PICUM Bulletin — 3 July 2015

Borders

  • DATA / Updated list with deaths of migrants and interactive map

    To mark International Refugee Day 20 June 2015, the network UNITED for Intercultural Action published an updated edition of its List of Deaths of migrants and refugees at Europe’s borders and through violence or denied access to services in Europe. The network also published an interactive map providing an overview of deaths and calls on civil society to protest against EU policies leading to deaths of migrants. In the period from 1993 to 2015, at least 22,000 deaths of migrants and refugees can be attributed to restrictive policies, according to the network. The data are collected through own research, information received from the 550 network organisations in 48 countries and from local experts, journalists and researchers in the field of migration. To view the list of deaths, click here.

  • EU PARLIAMENT / Symbolic action: boat with migrants lands near Parliament in Strasbourg

    With the support of several organisations denouncing the EU’s migration policy, a dozen migrants crossed the river between the Court of Human Rights and the EU Parliament in Strasbourg on 10 June 2015 to raise awareness of the drownings in the Mediterranean. The symbolic action highlighted the many dangers and difficulties migrants face during their journey to Europe. A small group of members of the European Parliament welcomed them and showed support on their arrival.
    Sources: Arte, 10 June 2015; Le Journal de Saône-et-Loire, 10 June 2015

  • HUNGARY / Plans for border fence to prevent migrants and refugees from entering the country

    Hungary plans to build a four-metre high, 175 km long fence along its border with Serbia to prevent migrants and refugees from entering the country. Hungarian and Serbian police chiefs met on 22 June 2015 and agreed to take joint steps to deter irregular migrants. Under the agreement, four mobile thermal cameras will be installed on the Serbian side of the joint border and additional police forces will go on duty on the Serbian-Macedonian border. The opposition Együtt party said the government “has failed in terms of humanity” and is constantly hurting national interests “by isolating Hungary from our Western allies”. The party said it was “unacceptable” that the government was refusing to help people whose lives are under threat. Less than a week after the plans for the fence were revealed, Hungary announced it would suspend the Dublin Regulation, meaning that it would refuse to take back migrants and refugees who entered the EU through Hungary and moved on to other EU member states. The European Commission demanded an explanation from the Hungarian government why they want to defy the regulation.
    Sources: The Budapest Times, 26 June 2015 ; Euronews 23 June 2015

  • MEDITERRANEAN / REPORT / Human rights abuses drive people to migrate to Europe

    Human Rights Watch (HRW) released the report, ‘The Mediterranean Migration Crisis: Why People Flee, What the EU Should Do’ on 18 June 2015. The report documents human rights abuses in migrants’ countries of origin which drive people to make the sea crossing, as well as the shortcomings of EU migration and asylum policies. The report is based on over 150 interviews held in May with recently-arrived migrants and asylum seekers in Italy and Greece. The report states that the EU should establish more safe and regular channels for refugees, migrants and asylum seekers to come to Europe, and criticises the EU-wide rules on family reunification as based on a narrow concept of the family unit.HRW states that over 100,000 migrants and asylum seekers have crossed the Mediterranean since the beginning of 2015. To download the full report, click here.

United Nations

  • UN / UNHCR highlights risks on Western Balkans migration route

    The UNHCR spokesperson expressed the agency’s concern over the growing risks faced by an increasing number of migrants and refugees in the Western Balkans route during a press briefing on 12 June 2015 (see Briefing Notes here). According to the UN Refugee Agency, between 2012 and 2014 the number of people registering their intention to seek asylum in the Western Balkans increased from 5,000 to 20,000. The situation is particularly difficult in the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia. There has been a series of fatal accidents along train tracks in the last few months and so far at least 25 people have lost their lives after being run over by passing trains. A Channel 4 News report released on 5 June 2015 revealed that hundreds of migrants are kidnapped by gangs in Macedonia and are held for ransom in secluded houses. The Macedonian police is investigating the media reports.
    Sources: Balkans Insight, 8 June 2015 ; UNHCR, 12 June 2015

  • HUMAN RIGHTS COUNCIL / Report of the Special Rapporteur on the human rights of migrants, presented at the 29th Session of the Human Rights Council

    As part of the 29th Session of the Human Rights Council (HRC), which took place in Geneva on 15 June 2015, the UN Special Rapporteur on the human rights of migrants, François Crépeau, presented his report: “Banking on mobility over a generation: follow-up to the regional study on the management of the external borders of the European Union and its impact on the human rights of migrants” (A/HRC/29/36). The report, published on 8 May 2015, focuses on the protection of the rights of migrants at the external borders of the European Union and follows the analysis of European Union border control policies presented to the Human Rights Council in 2013. The report highlights persistent human rights concerns in the region and questions the long-term feasibility of the European Union’s overall migration policy and the application of the Union’s founding values and regional human rights standards in relation to integration and diversity. The European Union statement, delivered as part of the 29th Session of the Human Rights Council is available here. As part of the Interactive Dialogue on the Human Rights of Migrants at the 29th session of the Human Rights Council, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, also highlighted that “the only effective approach to migration must be grounded in the human rights of the people concerned, focusing on root causes – including in countries of origin and transit – and long-term solutions”.
    Source: United Nations Human Rights, 29th regular session of the Human Rights Council

