European Parliament improves crime reporting for migrant victims – but fails to fully protect them from immigration enforcement

MEPs in the European Parliament’s LIBE and FEMM committees voted today on their joint report revising the EU’s rules on victims’ rights (the EU Victims’ Rights Directive).

The committees’ vote improves the European Commission’s original proposal in several ways. The European Parliament LIBE and FEMM committees voted to:

  • Allow third parties to report abuse to police (instead of undocumented people having to report a crime themselves). This helps address the need for victims to report crimes without direct involvement with law enforcement.
  • Ensure people held in (de facto) immigration detention can report abuse from any place of detention or restricted liberty. This expands the more restrictive scope of what the European Commission’s proposal intended with “detention facilities” and brings it in line with the expected rise in (de facto) immigration detention due to the EU Migration Pact.
  • Establish mechanisms for reporting potential crimes committed by public officials while on duty. The Commission’s proposal however did not address abuse perpetrated by public authorities such as police, border guards, and staff in immigration detention centres.
  • Ensure access to legal aid free of charge for particularly vulnerable victims, including trafficked persons and victims of violence against women.
  • Consider residence status in the individual needs assessment, both in the personal characteristics and the dependence to the offender. This will ensure that the specific needs of undocumented victims linked to their residence status are taken into account.
  • Ensure victims can not only obtain a decision on compensation, as the Commission proposed, but also to claim compensation. This will strengthen their right to remedies. 

At the same time, to our regret, the MEPs failed to introduce comprehensive protections from immigration enforcement.

The original revision proposed by the European Commission prohibits police from sharing data related to the victim’s migration status with immigration enforcement from when they report the crime until the completion of the first individual needs assessment. The LIBE-FEMM committees vote lengthens this time limitation until the completion of the criminal proceeding.

But this partial shield is not enough. In line with the right to privacy and data protection enshrined in Article 8 of the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights, at no stage should a victim’s residence status be shared with migration authorities. Faced with the risk of detention and deportation, many victims would not report abuse to the police. This means they won’t be identified as victims of crime and won’t receive the support and protection they need and are entitled to.

Michele LeVoy, Director of PICUM, said: “Today’s vote is a welcome step forward in helping undocumented people report abuse safely. But undocumented people must be able to trust that they will not face immigration consequences, including detention and deportation when reporting a crime. We regret that the European Parliament did not take a bolder position to ensure people don’t get punished to get the support they need.”

Suzanne Hoff, Coordinator of La Strada International, said: “We regret that safe reporting protection stops after the completion of criminal proceedings. Especially, we see in practice that victims, including trafficked persons, have no access to support if there are no investigations, and if they do not lead to a successful prosecution. We hope that the Council will use its opportunity to strengthen the text further and ensure equal access to all victims of crime, regardless their residence”.

Over 50 human rights organisations had released a joint statement calling on EU lawmakers to shield undocumented migrants from immigration enforcement when they report abuse to the police, as the EU is discussing new rules to protect victims of crime. Signatories include Amnesty International, the Platform for International Cooperation on Undocumented Migrants (PICUM), La Strada International, and Victim Support Europe.