PICUM Bulletin — 10 October 2014


  • EMERGENCY HOTLINE / Responding to people in distress at sea

    The initiative Watch the Mediterranean Sea (Watch The Med) will launch a hotline aimed to immediately alarm rescue workers when migrants are spotted in situations of distress at sea to ensure a prompt rescue. The hotline, which is in its testing phase, will be available 24/7 and will be run by human rights activists from both sides of the Mediterranean. A multilingual team will immediately alert the responsible coast guards and rescue teams when they receive calls of migrants in distress at sea and will follow-up on their responses to emergencies. Watch The Med is an online mapping platform to monitor the deaths and violations of migrants’ rights at the maritime borders of the EU. The initiative for the hotline started in the aftermath of the 3 October 2013 Lampedusa shipwreck that saw about 360 migrants drown near the coast of Italy. To find out more about the project, click here.
    Source: Watch The Med, October 2014

  • FRANCE / French and British authorities agree on a cooperation deal for Calais port

    On 20 September 2014, the British Home Secretary, Theresa May, and her French counterpart, Bernard Cazeneuve, announced that they had come to a cooperation agreement regarding the situation of irregular migrants trying to reach the UK and who find themselves stuck in the French city of Calais (see PICUM Bulletin 16 September 2014 http://picum.org/en/news/bulletins/45148/). A joint intervention fund will be created and British authorities have pledged to spend 15 million euro over three years to strengthen security measures in the port of Calais and prevent migrants from crossing over to the UK. Police cooperation between the two countries will be reinforced to fight smuggling networks and joint information campaigns will be led in order to discourage migrants from attempting the crossing. The fund will also finance a restructuring of the port of Calais to make it easier to carry out inspections of the passing vehicles and improve traffic flow.
    Sources: La Voix du Nord, 20 September 2014; The Guardian, 20 September 2014

  • GREECE / Government warns of ‘danger zone’ from influx of Syrian and Iraqi refugees

    Greece might slip into a “danger zone” without sufficient funds or resources to handle a fast-growing wave of refugees coming mostly from Iraq and Syria, the Greek government warned on 4 September 2014. Human rights groups says migrants face routine discrimination and are often at risk of racist assault. The Greek Coast Guard detained more than 17,000 undocumented migrants – over half of them Syrians – in the first eight months of 2014. This is a 55 percent increase from the same period in 2013. Migrant arrests at sea are forecast to triple to more than 31,000 by the end of this year, compared with 2013. The Greek government has been repeatedly criticized by human rights organisations for its treatment and detention of migrants.
    Source: Reuters, 4 Sep 2014

  • MEDITERRANEAN / Nearly 700 migrants die in shipwrecks

    Nearly 700 migrants died in two shipwrecks in the Mediterranean in the week from 9 to 13 September 2014. Human traffickers are accused of ramming and sinking the two boats. The migrants left the port of Dalmietta in Egypt on 6 September. The boat, carrying nearly 500 passengers, sank near Malta. Two Palestinians who survived the drowning, were picked up by a freighter and several others were rescued by Greek and Maltese ships. According to their testimonies, the migrants were forced to change boats several times on their way to Europe. The traffickers were on a separate boat and ordered the passengers to shift into a vessel, which the passengers considered too small and unsafe for them. When the passengers refused to change, the traffickers allegedly rammed the boat until it capsized. Meanwhile, on 13 September, another boat carrying at least 250 African migrants sank off Libya’s coast. The shipwrecks occurred one month before the anniversary of the tragedy near Lampedusa on 3 October 2013 in which about 360 migrants drowned (see PICUM Bulletin, 10 October 2013). This anniversary was commemorated by policymakers, organisations and migrants’ supporters. The Council of Europe’s Commissioner of Human Rights, Nils Muižnieks, called on European leaders to embrace solidarity; François Crépeau, Special Rapporteur on the human rights of migrants, called in an open letter on the new EU Commissioner for Migration and Home Affairs to ensure that migration and border control in Europe is not implemented at the expense of the human rights of migrants. Amnesty International released the report “Lives adrift: Refugees and migrants in peril in the central Mediterranean” on 30 September 2014 which calls for more safe and legal routes to Europe to end the loss of life at sea. The report is available here.
    Sources: Amnesty International, 30 September 2014; Deutsche Welle, 15 September 2014

