PICUM Bulletin — 4 October 2016


  • AUSTRIA / Groundwork for border fence

    Austria has begun with the groundwork for a fence along a 1.8 kilometre stretch of its border with Hungary to prevent migrants and refugees from entering the country. The decision to erect the fence is linked to a proposal of measures which, if put into place, would allow authorities to quickly turn away most people seeking protection at the border. In 2015, Austria took in about 90,000 people seeking protection and according to reports, the government said it would let only 37,500 people apply for asylum this year.
    Source: Thomson Reuters Foundation News, 20 September 2016

  • BELGIUM / Belgian policemen drive irregular migrants across border with France

    Two Belgian policemen who found a group of irregular migrants on a truck, drove them across the border to French territory on 20 September 2016. The policemen were alerted by the driver of a truck who heard noises in the back of the truck. They found about a dozen migrants who they then drove in a police van across the nearby border. The French Interior Minister, Bernard Cazeneuve, subsequently contacted his Belgian counterpart, Jan Jambon, criticising the border crossing. The local Belgian police commissioner for Ypres, responded to the criticism stating that the Belgian police did not smuggle or traffic the migrants but just helped them on their way.
    Source: Reuters 22 September 2016

  • FRANCE / Work begins on Calais wall, report about limited access to justice in camps

    As part of an agreement of joint measures between France and the United Kingdom, work has started to build a four-metre high wall to block migrants and refugees from attempting to make the crossing from Calais, France to the UK. The £1.9 million (€2,2 million) project will be paid for by the British government. The Bar Human Rights Committee (BHRC) of England and Wales published a report in July 2016 following field visits to camps at Calais and Grande-Synthe, France, which took place in March 2016. The BHRC is an independent arm of the Bar, dedicated to the principles of justice and respect for fundamental rights. Its members are barristers practising at the Bar of England and Wales, legal academic and law students. As part of its investigation into Calais and Grande-Synthe, BHRC reported limited availability of legal advice and information in the camps and limited opportunity or process to document and lodge complaints against police. At the time of the field visit, more than 17 complaints regarding police violence had been received, including the case of an Iranian child who police found in a refrigerated lorry, handcuffed, and then took to a field outside of Calais where he was beaten repeatedly with truncheons; as well as a man who, while attempting to board a lorry, was hit in the face and arms with batons by police who were trying to prevent him from boarding, before being left on the side of the road. The BHRC reports widespread feelings of insecurity and fear of violence among migrants in the camps, and growing threats from anti-immigrant groups. The report argues that lack of regulation and accountability within the camps feeds a culture of misinformation and distrust of authorities. BHCR recommends, among others, permanent legal advice centres within the camps, the presence of independent legal observers or monitors to document abuses, and the provision of interpretation to migrants during key moments, such as arrest, detention, or eviction. Meanwhile, Anne Longfield, the Children’s Commissioner for England, noted that there are currently 800 unaccompanied children living in the camp of Calais. To read the BHRC report, click here.
    Sources: The Guardian 20 September 2016; Children’s Commissioner In Brief, 14 September 2016

  • GREECE / Protests in Greek migrant camp following death of migrant woman

    A woman from Syria was found unconscious in communal showers in the Diavata camp, an industrial area on the outskirts of Thessaloniki in Greece. The woman, who was reportedly in her twenties, appeared to have suffered from epilepsy and died later at a local hospital due to heart failure. Her death prompted protests in the camp on 28 July 2016, with migrants demanding better facilities, health care, and the permanent presence of an ambulance outside the camp. On 26 July, the Hellenic Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (KEELPNO) published an assessment of 16 migrant centres across the country, following health inspections, calling for the closure of all the centres in Greece because of conditions – including inadequate ventilation, overcrowding, lack of privacy, clean water and sanitation – that pose a threat to migrants and to the general public (see PICUM newsletter). According to reports, the Diavata camp holds about 2,200 people. Earlier in July, the Greek government announced plans to close about three quarters of its migrant reception centres by September 2016 and to ensure improved living conditions for migrants. The Ministry for Migration had begun reviewing existing facilities to determine which ones are to be closed, and which will be adapted for the new scheme, the latter of which included the Diavata camp.
    Sources: Greek Reporter, 29 July 2016; Ekathimerini, 26 July 2016; Greek Reporter, 18 July 2016

  • GREECE / Fire outbreak, tensions and violence at Moria migrant camp

    A fire broke out in the ‘hot spot’ in Moria on the island of Lesvos, Greece, on Monday 19 September 2016. The fire destroyed accommodation and led to the evacuation of the estimated 4,000 migrants held in the camp. The cause of the fire has not been confirmed. The incident followed a rally which was attended by about 500 local residents, as well as by a few dozen ultra-nationalists. According to media, a group of around 15 men physically assaulted three female university students at the rally, at least one of whom was identified as a volunteer supporting migrants. On 21 September, an elderly man was seen threatening migrants and refugees outside the Moria camp with a hunting rifle while authorities were still trying to find accommodation for the migrants after the fire. Tensions and incidents of violence have also been increasing among migrants and refugees in the overcrowded camp. Four boys from Pakistan aged 16 to 17 were arrested for gang rape of another 16-year-old Pakistani boy on 25 September in the Moria camp. They denied the charges and were granted conditional release by a local court on 28 September 2016. The court also ordered the transfer of the four boys from the Moria camp to other accommodation pending their trial.
    Source: Ekathimerini; 19 September 2016; Ekathimerini, 23 September 2016 ; Ekathimerini, 28 September 2016

  • EGYPT / Boat carrying nearly 600 people capsizes, over 160 dead

    A boat carrying almost 600 people capsized off Egypt’s coast on 21 September 2016. Authorities stated on 23 September that 162 people died but at least 240 were still missing.  Officials said that the boat seemed to be going towards Italy and the migrants were mostly from Egypt, Sudan, Eritrea, Syria and Somalia. The Egyptian Prime Minister, Sherif Ismail, said all possible resources would be invested in the rescue and investigation mission and that those responsible should be brought to justice.
    Source: Reuters, 21 September 2016; AL Jazeera, 23 September 2016

  • GERMANY / GREECE / Individuals assisting undocumented migrants face punishment for ‘smuggling’

    Diether Dehm of the German left party and Member of German Parliament was found to have brought a boy from Italy to Germany who wanted to join his father. According to reports, the incident which happened in late August 2016, involved a boy from Africa who fled to Italy after his mother died. The German Police Union announced they would press charges against Diether Dehm for people smuggling. This recent case has brought renewed attention to the prosecution of Bernd Keller, a retired German national who is currently serving a 16-year prison sentence for smuggling of migrants and refugees in Greece. He and his wife were arrested two years ago on the Greek island Symi after bringing six family members of a Syrian family to the island with their boat. While Greek authorities have accused Bernd Keller for professional smuggling for profit, he declared that he pitied the Syrian refugees and brought them from Turkey to Greece for humanitarian reasons while his wife provided them with cookies and water. His boat which contained most of his property was confiscated and has started to rot. Bernd Keller also stated that he brought refugees only once to Greece, that the allegations of the Greek authorities are not correct and that the official who questioned him used Google Translate to communicate with him. Bernd Keller does not yet have appeal proceedings confirmed.
    Sources: Die ZEIT, 11 September 2016; Taz, 14 September 2016

  • HUNGARY / Prime Minister calls for deporting migrants to islands outside the EU, Hungary failing to protect migrants and refugees at its border

    Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán stated on 22 September 2016 that all irregular migrants should be ‘rounded up and shipped’ outside the EU. He suggested to bring them to islands or coastal areas in North Africa and stated that deporting them would be the only solution to deal with increased numbers of migrant and refugee arrivals. The comment came ahead of a referendum on the EU’s quota plan for the relocation of refugees and migrants to be held on 2 October. According to reports, Hungary has left many of the most vulnerable people seeking protection stranded at its border. A new law which came into force on 5 July 2016 allows authorities to push back anyone caught inside Hungary irregularly within eight kilometres of the border fence and coincided with a large operation involving about 10,000 police and soldiers to reinforce a fence erected in 2015. Following the entry into force of the law, Human Rights Watch (HRW) interviewed 30 asylum seekers who had been apprehended after crossing irregularly into Hungary, including single males and members of vulnerable groups, families with children, four unaccompanied children, an elderly person, and a person with a disability as well as representatives of nongovernmental groups, the United Nations refugee agency (UNHCR), lawyers and activists. HRW documented 12 cases of violence against migrants and asylum seekers, including children, who crossed irregularly into Hungary. They reported being severely beaten by people wearing uniforms consistent with those of Hungarian police, army, or local paramilitary. Similarly, an Amnesty International report, entitled “Stranded Hope, Hungary’s Sustained Attack on the Rights of Refugees and Migrants”, released in September 2016, documents the country’s crackdown on refugees and migrants. The report recommends to repeal the amendments which criminalise irregular entry and allow summary expulsion of refugees and migrants and the European Commission to conclude formal infringement proceedings against Hungary and ensure Hungary’s full compliance with European Union law. The report is available here.
    Source: Human Rights Watch 20 September 2016; BBC News 14 July 2016; Politico 22 September 2016

  • ITALY / SWITZERLAND / Hundreds of migrants stranded at the Swiss-Italian border

    An increasing number of irregular migrants seeking to travel from Italy to northern Europe are stranded in Como, Italy, about six kilometres away from the Swiss border. Approximately 450 migrants camped in a park outside San Giovanni, the main railway station in Como (Italy) in August 2016. Most were Ethiopians and Eritreans who have tried without success to reach northern Europe by train. According to reports, two-thirds of the nearly 7,500 migrants who reached Switzerland coming from Italy between July and early August 2016 were turned back by Swiss authorities who argued that they fulfilled their obligation under the Dublin regulation. Many of the migrants are asylum seekers who left the reception centre in Taranto, in southern Italy, in an attempt to be reunited with relatives in Germany and Switzerland. The Italian organisation Associazione Ricreativa e Culturale Italiana (ARCI), Caritas, the Red Cross, as well as some of the nearby parishes, have tried to ensure the provision of one meal a day for the migrants, while Swiss volunteers, headed by the Socialist deputy to the cantonal parliament Lisa Bosia Mirra, have been offering legal assistance. On 19 September, a temporary reception centre accommodating 300 migrants in 50 housing units was opened near the main railway station in Como. The migrants will be provided with a badge to access the centre and their fingerprints will not be taken. Caritas and the Red Cross will provide assistance. Meanwhile, the Italian NGO MEDU (Doctors for Human Rights) denounced the rising rejection rate for asylum requests in Italy arguing that the national asylum commission might be intentionally lowering the acceptance rate to discourage future arrivals. Since the beginning of 2016, about 16,800 unaccompanied children have arrived in Italy through the Mediterranean.
    Sources: Swissinfo, 5 August 2016; La Stampa, 6 August 2016; La Repubblica, 17 August 2016; Reuters 16 September 2016; Open Migration, 20 September 2016; Thomson Reuters Foundation, 13 September 2016; Vita 21 September 2016

  • LIBYA / Two members of the rescue charity Sea-Eye arrested by Libyan coastguard

    The Libyan coast guard arrested two members of the German rescue charity Sea-Eye on 10 September. They were detained when their speedboat entered Libyan waters without authorisation, coming from Tunisia. The speedboat was working independently from its mother ship, a Netherlands-flagged fishing boat that carries out rescue operations outside Libya’s 12-mile territorial zone. The speedboat undertakes rapid intervention operations in specific areas off the Libyan coast from Tunisia. Both ships belong to Sea-Eye, a charity organisation that rescues migrants crossing the Mediterranean Sea, and which has rescued almost 4,000 people within the past four months.
    Source: Deutsche Welle, 11 September 2016

  • MEDITERRANEAN / Nearly 300,500 arrivals, over 3,500 deaths at sea; Save the Children launches own rescue mission

    According to the International Organization for Migration (IOM), 300,450 migrants and refugees entered Europe by sea in 2016 until 21 September, arriving mostly in Greece and Italy. According to IOM’s Missing Migrants Project, deaths at sea totalled 3,501 in 2016 until this date. This is an increase from the previous year which saw a total of 2,887 recorded deaths for the same time period. The organisation Save the Children has launched a search-and-rescue ship in the waters around Italy which became operational in September. Aiming to save lives at sea, it has the capacity to assist up to 300 people at once. The Italian coastguard will direct the ship towards identified migrant vessels that need assistance. The ship will be equipped with two smaller boats manned by professional rescue crews. They will conduct rescue operations and then transfer people to the main ship, where they will receive medical assistance, food, water, psychological support and protection for children by Save the Children’s specialist teams.
    Sources: ANSAmed, 9 September 2016; Save the Children Press Release, 23 August 2016; International Organization for Migration Press release, 23 September 2016

  • SERBIA / 20-year old Afghan migrant shot dead by hunter

    A 20-year old Afghan migrant was shot dead by a hunter on 23 August 2016 in the town of Pirot, near the Serbian border with Bulgaria. The Serbian Army reported that members of the army and the police were patrolling the border area when they heard the shot. They later found six migrants – one of whom had been shot in the chest – and four hunters at the scene. The suspect, a 39-year old man, was arrested and taken into custody. The four hunters claimed that they were waiting for a boar to appear when they heard crackling in the bushes and one of them fired his rifle, causing the death of the migrant. The event took place in the border area where many migrants enter Serbia coming from Bulgaria. The border crossing of migrants, despite the 110-mile-long fence, has led to the emergence of self-appointed vigilante groups who patrol the border area in search of migrants. The incident followed an announcement of Serbia’s Interior Minister, Nebojsa Stefanovic, to introduce stricter measures to contain migration flows through the southern border.
    Source: Balkan Insight, 24 August 2016

United Nations

  • UN / Summit for Refugees and Migrants characterised by ‘hope and half – heartedness’

    The United Nations General Assembly hosted a high-level summit on 19 September 2016 in New York to address large movements of refugees and migrants, with the aim to come up with a blueprint for a better international response to migrant and refugee flows. The summit gathered heads of states of governments, EU policymakers, representatives of international organisations and the UN as well as civil society. All 193 UN member states unanimously adopted the “New York Declaration“ , a set of commitments to protect rights and share responsibility on a global scale. By adopting the New York Declaration, member states commit to start negotiations leading to the adoption of a global compact for safe, orderly and regular migration in 2018 and to achieve a more equitable sharing of the burden and responsibility for hosting and supporting the world’s refugees by adopting a global compact on refugees in 2018. The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, called on states in an open letter to keep to their binding obligation towards all people at all stages of migration, to address criminalisation of migrants, to move towards the end of immigration detention and to take immediate steps to end child detention. Meanwhile, EU leaders at the forum emphasised the need for more border security. President of the European Council, Donald Tusk, stated that the objective is to ‘restore order’ on the EU’s external borders. Theresa May, Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, called for a global clampdown on “uncontrolled migration”, stating that it is the right and the duty of countries to control their borders.  Many civil society organisations and migrants’ and refugee advocates have criticised that action might follow late or not lead to a more humane approach. The End Immigration Detention of Children campaign noted a step backwards with paragraph 33 of the New York Declaration stating that detention for children can be used as a measure of last resort, in conflict with the recommendation of the Committee on the Rights of the Child and calls from many leaders to work towards ending immigration detention of children. A group of civil society organisations jointly published a statement and score-card, in response to the New York Declaration, entitled “Rising to the challenge: world leaders need to urgently adopt solutions for refugees and migrants beyond the UN Summit”. It negatively evaluates a number of the commitments such as reluctance of governments to commit to sharing responsibility for refugees in practice and that mechanisms to achieve commitments are unclear. More information on civil society action around the summit is available here. The summit also saw the International Organization for Migration (IOM) become a “related organization” of the United Nations. Ahead of the summit, the Special Rapporteur on the human rights of migrants, François Crépeau, published a joint statement with other UN human rights experts calling for the development of a human rights-based framework for migration when developing the global compacts on refugees and migration. United States President, Barack Obama, announced that a U.S.-led coalition of 30 countries had collectively agreed to roughly double resettlement places for refugees and increase humanitarian aid. He also stated that companies such as Microsoft, Google, Facebook and Accenture committed to investing, donating or raising more than $650m (£500m) to support migrants and refugees. Previously, in April 2016, a Global Migration Group (GMG) multi-stakeholder meeting in preparation for the High-level Summit took place. A summary report and speakers’ presentations of the meeting are available here. For more information on the summit including statements, videos and a photo gallery, click here.
    Sources: UN News Centre, 19 September 2016; International Business Times, 21 September 2016; The Guardian, 20 September 2016; International Organization for Migration (IOM) 20 September 2016; United Nations Press Release, 19 September 2016

