PICUM Bulletin — 2 marzo 2016
- Undocumented Children and Their Families
- United Nations
- European Policy Developments
- National Developments
- Health Care
- Labour and Fair Working Conditions
- Undocumented Women
- Detention and Deportation
A report from the Migration Policy Institute entitled Border Metrics: How to Effectively Measure Border Security and Immigration Control highlights how the lack of timely, reliable and publicly trusted indicators on the effectiveness of border control represents a fundamental challenge to resolving political debates on migration policies. The report notes the consistent and huge increases in expenditure in border security, including in staff, fencing and advent and use of technologies such as unmanned aerial vehicles. The authors, Marc Rosenblum and Faye Hipsman, suggest four key questions to account irregular migration levels and modes of entry, and so the effectiveness of the border control measures. The report also describes what methods and metrics already exist to answer these key questions, as well as the strengths and limitations of existing approaches, and how they could be improved. It concludes by with recommendations to produce up-to-date and reliable metrics for the proposed indicators, and produce and release border-related data in a more transparent, timely and predictable manner. The report is available here.
A woman and a teenage girl were found frozen to death near the south-eastern town of Malko Tarnovo in Bulgaria on 6 February 2016. They were part of a group of 19 migrants, including 11 children, who were rescued by Bulgarian border patrols in the mountains. The area was covered with snow and the migrants coming from Turkey were freezing cold. They reported themselves to be Iraqis. Since 2014, Bulgaria has been constructing a 132-kilometre-long barbed-wire fence along its land border with Turkey to prevent refugees and migrants from entering the country irregularly. Several other migrants have previously been found dead in the region.
Source: Balkan Insight, 8 February 2016
The European Council discussed migration and refugees including progress made towards the implementation of the EU Agenda on Migration and the Joint EU-Turkey Action Plan at a meeting on 18 February 2016. Leaders agreed in a set of conclusions to further protect external borders, deter irregular migration and safeguard the integrity of the Schengen area. The European Council welcomed NATO's decision to assist in the monitoring and surveillance of irregular crossings in the Aegean Sea and stated that flows of migrants arriving in Greece from Turkey are still too high. Leaders agreed to continue to provide humanitarian assistance to Syrian refugees and to the countries neighbouring Syria and expressed concern about the situation along the Western Balkans route. The conclusions state that to this end, the European Council considers it necessary to now put in place the capacity for the EU to provide humanitarian assistance internally, in cooperation with entities such as the UNHCR, to support countries facing large numbers of refugees and migrants. To view statements and conclusions of the meeting, click here. Ahead of the Council meeting, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the human rights of migrants, François Crépeau, warned in a statement that it has become impossible in Europe to have a meaningful discussion about migrants’ rights, diversity, and integration. The Special Rapporteur urged that European countries must offer safe and regular channels for mobility and that Europe should reclaim its role as a moral and political leader of human rights in the current debate of fear, stereotyping, racism and xenophobia. The full statement is available here.
In a Communication on the State of Play of Implementation of the Priority Actions under the European Agenda on Migration on 10 February, the European Commission reported on progress made in relation to patrolling and surveillance of the external sea borders; inter-agency cooperation; screening, identification and fingerprinting of arrivals through the ‘hotspots’; budgetary allocations, relocation; reception capacity; humanitarian assistance; cooperation with Serbia and the Former Yugoslavian Republic of Macedonia (FYROM); and other cooperation with non-EU countries, including the EU-Turkey Joint Action Plan. Priority actions to be taken focus around getting the hotspots fully operational; implementing orders to leave the territory, including through the use of detention, deportation and readmission agreements; restoring Dublin transfers to Greece; implementing relocation; strengthening border control, including through a speedy legislative procedure with the European Parliament and Council to set up of a European Border and Coast Guard; supporting the basic needs of migrants and refugees, including through employing a comprehensive approach for the protection of children throughout the migration chain; further implementation of the EU-Turkey Joint Action Plan; and supporting refugees outside of the EU, including through funding and resettlement. The Communication and its Annexes are available here.
EU / GREECE / Recommendations by the EU Council to Greece to address deficiencies identified at the external borders, first hotspots operational
Following the Schengen evaluation of Greece, the Council of the EU adopted on 12 February 2016 a Recommendation to address deficiencies identified at the external borders. The Recommendation concerns the areas of: registration, sea border surveillance, border check procedures, risk analyses, human resources and training, infrastructure and equipment and international cooperation. Within one month, Greece should establish an action plan to remedy the deficiencies and within 3 months it shall report on the Recommendation’s implementation. Defence Minister Panos Kammenos announced on 16 February that four of Greece’s five new registration centres – the ‘hotspots’ on the islands of Lesvos, Chios, Leros and Samos - are for the most part operational, in a joint press conference with Alternate Citizens’ Protection Minister Nikos Toskas and Alternate Migration Policy Minister Yannis Mouzalas. A reported 6,000 people arrived on the island of Lesvos within 3 days, on 21 February.
