the fundamental rights situation of persons entering Greece irregularly at its land border with Turkey. This report is based on field research in the Evros region in January 2011.
Source: FRA, 8 March 2011
A recent study conducted by the Belgian Science Policy Office, showed that six out of ten homeless people and nine of ten undocumented migrants survive with less than 450 euro a month in Belgium. Also, 24 percent of the homeless population and 37 percent of undocumented migrants consider their health condition to be bad up to very bad. A lack of rest, loneliness, fear and addiction are the main causes. It has been the first time in Belgium that the life circumstance of this population has been measured in the same way as the rest of the Belgian population. The survey has been launched in 2010 and included 275 homeless people and 170 undocumented migrants. Aspects such as income, employment, living conditions, household constitutions, health and social inclusion have been measured.
Source: De Morgen, 3 March 2011