  • UN / Special Rapporteur on Migrants reports on impact of trade agreements on migrants’ rights

    The UN Special Rapporteur on Migrants, François Crépeau, published a report on the impact of bilateral and multilateral trade agreements on the human rights of migrants. The Special Rapporteur concluded that the manner in which international trade regulations and negotiations have been dominated by high-income countries has had tremendous consequences for the most vulnerable segments of society, particularly migrants. He finds that active measures to merge human rights and trade considerations are necessary to mitigate the inherent power imbalances in the global economy and the asymmetrical emphasis on economic efficiency and short-term gains, to the detriment of migrant labour. Provisions for robust, comprehensive and binding institutional frameworks are necessary within trade agreements to ensure compliance with labour standards and safeguard the rights of migrant workers. Other key recommendations address, among others, the right to organise, access to justice, economic and social rights, data collection, dissemination of information about the draft terms of trade agreements and opportunities for public discourse, human rights impact assessments, monitoring and enforcement mechanisms, and consultation with migrants. Among the analysis highlighted in the report, the Special Rapporteur notes that states have not analysed their own labour market needs across sectors and adjusted mobility allowances accordingly. Regarding the EU in particular, the Special Rapporteur observed that the high demand for labour in several sectors of the EU, including agriculture, hospitality, construction and domestic work, generally goes unrecognised, thus fostering major underground labour markets in which irregular migrants are exploited. The report is available here

European Policy Developments

  • EU / SLOVAKIA / New declaration and roadmap aims to curb irregular migration, EU leaders remain divided on migration

    EU policymakers and heads of state of all EU member countries except the United Kingdom met in Bratislava, Slovakia on 16 September 2016 to discuss the European project, issues dividing member states and a common future. Migration was among the key issues discussed. EU member states agreed on the Bratislava Declaration and Roadmap which outlines objectives, challenges and concrete measures to address them. Concerning migration, EU leaders agreed to reinforce Europe’s external borders and “never to allow” a return to “uncontrolled flows” of 2015 as well as to further “bring down” irregular migration numbers. Among the measures to be taken, the roadmap aims to commit to the implementation of the EU-Turkey statement; to offer immediate assistance to strengthen control at Bulgaria’s border with Turkey; to continue support to other frontline member states, as well as to engage in cooperation and dialogue with third countries. Nonetheless, EU leaders remained divided. While Slovakia’s Europe minister, Ivan Korcok, stated that the Bratislava meeting met expectations and German Chancellor, Angela Merkel, spoke about a constructive atmosphere, Viktor Orbán, the Hungarian Prime Minister, called Germany’s refugee and migration policy self-destructive. To read the Bratislava Declaration and Roadmap, click here. Ahead of the meeting in Bratislava on 14 September 2016, European Commission President, Jean-Claude Juncker, held his annual State of the European Union speech. The speech entitled “Towards a better Europe – a Europe that protects, empowers and defends” noted that the EU is, at least in part, in an existential crisis. He noted that the Investment Plan for Africa and the Neighbourhood which has the potential to raise €44 billion in investments, would complement the EU’s development aid and help address one of the root causes of migration. At the initiative of the Human Rights League in Bratislava, a group of over 30 NGOs from Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, Romania, Slovenia and Slovakia released a joint statement and a document with recommendations in relation to the Slovak EU Council Presidency. The recommendations, among others, call for safe, regular routes for migrants and refugees to come to Europe; urge governments to grant protection to refugees; call for governments to support local communities and municipalities and to avoid populism and the use of inaccurate language. To read the statement, click here. To read the recommendations, click here
    Sources: Financial Times, 17 September 2016; EU Observer, 20 September 2016, Euractive

  • COURT OF JUSTICE FOR THE EUROPEAN UNION / Ruling: migrant women who have experienced domestic violence could lose status if EU partner leaves their country of residence

    The Court of Justice for the European Union (CJEU) issued a judgement on 30 June 2016 on the case NA C-115/15, interpreting for the first time the rule on domestic violence under ‘EU Directive 2004/38/EC on the right of citizens of the Union and their families to move and reside freely within the territory of the member states’ (EU Citizens’ Directive, available here), which gives non-EU citizens rights of free movement in the EU if they have a family link with an EU national. To protect non-EU nationals who break that family link to escape an abusive relationship, the Directive allows them to remain in the EU, and later obtain permanent residence status if “this is warranted by particularly difficult circumstances, such as having been a victim of domestic violence” during the marriage. More specifically, according to the language of the Directive, a spouse is protected from losing her status if her marriage or registered partnership is terminated because of domestic violence. The case involved a Pakistani national who moved to the UK with her German husband, and later left him due to domestic violence. Her husband then left the UK. The question before the Court was whether she, as a non-EU citizen spouse who had been the victim of domestic violence, retained her right to reside in the UK under the Directive even though her partner left the country before divorce proceedings got underway. Under the facts of this case, the Court held that the applicant could nonetheless remain in the UK as the mother of German nationals — but not as a victim of domestic violence. The judgment opens the door to the deportation of victims of domestic violence who have lost their status because of leaving a situation of abuse, and gives abusive spouses the power to use their possible departure to threaten their partners with deportation, and possible separation from their children. Experts have argued that the ruling is inconsistent with the Council of Europe Convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence (Istanbul Convention), which provides a right of residence to victims of domestic violence (Article 59), and to which the EU may become a party.
    Sources: EU Law Analysis, 25 July 2016; Free Movement, 6 July 2016

National Developments

  • BELGIUM / 150 undocumented migrants expelled from temporary home

    Authorities announced a decision to expel about 150 undocumented migrants from of a building in Molenbeek in Brussels on 9 September 2016. Many of the undocumented migrants staying in the house for the past two years had filed asylum applications which were rejected. The occupants were given until the 15 September 2016 to leave the building which was then cleared by authorities. The local administration issued the notice following reports that conditions in the building were unhealthy and dangerous. This was heavily contested by the occupants. The Public Social Services Centre (CPAS) reported that they found housing for families with children and pregnant women but not for the rest of the inhabitants. The community accommodation of the migrants was also featured in a 2014 documentary of the Belgian broadcaster VRT.
    Source: RTBF 9 September 2016