Source: Council of the European Union Press Release, 12 February 2016; UNHCR Greece Press Review: 16 February 2016; CCTV, 21 February 2016
EU / Several measures to prevent migration to Europe through Turkey: NATO operation and Joint EU-Turkey Action Plan
Reportedly at the request of Germany, Greece and Turkey, NATO has approved an operation to conduct reconnaissance, monitoring and surveillance of the irregular crossings in the Aegean Sea, with the stated aim of stemming trafficking and irregular migration. The German-led patrol is currently set to consist of between two and five ships. Amnesty International warned in a statement that NATO forces in the Aegean Sea must operate in line with international law and carry out search and rescue for people in distress, and that intercepting boats and pushing migrants and refugees back to Turkey would be illegal. Human Rights Watch noted in an op-ed in the EU Observer the contradictory statements coming from NATO and UK, German and Greek defence ministers about the terms of reference of the operation, including whether people rescued by NATO forces would be returned to Turkey. Several Greek organisations also released a statement denouncing the further militarisation and externalisation of border control and consequent violations of international law. Meanwhile, NATO confirmed in the European Parliament on 23 February that while the primary purpose of the operation will be surveillance, NATO will fulfil international obligations to assist vessels in distress, and those rescued by NATO ships will be returned to Turkey. In a speech on 11 February 2016 the Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan denounced western refugee and migration policy, threatening to send millions of refugees and migrants in Turkey to EU member states. Also in February, the European Commission published a report on the implementation of the EU-Turkey Joint Action Plan which was activated in November 2015. The Action Plan foresees that the EU supports Syrians under temporary protection and their Turkish hosting communities, in exchange for Turkey preventing irregular migration towards the EU. EU member states approved a three billion euro fund to aid refugees in the country on 3 February 2016. The European Commission will contribute one billion euros while the 28 EU member states will together contribute two billion. Germany will make the biggest contribution to the fund with 427 million Euros, followed by Britain with 327 million and France with 309 million. The report on the implementation of the Action Plan urges Turkey to continue its efforts and notes that although the number of people arriving irregularly in the EU from Turkey has decreased steadily since October 2015, the total number of arrivals remains high for winter. The average daily arrivals from Turkey to Greece stood at 2,186 in January, compared to 3,575 in December 2015.
Sources: UNHCR Greece Press Review, 4 February 2016; Reuters, 3 February 2016; The Guardian, 11 February 2016; The Guardian, 12 February 2016; BBC, 11 February 2016; Amnesty International, Newsflash, 11 February 2016; European Commission press release, 10 February 2016; EU Observer, 23 February 2016; UNHCR Greece Press Review: 24 February 2016
According to media reports, Hungary has convicted over 1,000 migrants for irregularly trying to enter the country by climbing over a fence built on the southern border. Numbers of migrants trying to enter Europe through Hungary have increased since other routes have been gradually sealed off. Most of those who have been caught are expelled from Hungary for a period of one to two years, while others are handed suspended jail sentences or expelled for longer periods of time. The action follows new legislation introduced in 2015 which makes it a criminal offence - punishable by prison or deportation - to damage the newly-built four-metre fence along Hungary's 175km border with Serbia. The Hungarian Parliament also passed on 6 July 2015 new legislation which significantly tightens migration and asylum rules (See PICUM Bulletin, 17 September 2015). This law shortens the time-frame for screening asylum applications and provides for mandatory detention of asylum seekers during the decision-making process.
Source: New Europe, 10 February 2016
The Overseas Development Institute (ODI) published the report 'Journeys to Europe: the role of policy in migrant decision-making' in February 2016. The report authored by Jessica Hagen-Zanker and Richard Mallett is based on interviews with over 50 migrants, refugees and asylum seekers who recently arrived in Europe. It aims to deepen understanding of the role destination country policies play in journeys made by migrants and urges Europe to act now to reduce migrant deaths in the Mediterranean, in light of the nearly 4,000 people who died in the Mediterranean in 2015 trying to reach Europe. The report found that of all respondents, only half had a clear idea of their final destination at the point of departure. The report also found that awareness about risks during the journey and regulations of destination countries is in most cases unlikely to have much of an effect on peoples’ decision to migrate, particularly for people coming from war zones. Trajectories appear to be influenced to a certain extent by migration policies but much more by those that incentivise movement and facilitate entry than those which deter. For example, asylum seekers would possibly take a decision to what country they go on the basis of the belief that an asylum application might be proceeded faster in that respective country as opposed to other possible countries of destination. Among others, the report recommends that European governments need to reduce the human, economic and political cost of migration. European governments should expand regular channels, implement humanitarian visas and ensure improved search and rescue. To download the report, click here.