European Policy Developments

  • EUROPEAN COUNCIL / Fight against smugglers and intensified cooperation with countries of origin and transit

    Migration and refugees were one of the major issues discussed by ministers during the European Council meeting on 25 and 26 June in Brussels. The debate focused on recently increased numbers of migrants and refugees coming by sea. Heads of state concluded that they would intensify cooperation with countries of origin and transit and would focus on the fight against smugglers. This includes the new EU naval operation against human smugglers and traffickers in the Mediterranean called “EUNAVFOR Med” which was launched by the Council on 22 June 2015. Migrant and refugee rights organisations such as ProAsyl have criticised the military operation for not solving the issue of saving lives and for being against international law. The European Council’s debate focused also on the redistribution of 40,000 asylum seekers from Italy and Greece and the relocation of 20,000 refugees (mainly Syrians and Eritreans) who have fled their countries but not reached the EU. In total 60,000 asylum seekers and refugees should be relocated or resettled through a scheme to be defined by the end of July by the EU interior ministers. Luxembourg will take over the European Council presidency in July and thus be in charge of leading the negotiations. EU Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker called this a ‘modest effort’ in light of the numbers of migrants and refugees seeking protection. The Prime Minister of Tunisia, Habib Essid, expressed his opposition to military operations to address smuggling of migrants during a visit in Brussels on 28 May.  He stated that the solution must be found before or after the crossing of migrants but that destroying the boats would not be a solution. To read the European Council conclusions, click here. Ahead of the European Council meeting in June, Italian Prime Minister, Matteo Renzi, stated that if Europe does not provide more assistance to Italy to handle the large numbers of migrant arrivals, the government will opt for a ‘plan B’ that would ‘hurt’ Europe but could not be revealed. Since 13 June 2015, undocumented migrants coming from Italy have been intercepted at the French border and have been sent back to Italy. More than a hundred migrants were blocked at Ventimiglia, an Italian city close to the Franco-Italian border in June.
    Sources: The Guardian, 26 June 2015; Euranet Plus, 26 June 2015; RTBF, 29 May 2015; ProAsyl 22 June 2015; The Guardian, 15 June 2015; Le Monde, 15 June 2015; L’Humanité, 22 June 2015

  • EUROPEAN COMMISSION / Europe’s Health Commissioner underscores Commission’s ongoing commitment to addressing unequal access to health care

    European Health Commissioner Vytenis Andriukaitis responded to a written question from Member of the European Parliament (MEP) Marina Albiol Guzmán on 7 May 2015, concerning 6,000 children in Madrid born in Spain to migrant parents, who no longer have equal access to health care compared to children born to Spanish parents. Specifically, the question asked for the Commissioner’s assessment of whether the measure by the Community of Madrid restricting undocumented children’s access to medical appointments conformed with Spain’s international obligations. In his answer, Commissioner Andriukaitis noted that the Union is bound by the Treaty on the Functioning of the EU to respect member states’ competence in the definition of health care policy, as well as the organisation and delivery of services, and that under Spanish Royal Decree-law 16/2012, foreign children (under the age of eighteen) are entitled to receive healthcare under the same conditions as Spanish citizens. He observed that the EU Charter provides for the rights of the child and to health care, although these provisions only apply in the implementation of Union law in states. The Commissioner cited the Commission’s 2014 communication on effective, accessible and resilient health systems and concluded the Commission would continue to support member states on issues such as health system performance assessment, health workforce or health technology assessment, as means of addressing unequal access to healthcare.
    Source: European Parliament, 6 May 2015

  • EU / Recommendations for better inclusion of Roma people in the EU

    The European Economic and Social Committee (EESC) has released the final report of its project ‘Better inclusion of the Roma community through civil society initiatives’. The EESC recognises that the specific barriers facing Roma that are non-EU citizens remain largely unaddressed within Roma integration strategies, and puts forward several recommendations regarding the measures to ensure the rights to education, health care and housing for all Roma people, regardless of their residence, migration or citizenship status. These include financial assistance to meet education-related costs; explicit legislation on the right to health for all people on equal terms, including financial subsidies; a ban on sharing personal information with migration authorities and enforcement actions near health care institutions; de-criminalising the provision on accommodation and renting to irregular migrants; and an effective, independent complaints mechanisms to tackle discrimination in the provision on housing. Other relevant recommendations include investing in the research and provision of innovative and inclusive services to all Roma residents, regardless of status, at local level where services are developed; and efforts on behalf of both the EU and Member States to ensure transposition and implementation of the EU Victims Directive to effectively provide protection and access to justice for all Roma victims of crime. Download the report in BG, ES, EN, FR, RO, FI and DE (more languages forthcoming) here.