  • UNITED KINGDOM / Tribunal price hike a threat to migrants’ rights

    Lawyers and human rights activists in the UK have written an open letter protesting a proposed fivefold increase in immigration and asylum tribunal fees. They note that the fees, which apply to the review of decisions by Home Office immigration officials on immigration and asylum claims, would disproportionately affect ethnic minorities and create barriers in accessing justice. This is particularly problematic, they assert, because of the poor quality of decision-making by Home Office immigration officials. They also argue, echoing the Equalities and Human Rights Commission’s assessment, that the planned increase would contravene the European Convention on Human Rights. The House of Commons Justice Committee has also expressed concern about the proposal. A petition opposing the proposal has generated approximately 4,500 signatures. Should the number of signatures reach 10,000, the government will respond the petition, and should it reach 100,000 signatures the petition will be considered for debate in parliament. Deadline for signature is 6 November 2016.
    Source: Migrants’ Rights Network, 12 July 2016; Free Movement

Health Care

  • BELGIUM / Antwerp municipality refuses urgent medical aid to undocumented migrants

    Doctors in Antwerp criticised the fact that the local welfare centre has created a second layer of medical professionals to vet determinations by physicians about whether an undocumented patient qualifies for Urgent Medical Aid (aide médicale urgente (AMU) / dringende medische hulpverlening (DMH)). AMU/DMH covers a broad range of preventive, primary and secondary care for undocumented migrants, including all medical treatments covered by the basic national health insurance system. AMU/DMH is administered through local welfare centres, known as Centre Public d’Action Sociale (CPAS) / Openbaar Centrum voor Maatschappelijk Welzijn (OCMW), and requires, among other things, that applicants obtain a medical certificate showing their need for services. According to a doctor in Antwerp, of approximately 30 cases for which a certificate was issued, more than half, including a woman with heart disease, were rejected by medical staff employed by the CPAS/OCMW, during an additional screening process which is not foreseen by Belgian law.
    Source: Knack, 16 June 2016

  • BELGIUM / The Council of State orders that humanitarian visa be issued to Palestinian national with medical needs

    On 25 May 2016, the Council for Foreigners Law Litigation (Conseil du contentieux des étrangers) in Belgium rejected a decision which denied a humanitarian visa to a Palestinian national with epilepsy, in light of the unstable situation in Gaza, and the difficulty of obtaining adequate medical treatment in the region. The applicant, who at the time still lived in Gaza with his mother, had applied for a humanitarian visa in Belgium in order to join his father, claiming to have difficulty obtaining medication to treat his condition. His application was refused because the lower court was not convinced that his physical or mental integrity was in danger if he remained in Gaza. The Council looked first at the situation in Gaza, and concluded that the extreme instability justified the case’s extreme urgency. It then looked the applicant’s situation, and affirmed, given the gravity of the illness and the unavailability of medication to stabilise his condition in Gaza, that the lack of access to treatment amounted to a violation of Article 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights. The Council ordered that, within five days, the applicant receive a visa or other relevant travel document. The judgement is available (in French) here.
    Source: ELENA Weekly Legal Update, 25 May 2016

  • GREECE / ARTICLE / Undocumented migrants among the most affected by austerity

    The International Journal for Equity in Health published an article in May 2016, entitled ‘Health inequities after austerity in Greece.’ The authors write that Greece has suffered unparalleled levels of unemployment and public spending cuts since the economic crisis, including in its health and welfare sectors, and that undocumented migrants are among those most affected by austerity. The general proportion of people on low incomes reporting unmet medical needs grew from 7% in 2008 to nearly 14% in 2013, while the gap between the richest and poorest grew tenfold. The article also states that a study focusing on undocumented migrants demonstrated that 62 % had unmet health needs. An abstract is available here. To read the full article, click here

  • GREECE / Expensive pneumonia vaccine key barrier to vaccinating refugee and migrant children

    Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) has denounced the high cost of providing vaccinations to vulnerable children in camps across Europe. Since May 2016, MSF has vaccinated more than 5,000 refugee and migrant children between ages six months and 15 years in several camps and settlements across Greece against ten diseases, including pneumonia, which is the single largest killer of children under five worldwide. MSF pays around €60 (US$68.10) per dose for the pneumonia vaccine. This is more than 20 times the cost of the world’s lowest vaccination cost of €2,80, which is available in developing nations through GAVI, the vaccination alliance. MSF is calling for Pfizer and GlaxoSmithKline (GSK), the vaccine’s manufacturers, to drop the price of the pneumonia vaccine (PCV) for governments and humanitarian organisations in emergency contexts.
    Source: Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF), 14 July 2016

  • NORWAY / Study shows that a quarter of general practitioners in Norway have treated undocumented migrants, majority would continue to do so despite restrictive laws

    According to a study published on 21 June 2016, approximately one in four general practitioners (GPs) in Norway has treated an undocumented migrant, despite national laws severely restricting their right to access services. The study, based on 1,131 responses to an online survey of members of the Norwegian Association of General Practitioners, revealed that GPs in every region of the country had had contact with undocumented migrants. The health issues addressed primarily included mental health concerns, pregnancy-related issues, and respiratory disorders. Under regulations adopted in 2012, undocumented migrants in Norway can access emergency care and necessary care that cannot be delayed, as well as medical assistance during pregnancy, for children and people with serious mental health concerns. The authors, all physicians, note the conflict that these restrictive laws create with doctors’ ethical obligations. Currently, two clinics operate in Norway (in Oslo and Bergen) that provide health care services to undocumented migrants. The article is available in English and in Norwegian

  • SPAIN / Constitutional Court rules that decree rolling back undocumented migrants’ right to access health care is constitutional

    On 21 July 2016, the Spanish Constitutional Court delivered its decision in a case challenging the constitutionality of the Royal Decree (Real Decreto-ley 16/2012, or RDL), enacted by the government in 2012 in response to the economic crisis, restricting who could benefit from free health care in Spain. Undocumented migrants were among those excluded, and had previously been guaranteed the same access to health care as Spanish citizens. Under the decree, free medical assistance to undocumented migrants is limited to emergency health care, assistance during pregnancy and birth and assistance to minors. The parliament of the autonomous Spanish community of Navarra challenged the constitutionality of the RDL on the grounds that it was contrary to article 86.1 of the Constitution, which establishes that the government can enact this sort of provisional legislative provisions in case of “extraordinary and urgent necessity” and as long as they do not affect “the rights, duties and liberties of citizens contained in Title I of the Constitution”. With regards to the latter requirement, the RDL was argued to affect the right to health and the principle of equality before the law, both contained in Title I of the Constitution. The Constitutional Court rejected all of the claims, and declared that the RDL is in compliance with the Constitution, finding that the measures were sufficiently explicit and well-reasoned, and logically connected to the situation they responded to. The Court also ruled that there was no breach of the right to health because this right is defined by the law, and not by the Spanish Constitution. Civil society organisations have spoken out against the ruling, which they say fails to take due account of Spain’s human rights obligations. They note that, since the 2012 law went into effect, 748,000 people have been left without a health card and excluded from the national health system. The decision is available here (in Spanish).