  • REPORT / Data on migrant fatalities worldwide

    The International Organisation for Migration (IOM) released a report on 29 September 2014 providing new data on migrant fatalities worldwide. The report “Fatal Journeys: Tracking Lives Lost During Migration” estimates that more than 40,000 people have died while migrating since 2000, which is eight people per day on average. “Fatal Journeys” uses statistical data compiled by governments and other agencies, as well as NGOs and media sources. However, IOM notes that the actual number is likely to be considerably higher. The research also found that Europe is the world’s most dangerous destination for migrants, costing the lives of an estimated 3,000 people since the beginning of 2014 and at least 22,400 people are estimated to have lost their lives since 2000. The report was compiled within the framework of IOM’s Missing Migrants Project which aims to gather information on the thousands of people who go missing while migrating every year. One of the findings of the project shows that the lack of regular routes into Europe fosters criminal network activities and threatens the lives of migrants. The report is available here.
    Source: IOM, 29 September 2014; The Guardian, 29 September 2014


  • EU PARLIAMENT / Hearings of Commissioner-designates

    The Commissioner-designate for the European Commission’s Migration and Home Affairs portfolio, Dimitris Avramopoulos, appeared before the European Parliament’s Civil Liberties and Home Affairs Committee (LIBE) on 30 September in the frame of the European Parliament’s hearings for every Commissioner-designate between 29 September and 3 October 2014 (see PICUM Bulletin 16 September 2014). Mr Avramopoulos called the need to ensure the protection of fundamental rights as part of migration management and border control a top priority. He emphasised that current challenges in the context of migration should not be addressed through the establishment of a “Fortress Europe”, but that a new framework allowing for regular migration into Europe urgently needs to be established. The Commissioner-designate also reiterated the need to further strengthen Frontex and to effectively establish a new European Border Guard system, based on the principle of solidarity and aimed at assisting national authorities in border control. The Commissioner-designate for Justice, Consumers and Gender Equality, Vĕra Jourová, highlighted in her hearing on 1 October 2014 the need to protect all ethnic minorities, to safeguard the rights of disadvantaged groups, and the need to ensure effective measures for the protection of victims of gender based violence in Europe. The Commissioner-designates will have to be formally confirmed by the European Parliament at the plenary session on 21 October 2014.
    Sources: European Parliament, 30 September 2014; European Parliament, 1 October 2014


  • ITALY / RESEARCH / Law and policy on entitlements to services for irregular migrants in Italy

    Dr Sarah Spencer, Open Society Fellow at the Centre on Migration, Policy and Society (COMPAS) at the University of Oxford together with Nicola Delvino published their report “Irregular Migrants in Italy: Law and Policy on Entitlements to Services” in September 2014. The paper discusses the Italian policy and legislative context on irregular migration and legal entitlements of irregular migrants. Among others, the study found that regional authorities considered it necessary to often modify the impact of exclusionary measures, particularly in relation to access to health care, housing and welfare payments. The report also calls the decriminalisation of irregular entry and stay in Italy in April 2014 a landmark decision showing that criminalisation of irregular migrants has not been effective. The report is part of the output of COMPAS’ study which explores the extent of, and rationales for, entitlements to service provision for migrants with irregular immigration status in EU countries.
    To view the full report, click here.

  • REPORT / Annual Report of National Rapporteur on Human Trafficking in The Netherlands

    The Dutch National Rapporteur on Trafficking in Human Beings and Sexual Violence against Children, Corinne Dettmeijer, published her annual report on 17 September 2014 discussing the state of human trafficking in the country and how to adopt an effective strategy to combat trafficking. While the report highlights the necessity to reduce the vulnerability of the prostitution sector to human trafficking, it also underlines the fact that new forms of exploitation outside the sex industry have appeared and need to be taken into account. The report also focuses on the necessity for the government to better identify and protect victims. The report takes the criminalisation of irregular residence into account and argues that irregular residence will not discharge the police from their responsibility to detect and protect potential victims of trafficking, meaning being a victim of human trafficking takes precedence over a person’s irregular status.