A retired British soldier who attempted to bring a four-year old Afghan girl to the UK from the camp in Calais, France, was cleared of people-smuggling charges by a court in the French town Boulogne-sur-Mer in January 2016. Rob Lawrie was accused of illegally transporting a foreigner across the border and was arrested as he approached the ferry to cross the Channel to the UK. The Afghan girl was hidden in his van. Rob Lawrie wanted to reunite her with her family that lived close to his house in the UK. He faced a maximum sentence of five years in prison if found guilty but was ultimately cleared of the smuggling charges. Nonetheless, he was found guilty of endangering a child and fined 1,000 euros. He vowed to keep fighting to help end the suffering of migrant children in the French camps. Meanwhile, French authorities began the demolition of part of the Calais camp which is also referred to as “the jungle", including a makeshift church and mosque. Migrant rights supporters in France have launched a petition to denounce the destruction of the camp and absence of accommodation provisions, recognising that the camp is the only – though inadequate – shelter and accommodation for the 5,000 to 6,000 people residing there, and another to appeal to the French government to comprehensively address the inhumane living conditions endured there. An open letter addressed to British Prime Minister, David Cameron, calling on the British government to urgently intervene to improve the protection of people, particularly children, in the camps in Calais and Dunkirk. The letter has been signed by at least 140 well-known personalities in the country, and is also available for signatures by members of the public.
Sources: The Guardian, 14 January 2016; BBC, 1 February 2016
UN / Multi-agency guidance note on mental health and psychological support for refugees, asylum seekers and migrants on the move in Europe
The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), International Organisation for Migration (IOM) and Mental Health & Psychosocial Network (MHPSS.net) published in December 2015 a guidance note entitled 'Mental Health and Psychosocial Support for Refugees, Asylum Seekers and Migrants on the Move in Europe,' with the contributions and endorsements of several additional organisations. The purpose of the guidance note is to provide advice on protection and support for the mental health and psychosocial well-being of refugees, asylum-seekers and migrants in Europe. The note sets out, and elaborates, twelve principles for promoting mental health and psychosocial well-being, accompanied by relevant resources and internationally-recognised standards. The note does not specifically address undocumented migrants, but does recognise that uncertainty about one’s immigration status is among the factors that affects mental health and psychosocial well-being.
European Policy DevelopmentsTop
The Council of Europe recently published the report 'Cyberhate: an issue of continued concern for the Council of Europe’s Anti-Racism Commission' which addresses hate speech on the internet. Minorities including migrants are disproportionately affected by cyberhate and the report notes that besides racism by right wing and neo-nazi groups, the media itself is a source of cyberhate. The report concludes that states need to further strengthen their reporting, monitoring and prosecution processes. The report also notes that the approach of states differs. While some take the problem of xenophobic and racist speech online seriously, others have done much less to address the issue. To read the report, click here.
EUROPEAN COMMISSION / Need for more legal clarity that humanitarian assistance and search and rescue not punishable under regulations against people smuggling, Commission consultation
A study entitled ‘Fit for Purpose? The Facilitation Directive and the Criminalisation of Humanitarian Assistance to Irregular Migrants’, commissioned by the European Parliament, assesses existing EU legislation to counter people smuggling – the 2002 Facilitators’ Package – and how it deals with those providing humanitarian assistance to irregular migrants. Article 1.2 of the EU Facilitation Directive says that member states ‘may decide not to impose sanctions’ on those aiming to provide humanitarian assistance. The study maps EU legislation against the international legal framework and explores the effects – both direct and indirect – of the law and policy practice in selected member states. It finds significant inconsistencies, divergences and grey areas, such that humanitarian actors are often deterred from providing assistance. The study calls for a review of the legislative framework, greater legal certainty and improved data collection on the effects of the legislation. The International Maritime Rescue Federation, the federation of maritime search and rescue (SAR) organisations with the common humanitarian aim of preventing loss of life at sea, also issued a statement on 28 January 2016 to clarify the legal framework around search and rescue on, to respond to reports that some would-be rescuers were deterred from helping people in distress by concerns about possible legal action against them. The statement reiterates that the obligation to rescue to persons in distress at sea and deliver them to a place of safety, regardless of their status or circumstances in which they are found, is clearly established in the international law of the sea. Draft Council Conclusions on migrant smuggling of 26 January 2016, obtained by Statewatch, make no mention of humanitarian assistance or search and rescue, whereas the EU action plan against smuggling (2015-2020) of 27 May 2015 requires the European Commission to make, in 2016, proposals to improve the existing EU legal framework to tackle migrant smuggling to ensure that appropriate criminal sanctions are in place while avoiding risks of criminalisation of those who provide humanitarian assistance to migrants in distress. The European Commission has an open public consultation on the issue: Consultation on "Tackling migrant smuggling: is the EU legislation fit for purpose?", with a deadline of 6 April 2016. Further information is available here. Social Platform has gathered information on decriminalising solidarity and advocates for the Facilitation Directive to be changed to say that those who provide services of humanitarian assistance to undocumented migrants without a profit-making motive shall not be criminalised or punished. The page is available here.