  • USA / Federal government sued for funding organisations which deny birth control and abortion to migrant women and girls

    On 24 June 2016, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) filed a lawsuit against the US government claiming that it funds religious organisations, including shelters and charities affiliated with the Catholic Church, that deny birth control and abortion services to teenage migrants. The lawsuit claims that this denial of services constitutes a violation of the migrant women’s right to “appropriate routine medical care.” According to the Catholic Health Association, about 17% of patients in the United States are cared for in Catholic hospitals, which are bound by Ethical and Religious Directives established by the US Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB). These rules prohibit abortions, contraception, sterilisation, and certain prenatal tests. In 2014, the USCCB received more than $10 million (EUR 8,9 million) in funding from the federal government to provide care for unaccompanied migrant teenagers. Border control officials referred 11,000 teenage girls to the Office of Refugee Resettlement in 2015. The ACLU claims that federal agencies knew that organisations providing care to these girls were denying them reproductive services, and cite examples including two teenage girls who were raped while crossing the border and were subsequently transferred away from religiously-affiliated shelters, and from their support networks, after requesting abortions.
    Source: Buzzfeed, 9 July 2016

Labour and Fair Working Conditions

  • COMPETITION / International Labour Organization recognises exemplary media coverage on labour migration

    The International Labour Organization (ILO) has launched a global media competition to recognise exemplary media coverage on labour migration by encouraging professional journalists to produce written articles or videos/multimedia. The aim is to show the positive results of good labour migration governance, and the positive contribution of migrant workers to countries of origin, transit and destination. Submissions can be made until 31 October. Winners will receive a prize of $1000. Winning entries will be featured on ILO website and widely promoted as an example of good journalism. For more information, click here.

  • MOROCCO / Adoption of new labour law for domestic work

    Parliamentarians in Morocco adopted amendments to a labour law on domestic work on 26 July 2016. Amendments include the prohibition of employing children under the age of 18 in domestic work. A transitional period of five years has been included during which children aged 16 to 18 may still be employed. A maximum number of working hours has been introduced which, however, remains higher than the standard for other sectors. The new law does not take into consideration many of the amendments suggested by civil society organisations, such as provisions for support programmes for children who currently work in the sector. Given the high number of migrant women employed in this sector, the organisation Afrique Culture Maroc (ACM) has expressed disappointment that the outcome insufficiently addresses migrant domestic workers’ rights. ACM and other civil society organisations such as Collectif des Travailleurs Migrants au Maroc have called for a revision of this new law, recommending, among other issues, to take into consideration the vulnerabilities of migrant domestic workers, and the setting up of a support programme for children involved in the sector prior to the entry into force of this law. Since 2013, Moroccan authorities have regularised the status of nearly 23,000 irregular migrants through a regularisation programme but have also deported about 5,000 irregular migrants.
    Sources: Afrique Culture Maroc press release, and Le Monde Afrique, 9 August 2016; Morocco Gazette, 10 September 2016, Human Rights Watch, 1 August 2016

  • COUNCIL OF EUROPE / Experts find measures to combat irregular migration have negative consequences for the prevention, protection of victims, and prosecution of trafficking, and urge better identification mechanisms

    The monitoring body of the Council of Europe Convention on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings, the Group of Experts on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings (GRETA), has published its 5th general report covering its activities between 1 October 2014 and 31 December 2015. The report includes country-specific findings and recommendations to improve the mechanisms for identification of victims of trafficking with an irregular migration status, including at borders, in decisions around expulsion orders, and in detention. The report highlights that irregular migrants are vulnerable to trafficking, as they are unable to work regularly due to restrictive immigration laws, and may risk prosecution due to the criminalisation of irregular entry and stay. GRETA’s monitoring has found important gaps in the identification and protection of victims of trafficking among asylum seekers and irregular migrants. They find that law enforcement efforts to combat irregular migration are too often disconnected from the legal obligation to identify victims of trafficking, with negative consequences for the protection of victims and the prosecution of traffickers. GRETA stresses the legal obligations enshrined in the Convention, which requires parties to put in place adequate identification procedures which enable the detection of victims of trafficking, including among those seeking international protection and irregular migrants, and to enable them to exercise a series of rights to assistance, protection and compensation. The Convention also recognises the importance for states to enable migration to take place regularly. The report is available here

  • HONDURAS / NICARAGUA / NIGER / UN Committee on Migrant Workers published its findings on the situation of migrant workers

    The UN Committee on the Rights of Migrant Workers published its findings on the examination of Honduras, Nicaragua, Niger and Sri Lanka on 14 September. The concluding observations make reference to the corresponding states’ measures to implement the International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of their Families, including positive achievements, matters of concern, and recommendations. Some examples of positive achievements noted by the Committee include the enactment by the government of Honduras of a law to protect Honduran workers abroad, and the ratification by Sri Lanka of several international instruments to protect migrant workers and their families. The Committee also encouraged the government of Niger to ensure that all law enforcement officials are informed about the provisions of the Convention and take them into consideration in their position. Among other recommendations, the Committee urged Nicaragua to ensure that all measures aimed at addressing irregular migration do not adversely affect the human rights of migrants. They also expressed concern about police and military forces used for migration management in Nicaragua. The Nicaraguan Centre for Human Rights (Centro Nicaragüense de Derechos Humanos, Cenidh) stated that the Comittee’s recommendations reflect their organisation’s demands. The Global Detention Project made submissions to the UN Committee on the Rights of Migrant Workers on Honduras in August 2016 and Nicaraguain March 2015 demanding information on legal provisions which allow immigration detention in the two countries as well as the number of people detained and information on the detention of children. To read the UN Committee on the Rights of Migrant Workers’ full reports click here
    Source: La Prensa, 14 September 2016

  • KUWAIT / UN Special Rapporteur on trafficking warns of the risks for irregular migrants of becoming victims of trafficking

    The UN Special Rapporteur on trafficking, Maria Grazia Giammarinaro, carried out her first official visit to Kuwait from 4 to 8 September 2016. She welcomed Kuwait’s promise to fight human trafficking and to counter domestic servitude. She also noted the particular risk of irregular migrants of becoming victims of trafficking for both labour and sexual exploitation. The Special Rapporteur called on the Kuwaiti government to address existing gaps, and offer alternatives to deportation. She emphasised the need to abolish the Kafala system, which binds every worker to an employer and creates a situation of vulnerability and dependency that increases the risk of human trafficking. The Special Rapporteur will present a final report to the UN Human Rights Council in June 2017.
    Source: United Nations Human Rights Office of the High Commissioner, News, 14 September 2016

  • REPORT / Governance in labour migration in Latin America and the Caribbean

    The International Labour Organization (ILO) published a report entitled ‘La Migración Laboral en América Latina y el Caribe: Diagnóstico, estrategia y líneas de trabajo de la OIT en la Región’ (‘Labour migration in Latin America and the Caribbean’). The number of migrant workers in Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC) increased from 3.2 to 4.3 million in five years. According to the ILO’s Regional Director, José Manuel Salazar, the high proportion of undocumented migrants in the region is due to an incoherence between migration policies – taken from a border control and national security point of view – and employment policies, including labour migration policies. The report also highlights issues regarding access to social protection, working conditions, and exploitation of migrants. To read the full report (in Spanish) please click here.
    Source: International Labour Organization News, 30 August 2016

  • SWEDEN / Exploited migrant workers awarded compensation

    A district court in Sweden has awarded compensation to 72 Cambodian migrant workers who were not paid their salaries and subjected to mistreatment when planting trees in the forests of Sweden in 2014. The workers will receive a total of 282,069 SEK (€29,712) from the state wage guarantee. The workers moved to the north of Sweden in 2014 on the conditions of earning at least €2,000 per month by the contractor Botnia Skog AB, a subcontractor of the big forestry company Holmen. After arriving, the workers discovered they had to sleep on the floor of horse stables, did not get enough food and water, and had to shower outside in the cold. They only each received one monthly salary. When they returned to Cambodia, many of them had still not received their salaries – and while they were waiting for the money, the company was declared bankrupt. Eleven of the workers were tricked into signing documents in Swedish that they could not understand – stating that they owed debts to the employer of a total of 300,000 SEK (€31,604) due to housing costs while staying in Sweden. When the workers refused to pay, the employer went to the Swedish Enforcement Authority who stopped the payment of the state wage guarantee, because of the false debt the workers owed the company. The Swedish Forestry Union GS allocated money from their solidarity fund to pay for an attorney who helped the Cambodian migrant workers to pursue their case in Swedish court. As a result of the legal proceedings, the district court decided to ignore the debt that the workers were tricked into signing by their employer. “The Court’s decision to pay out the wage guarantee is justice for the workers, but also to the Swedish labour market model that must resist exploitation of workers regardless of their nationality,” stated Per-Olof Sjöö, President of the GS-union and the Building and Wood Workers’ International (BWI) to the Swedish newspaper Arbetet on 16 August 2016.
    Source: Building and Wood Worker’s International, 18 August 2016

