By Louise Bonneau
and Eve Geddie.
As Europe prepares to go the polls this month to elect its representatives for the 2014-2019 European Parliament, we invite you to take a deeper look into the recently passed European Parliament Resolution on Undocumented Migrant Women in the EU. What does it say about your MEP’s position on undocumented women’s rights? What message does it send to EU and national decision makers? And finally, should it influence how you vote in the coming weeks?
On 4 February 2014, the European Parliament (EP) passed a resolution in support of the rights of undocumented women in the European Union. The Resolution on Undocumented Women Migrants in the European Union was put forward by the MEP Norica Nicolai (ALDE, Romania) from the European Parliament’s Committee on Women’s Rights and Gender Equality (FEMM). Although resolutions have no legal standing, their adoption sends a strong message to the other European institutions and bodies, the national governments, on a specific matter and they may be used to lobby for specific actions and proposals at both EU and national level.
Though passed with a narrow majority (327 for and 303 against) the Resolution marks an important step in the recognition of women’s innate rights regardless of their immigration status.
How does a European Parliament resolution come about?
The European Parliament (EP) is one of three main institutions involved in the European Union’s decision-making process. EU citizens elect Members of Parliament (MEPs) to represent them every four years. Across Europe, prospective candidates are gearing up for the next elections which will take place between 22 and 25 May 2014.
In addition to having a key role in the development of EU legislation1 the European Parliament can draw the attention of the EU institutions and the member states to a specific matter by producing thematic reports on any subject within its area of competence. These reports are called resolutions and while they have no binding effect, they send an important message from the only directly elected body of the EU.
What does the Resolution on Undocumented Women contain?
Most undocumented women arrive to Europe with a regular, but often highly dependent migration status and often become undocumented for reasons outside of their own control. Those with an irregular status risk deportation if they contact the police, are unable to access women’s refuges or obtain a work permit. Destitute and denied justice, this discrimination is fuelling an underreported, under-recognised, and under-valued form of violence against women across the EU. Drawing attention to the the urgency of this situation, the European Parliament Resolution seeks to address the daily challenges facing undocumented migrant women by underlining the need to guarantee their access to rights, services, and justice without discrimination of any kind:
ACCESS TO RIGHTS: The EP Resolution on Undocumented Women reaffirms the fundamental rights of undocumented women, encourages member states to ratify and implement them (Art 1; Art 25; Art 29) and emphasises the specific needs of, for example, children and/or victims of gender violence (Art 8).
- HOUSING: It calls on EU member states to apply the Facilitation Directive, which addresses the assistance of unauthorised entry, transit and residence of irregular migrants, in a way that does not prevent undocumented migrants from renting housing on the free market (Art 6).
- HEALTH CARE: It calls for the provision of basic and emergency health care for undocumented migrant women (Art 16).
- FAIR WORK: Undocumented migrant workers should have the possibility to lodge claims anonymously. The ILO convention on forced labour should be ratified and safeguards provided by the Employer’s Sanctions Directive should be implemented.
ACCESS TO SERVICES: The Resolution calls for a decoupling of immigration control from access to services which includes access to state-run shelters (Art 7), health care services (Art 9) and education for children (Art 9).
ACCESS TO JUSTICE: Crucial to the protection of undocumented migrants and in line with the FRA fundamental rights considerations on the apprehension of migrants in an irregular situation, the Resolution urges authorities to de-link access to justice from immigration controls (Art 11).
- In line with the EU Victims’ Directive; (See also PICUM’s blog), member states are reminded of the rights of all victims, irrespective of residence status (Art 11) and the Resolution calls for a common legal framework (Art 4) to limit exposure to precarious situations.
- It urges an immediate ratification of the Council of Europe Convention on Preventing and Combating Violence against Women and Domestic Violence paying particular attention to the need to stop forced return proceedings and/or the issuance of autonomous residence permits to reduce status-related dependence of migrant women on their spouse
- It highlights the rights of migrants in detention as provided for by the Return Directive (Art 22; Art 24) and urges member states to explore alternatives to detention (Art 28).
Despite these victories, key recommendations contained in the Resolution were not passed in the plenary vote:
- RIGHTS OF ALL MIGRANT WORKERS AND THEIR FAMILIES: The final vote neither approved the call for the ratification of the UN Convention on Migrant Workers (Art 21 in the draft), nor the call for the implementation of the General Comment No. 2 on the Rights of Migrant Workers in an Irregular Situation and Members of their Families (Art 24 in the draft).
- NON DISCRIMINATORY FUNDING: The essential key recommendations for additional funding avenues by the EU and member states for organisations to offer legal, humanitarian, and social assistance to undocumented women migrants (Art 33 in the draft), and the call to remove ‘regularly residing third-country national’ status related obligations from the European Social Fund and the European Integration Fund (Art 33 in the draft) were not approved.
Why should this affect your vote for the European Elections?
The work of the European Parliament may often seem disconnected from the daily realities of organisations and advocates struggling to uphold undocumented migrants’ rights.
However, the European Parliament has significant powers in EU law making, deciding how the EU spends its budget, exercising oversight over other EU institutions, and leading the EU’s dealings with national parliaments.
Thanks to the website VOTEWATCH, you can check which MEPs support the dignity and rights of undocumented women. Before making your final decision on who to vote for, why not view the voting record of all MEPs by political party or by country.
If MEP candidates in your area are seeking reelection, you might check what their position was on undocumented women.If you are intending to vote for a new candidate, you might see how the party to which they are affiliated to at EU level voted.
You are unhappy with how your regional representative voted on this Resolution? Tell them when they seek your support in May, or send them an email.
See PICUM’s 2012 report provides a practical overview of methods that protect rights and ensure justice for undocumented women.
1 See: European Union “How the European Union Works”.