COURT OF JUSTICE OF THE EUROPEAN UNION / Advocate General concludes that undocumented migrant cannot be imprisoned solely on the basis of irregular stay
The advocate general for the Court of Justice of the European Union delivered a general opinion on 2 February 2016 in Case C-47/15 Affum v. Prefet du Pas de Calais, concerning a Ghanaian national who had been stopped by French police in March 2013 at the entrance to the Channel tunnel, while travelling by bus from Belgium to the United Kingdom. The only identity document on her was a Belgian passport with the name and photo of someone else. The woman was detained for irregular entry, which is an offence under France’s Code of Entry and Residence of Foreigners and Asylum Law. The Prefect of Pas-de-Calais opted not to initiate deportation proceedings against Ms Affum, and instead ordered her transfer to Belgium under a readmission agreement between France and Benelux countries (Belgium, the Netherlands and Luxembourg), and that she be detained in administrative detention pending her transfer. Ms. Affum appealed the decision, and the Court of Cassation submitted a reference for a preliminary ruling to the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) on whether national law permitting the imprisonment of a third country national solely on the basis of irregular entry and stay was compatible with the Return Directive, according to which member states can only detain irregularly “staying” third country nationals who are subject to return procedures. In his opinion, Advocate General Szpunar rejected the French government’s position that the Return Directive did not apply to Ms. Affum’s situation, concluding that the Return Directive’s application to irregular “stay” including irregular transit through a member state’s territory. He also rejected France’s position that the application of the Return Directive could be limited based on Article 2.2(a), finding that Ms Affum had not been stopped while trying to enter irregularly at an external border since she had entered at France’s border Belgium, a Schengen country. Based on the CJEU’s previous case law, he took the view that there are only two situations in which the Return Directive allows national legislation to impose imprisonment on irregularly staying third country nationals: (1) where a person who was returned under the Directive re-enters that member state’s territory in violation of an entry ban, and (2) where the return procedure was being applied but the person continues to stay irregularly without justification. Neither scenario applied in this case; Ms Affum could therefore not be imprisoned solely on the basis of irregular stay in French territory.
Advocate General’s Opinion, click here. Read a summary here.
Source: Court of Justice Press Release, 2 February 2016
EUROPEAN COURT OF HUMAN RIGHTS / Ruling: Italy violated rights of Tunisian nationals by failing to genuinely consider their individual cases before deportation
In a decision published on 1 September 2015 and referred to the Grand Chamber on 1 February 2016, the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) held that three Tunisian nationals had been unlawfully detained by Italy under Articles 5(1), 5(2) and 5(4) of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR), without information or recourse to challenge their decision, and that their detention was in conditions that amounted to inhuman and degrading treatment (Article 3 ECHR). The applicants received no detention decision, and were deported after they were identified by the Tunisian consul, on the basis of a bilateral agreement between Tunisia and Italy. This agreement, which was not public and therefore inaccessible to the applicants, did not provide a sufficient legal basis for their detention. The ECtHR acknowledged that Italy was confronted with an exceptional situation given the number of arrivals in 2011, but ruled that these circumstances did not lessen their obligation under Article 3, whose language is absolute. The Court also ruled that the applicants had been collectively expelled, contrary to Article 4, Protocol 4 of the ECHR, based on several factors, including: the absence of any reference to the applicants’ personal circumstances in their deportation decrees, the absence of individual interviews regarding their specific situations before the decrees were adopted, and evidence that many people of the same nationality experienced a similar process. The Court ordered Italy to pay each applicant 10,000 euros just satisfaction in respect of non-pecuniary damage, and costs and expenses. This case is one of the few in which the ECtHR has found that there was a collective expulsion and may therefore have implications for the rapid processing of migrants, such as in EU “hotspots”.
Summary available here. To read the ECtHR’s decision (Khlaifia and Others v. Italy (no. 16483/12)), click here ; Statewatch, February 2016
On 4 February 2016, the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) held that Greece had violated Article 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) by detaining a Gambian national in conditions that were inhuman or degrading. It also ruled there had been a violation of 5(4) ECHR because, at the time in question, Greek law did not permit effective review of the applicant’s detention by a judge pending his deportation. The Court’s decision concerning Article 3 was based on its earlier ruling on the conditions of detention on Fylakio and Aspropyrgos during the same period. See the EctHR decision (Affaire Amadou c. Grece) here.