  • UK / New resources for trafficking victims, research finds persistent barriers to compensation

    Focus on Labour Exploitation (FLEX) has launched two illustrated booklets containing clear, accessible information for trafficking victims in the UK. The booklets outline what victims of trafficking are entitled to and set out avenues to legal remedy in the UK. The booklets, ‘Support Entitlements in the UK: National Referral Mechanism for Victims of Human Trafficking’ and ‘Legal Rights & Options for Victims of Human Trafficking in the UK,’ were developed to support those who have been trafficked to seek information about their options and assert their rights. The booklets are available to download in: English, Albanian, Amharic, Arabic, Chinese, Polish, Portuguese, Romanian, Slovak, Spanish, Tigrinya and Vietnamese. FLEX also released a report on Access to Compensation for Victims of Human Trafficking which finds that the Modern Slavery Act, enacted in 2015, did not go far enough to ensure the right of victims of trafficking to compensation and free legal assistance. FLEX has therefore called for a comprehensive review of trafficking victims’ access to compensation in the UK, and recommends the development of specific avenues to compensation for victims of human trafficking and modern slavery.
    Sources: Migrants Rights Network, Weekly Update, 11 July 2016; FLEX Newsletter: Access to Legal Remedies, 12 July 2016

Undocumented Women

  • EUROPEAN UNION / EU designates 2017 as the year on eliminating violence against women

    The European Union plans to designate 2017 as a year of focused actions to eliminate violence against women. Specific activities have yet to be announced. In this context, the Commission, through its 2016 Rights, Equality and Citizenship Programme (REC Programme), will co-fund national information, awareness-raising and education activities aimed at preventing and combating violence against women in line with the specific objective of promoting equality between women and men and advancing gender mainstreaming. Research carried out by the Fundamental Rights Agency of the European Union shows that women across the EU continue to experience physical and/or sexual violence, with one in three women experiencing such violence from the age of 15. Organisations working with vulnerable groups of women and girls, including migrant and refugee women, are invited to engage with national governments on submitting an application for funding for effective national activities aimed at: changing attitudes and behaviour with regard to violence against women, preventing it from happening through education, combating victim-blaming and encouraging victims and witnesses to report violence to the relevant authorities and institutions. Governments have until 26 October to apply. In March 2016, the European Commission made a proposal to the European Union to accede to the Council of Europe’s Istanbul Convention, a comprehensive international treaty on combating violence against women and domestic violence.
    Sources: European Commission, 7 September 2016; European Women’s Lobby, 11 February 2016

  • MEXICO / ‘DREAMers Moms’ help deported mothers in Tijuana, Mexico reunite with their U.S. children

    ‘DREAMers Moms’ is a movement of women and mothers who fight for the justice and dignity of the migrant community. Based near the border with the United States in Tijuana, Mexico, they aim to help deported mothers connect and, if possible, reunify with their children in the USA through the official family reunification scheme. The group began reaching out to local shelters in Tijuana and other non-profit organisations hoping to learn about the needs of deported mothers. Most of the women are mothers whose children were born in the USA or are allowed to stay regularly in the USA through Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals. Since its inception, DREAMers Moms has undertaken several joint actions such as petitions and the launch of a voter registration drive for Bernie Sanders, the only presidential candidate who explicitly spoke out in favour of reunification of deported parents with their children.
    Source: Fox News Latino, 25 August 2016

Undocumented Children and Their Families

  • CANADA / Quebec’s public school: tuition for undocumented children

    Migrant rights advocates have called on the Quebec government to make changes to ensure undocumented children can access education. In Quebec, undocumented children have to pay a tuition fee to attend public schools. The fees range from $5,657 (€5,025) per year per child for primary schools and $7,075 (€6,285) per year per child for secondary schools. The Education Across Borders Collective considers the fees prohibitive and stated that, despite the government’s announcement that undocumented children can attend public schools, undocumented children have no access to free education. A spokesperson of the education minister Sébastien Proulx stated that the government would look into the issue.
    Source: CBC Canada 28 August 2016

  • EU / UK / House of Lords EU Committee urges action to protect unaccompanied children and integrated approach to all migrant children

    The European Union Select Committee of the House of Lords in the UK published the results of its inquiry into the challenges facing unaccompanied children and impacts of existing EU provisions in practice throughout national administrations, on 26 July 2016. The Committee found that a number of underlying, cross-cutting problems affect unaccompanied children, in particular: a culture of disbelief and suspicion; a reluctance of member states to accept responsibility, share burdens and show solidarity; poor implementation of existing law and policy; and a loss of trust on the part of the children. Faced with the evidence from the inquiry, the Committee calls on the EU and its member states, including the UK, to act urgently to address the complex problems affecting unaccompanied children, and suggest a number of potential solutions. These include improvements in data collection and sharing, particularly when identifying and registering unaccompanied children; work towards achieving durable solutions once children are in care; cooperation not only between member states, EU institutions and agencies, but also with regional and local authorities, NGOs and individual professionals; a harmonised system of guardianship; and training and resources for professionals at all levels to ensure that existing measures are implemented fully and in the best interests of children. In addition, the Committee underlines that all children needing protection have the legal right to receive it, regardless of immigration status, citizenship or background. It therefore calls for integrated child protection systems, focused on the best interests of the child, to be adopted across the EU, ensuring that children are, first and foremost, treated as children, whatever their immigration status. It supports the European Commission’s intention to develop a comprehensive and holistic approach for all migrant children. Read the report here
    Source: Destination Unknown, 2 August 2016

  • RESOURCE / Recommended Principles for Children on the Move and Other Children affected by Migration

    A two-page document setting out ‘Recommended Principles for Children on the Move and Other Children affected by Migration‘ was published, taking note of the recommendations set out in the Committee on the Rights of the Child’s 2012 Day of General Discussion Report on ‘The Rights of All Children in the Context of International Migration‘ . The ‘Recommended Principles’ are intended to improve the quality of protection afforded to all children on the move and other children affected by migration, and to enhance programming, accountability, advocacy and communication. They reflect binding legal obligations already widely ratified by states, re-stated in a concise document. The ‘Recommended Principles‘ are available in English, French, Spanish, Portuguese and Arabic, alongside Explanatory Comments on the Recommended Principles also available in English, French and Spanish. The documents have been prepared by Jacqueline Bhabha and Mike Dottridge as part of a consultative process of a large number of experts from UN agencies, academics, donor agencies and civil society organisations, and exist as a common and non-braded tool. The UN Migrant Workers’ Committee endorsed the ‘Recommended Principles’ on 5 September, while expressing alarm about the human rights violations that children face at all stages of migration, and calling for rights-based policies, including an end to child detention, and more channels for regular migration. The UN Migrant Workers’ Committee is elaborating a Joint General Comment with the Committee on the Rights of the Child on children in the context of international migration. The press release is available in English, French and Spanish here

  • REPORT / ‘Uprooted: The growing crisis for refugee and migrant children’