National Developments

  • FRANCE / Four evictions of migrants within ten days in Paris

    A camp with an estimated 350 migrants at the la Chappelle metro station in Paris was evicted by the police on 2 June 2015. The makeshift camp was set up last summer and the camp suddenly grew in size in April, following the increased migrant arrivals on the Italian coast. The authorities proposed shelters or temporary solutions after the eviction, but many have remained on the streets. Some of the migrants then went to the Saint Bernard church, a church that had previously gained publicity through an occupation by undocumented migrants in 1996, but they too were evicted by the police on 5 June. Around 80 of the migrants also gathered a few streets away, where they received the support of neighbours and organisations. They were however violently evicted by the police on 8 June. The violence of the eviction prompted Jacques Toubon, the Defender of Rights (Ombudsman), to open an inquiry. After the forceful eviction, many found a temporary shelter in local community gardens through the help of residents. The city of Paris subsequently offered 110 places in a shelter. Many organisations have condemned the government for the use of force and asked for more sustainable solutions. The city of Paris is now considering opening a transit centre. About 100 organisations, trade unions, movements and networks asked the President to open a forum for dialogue so that civil society could be consulted and share its expertise, but they are exasperated by the refusal of the President. The press statement can be read here and an open letter asking for a sustainable response that respects the rights of the migrants sent by a number of organisations to the Minister of Interior can be read here (both in French).
    Sources: Le Monde, 12 June 2015; L’Express, 9 June 2015; France 24, 15 June 2015; RTL, 9 June 2015

  • GREECE / Parliamentary Committee approves draft citizenship law

    A parliamentary committee started debating a new bill on 9 June 2015 which foresees the granting of Greek citizenship to second-generation immigrants on 10 June 2015. It is expected that this would benefit fewer than 100,000 people. The bill stipulates that applicants must have been enrolled at a Greek primary school and that their parents must have resided regularly in Greece for at least five years prior to the applicant’s birth. Despite facing some opposition, the bill was so far supported by SYRIZA, Potami, PASOK.
    Source: Ekathimerini.com, 9 June 2015

  • UK / New policy allows reconsideration of applications for residence on human rights grounds refused without right of appeal

    The UK Home Office has introduced a new policy on reconsideration of old human rights claims that were refused before 6 April 2015 with no right of appeal: Requests for reconsiderations of human rights or protection based claims refused without right of appeal before 6 April 2015. The policy is important in the numerous cases where a human rights application was made by an individual or family and the application was refused with no right of appeal because no removal decision was made. Under the new appeals regime introduced by the Immigration Act 2014 from 6 April 2014, no removal decision is needed for a right of appeal, only refusal of a human rights claim. The policy states that decisions will be reconsidered where: the refused application for leave to remain included a dependent child under 18 who had been resident in the UK for three years or more at the time of application, the applicant has a dependent child under the age of 18 who is a British citizen, the applicant is being supported by the Home Office or has provided evidence of being supported by a local authority in accordance with a duty in legislation, there are exceptional and compelling reasons to reconsider the decision at this time, or it is operationally expedient or appropriate to reconsider the decision. If one of the criteria is satisfied, the decision will be reconsidered and either refused again or a period of residence granted.
    Source: Free movement, 22 May 2015

Health Care

  • BELGIUM / Child with life-threatening illness at risk of deportation after medical visa lapses

    The parents of children who attend the same Brussels school as a five-year-old boy called Joël have launched a petition challenging the Belgian authorities’ plans to deport the child and his mother. Joël and his mother arrived in Belgium in 2009 from Rwanda under a medical visa so that Joël could receive treatment for a rare genetic bone disorder called fibrous dysplasia. Belgian authorities attempted to have Joël and his mother repatriated in 2012, but that order was overturned on appeal. Joël’s mother has sought a residence permit on the basis that medical specialists treating her son have determined that, were he returned to Rwanda, he would face the possibility of premature death. The Immigration Office has reportedly failed to take account of this advice, and issued another deportation order for Joël and his mother. The Belgian Council for Foreigner Law Litigation (Le Conseil du Contentieux des Etrangers) rejected the Immigration Office’s decision. In June, the Immigration Office granted Joël and his mother a temporary residence permit for one year on humanitarian grounds which requires the mother to show that she has employment and can take care of her severely ill child. Several organisations have demanded that the boy and his mother get a permit to stay in Belgian on medical grounds as the disease requires long term care and gathered for another protest on 27 June in Brussels. According to the petition, Joël has received several medical interventions, including wearing a plaster cast at all times, spinal surgery, and surgery to lengthen one of his legs.
    Sources: DH.be, 25 May 2015 ; RTBF 27 June 2015