EUROPEAN COMMITTEE OF SOCIAL RIGHTS / Annual conclusions for 2015 focusing on children, families and migrants
On 27 January 2016, the European Committee of Social Rights (ECSR) published its annual conclusions on articles of the European Social Charter relating to the rights of children, families, and migrants (namely, Article 7, 8, 16, 17, 19, 27 and 31), on which state parties had been invited to report by 31 October 2014. It also published its 2015 follow-up report, wherein it noted that Belgium had, since the ECSR’s 2012 decision finding that it had failed to take sufficient measures to guarantee undocumented unaccompanied foreign minors the care and assistance they needed, brought the situation into conformity with the Charter, except with respect to their effective access to health care, which will be further assessed on the basis of information submitted in October 2017. The European Committee of Social Rights (ECSR) reports every year on a thematic group of Charter provisions, and every two years publishes follow-up reports to collective complaints for states bound to this procedure. Read here the 2015 conclusions concerning states that have ratified the Revised Social Charter. Click here to view 2015 conclusions concerning states having ratified the European Social Charter. 2015 findings relating to the follow-up to decisions on the merits of collective complaints available here.
Source: Council of Europe, 27 January 2016
The Norwegian government has made amendments to the 2008 Immigration Act, section 32 on the entry and stay of foreign nationals in the kingdom of Norway. This section regulates cases in which Norwegian authorities can refuse the right to seek asylum and the amendment was also made in response to increasing numbers of migrants and refugees coming to Norway through the border with Russia. The amendment deleted the last part of Section 32(d) of the Immigration Act. Consequently, Norwegian authorities may now refuse an asylum seeker entering Norway from a state merely on the ground that the person travelled to Norway “after having stayed in a state or an area where the foreign national was not persecuted.” Norwegian civil society organisations criticised the amendment and stated that immigration authorities now deny persons the right to seek asylum if they enter Norway from Russia with a Russian “residence permit” or “visa of lengthy duration” or “multi-entry visa”. Concerning migrants who stayed irregularly in Russia, Norwegian authorities must consider whether there is “concrete evidence” indicating that the applicant will be returned to their country of origin by the Russian authorities. The organisations addressed their concern in a letter to Pia Prytz Phiri, UNHCR Regional representative for Northern Europe.
Sources: Norway Government, Amendments to the Immigration Act; ELENA Weekly Legal Update, 18 December 2015
The British government is rolling out a ‘right to rent’ scheme in February 2016, which could result in at least 2.6 million people being subject to new immigration checks. The ‘right to rent’ scheme requires England’s 1.8 million landlords to check their prospective tenants’ immigration status starting from 1 February. According to the new Immigration Bill, if a landlord does not comply, they could face a jail sentence. The Chartered Institute of Housing (CIH) has warned that private landlords, confronted with the threat of a fine or jail time may simply discriminate against anyone who is not British, even if the prospective tenant has the right to reside in the UK.
Source: Migrants Rights Network, 6 January 2016
New York City announced on 8 February 2016 that the Commission on Human Rights had been empowered to start issuing visa certifications to undocumented migrants who are victims of crime. Certification is the first step for undocumented migrants in obtaining U and T visas, if they have been the victim of a defined list of crimes, which include sexual assault and domestic violence. The U visa allows an undocumented migrant to remain in the US for up to four years and also gives him or her a right to work. The T visa applies only to victims of trafficking, and is valid for three years. Both U and T visa holders may be eligible for permanent resident status, if they meet certain conditions. To apply for the visa, an undocumented victim must provide the US Citizenship and Immigration with certification from a law enforcement agency confirming that one of the covered crimes has occurred and that he or she is cooperating with the investigation. New York City’s Commission on Human Rights, a civil law enforcement agency, is now the first agency of its kind in a major US city to provide this certification, opening another avenue for undocumented to report crimes and assist with investigations. There are an estimated 535,000 undocumented residents living in New York.
Source: Politico New York, 8 February 2016
Medinetz Aachen, an initiative providing access to health care to undocumented migrants and others without regular access to the health care system, launched a petition for an anonymous health care card. The petition recalls the human right to access health care and explicitly demands that German government introduce an anonymous health card to ensure barrier-free access to health care for all, regardless of residence status. According to the German Asylum Seekers Assistance Law (Asylbewerberleistungsgesetz), undocumented migrants in Germany are entitled to health care in cases of acute illness and pain, as well as maternity care. However, the Residence Act (Aufenthaltsgesetz) requires all public bodies except educational institutions to notify the immigration or competent police authorities when they obtain information about someone without a valid residence permit. To sign the petition, click here.