  • UK / Migrants’ Rights Network collects evidence on immigration checks and raids

    In the run-up to the 2015 general election in the UK and in order to campaign against unfair treatment of migrants, the NGO Migrants’ Rights Network (MRN) has launched a national call to collect evidence on local immigration checks and raids. The UK government has led several initiatives in recent years, including the “Go Home” campaign, aimed at identifying irregular migrants in order to deport them. Hospitals, local authorities and even private landlords (See PICUM Bulletin 16 September 2014) are under increasing pressure to check the immigration status of citizens. MRN is looking to gather testimonies from either direct or witnessed experiences of unfair treatment as a result of immigration checks. Those who wish to provide evidence, can fill in a short form on MRN’s website.


  • EBOLA / No proof for incrimination of irregular migrants spreading disease

    Media reports in countries such as Spain and the US have suggested that irregular migrants could also be responsible for the further spread of Ebola. After a Liberian man fell ill with Ebola in early October 2014 and subsequently died in Dallas, Texas, a researcher affiliated with the Center for Immigration Studies in Washington D.C. was quoted saying the man should not have been issued a visitor’s visa because he presented a risk of remaining in the US irregularly. Spanish media previously stated that irregular entry through the southern border in Ceuta and Melilla could pose a risk for the spread of Ebola in Spain and Europe. But the Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases in the US, Anthony Fauci, said that the possibility of migrants coming across the border with the disease is “hypothetical” and “very far-fetched.” According to the World Health Organisation (WHO),  the incubation period of Ebola (the time interval from infection with the virus to onset of symptoms) is 2 to 21 days. Nonetheless, migrants travelling irregularly from sub-Saharan Africa to Northern Africa usually take much longer to travel this distance, sometimes taking months.
    Sources: CBS News, 6 October 2014; Washington Post, 2 October 2014; El Mundo, 3 August 2014


  • USA / Tool to help migrant workers in recruitment and employment processes

    The Centro de los Derechos del Migrante, Inc. (Center for Migrants’ Rights, CDM) which has offices in the US and Mexico, launched a new tool on 30 September 2014 which uses technology and art to increase transparency and combat abuse in U.S. foreign worker programs. ‘Contratados’, named after the process of being contracted under a temporary work program, is specifically directed to workers from Mexico but can be used by workers of all backgrounds and visa categories. With an interactive website, a hotline, pocket-sized comics, and a transnational radio campaign, the programme provides workers with resources to more securely navigate the recruitment and employment process. Using a crowdsourcing website and an accompanying hotline, workers themselves can write reviews of recruiters and employers and collectively fill critical gaps in publicly available information about international labour recruitment. For more information on the tool, click here.


  • EVENT / “Safe from Fear, Safe from Violence”, Istanbul Convention Celebrated in Rome

    To celebrate the entry into force of the Council of Europe Convention on Violence Against Women and Domestic Violence, also known as the Istanbul Convention, the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Italian Chamber of Deputies, and the Council of Europe organised a conference in Rome on 19 September 2014. Bringing together key governmental, institutional and civil society stakeholders, the event coincided with the delivery of a joint declaration by states parties to the Istanbul Convention, calling on other Council of Europe member States, non-member States, as well as the European Union, to become Parties to the Convention. The Istanbul Convention addresses the specific difficulties faced by migrant women in relation to their residence status if they experience violence. Specifically, it introduces the possibility for states to grant migrant women an autonomous residence permit if they are trapped in an abusive relationship because their residence status depends on that of their abusive spouse or partner. To date, the Convention has been signed by 22 states, and ratified by 14 (Albania, Andorra, Austria, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Denmark, France, Italy, Malta, Montenegro, Portugal, Serbia, Spain, Sweden, Turkey). The joint Declaration on the occasion of the conference “Safe from fear, safe from violence, celebrating the entry into force of the Istanbul Convention by its contracting States, Rome, 19 September 2014” is available here. The Inter-American Commission of Women (CIM) and Council of Europe (CoE) Report, “Regional tools to fight violence against women: The Belém do Pará and Istanbul Conventions”, is available here. To view presentations, click here.
    Sources: Council of Europe, September 2014

  • REPORT / Undocumented women in Arizona particularly vulnerable to workplace exploitation