  • REPORT / Economic crisis, health systems and health in Europe

    The World Health Organization (WHO) released a report entitled ‘Economic crisis, health systems and health in Europe’ in June 2015. This report maps, country by country, health policy responses to the financial and economic crisis in Europe. The impact of the crisis on the health system and health in Belgium, Estonia, France, Greece, Ireland, Latvia, Lithuania, the Netherlands and Portugal is provided in Part 1 of the report. Part 2 provides short overviews of policy responses to the crisis in 47 countries. The country profiles are based on a survey of health policy experts and include information on the entitlements of undocumented migrants to access health care in the respective countries, as well as policy changes in the countries which have subsequently impacted on undocumented migrants’ access to health care. This report is part of a wider initiative to monitor the effects of the crisis on health systems and health. This report also contains information concerning the impacts the financial crisis has had on undocumented migrants.
    Source: WHO Report, June 2015

  • REPORTS / Significant legal and practical barriers to basic health care for undocumented pregnant women and children in Europe

    Doctors of the World/Médecins du Monde (MdM) published new reports on access to health care in May 2015. The report entitled “Access to healthcare for people facing multiple health vulnerabilities” is based on data collected from across MdM programmes covering just over 22 000 patients in 25 European cities. The report includes a special focus on children and pregnant women, and identifies numerous legal as well as practical barriers they face in accessing basic health care across Europe. For instance, MdM’s numbers reveal a massive gap between the levels of vaccination for tetanus and measles, mumps and rubella among the general population (90% at age two) compared to children seen in their clinics (less than 50%), where a majority of all patients (across nine European countries) are undocumented. According to the report, over half of the pregnant women surveyed had not had access to antenatal care when they came to MdM’s centres; nearly 60% of these came after the 12th week of pregnancy. Two thirds of undocumented women in countries surveyed restricted their movements to varying degrees for fear of arrest, creating significant additional obstacles to accessing antenatal care. Undocumented pregnant women are entitled by law to some form of maternity services in the countries surveyed, but the extent of access varies widely, and considerable barriers exist in practice. The report also debunks the myth that migrants come to Europe for medical reasons, showing that only 3% had migrated for health reasons. On average, they had been in the country of residence for 6.5 years before consulting MdM. The report finds that restrictive national laws and complex administrative processes actually contribute to making people sick and calls on EU member states and institutions to offer universal public health systems built on solidarity, equality and equity, open to everyone living in the EU. MdM also published its report entitled “Legal report on access to healthcare in 12 countries” (Belgium, Canada, France, Germany, Greece, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey and the United Kingdom). The aim is to provide a tool for health care professionals, researchers, NGOs, policy makers and other stakeholders to better understand the legal and administrative barriers that prevent people from accessing the health care they need. To view the reports, click here.

  • SWEDEN / Interim assessment of law extending health coverage for undocumented migrants

    The Swedish Agency for Public Management released on 15 April 2015 its interim report assessing the implementation of the law regulating access to health care for undocumented migrants, and extending the level of services provided (Law 2013:407; see PICUM Bulletin 12 July 2013). The Swedish Agency for Public Management finds that most undocumented migrants who seek health care are offered health care in accordance with Law 2013:407, which came into force on 1 July 2013. Nonetheless, some obstacles were identified. These include lack of information for and knowledge among health care professionals regarding the new legislation and how it should be applied in clinical practice; lack of procedures to support the administration and documentation of health care for undocumented migrants, resulting in inadequate medical records; and difficulties in interpreting the formulation “care that cannot be postponed”. In its assessment of the term “care that cannot be postponed”, the National Board of Health and Welfare stated that it is not compatible with medical ethics, is not medically appropriate, and risks jeopardizing patient safety. Health care professionals have likewise criticised it and demanded equal access to health care for all in Sweden. According to the Doctors of the World clinic in Stockholm, 20% of the undocumented patients they receive have been refused access to services they are entitled to. Another finding of the Swedish Agency for Public Management is that the demand for health care amongst undocumented migrants was overestimated when the new legislation was introduced. The Swedish Government had estimated that the extension of health services would cost 300 million SEK (approximately 32.1 million EUR), while the report finds that health services provided to undocumented migrants during 2014 amounted to 100 million SEK (approximately 10.7 million EUR). The Swedish Agency for Public Management also puts forward a number of recommendations in its interim report. These include that counties should update guidelines on who should be give care, ensure availability of accurate information, and provide more training for health professionals, as well as information for undocumented migrants. The Swedish government is recommended to give the National Board of Health and Welfare the mandate to develop, in consultation with county councils and relevant authorities, a system to document and coordinate health care provided to undocumented migrants that can meet the demands for medical security. The Swedish Agency for Public Management has been tasked with the assessment of the law by the Swedish Government, and will publish its final assessment on 15 April 2016. The report is available in Swedish here.