Labour and Fair Working ConditionsTop
CYPRUS / The Organization on Action for Equality, Support, and Antiracism (KISA) condemns collective agreement in Cyprus that treats migrant workers like ‘modern slaves’
The Cypriot organization KISA issued a statement on 1 February 2016 asking for the abolition of a collective agreement concerning migrant workers in the agricultural and animal farming sector. According to KISA, the agreement creates conditions equivalent to modern slavery. The collective agreement sets the gross salary for a 6-day working period to 455 Euros and makes it compulsory for workers to contribute part of their salary towards a social insurance fund which does not give any real benefits to migrant workers and gives them no access to the public health care system. The agreement forces the migrant workers to become a member of a trade union and use part of their salary for the membership fee although most have no contact with the unions. KISA has repeatedly condemned the terms of the agreement and points out that many migrant workers in the farming sector are forced to work over 80 hours in two weeks, including on Sundays and public holidays. Moreover, migrant workers who work under a temporary residence permit usually live at the work place and have limited possibilities to change employers, which often leads to exploitation. KISA called upon the Ministry of Labour to initiate a consultation process with relevant stakeholders with the objective of tackling the exploitation of migrants. They have also requested a renegotiation of the collective agreement so that it is in line with national and international labour law, based on the principle of equality, regardless of the worker’s nationality and residency status.
Source: KISA, 1 February 2016
The United Kingdom has recently ratified the 2014 Protocol to the ILO Forced Labour Convention of 1930, which aims to prevent forced labour and provide support to victims. The UK, along with Niger and Norway is one of the first nations to ratify the protocol. The Protocol and Recommendation, which was adopted at the International Labour Conference in 2014, added additional measures to the Forced Labour Convention of 1930. The additional protocol requires states who have ratified the protocol to take concrete steps to prevent forced labour and provide protection and access to remedies for victims.
Source: International Labour Organization, 22 January 2016
According to an independent government-commissioned review published in December 2015, the British government is exposing thousands of domestic workers brought to the UK by families from the Gulf region to conditions of trafficking and abuse by legally binding them to an employer and not allowing them to change employers while in the country. The review, which is based on a number of interviews with domestic workers who experienced abuse in the UK, underlines the widespread fear that exists among foreign domestic workers that reporting the abuse could lead to deportation or arrest. Out of the approximately 17,000 domestic workers visas issued in the UK in 2015, the vast majority were granted to domestic workers from the Gulf States. A copy of the review can be found here.
Source: Migrants Rights Network, January 2016
The International Organization for Migration (IOM) together with the Instituto Universitario de Estudios sobre Migraciones (University Institute on Migration Studies) recently released a report on the employment situation of migrant women in Spain. The report focuses on the autonomous communities of Andalucía, Cataluña, Madrid and Valencia. The study aims to identify the discriminatory practices and inequality which migrant women face in the workplace, and in the social and familial spheres, as well as the factors that create them. The study revealed that 21.5% of the women surveyed had problems getting their employer to write up a formal work contract. The women surveyed also stated that being undocumented was a major difficulty for them. The analysis also showed that 14% of migrant women are employed in the informal sector without any social security protections, while 48% are formally employed and 38% remained unemployed. The study also illustrates how disproportionately migrant women have been hit by the economic recession in Spain, indicating that between 2007 and 2014, migrant women’s unemployment rose from 13.71% to 32.21%, compared to the overall national figures which rose from 7.93% to 22.39% during that same period. The study also found that the women in the most precarious employment and socio-economic situations were either unemployed or employed in basic manual and highly feminised occupations characterised by low wages, instability, temporality and poor working conditions. In 2015, three occupations (domestic work, cleaner and waitress) represented 58% of the employment of the migrant women surveyed. The study is available here.
BELGIUM / Belgium ratifies Istanbul Convention and releases national action plan to combat all forms of gender-based violence
In December 2015, the Belgian government announced that it had ratified the Council of Europe Convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence (Istanbul Convention). At the same time, it announced a national plan for 2015 to 2019 to combat all forms of gender-based violence, coordinated by the Institute for the Equality of Women and Men, that is compliant with the Istanbul Convention and supported by the federal government, the communities and regions. The plan, which also cites the EU Directive 2012/29/EU (Victims’ Directive) that applies to all crime victims irrespective of residence status, has six objectives that encompass victim support and protection as well as prevention and the pursuit of an integrated policy. It includes several measures related to training, including training about the gender dimension, sexual and reproductive rights, and existing assistance and criminal laws in connection with newly arrived migrants. The action plan also underscores the need for intercultural skills, particularly in the context of gender-based violence against migrants. New information tools, available in multiple languages, will be available, such as a leaflet on 'Immigrant and victim of intimate partner violence – What are my rights?’ as well as measures to ensure that they are made available to migrant men and women. The plan commits to ensuring that existing support services, including shelters, are accessible to migrants who are victims of gender-based violence, and to encouraging police in immigrant neighbourhoods to appoint a special liaison officer responsible for contacting and pro-actively cooperating with communities, with a view to fostering reporting of gender-based violence by undocumented women. The national action plan is available here.