    Research conducted by “The Workers’ Rights Clinic”, a legal clinic operated by the University of Arizona to support low-wage migrant women workers, underlines disproportionately high levels of workplace exploitation and low pay among undocumented female workers. Co-authored by the University of Arizona’s  Rogers’ Bacon Immigration Law and Policy Program and the Southwest Institute for Research on Women, the report entitled “Out of the Shadows: Shedding Light on the Working Conditions of Immigrant Women in Tucson,” gathered input from workers,  government officials and community leaders. Engaged in retail, hospitality, domestic work, and elder-care work, the female migrant workers interviewed for the report shared experiences of abuse, exploitation and lack of fair wages. Immigration status was identified as the main barrier preventing women from reporting abuses. Of the 90 working women interviewed, 82 percent were of Mexican origin, and 42 percent did not have a work permit. 91 percent had children and 94 percent contributed financially to their households. The majority of women had little knowledge of their workplace rights, with none of those interviewed aware of the amount of the minimum wage.
    Source: Bacon Immigration Law & Policy Program, September 2014

  • UK / “Using CEDAW in Law: Bringing Women’s Rights Home”

    The NGO CEDAW Legal Working Group, a grassroots initiative, made up of various women’s rights advocates, barristers, researchers and campaigners, has produced the guide “Using CEDAW in Law: Bringing Women’s Rights Home”. The guide on the International Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) explains how to argue CEDAW points effectively in domestic proceedings. To highlight ways CEDAW can be useful for advocacy on migrant women’s rights in the UK, they explore an example of challenging immigration detention conditions in the centre Yarl’s Wood. The CEDAW Legal Project work to mainstream CEDAW within the UK domestic legal system by demonstrating to lawyers and NGOs how CEDAW can be an effective tool, and by highlighting to policy makers and the CEDAW Committee the key areas where there is an ongoing state failure to effectively implement CEDAW. More information on this initiative is available here. To download the guide, click here.

  • USA / Immigration Courts Change Position on Domestic Violence

    The Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA), which is the highest administrative body for interpreting and applying immigration laws, has ruled that in certain cases, migrants escaping domestic violence should qualify for asylum. Released in August 2014, the decision marks the first time that this court has recognised a protected group that primarily includes women. The ruling offers some hope for women who came to the US irregularly after fleeing domestic violence in their countries of origin. The ruling came following the Court’s revision of a case involving a Guatemalan woman who ran away from her abusive husband. When the police in her home country refused to intervene, she and her three children irregularly entered the US. The law only shields people who are persecuted because they are members of a certain race, religion, nationality, political opinion, or particular social group. However, this ruling recognises ‘married women in Guatemala who are unable to leave their relationship’ as a unique social group—giving the Guatemalan woman standing to make an asylum claim.
    Source: Board of Immigration Appeals, August 26, 2014; Mother Jones, 28 August 2014


  • BULGARIA / Ten migrant children denied access to school

    On the first day of school after the summer break on 15 September 2014, parents from the village of Kalishte in Bulgaria did not allow 12 children of Afghan and Somali origin to begin the school year together with the 20 Bulgarian children in the village. The parents, as well as the village mayor, were concerned that the Afghan children do not speak enough Bulgarian and will not be able to integrate, “are less intelligent” and “will spread diseases”. The State Agency for Refugees denied these claims and stressed that all residents of the refugee camp in the village receive regular medical checks and all children have passed a six-month Bulgarian language course. The children’s parents are not officially recognised as refugees. According to Bulgarian legislation, all children have the right to education. The State Agency for Refugees has asked prosecutors to take action against the mayor for discrimination. The migrant children were enrolled in a school in the city of Sofia.
    Sources: Standartnews, 15 September 2014; Dariknews, 16 September 2014

  • RESEARCH / City-level responses to migrant families with restricted access to welfare benefits