    Source: Dagens Nyheter, 16 April 2015

  • USA / Health care coverage for undocumented migrants extended in 35 counties across California and to undocumented children statewide

    The month of June 2015 saw an expansion of undocumented migrants’ entitlement to basic medical care across the state of California in the United States. Governor Jerry Brown signed a state budget bill extending full health coverage to all low-income children in California regardless of immigration status under MediCal, California’s state health program for low-income residents, beginning May 2016. Previously, MediCal coverage for undocumented children was limited to emergency care. Undocumented adults in California who earn less than 138 percent of the federal poverty level — that is, less than 14 000 dollars per year for a single person — continue to qualify for very limited coverage (emergency room visits and pregnancy care), while those earning more than the cut-off do not qualify for health coverage under either the federal Affordable Care Act or MediCal. There have also been some extensions of coverage at county level. The governing board of the County Medical Services Program — the state program providing health care services to destitute adults in California for counties with less than 300,000 inhabitants — approved a proposal to expand health coverage for undocumented migrants, from emergency medical care only, to include several doctor visits and up to $100,000 of prescription medicines following emergency room visits on 27 June 2015. This program covers 35 mostly rural counties in California. In addition, Sacramento County unanimously approved funding for a trial program to provide health insurance to 3000 undocumented migrants as part of the county budget for the new fiscal year beginning 1 July 2015. California’s Public Policy Institute estimates that there are 2.7 million undocumented persons in California, more than half of whom live in large urban areas. 47 of California’s 58 counties have now agreed to provide low-cost medical coverage to eligible people regardless of their immigration status, including urban counties such as Los Angeles, Ventura and San Francisco.
    Sources: LA Times 26 June 2015; Washington Times, 27 June 2015; LA Times, 18 June 2015; Sacramento Bee, 23 June 2015; Sacramento Bee, 25 June 2015; Tribune News Service, 18 June 2015

Labour and Fair Working Conditions

  • BELGIUM / Public service trade union demands that sub-contractors respect social and labour rights

    At the initiative of the Brussels branch of the Confederation of Christian Unions (Confédération des syndicats chrétiens, CSC) on 2 June 2015, a group of 50 people including undocumented migrants gathered to protest against social dumping through subcontracting. Undocumented migrants are often affected by subcontracting. Using the case of an undocumented migrant who lost his residence permit after he was fired by a sub-contractor in charge of cleaning public housing, they highlighted the precarious condition of sub-contractors’ staff. The CSC asks for a charter that connects the contractor and the sub-contractor to make sure social and labour rights are respected. The undocumented workers underlined that the employers promise them regularisation but in the meantime they work in exploitative conditions and for very low salaries. They ask to be protected until their claim is brought to court, in order to not be deported before the judgement.
    Source: La Libre, 2 June 2015

  • BELGIUM / Ratification of Convention 189 on Domestic Workers

    Belgium ratified the International Labour Organization (ILO) Convention 189 on the Rights of Domestic Workers on 10 June 2015. On 16 June, International Domestic Workers’ Day, mobilisations took place around the world calling for the ratification of C189 and labour reforms, including the right to a minimum wage and social protection for all domestic workers, many of whom are undocumented migrant women. With the last ratifications of Belgium, Dominican Republic, Finland, Panama and Chile, the total number of ratifications amounts to 21. However, only five member states of the European Union (Belgium, Finland, Germany, Ireland and Italy) have ratified the ILO C189, while Portugal is close to doing so, as it has already finalised the ratification process at national level and is in the process of officially registering it with the ILO. During the meeting of the UN Commission on the Status of Women in New York in March 2015, representatives of the International Domestic Worker Federation highlighted that domestic work remains marginalised in social and economic policy-making.
    Source: OR.C.A, 11 June 2015 (French) (Dutch); ITUC, 16 June 2015; National Domestic Workers Alliance, press release, 11 March 2015

  • FRANCE / Undocumented migrants occupy four temporary work agencies in Paris suburbs

    About 120 undocumented workers occupied four temporary work agencies in a suburb of Paris on 10 June 2015 before being evicted by police. The workers have the support of the CGT trade union, which is now being sued for ‘illegal occupation’ by the Yvelines branch of one of the agencies. The undocumented migrants are asking for negotiations with the work agencies in order to obtain the necessary documents for regularisation, most notably certificates that prove that a person has worked for the same employer on numerous occasions (even if irregularly and under different names). Until now, the agencies have refused to enter negotiations and asked for the migrant workers to be evicted from their premises. The CGT is asking the government to adjust the regularisation circular of November 2012, which clarifies the conditions for the regularisation of parents of schooled children and employees. The requirement of payslips makes it harder for undocumented workers to file an application.
    Source: L’Express, 22 June 2015; France Télévision, 22 June 2015

  • SWEDEN / Exposure of severe labour exploitation of undocumented migrants in Sweden