An article by Maternity Action on the charging regime in the UK and its impact on maternity care for undocumented women was published by the British Journal of Midwifery in January 2016. While the Immigration Act of 2014 requires providers to charge those who do not have indefinite leave to remain in the UK, guidelines issued in 2015 state the necessity of maternity care for all women, disregarding any charging issues. In this article, Maternity Action highlights that the complexity of the charging guidance has led to a confusion for National Health System (NHS) staff about entitlement to care, but also that charging deters undocumented women from seeking access to maternity care. Contesting the government justifications for a charging policy, the article also highlights the absence of evidence regarding the reduction of ‘health tourism’ and reveals that it is not necessarily cost-saving. The author underlines the need for midwives to be well-informed of migrants’ entitlements to maternity care and concludes that more systematic data on undocumented women’s experiences could change this restrictive access to health care. Maternity Action are encouraging individuals and groups to respond to the current Department of Health consultation on extending charging into primary care (closing on 7 March 2016).
Source: Maternity Action, 26 January 2016
Imkaan and Rights of Women published a report reflecting on local and regional responses to forced marriage. Summarising four panel discussions held during 2015, the report focuses on the barriers and challenges that organisations in contact with victims of forced marriage encounter in practice, including the issue of no-recourse to public funds (NRPF) when supporting victims. NRPF is a policy which restricts access to public funds, including housing assistance and income support to refused asylum seekers, and those on spouse dependent visas. The organisations raise concern about this policy as it leads to an ‘over-reliance on voluntary sector agencies’. While victims of forced marriage may find support from voluntary organisations, they are however reluctant to report to the police. The report also stresses the lack of resources, gaps in knowledge, and discriminatory practices. Imkaan and Rights of Women suggest that a better use of existing tools such as training and research in such organisations will provide more adequate guidance in supporting victims. They also emphasize the need for more collaboration with legal specialists, to inform victims of their rights, and with schools, for prevention work. The report is available here. For more information about NRPF, see here.
Undocumented Children and Their FamiliesTop
According to Europol, at least 10,000 unaccompanied children who have arrived in Europe have disappeared after registering with state authorities. Many are feared to become victims of trafficking. Europol's chief of staff, Brian Donald stated that some might have been passed on to family members. He added that the 10,000 figure is probably a conservative estimate of the actual number of unaccompanied children that are missing. At the same time, researchers have pointed to challenges in data collection of ‘missing’ children, which lead to inconsistencies and over-counting, for example as children are registered and go missing from several local and national authorities in different countries during their journey. Analysis of reasons for children disengaging from state support for unaccompanied children finds that many of the children want to find work or reunite with family, and run away from reception centres to continue their journeys, and find living and working conditions more in line with their expectations and aspirations. Others leave state-provided care arrangements as they get closer to adulthood out of fear of deportation.
Sources: The Guardian, 30 January 2016; Euronews, 31 January 2016; Open Democracy, 22 February 2016
According to UNICEF and International Organization for Migration (IOM) figures, children currently account for 36% of those risking the sea crossing between Greece and Turkey, with 19,781 children (accompanied and unaccompanied) recording as arriving in Greece in January. During the same time period, one in every five people who drowned while making this journey was a child. The IOM has stated that an average of two children have drowned every day since September 2015 and that children accounted for 60 of the 272 deaths on the ‘Eastern Mediterranean route’ in January 2016. UNICEF also estimates that children and women now make up nearly 60% of those entering by land from Macedonia. It is estimated that 27% of the migrants that reached Europe in 2015 were children, amounting to 270,000 children.