    Jonathan Price, Research Officer and Dr Sarah Spencer, Open Society Fellow at the Centre on Migration, Policy and Society at the University of Oxford published their report “City-level responses to migrant families with restricted access to welfare benefits: A European pilot study” in September 2014. The research focuses on two European cities – Berlin and Madrid – examining how laws and policies in these two cities frame entitlements and exclusions to welfare benefits for migrant children and their families; problems in the implementation of laws and policies; the implications when families are not entitled or able to access those services; and the ways in which the state and NGOs have responded to any problems these exclusions create. The study also focuses on the particular situation of irregular migrants outlining limited access to services or even exclusion from rights and services such as accommodation. The study found that migrants with irregular status belong to the groups that are particularly affected by exclusion from entitlements set out in European legal instruments to minimum standards of subsistence and the researchers found that significant gaps in the legal framework as well as poor implementation of laws and policies leave many migrant children and their families destitute in the cities of Berlin and Madrid. To access the Executive Summary in English, please click here. The full report and executive summaries in English, German and Spanish are available on the project webpage. To access the full report directly, please click here.

  • REPORT / Guidance for journalists reporting on migrant children

    With the slogan ‘Listen to me’, Terre des Hommes International Federation released a report on 20 September 2014, encouraging journalists, filmmakers and photographers to listen to and report on the views of migrant children, to give them a voice in the media. The report was published in the framework of their campaign ‘Destination Unknown’ to ensure that reporting follows child safeguarding standards. The guide includes advice on the rights of the child in media, personal conduct of media professionals and a checklist for interviewing children. Download the report (short and long version) here.


  • BULGARIA / Group of undocumented migrants including children detained near Kavarna

    A group of 22 undocumented migrants, including several children, from Syria, Afghanistan and Pakistan were found in the woods near Kavarna, Bulgaria on 11 September 2014. The migrants said they had taken a boat from Istanbul to travel to Romania but were forced by the boat’s captain to get off at the Bulgarian coast. They said they had paid around 2,500 euros per person to reach Romania. There are concerns that this is a result of the construction of a 30-kilometre fence along the Bulgarian-Turkish border (see PICUM Quarterly April-June 2014) which was completed in July. UNHCR called the fence “an unacceptable measure to deal with the refugee problem” and that it will only force refugees and undocumented migrants to take different and potentially more dangerous routes to reach Europe.
    Sources: Special.bg, 19 September

  • NETHERLANDS / Changes to law on detention of children

    The Foreigners Law in the Netherlands has been amended to limit the detention of unaccompanied children. According to the law, unaccompanied children should only be detained in exceptional circumstances and for the shortest possible period of time. Only the following situations are considered as exceptional circumstances:  if children are suspected of or convicted for committing a crime; if their deportation will be realised within a maximum on 14 days; if they have previously absconded from a reception centre or otherwise not complied with measures that have restricted their freedom; or if there is a doubt about the child’s age, they may be detained until their age is determined. The law still allows for undocumented children to be detained with their parents in facilities adapted to children. Undocumented families with children aged 12 to 16 may also be detained in a police station pending transfer to a more appropriate facility, for a maximum of 4 days. Detention may be prolonged if after 14 days the deportation cannot be realized as a consequence of physical resistance of one of the family members or the launch of a new procedure by one of the family members to delay the deportation process. The maximum period of two weeks of detention is not applicable in case only one parent is detained and the other parent and children are merely restricted in their freedom.  The Decision of the Minister of Security and Justice of August 29, 2014, issue WBV 2014/27, amending the Foreigners Act 2000 came into effect on 1 September 2014, and can be read here.
    Source: Stichting LOS, Newsletter Volume 4 Number 19, 15 September 2014

  • SPAIN / Migrants’ daily realities in detention in Melilla

    Reports have given an insight into migrants’ daily realities in the Centre for Identification and Expulsion (CIE) in Melilla which hosts between 1,500 and 2,200 migrants. Many of the migrants consider life in the detention centre “desperate” and testimonies showed that they have to queue for an hour each time they have a meal. For most of them, Melilla is the entry point to Europe and they actually plan to move on to other countries of the European Union. The migrants do not know how long they will stay in detention. A woman, who has been in the CIE for a year and a half, reported that she cannot leave as authorities would not allow her to bring a child who she claims is a relative. Many children are detained together with their families in the centre. Hundreds of thousands of sub-Saharan migrants have tried to cross the border fence this year (see PICUM Bulletin 15 April 2014).
    Source: El Faro Digital, 15 September 2014