    From 23 to 30 May 2015, Dagens Nyheter, one of the main Swedish daily newspapers, published a series of articles describing severely exploitative working conditions of undocumented migrants in Sweden. It highlighted the situation of people working in slave-like conditions; women being sexually abused by their bosses who are unable to file a complaint for fear of deportation; people working 88 hours per week; poorly paid jobs and sleeping in fast-food chains at night. The articles brought to light a situation that the public was largely unaware of. Ylva Johansson, the current Minister of Labour (Social Democrat), accused the previous government of passivity on this issue and had asked that the conditions and salary that the employers communicate to the Migration Agency should be binding and controlled. Since Johansson took office more than half a year ago, however, not much has changed. The minister says that the government still wants to sharpen the legislation: the conditions and salary promised must become binding. The proposal is currently being studied by the Ministry of Justice. The Minister of Labour highlights that they do not want to make labour migration more difficult, but rather tackle abuses. She wants to bring this discussion to the EU-level and has invited 10 other ministers from EU countries to a meeting in September 2015 to discuss the exploitation of migrant workers. The Swedish Prime Minister, Stefan Löfven, highlighted the need for more controls of the labour market and to put pressure on companies to sign collective agreements. The parties of the right wing alliance have different opinions on how to handle the exploitation of migrant workers: the Moderates, the Christian Democrats and the Liberals mostly focus on stricter control while the Centre party advocates for opening the Swedish labour market even more by having more flexible regular channels for labour migration. The trade unions are looking at several possibilities to protect undocumented workers. One of the main trade unions, the Swedish Trade Union Confederation (LO), is looking at ways of using the trafficking framework for victims of labour exploitation. As a direct consequence of the article series, the board of LO will have a meeting with staff from the Swedish Trade Unions Center for Undocumented Migrants after the summer.
    Sources: Dagens Nyheter, 30 May 2015; Dagens Nyheter, 1 June 2015; Dagen Nyheter, 5 June 2015

Undocumented Women

  • DECLARATION / International stakeholder meeting convened by Red Cross gives rise to Declaration on the rights of women migrant workers

    On the 12-13 May 2015, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), along with National Societies from Asia Pacific, the Middle East and North Africa, met at a conference to address how to provide better humanitarian assistance to labour migrants – in particular, female domestic workers who comprise about 83 percent of the estimated 52 to 100 million labour migrants worldwide. While they often act as caregivers for children and the elderly or do house cleaning, very often these women do not benefit from legal protection or access to social services and health care in the countries where they work. The conference gave rise to the Manila Declaration on Women Household Service Workers, which outlines a commitment by several National Societies to greater collaboration, including on efforts to influence their respective governments and other stakeholders, to address this issue. The Declaration follows the Resolution on Migration adopted at the 31st International Conference of the Red Cross and Red Crescent, and is part of the larger Red Cross Red Crescent Doha Dialogue on Migration series, which assembles stakeholders throughout Asia Pacific, the Middle East and North Africa to address best practices and methods of collaboration to improve labour laws, policies and programmes to protect the rights and interests of expatriate workers.  IFRC Secretary General, Elhadj As Sy noted in Manila that discussions about migration “would benefit greatly if we put human beings at the centre,” and avoided the trap of focusing on migration as primarily a political, economic, or security issue.
    Source: International Federal of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, 19 May 2015

Undocumented Children and Their Families

  • AMERICAS / PAPER / Humanitarian protection for children fleeing gang based violence

    A paper authored by Elizabeth Carlson and Anna Marie Gallagher provides an overview of the violence perpetrated by gangs and other criminal organisations which compels many children in Central America to flee their communities. It describes the US government’s obligations to protect migrant children upon arrival, and good practices of other governments relating to the protection of child migrants and refugees. It also discusses Special Immigrant Juvenile Status, gang-related asylum case law, and the difficulty of prevailing in asylum claims based on persecution by gangs. It concludes with recommendations to the administration and policymakers to ensure compliance with US obligations under national and international laws. To read the paper, click here.

  • BOOK / Mobility of adolescents on the route between Morocco and Europe

    Natalia Ribas Mateos and Sofía Laiz have presented their book entitled ‘Movilidades Adolescentes. Elementos teóricos emergentes en la ruta entre Marruecos y Europa’ (‘Mobilities of Adolescents. Emerging theoretical elements on the route between Morocco and Europe’). The book attempts to bring new elements to the study of child migration and analyses the impact of public policies on the lives of migrant children. A particular focus is given to migrant children coming from Morocco to Galicia and Catalonia in Spain. For more information on the book, please click here.

  • EU / Action statement on ending child statelessness

    The European Network on Statelessness (ENS) has issued an action statement entitled “None of Europe’s Children Should be Stateless” which is intended to help guide joint efforts to end childhood statelessness in Europe. The action statement is a result of the ENS conference with the same name, which was held in Budapest on 2-3 June 2015 and brought together 100 participants from over 30 European countries. Concerning the research agenda, the statement highlights the need for additional research on the enjoyment of nationality and prevention of statelessness for children of beneficiaries of international protection and undocumented migrants, and on the interaction between birth registration and the acquisition of nationality by birth, among others. The statement also underlines the need to improve data on statelessness, access to birth registration and nationality, as well as inclusion of all children in population data sets, while ensuring data protection. Other actions focus on awareness-raising, and mobilising actors at national, regional and international level. Read the full statement here. The conference papers and reports are also available here.

