At land, sea and air borders around the world, undocumented migrants experience discrimination, violence or other rights violations. These include arbitrary decision making, unlawful profiling, disproportionate interference with the right to privacy, violent and dangerous interception practices, illegal deportations, and prolonged, systematic or arbitrary detention. International border zones are not exempt from the law, including human rights obligations. National authorities have the duty to fulfil the fundamental rights of all migrants. Migration management in Europe primarily focuses on controlling migration and deterring irregular migration. Over recent years, extensive operations, both within and at the external borders of the European Union’s territory, have aimed at apprehending and detaining undocumented migrants, and enforcing deportations. In this context, detention of migrants is frequently used systematically; it is often arbitrary and unlawful. Migrant children and their families are also detained, contrary to international child rights standards that state a child should never be detained for migration control purposes, nor separated from their family. Procedural rights in immigration detention are usually limited. There is often much less involvement of judges in making and reviewing decisions to detain migrants than people in the criminal justice system. Civil society also has very limited access to the centres. This makes it difficult to ensure decisions are lawful, detained migrants are able to challenge their detention and any rights violations, and independent monitoring of conditions in the detention. Migrants in detention may face serious human rights violations. Women and children are especially vulnerable to violence and abuse in places of immigration detention. Studies have shown that even short periods of immigration detention can have long-term impacts on physical and mental health.
PICUM is working collaboratively – with a range of organisations and institutions involved in human rights, migrants’ rights, children’s rights, health, education and social inclusion – to call on the European Union and its member states to ensure fundamental rights at its borders.
PICUM is a member of the Consultative Forum of the European Agency for the Management of Operational Cooperation at the External Borders of the Member States of the European Union (Frontex). This means that PICUM regularly attends the meetings of the Frontex Consultative Forum at the Frontex Head Office in Warsaw, Poland to raise human rights concerns in various areas of Frontex’ work. The Frontex Consultative Forum Annual Reports and Work Programme are available here (http://frontex.europa.eu/partners/consultative-forum/documents/).
A number of intersecting developments have increased the numbers of migrants and asylum seekers entering the European Union through the land and sea borders of Greece. This was matched in recent years in an increase in rights violations and xenophobic sentiment in the country. PICUM, together with several Greek, European and international partner organisations, has developed a project entitled “Promoting EU Action to Address Criminalisation of and Violence Against Migrants in Greece”. As part of the project, concrete policy recommendations (available in English and Greek) for European Union policy-makers were developed and presented as part of a hearing held at the European Parliament in April 2014 entitled “EU Migration Policy: A Push Back for Migrants’ Rights in Greece?”, to encourage dialogue between EU policymakers, civil society representatives and frontline service providers. The policy recommendations include recommendations in The project built upon PICUM’s previous work in Greece and the priorities identified by PICUM’s members and partners in Greece. PICUM led an initiative with a number of Greek, European and international NGOs, bringing together concerned Greek, European and international NGOs, migrant groups, journalists and funders to devise strategies to improve the lives of migrants in Greece which resulted in the report “The Silent Humanitarian Crisis in Greece: Devising Strategies to Improve the Situation of Migrants in Greece”. PICUM continues coordination with project partners for joint action beyond the project’s time frame and follows up on the recommendations identified.
- Human rights should always be central in law, policies and practices concerning migration management. Enforcement policies should ensure migrants’ fundamental rights through independent and systematic monitoring of apprehension, detention and deportation procedures.
- Viable alternatives to detention should be promoted and adopted. The use of detention for migration control purposes deprives people of their liberty for the administrative convenience of states and frequently violates migrants’ human rights.
- Children should never be detained. The UN Committee on the Rights of the Child has stated that the detention of a child because of their or their parent’s migration status always constitutes a child rights violation and contravenes the principle of the best interests of the child.
- Procedural safeguards and access to justice should be ensured for all migrants in apprehension, detention and deportation procedures.
- Migrants who cannot be deported should not be detained and should be granted residence status. Migrants who cannot return to their country of origin or be deported should be granted access to a regular residence status and access to social services, including housing, health care and education.
- A clear firewall should be established between processes of detection and apprehension of undocumented migrants and access to services, protection and justice. Detection and apprehension processes should not result in violations of migrants’ rights.
To strengthen networking among its members, facilitate more strategic cooperation on key policy issues, and ensure its network remains informed about developments at both national and European level, PICUM now hosts six thematic working groups with its members on key issues: namely, health; labour rights; challenges facing undocumented families and children; undocumented migrant women’s access to justice; migration policies and legal strategies in advocating for undocumented migrants.
Members of the working group:
Spyros Rizakos (Working Group Chair)
The Working Group aims at coordinating and promoting actions to support PICUM’s work on borders and detention and to provide substantial evidence and recommendations to policy makers in this area. PICUM’s Working Group on Borders and Detention focuses on assessing deportation procedures for their compliance with human rights, and on the implementation of the rights and safeguards within the EU Return Directive in practice across the European Union. The issues of criminalisation of undocumented migrants and the use of detention in the context of migration management are also addressed. The working group also aims to address the impacts of border control, detention and the externalisation of migration control on migrants’ fundamental rights, as well as the impacts of deportation on individuals and communities. A blog summarising the main issues addressed by the Working Group in December 2014 is available here.