  • USA / GERMANY / Abuse of migrants and asylum seekers by staff of private security firms in closed facilities

    Attorneys in Texas, United States, sent filed a complaint to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and the Department of Homeland Security alleging sexual abuse and harassment by at least three guards and facility staff members at the privately run 537-bed Karnes County Residential Center. Several women detained at the facility said that staff of the GEO Group, which operates the center, abused them sexually. Some said they were promised money or help with their pending legal cases in exchange for sexual favors. Following the recent surge of migrant arrivals, the all-male Karnes City facility was converted in August into a detention center which temporarily also hosts women and their children. Similarly, a case of abuse of asylum seekers by staff of a private security firm in an asylum seekers’ home in North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany made headlines. Pictures showing staff of the firm European Homecare physically humiliating asylum seekers were transmitted to the police by a local journalist in September 2014. The incident triggered a debate about the deployment of private security firms for the protection of people as well as about the insufficient allocation of funds to municipalities for accommodating migrants, asylum seekers and refugees.
    Sources: Associated Press, 2 October 2014; My San Antonio, 6 October 2014; Die ZEIT, 29 September 2014


  • GREECE / Short anti-racism film goes viral

    A 2-minute video about a racist Greek family and their interaction with a dark-skinned man in a hospital waiting room offers viewers a surprise ending that has gained international attention for the film. “Jafar” by Nancy Spetsioti was viewed by almost two million people and shared and discussed by major blogs and websites that wanted to share the film’s message on addressing racism in Greece. Watch the video here.
    Source: UNHCR Greece Press Review: 17 – 19 September 2014

  • REPORT / Access to housing and shelter for undocumented migrants in Europe

    On the occasion of World Habitat Day on 6 October 2014, the Platform for International Cooperation on Undocumented Migrants (PICUM) together with the European Federation of National Organisations working with the homeless (FEANTSA) and the European Anti-Poverty Network (EAPN) launched their new report outlining strategies and good practices to overcome barriers for undocumented migrants to access housing and shelter. The report which is available in English, Spanish and French is the outcome of the organisations’ joint conference on housing and homelessness of undocumented migrants in Europe, held in Brussels in June 2013. The report is available here. The press release of the launch is available in English, French and Spanish.


  • POLICE OPERATION / Warning of EU-wide operation to apprehend irregular migrants

    On the initiative of the Italian Presidency of the Council of the European Union, an EU-wide police operation with the name “Mos Maiorum” is scheduled to take place from 13-26 October 2014 with the aim to apprehend irregular migrants. During these two weeks, 18,000 police are expected to carry out checks, particularly in locations such as trains, train stations, airports, along highways and on intra-European borders. Civil society organisations fear that this might lead to racial profiling.  Another goal of the operation is to collect information for intelligence and investigation purposes on the routes irregular migrants take to enter the EU. The operation follows similar joint police operations during previous Council Presidencies.
    Sources: Diagonal, 2 October 2014; Statewatch, 10 July 2014


  • EU / EU migration policy and new initiatives one year after the Lampedusa shipwreck

    The news platform OpenDemocracy published a joint opinion piece of PICUM and Andalucía Acoge looking back on what has changed since the shipwreck near Lampedusa on 3 October 2013 when about 360 migrants died. The piece discusses EU migration policy as well as civil society initiatives.
    Source: OpenDemocracy, 3 October 2014

  • AUSTRIA / Limited access to health care for undocumented migrants across Europe

    In response to PICUM’s presentation at the European Health Forum in Gastein, Austria on 2 October 2014, several print and online publications addressed the limited access to health care for undocumented migrants.
    Sources: Der Standard, 2 October 2014; APA, 2 October 2014

  • SPAIN / Civil society organisations demand EU to adopt measures to end human rights violations at the border

    The Spanish news agency EFE and TeInteresa covered a joint initiative of Spanish civil society organisations who brought their demands for adopting measures to save migrants’ lives at the border to the EU level. PICUM was mentioned as a supporter of the initiative during an event held at the European Parliament from 9 to 10 September 2014.
    Sources: EFE, 12 September 2014; TeInteresa, 15 September 2014

    This newsletter was compiled by PICUM, with contributions from Larissa van Es, Borislav Gerasimov and Alexandra Micha.

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