  • MEXICO / UN Committee on the Rights of the Child calls on Mexico to end detention of child migrants

    The United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child has condemned the Mexican government’s practice of detaining migrant mothers and children awaiting deportation hearings on 3 June 2015 in Geneva. According to national statistics, Mexico detained 23,096 children for their immigration status, out of a total of 127,149 migrant detainees in 2014. The country dramatically stepped up its immigration enforcement in 2014 under its “Southern Border Plan” as tens of thousands of migrants, mostly families and unaccompanied children, travelled north from Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador. The Committee recommended that Mexico stops administrative detention for child migrants and focuses on alternative measures. This follows guidance by the Committee that children should never be detained for immigration purposes, and that states should use non-custodial community-based alternatives to detention for children and families.
    Source: International Business Times, 10 June 2015

  • UK / Nearly 70 migrants found in lorries, including 15 children

    35 Afghans, 22 Chinese, 10 Vietnamese and one Russian, including 15 children, were found in four lorries that arrived on a freight and passenger ship at Harwich international port in Essex on 4 June 2015. After the discovery, seven people – including two pregnant women – were taken to a hospital with abdominal and chest pains. However, none were in a life-threatening or serious condition.  The four lorry drivers, arrested on suspicion of immigration offences, were taken in for questioning by the Home Office’s criminal investigations team.
    Source: The Guardian, 5 June 2015

  • UK / Children trapped in poverty by ‘dysfunctional system’

    A major new study entitled ‘Safeguarding children from destitution: local authority responses to families with ‘no recourse to public funds’  has been released by COMPAS (Centre on Migration, Policy and Society at the University of Oxford). The research explores a contradiction between a requirement in immigration law that excludes some families from accessing welfare support from the state (‘no recourse to public funds’ (NRPF)) and a provision in the Children Act 1989 (Section 17) that requires local authorities to provide services to safeguard and promote the welfare of any child that is ‘in need’ and to keep families together. This NRPF status affects several groups of migrants, including undocumented migrants, as well as their children, even if they are British citizens. The researchers surveyed and interviewed local authority service providers, parents, voluntary sector advocates and solicitors. Two thirds (66%) of families supported by the local authorities surveyed were undocumented. They found that the slow rate of immigration case resolution (reliant on the Home Office), alongside the fact that local authorities do not receive any funding from central government to support such families, mean families have difficulty in securing the support they request from local authorities. They found considerable discretion in how the assessments and provision of services operate and variation in practice. Some local authorities have a strong, child-focused assessment process, others a greater focus on the immigration status and credibility of the parents. Families’ overwhelming need at point of referral to the local authority is for accommodation. They have generally been in the UK for a considerable period of time, are well integrated and were not reliant on the state until a crisis provoked their referral. Precarious living and relationships of dependency expose some parents and children to exploitation. Some families are denied support, while some children that do receive local authority support face long periods in basic living conditions and survival on subsistence rates below those deemed minimal for any other category of people in the UK, raising concern on the long-term impact on such children of living in poverty. The report concludes with a number of policy recommendations. Read the executive summary here, and the full report here.

  • USA / Undocumented mothers sue Texan officials after they denied their children birth certificates

    Undocumented Mexican mothers are suing Texas officials on behalf of their six US-born children, after officials denied them birth certificates. The plaintiffs are represented by Texas Rio Grande Legal Aid, who filed a civil suit in the US District Court in Austin on 26 May 2015. Texas officials say that the widely-used Mexican-issued ID, the Matricula Consular, is not sufficiently secure because consulates do not rigorously check applicants’ identities. Since autumn 2014, they are requiring a valid passport, with a valid visa, in order to issue mothers with their children’s birth certificates, directly discriminating against children of undocumented mothers. Children need birth certificates to receive medical benefits, enrol in school, and access other state services. The lawsuit asks the court to declare the State’s practice unconstitutional.
    Source: Latin Times, 02 June 2015

Detention and Deportation

  • FRANCE / Organisations call to end practice of detaining children in transit zones at airports

    Anafé, the observatory of the detention of foreigners (Observatoire de l’enfermement des étrangers, OEE), the Network of Education without Borders (Réseau Education Sans Frontières, RESF) and the Journal of the Rights of Young People (Journal du droit des jeunes) wrote an open letter to the French government and parliamentarians on 25 June 2015 to ask for an end to the detention of children at airport transit zones. The letter follows the recent cases of two young girls, aged 3 and 6, who spent several days alone in a transit zone detention centre (Zone d’attente pour personnes en instance, ZAPI) at the Roissy-Charles-de-Gaulle airport in Paris. The 6-year old French girl was on a flight from Cameroun to see her mother. She was kept in the transit zone as her passport photo allegedly did not resemble her enough. She stayed in the transit zone for four days. The 3-year old Ivorian girl was kept in the transit zone for five days. She comes from a region of the Ivory Coast where genital mutilation is common practice and her parents decided to take her to Europe to protect her. Her father, who has a residence permit in Italy used false documents for her. French authorities argue that temporary detention of children for these verifications is important to prevent trafficking of children. Administrative investigations have been opened to look into these two cases. The Defender of rights (ombudsman) also opened an investigation and called again to end the detention of migrant children in France. Human Rights Watch previously criticised the practice of holding migrant children in French transit zones (see PICUM Bulletin 22 May 2014).  According to the organisation Anafé, there are 67 ZAPIs in France and in 2013, a total of 350 unaccompanied children were put in the ZAPI of the Roissy airport.
    Sources: Libération, 12 Juin 2015; L’Express, 12 June 2015