    UNICEF published the report ‘Uprooted: The growing crisis for refugee and migrant children’ on 7 September 2016. The report discusses and presents available data about the reality of childhood migration and displacement, highlighting specific needs and rights of migrant and refugee children. Data presented indicates that 31 million children have migrated or have been forcibly displaced across borders, based on a conservative estimate, including 5,4 million in the Europe region. Variability in data availability and disaggregation across the region is cited as a challenge for comprehensive figures. The report finds that travelling alone or being undocumented puts children in a particularly vulnerable state. Their rights as granted by the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child are often denied. A recent survey mentioned by the report notes limited access to education and/or health services depending on migration status. Even if legal barriers are lifted, misinformation and fear of immigration law enforcement, among other practical barriers, can prevent undocumented children and children of undocumented parents from accessing certain services. In some cases, violence is not reported because parents and/or children fear detention or deportation due to their migration status. In 2014, 17 EU member states reportedly detained undocumented children. The report suggests six recommendations to improve the situation: protect child refugees and migrants from exploitation and violence; end the detention of children seeking refugee status or migrating; keep families together and ensure birth registration and access to legal identity; keep all refugee and migrant children learning and give them access to health and other quality services; press for action on the underlying causes of large-scale movement of refugees and migrants, and promote measures to combat xenophobia, discrimination and marginalisation in countries of transit and destination. The report states that good policies are necessary but not sufficient – administrative capacities and political will to implement said policies are also essential. Click here to read the full report.
    Source: UNICEF Press release, 7 September 2016

  • SUMMARY REPORT / Migration situation poses separation risk for families

    As part of its regular overviews of migration-related fundamental rights concerns, the European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights (FRA) published a thematic analysis on how the present situation is affecting family tracing and reunification on 16 September 2016. The report looks at recent legislative changes, the challenges and good practices related to family tracing and reunification, including Dublin requests. Key issues include lack of documentation, errors in processing names, long and complex procedures, and the slow identification of those who have died crossing the Mediterranean. There is also no systematic and reliable data on how many people seeking protection arrive with or without their family, nor on the exact number of requests for family reunification. Some EU member states have reduced the timeframe for applying for family reunification or have made the process more complicated. Overall, the report finds that family reunification seems to have become more difficult due to recent changes in member states’ policies and practices. To access the report and a summary, click here.

  • USA / Supreme Court Justices tie, leaving lower court decision to halt Obama’s executive order providing relief from deportation to undocumented children and parents

    Justices of the US Supreme Court split 4-4 in a judgement on 23 June 2016, thus leaving in place the legal status quo and effectively halting executive action intended to shield an estimated five million undocumented migrants (about half of the 11 million estimated to reside in the USA) from deportation and to allow them to work. The case, United States of America, et al. v. State of Texas, et al., involves a challenge by 26 states to a memorandum of 20 November 2014 issued by the Secretary of Homeland Security that, among other things, directs his staff to establish a process for considering requests for deferred action for certain foreign nationals who have lived in the USA for five years and either arrived as children or already have children who are US citizens or permanent residents. The plans are commonly known as DAPA (for Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents) and DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals). The states claimed that the guidance document violated federal law by ignoring federal procedures for changing rules and overstepping the President’s authority to act without Congress. The government responded that it has a long tradition of ‘deferred action’, where the executive exercises its discretion to refrain, for humanitarian or practical reasons, from deporting certain foreign nationals. On 16 February 2015, a district court issued a preliminary injunction barring implementation of the guidance nationwide, which was affirmed on appeal in November 2015. On 18 July 2016, following the Supreme Court’s split decision, the US Department of Justice filed a petition to have the case reheard before a full nine-member Court. The petition acknowledges that it is extremely rare that the Court grants a rehearing, although this has been done under similar circumstances in the past. The Fifth Circuit ruling is available here. The District court ruling is available here.
    Source: New York Times, 23 June 2016; Scotus Blog, September 2016

  • USA / Lawsuit filed in New York challenging validity of lower court ruling in deferred action cases

    A lawsuit was filed on 25 August, in a New York federal court by Martin Batalla Vidal, a beneficiary of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, a programme of the Obama administration intended to provide relief from deportation to eligible undocumented children and youth. The complaint argues that the federal government unlawfully revoked the work permits issued to thousands of DACA recipients across the US. The government’s action followed a February 2015 ruling by a Texas district court that, Batalla Vidal argues, improperly granted a preliminary injunction preventing the implementation of plans of deferred action nationwide, based only on evidence of the costs that the State of Texas claimed it would incur under the programme. The plaintiff in the case, who resides in New York and is studying to be a medical assistant, had, prior to the Texas court’s ruling, been granted a three-year work permit under the expanded deferred action. In the Texas case challenging DACA, the State of New York, alongside 16 other states, had argued that the Texas court erred in issuing the nationwide injunction in an amicus brief submitted before the US Supreme Court in United States of America, et al. v. State of Texas, et al. (see summary above for more about the case).
    Source: National Immigration Law Center, 25 August 2016

Detention and Deportation

  • BELGIUM / Case of unlawful detention

    In a brief judgement, Belgium’s ‘Chambre des mises en accusation’, an appeals court, granted on 1 July a Congolese national’s appeal of her detention, maintaining that it was unlawful. The woman, who had been arrested in her home, had been living in Belgium for three years with her partner and daughter, both Belgian nationals, and had taken steps to regularise her status. The judgement notes that the deprivation of her liberty was ordered without considering whether other, less coercive measures were possible, and stresses that the measures taken did not conform with Article 15 of ‘EU Directive 2008/115/EU on common standards and procedures in Member States for returning illegally staying third-country nationals’ (EU Return Directive).
    Source: EDEM Newsletter, June 2016

  • FRANCE / Detention of children and families continues despite ECtHR rulings

    French authorities have continued detaining migrant families and children in spite of the rulings from the European Court of Human Rights on 12 July 2016 that France had violated the European Convention of Human Rights in five separate cases. The Court held that France had violated the provision of the Convention prohibiting torture (see PICUM Bulletin 23 August 2016). The organisation La Cimade reported a recent case where the authorities (Préfecture) in the Pyrenees Orientales department held in detention a two-year old child with her mother and father while awaiting their deportation, although the administrative court of appeal of Montpelliers had annulled the procedure. Similar cases have been reported in other regions of France. La Cimade states that state authorities have changed the state policy of detaining children and families since the rulings.
    Sources: La Cimade Press Release, 4 August 2016; La Cimade Press Release, 28 July 2016

  • GLOBAL / REPORT / Reports outline immigration detention of children, impacts and applicable standards

    The Inter-Agency Working Group to End Child Immigration Detention has published a brochure outlining the use of immigration detention of children, the harmful impacts it has on children, the applicable legal standards, and the alternatives. This brochure is accompanied by a document summarising in more detail the normative standards and recommendations on ending child detention. It shows growing consensus and acknowledgement from the international community that the immigration detention of any child – whether accompanied or unaccompanied – constitutes a clear violation of a child’s rights. The brochure is available here. The other document is available here.