Source: IOM Press Release, 2 February 2016; IOM Press Release, 19 February 2016; The Guardian, 3 February 2016
EU / Ombudspersons for children call on European leaders to prioritise the safety of migrant children
The European Network of Ombudspersons for Children (ENOC) sent an open letter to the European Council, Commission and Parliament calling for a comprehensive European action plan on children on the move, on 25 January 2016. The letter refers to a study carried out by ENOC which finds that Europe is violating the rights of, and failing to protect, children in migration. It highlights the lack of attention to children in migration, including children in families, and that every child’s best interests should be a central consideration in all migration policies and processes affecting them. Among the actions to be included in the comprehensive Action Plan at EU level are to prioritise children in the EU relocation scheme, to make better use of legal opportunities to enter the EU, to include a child right’s perspective in humanitarian aid, to set minimum standards in reception and transit centres, and to collect comprehensive data. The individual ombudspersons also call upon their governments to ensure access to education, healthcare and a safe environment, put an end to detention based on residence status and implement legal guardianship systems. A similar call was sent to the European Council by 59 organisations, including UNICEF, OHCHR and ENOC on 30 October 2015. The ENOC study provides an overview of the current safety risks for children and the degree to which they have access to their rights, both while travelling to and through Europe and upon arrival in their country of destination. Key issues raised include the lack of regular channels for children to migrate; the dangers of irregular migration journeys; family separation, and risks of violence, abuse, extortion and trafficking on route; insufficient reception conditions and guardianship systems; inadequate housing and psychological care; and lack of implementation of the right to information and to be heard. While the report focuses on the situation of children who seek international protection, many safety risks also apply to other groups of migrant children. A number of recommendations to the EU and national and regional governments are elaborated. The open letter and study are available here. The Separated Children in Europe (SCEP) network also issued a statement highlighting concerns about the treatment of separated children in the ‘hotspots’ and a number of recommendations.
The Migration Policy Institute (MPI) has released a fact sheet analysing census data (2009-2013), which indicates that children who have a parent who is an unauthorized or undocumented migrant are at a significant disadvantage, regardless of whether the children were born in the United States. MPI estimates that approximately 5.1 million children (under age 18) — 79 percent (4.1 million) of them born in the United States — live with a parent who is an undocumented migrant, representing 7 percent of the U.S. child population. MPI has found that these children are disadvantaged in terms of experiencing higher levels of poverty and linguistic isolation, reduced rates of family socioeconomic progress and English proficiency as well as lower pre-school enrolment. The fact sheet is available here.
Detention and DeportationTop
An undocumented Senegalese man, Mr. Moussa, who worked in restaurant kitchens, had money stolen from him while he was in immigration detention in Nice in early January 2016. An investigation was opened and Mr. Moussa’s lawyer requested his release. The request was denied on 21 January. The tribunal held that Mr. Moussa’s detention did not prevent the exercise of his rights as a victim. While Mr. Moussa was still detained, his lawyer claimed that his deportation would constitute a serious and clear infringement to his right of defence and requested the suspension of any measures regarding his deportation. The tribunal held on 29 of January 2016 that Mr. Moussa’s deportation to Senegal would not constitute a serious and clear violation of his right to defence. At the time the tribunal issued its decision, Mr. Moussa was already put on a flight to Senegal
Source: Le Monde, 1 February 2016
The Centro de Derechos Humanos Fray Matías de Córdova A.C. (CDH Fray Matías) released a statement on 20 January 2016 denouncing the violation of migrants’ rights at the Tapachula detention centre in Mexico. The CDH Fray Matías is a non-governmental organisation that promotes the human rights of migrants in the state of Chiapas, Mexico. The statement affirms that US authorities have been found working together with Mexican authorities in the detention centre and denounces rights’ violations, abuses and harassment that migrants and asylum seekers are facing on a daily basis. This situation follows the increased criminalisation of migrants, through apprehensions, detention and deportation, by the Mexican state as part of the Southern Border Plan (Plan Frontera Sur) (See PICUM Bulletin, 30 November 2015). To read the full statement (only in Spanish), please click here.
The Department for Health, Security and Emergencies (Concejalía de Salud, Seguridad y Emergencias) of the municipality of Madrid is working on a plan to monitor immigration detention conditions in collaboration with NGOs and other associations. There is one detention centre in the area of Madrid (Aluche). Immigration detention is generally the responsibility of the state department of home affairs and the municipality will cooperate with organisations which have access to the detained migrants to reach its objective of monitoring detention conditions. The municipality also stressed its responsibility to ensure the human rights of all people and to help pursue complaints made by the organisations. According to the organisation SOS Racismo Madrid, which visits detained migrants, about 3,000 people are detained each year in the detention centre in Aluche.
Sources: El Confidencial, 15 February 2016; SOS Racismo Madrid, February 2016
Four undocumented migrants claim that U.S. immigration authorities denied them the right to legal counsel during a large-scale operation in January 2016, leading to the deportation of dozens of women and children. Despite the legal obligation to be informed of their rights, and while detained, the undocumented migrants were allegedly told that no legal counsel could prevent their deportation. The American Civil Liberties Union's Immigrants' Rights Project may bring a lawsuit against the government over the families' legal treatment. These recent raids have been criticized by some U.S. officials, saying that it is a way to deter migrants from Central America from entering the US irregularly. In the meantime, a bill was introduced last February by Democratic Senators to ensure that all unaccompanied migrants and victims of torture and violence have access to a lawyer.
Source: Reuters, 12 February 2016