Publications and other Resources

  • CENTRAL AMERICA / Academic articles explore Central American migration to the USA

    The article ‘Transit strategies of independent Central American adolescent migrants: coping with Vertical Border in Mexico’”, published by the Journal Revista Interdisciplinar da Mobilidade Humana – REMHU, analyses the transit strategies of Guatemalan and Salvadoran adolescent migrants in their attempt to reach the US through Mexico. The author, Aída Silva Hernández, refers to an immigration enforcement system that spreads throughout Mexico as well as an unofficial “vertical border”, described as a set of risks and abuses committed against migrants by different actors. To read the article in Spanish, please click here. The article ‘Migratory system crisis and security in the northern and southern borders of Mexico’ published by the Journal Revista Interdisciplinar da Mobilidade Humana – REMHU, analyses the implications of the current migration from Central America through Mexico and to the United States, often referred to as an humanitarian crisis as Mexican child migrants are detained by the US Border Patrol. The authors, Daniel Villafuerte Solís and María del Carmen García Aguilar affirm that one of the consequences of this crisis has been the intensified securitisation of Mexico’s northern and southern borders to stop the arrival of migrants. The governments of Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador, together with the US government, developed a series of strategies that range from increased surveillance of border crossings, detention and deportation of migrants, to implementing the Alliance for Prosperity in the Northern Triangle of Central America. To read the article in Spanish, please click here.

  • PUBLICATION / Human Rights Indicators for Migrants and their Families

    KNOMAD’s Thematic Working Group (TWG) on Migrant Rights and Social Aspects of Migration published a paper entitled ‘Human Rights Indicators for Migrants and their Families’ in April 2015. The paper is authored by Pablo Ceriani Cernadas of the UN Committee on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of their Families, and National University of Lanus (UNLA), Argentina; Michele LeVoy and Lilana Keith of PICUM, in collaboration with Luis Campos (UNLA). It shows that the use of indicators for the human rights of migrants can facilitate and monitor progress and compliance with legal obligations; that the fulfilment of migrants’ rights is an essential tool for social integration in multicultural societies; and that migrants’ rights indicators promote evidence based policy-making. The paper provides a practical tool for governments at all levels and other key stakeholders to advance development objectives through the protection of migrants’ human rights. The KNOMAD Working Paper Series disseminates work in progress under the Global Knowledge Partnership on Migration and Development (KNOMAD). KNOMAD is headed by Dilip Ratha, the TWG is chaired by William Gois (Migrant Forum Asia), with Pia Oberoi (OHCHR), Rhea Saab/Kerry Neil (UNICEF), and KNOMAD’s Secretariat Focal Point, Hanspeter Wyss. Contributions were received from Michele Leighton and Ryszard Cholewinski (ILO), and Carolina Hernandez (OHCHR). The paper is available in English and Spanish.

PICUM IN THE NEWS

  • ITALY / The EU should protect unaccompanied minors

    PICUM Interim Programme Director, Lilana Keith, was mentioned in an article of the Italian agency La Presse about the hearing “Putting migrant children’s rights at the heart of EU migration policies” in the European Parliament.  The article focuses on unaccompanied missing children.

    Source: La Presse, 25 June 2015

  • UK / Restricting access to the NHS for undocumented migrants is bad policy at high cost

    Lilana Keith, Interim Programmes Director, Platform for International Cooperation on Undocumented Migrants (PICUM) and Ewout van Ginneken, Senior Researcher, Berlin University of Technology published an opinion in the British Medical Journal on the introduction of a ‘health surcharge’ and proposals to charge undocumented migrants for emergency and primary care. The surcharge is a fee that must be paid when migrants from outside the European Economic Area (EEA) apply to reside or to extend their leave in the UK for longer than six months, to have access hospital services. The authors highlight how this could result in some migrants becoming undocumented or being unable to regularise their status. They underline the likely negative impacts of further restricting access to health services for undocumented migrants on public health, health care professionals, medical ethics and human rights, the administration and finances of the health care system, as well as the health and wellbeing of vulnerable people. The opinion piece was published by the BMJ printed journal and online, and a press release on the opinion was picked up by over 100 media outlets across the UK.
    Sources: BMJ, 16 June 2015; The Independent, 16 June 2015; Deutsches Ärzteblatt, 18 June 2015

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