  • ITALY / Sudanese migrants deported to Sudan

    Italian authorities deported a group of 48 migrants on 25 August 2016 who attempted to cross the border with France from the border town of Ventimiglia. The Sudanese nationals were transferred to the Turin-Caselle airport from where they were flown to Khartoum, Sudan. The deportation is part of an agreement signed on August 4 between Sudan and Italy, which falls under the broader framework of cooperation between Sudan and the EU on migration issues. While this agreement aims to curb irregular migration to Italy, the UNHCR has expressed concern about the risk of deporting people with protection needs back to their home country. Caritas and Amnesty International also criticised procedures arguing that the migrants were not given enough time to seek protection.
    Source: La Repubblica, 25 August 2016, La Stampa, 26 August 2016, Quartz Africa, 2 September 2016

  • NETHERLANDS / Court rules that State Secretary failed to take into account medical examination in ordering migrant deportation

    The Dutch Council of State issued a ruling on 13 May 2016 holding that the State Secretary of Safety and Justice had failed to take due account of the medical situation of a Burundi national with HIV requiring treatment when ordering his deportation from the Netherlands, nullifying the deportation order. Relying on case law from the European Court of Human Rights, the Council of State explained that deportation to a country incapable of providing adequate medical care for the applicant’s severe condition risked exposing the applicant to unbearable suffering and premature death, which would amount to torture and a violation of Article 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights. The Secretary of State’s deportation order of 9 September was made following expert opinion from the Bureau for Medical Advice, which had maintained that the applicant suffered from HIV but, because of his treatment in the Netherlands, his life was not in danger, despite the fact that without adequate treatment, he faced death within a matter of months in Burundi. The judgement is available (in Dutch) here.
    Source: ELENA Weekly Legal Update, 13 May 2016

  • SWITZERLAND / Deported after reporting aggression to authorities

    An undocumented woman filed a complaint as a victim of aggression in Switzerland and as a result was ordered to be deported. The 46-year old Bolivian woman was hit by another woman with a broken bottle in a bar leading to hematoma on her face and a nose injury. She was recognised as a victim by the federal law on assistance to crime victims (LAVI) and received compensation of 4,000 Swiss francs (€ 3,671). The prosecutor found the aggressor guilty and sentenced her to jail, but also sentenced the victim for being undocumented and for violating the Federal Law on Foreigners (LEtr). She requested a pardon to the Great Council, which was denied. On 19 August the Cantonal Office of Population and Migration (OCPM) announced her deportation. A spokesperson of the Association of Progressive Lawyers (AJP) noted that this was not an isolated case and that other victims of crime who are undocumented risk deportation when reporting crime.
    Source: Le Courrier, 29 August 2016. Tribune de Genève, 6 September 2016

  • UK / New order allows solitary confinement at immigration detention centres

    A new draft “detention services order” is to permit staff at Britain’s immigration detention centres to place individuals in solitary confinement even in such cases where medical professionals advise that it is potentially life threatening to the detainee. Guards will also have powers to place individuals in solitary confinement where such persons are judged to be “stubborn” or “disobedient.” Furthermore, staff on location can authorise solitary confinement for up to two weeks, with a notification to an area manager of an intent to keep the detainee in solitary confinement beyond this period. Official watchdogs have expressed concern regarding the fact that there appears to be no exception for those individuals suffering from mental health issues or other categories of vulnerable people. In February of this year, a report by the independent monitoring board of Heathrow Immigration Removal Centres, criticised the use of confinement, including the solitary confinement of a person with “schizophrenic and bi-polar conditions” who had been detained for 54 days.  The board said solitary confinement was used against detainees “unable to integrate onto the normal regime, including individuals with serious mental health issues”.
    Source: The Independent, 2 August 2016

  • UK / Immigration Act introduces automatic judicial oversight of detention

    The UK Immigration Act 2016, signed into law on 12 May 2016, includes two detention-related amendments: the first limiting the detention of pregnant women (See PICUM Bulletin, 5 July 216); and the second introducing, for the first time, automatic judicial oversight of the UK’s use of immigration detention. The latter amendment creates a legal obligation on the UK Home Office to initiate bail hearings (where a judge decides if someone can be released from the state’s custody) for individuals who have been detained longer than four months, and who have not yet applied for bail. Both policies are intended to create additional safeguards against indefinite detention, although the specific mechanisms involved have yet to be defined. The UK is the only EU member state that has no fixed time limit on immigration-related detention. Civil society organisations welcomed the introduction of automatic oversight, but have expressed concern that it does not address broader worries about the overuse of detention in the UK, and that migrants can still be detained for 120 days without judicial oversight. They have also noted that the new policy regarding pregnant women will require a robust mechanism to ensure its effectiveness, akin to the panel that already exists for detained migrant families with children.
    Source: Detention Forum, 12 May 2016

  • UK / Roll back on ending immigration detention of children

    The British government announced that it is closing the ‘Cedars Pre-Departure Accommodation’, and moving the location of child immigration detention to a “discrete unit” within Tinsley House Immigration Removal Centre, a locked facility near Gatwick Airport. Barnardo’s, a children’s charity involved in the running of Cedars, issued a statement expressing their concern that the welfare of children will be compromised by the move to Tinsley House. Bernardo’s have told ministers they will not continue working with the Home Office following the closure of Cedars. The government decision points to cost-saving as the main motivation for the move. Cedars Pre-Departure Accommodation was built, following the previous government’s pledge to end immigration detention of children in 2010, as part of a new ‘family returns model’ (see PICUM Bulletin 11 March 2011). The process and legal framework, in particular the 72-hour time limit (extendable to one week) and the requirement for the Independent Family Returns Panel to be consulted in advance in each case, are to remain the same with the move to Tinsley House. This process reduced the number of children detained, but has not entirely eradicated child detention in the UK, and there remains criticism of both the process and the impacts on children’s rights of the Cedars centre. In the last unannounced inspection report, the Inspector of Prisons, while stating that ‘Cedars is a high quality, well managed institution’, acknowledged the distress experienced by detained families as ‘disturbing’. The report says that, among the 42 families held in 2013, force (mostly low level) had been used on 10 occasions, suicide and self-harm procedures had been initiated 25 times and there had been two recorded incidents of actual self-harm. Detainees had been placed on constant watch on 12 occasions.
    Source: Detention Forum, 21 July 2016

  • USA / Detained undocumented women launch hunger strike, vow to leave “alive or dead”

    A group of 22 undocumented women held with their children (aged two to 16 years old) at the Berks County Residential Centre in the state of Pennsylvania launched a hunger strike in August 2016. Berks was initially licensed as a ‘child residential facility’, not as a detention centre. Since the license expired in February 2016, civil society has been pushing the federal government to refuse to renew it, on the basis of a 2015 ruling by a federal judge that found the practice of detaining migrant families to be in violation of a 1997 class action settlement, known as the Flores agreement. On 3 August, Jeh Johnson, Secretary of Homeland Security, defended the detention of families as “critical” and also claimed the government was complying with the original order by ensuring the average length of stay is not more than 20 days. In an open letter, the striking women contest this claim, saying they have been held between 270 to 365 days, and that they will strike until they leave the facility, “alive or dead.” Berks has no janitorial staff; migrants clean the facility themselves for $1 (EUR 0,90) per day. In April 2016, a guard at the centre was convicted and sentenced to prison for sexually assaulting a 19-year-old woman in the centre. The open letter describes depression and suicidal thoughts among children in the centre.
    Sources: Common Dreams, 19 August 2016; Human Rights First; The Guardian, 23 April 2016; The Guardian, 22 August 2015; The Hill, 3 August 2016

Other News

  • CONSULTATION / European Migration Forum: Consultation with civil society

    In order to start the preparation for the third meeting of the European Migration Forum in 2017, a consultation with civil society will take place on 7 October 2016. The consultation takes place on the occasion of the next meeting of the European Economic and Social Committee (EESC) Immigration and Integration Group (IMI) and will aim at collecting input from civil society on the possible topic for discussion. A paper has been prepared by the Commission with three topic proposals which reflect political interest as well as preliminary feedback received by the Bureau members. The paper also includes details on the time and location of the consultation meeting. The outcomes of the discussion will then be further elaborated by the Bureau during their meeting in the afternoon of the same day, for a final proposal to be made. The European Migration Forum takes place at least once a year. It brings together representatives of civil society organisations, local and regional authorities, member states and EU institutions. For more information on the European Migration Forum, click here.


    With contributions from Aidan O´Connell (former PICUM Intern), Tara Ohl (former PICUM Trainee), Marta Llonch (PICUM Trainee), and Sofia Al Bidir (PICUM Intern).

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