Advocating for undocumented migrants: what we did in 2022

2022 was marked by a new crisis with wide-reaching impact: Russia’s war against Ukraine. The scale and urgency of the need has put a strain on many civil society organisations, including within our membership. Throughout the year, we gathered members in regular calls to check in on their needs and latest developments around the humanitarian crisis triggered by the war.

As millions sought safety in neighbouring countries, Europe’s response showed that a different approach to migration, one based on welcoming and solidarity, is possible. We praised this solidarity, but also denounced how racialised people, fleeing from the same war, were often met with violence on trains and buses, and detention at the borders.

As negotiations on the EU Migration Pact largely stalled in 2022, we continued to bring attention to the use of immigration detention in the territory and at borders, and published testimonies of its harmful impact on people. We published a report on how the approach of channeling people coming to Europe in either asylum or return procedures leaves no room for humanitarian and other residence permits. We wrote about the damage done to people and communities by the “fight against migrant smuggling” and, in cooperation with the European Green Party, mapped recent cases of criminalisation of solidarity with migrants in Europe.

In the meantime, the EU institutions have been working on a reform of the Schengen Borders Code that would turn the Schengen space into a tech-controlled area where racial profiling is legitimised in the name of the “fight against irregular migration”. We called out the risks, and have been leading a coalition of civil society organisations advocating for a Schengen space governed by human rights and equality instead.

We advocated for the AI Act, a new instrument that regulates the use of artificial intelligence in the EU, to centre fundamental rights and to address the ways that automated systems are used that perpetuate racial profiling and discrimination against migrants and racialised communities. The current draft text, which recognises some uses of AI in migration as harmful, has important loopholes and exempts the EU large-scale migration databases from the law’s own safeguards. We joined EDRI and other digital rights and migrant rights organisations in a campaign for an AI Act that protects everyone, regardless of migration status. We also wrote about the risks linked to the use of digital technology in migration for undocumented migrants.

Joint advocacy around the EU Care Strategy resulted in a policy that provides a basis for measures that improve the quality of life for migrants working in the care sector, and those who need care. Alongside work on this policy, we published a report on national and local measures that provide some access to social protection for undocumented migrants, that can be used as a basis for national advocacy.

As many EU migration policies pay little attention to labour migration, we released a short animation showing the lack of decent work permits to come and work in Europe via regular routes, and illustrating how such permits would benefit everyone. We also published a guide on international and European standards on the labour rights of undocumented workers, and underlined the lack of meaningful protections for migrant workers in a new draft ban on products made with forced labour.

Throughout 2022, we worked with our members to document regularisation measures and calls across Europe. In Ireland, a six-month regularisation programme has allowed thousands to regularise their stay in the country, thanks to the tireless work of many undocumented people and civil society organisations working with them. In the UK, a reform of the Immigration Rules halved the time of the procedure to grant indefinite leave to remain to young people who came to the UK as children. In Belgium, undocumented domestic workers went on their first-ever strike and called for the regularisation of all undocumented workers in the country. We developed a check-list of key elements to design and implement fair and effective regularisation measures, and published recommendations for a Long Term Residents’ Directive centred on human rights.

We researched and brought attention to the often-difficult transition to adulthood for migrant youth. We published a report that illustrates the challenges they face and recommends ways to make their future  safe, including through secure residence permits, and we condensed key calls in a short animation. As the first European umbrella organisation of migrant youth groups, Voicify, was launched at the European Parliament, we brought together activists and advocates from migrant youth-led groups for peer learning and exchanges.

Through our members and partners, we spoke with people who have experienced mistreatment while being undocumented, and produced a series of video testimonies that highlight what safety means to them, including and beyond access to justice. We mapped gaps, and highlighted promising practices, in the delivery of services to undocumented victims of crime in Europe, and jointly called for an inclusive EU strategy on gender-based violence.

As the COVID-19 pandemic was largely brought under control in Europe, we continued to bring attention to the right to health for undocumented migrants. We published a first report on mental health challenges caused by insecure residence status, and on civil society initiatives to build resilience among migrant communities. We wrote about the benefits of participatory approaches to health care delivery, spotlighting promising practices from within our network.

All of this work wouldn’t have been possible without the work and support of many people and organisations. Thank you to all our members, partners, and funders. We look forward to continuing to work together in the coming years.

Related Posts