PICUM Bulletin — 12 July 2013


  • BULGARIA / Increased number of arrests of irregular migrants

    Bulgarian police forces have arrested more than 200 undocumented migrants crossing Bulgarian borders so far this year. This figure includes men, women and children, many of whom have escaped the Syrian crisis, but irregular migrants have also come from Afghanistan, Palestine and Iraq. In May, a group of eleven lost migrants, including children, were rescued in isolated woodland areas in states of dehydration and hunger. Many other migrants have used smugglers to cross the border  and one police check exposed a group of seventeen migrants entering Bulgaria concealed in large hallow marble blocks.
    Source: The Sofia Globe, 05 June 2013

  • EU / Agreement to allow temporary border controls in Schengen area

    The European Commission, the European Parliament, and EU member states are negotiating an agreement to reintroduce passport checks between the 22 Schengen states. The agreement will be considered at a Parliament meeting in summer, would include common rules on border controls that could be temporarily implemented for a maximum of two years in cases of serious risks to the security of states and should be used as a last resort. FRONTEX, the EU border agency, could monitor the implementation of the rules.
    Source: BBC News, 30 May 2013

  • ITALY / Rescue of migrants lost at sea

    During the month of June, a large number of migrants were rescued at sea near the Italian coast. Over a thousand migrants alone were rescued at sea by Italian coast guards over the weekend of 15 and 16 June 2013. One migrant woman gave birth to her daughter during the journey. An Italian ferry boat rescued seventeen migrants adrift in the Mediterranean between the southern Puglia region and Greece on 16 May 2013, following a violent storm. Coming mostly from Pakistan, the migrants were brought to Italy. On 3 July 2013, 65 migrants were rescued off the Italian coasts of Punta Stilo, in the region of Calabria. Another 307 migrants, including four children and 51 women, were rescued off the shores of Lampedusa. Pope Francis visited the island of Lampedusa on 9 July 2013 to pray for migrants who lost their lives when attempting to cross the Mediterranean.
    Source:  La Repubblica, 3 July 2013; Corriere della Sera, 2 July 2013; La Repubblica, 16 June 2013; ANSA, 23 May 2013

  • MIGRATION PARTNERSHIPS / Changing Patterns – Switzerland’s approach to Irregular Migration

    Following the increase in young Tunisian migrants arriving in Switzerland, Eduard Gnesa, Special Ambassador of the Swiss Confederation for International Cooperation in Migration, approached Tunisia to form a migration partnership between both countries. Switzerland has also developed similar projects with Serbia, Bosnia, Kosovo and Nigeria. Essentially these initiatives are ‘memorandum of understandings’ and include issues such as training young professionals and combatting trafficking. They also incorporate a funded return programme. The EU’s Global Approach to Migration and Mobility (GAMM) was confirmed by the Council in May 2012 with mobility partnerships as the “prime bilateral framework to address relevant migration and mobility issues of mutual concern, primarily with EU neighbourhood countries”. GAMM have also suggested a ‘lighter’ version of partnerships with countries outside the EU. These partnerships are presently being considered with regard to countries of political importance for the EU.
    Source: EurActiv.com, 07 June 2013


  • EUROPEAN COMMISSION / Launch of Fourth Annual Report on Immigration and Asylum

    The European Commission (EC) launched its Fourth Annual Report on Immigration and Asylum, alongside a factsheet entitled ‘Immigration in the EU’ to examine the challenges and opportunities of migration trends across the EU. Regarding irregular migration, the EC stresses a consistent approach is a necessary pre-condition for credible legal migration and mobility policies. The Council’s 2012 ‘EU Action on Migratory Pressures – A Strategic Response’ is endorsed as a tool which allows member states to address irregular migration while ensuring respect for fundamental rights, as is the implementation of the Employer Sanctions Directive, sanctioning employers of irregular third country nationals. In addition the report discusses the need to monitor irregular migration routes, promote readmission agreements, and aims to continue establishing a common standard of return policies which fully respect fundamental rights, and the importance of monitoring visa liberalisation schemes and tackling any misuse of visa-free regimes which result in a sudden increase in irregular migration. Particular mention is also given to the alarming increase in the number of incidents of xenophobic violence against migrants across the EU which further necessitates well-managed migration and integration policies.
    Source: European Commission, 18 June 2013; Europa Press Release Rapid, 18 June 2013

  • EU / Signature of the Migration and Mobility Partnership between the EU and Morocco

    On 7 June 2013, Cecilia Malmström, EU Commissioner for Internal Affairs and Saad dine El Otmani, the Moroccan Minister for Foreign Affairs and Cooperation, as well as the Ministers responsible for migration from the nine EU Member States participating in the partnership (Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Portugal, Spain, Sweden and the United Kingdom), signed the first Migration and Mobility Partnership in the Mediterranean Region. The Migration and Mobility Partnership provides a set of measures which are aimed at better managing the movement of persons between the two countries. The partnership also specifies that the partners will negotiate an agreement for the return of irregular migrants who transited through Morocco. GADEM, a migrant association based in Morocco, criticized the fact that Morocco has agreed to re-open the negotiations for the signature of a readmission agreement for the return of non-nationals irregular migrants in exchange of visa facilitations for its citizens.
    Source: European Commission, 7 June 2013; Yabiladi, 7 June 2013


  • FRANCE / Report by a Member of the National Assembly to amend French legislation on detention of irregular migrants

    A report by a Member of the French National Assembly, entitled ‘Securing foreign nationals path in France’, was issued on 14 May 2013 with the objective of providing recommendations for a reform of France’s immigration law before the summer, including rules on irregular migration contained in the controversial ‘Loi Besson’, adopted in 2011. Concerning the rules governing irregular migration, the report calls for an early intervention and a detention judge in all administrative detention procedures, within a period of 48 hours maximum, contrary to the five days period allowed by the current immigration law. The report also recommends reducing the period of detention from a maximum of 45 days to 30.
    Source: La Libération, 14 May 2013.

  • FRANCE / 36,000 migrants regularised in 2012

    According to the French Interior Minister, Manuel Valls, 36,000 migrants were regularised in France in 2012. It is the first time that the number of regularisations has been officially published in France. The number was calculated on the basis of the payment of the visa regularisation fee, introduced on 1 January 2012.
    Source: RTL, 12 June 2013

  • GREECE / 15-year-old Afghan attacked – Anti-Racism Bill at a standstill

    Greek authorities are currently investigating the racist attack against an Afghan adolescent which took place in Athens, Greece on 6 May 2013. The 15 year-old was attacked by several men, who after questioning him on his origin and residence status, pursued to physically abuse him with a broken beer bottle, leaving the victim with multiple scars on his face. The investigation is being led by a special police unit set up to address racist violence (See PICUM Bulletin 15 November 2012) with the support of the sub-directorate for the protection of minors. The child was treated at a hospital in Athens. Amidst these developments, the future of the Ant-Racism Bill is unclear after it was not approved by the Parliamentary Assembly. If adopted, the bill would impose tougher sanctions for racially motivated crimes.  For further information on the situation of migrants in Greece, please also see PICUM’s report entitled ‘The Silent Humanitarian Crisis in Greece: Devising Strategies to Improve the Situation of Migrants in Greece’ (EN and EL ).
    Source: Enet English, 14 May 2013; Ekathimerini, 22 May 2013.

  • ITALY / Thousands of people excluded from the last mass regularisation procedure

    The conclusive phase of the regularisation procedure (referred to as Sanatoria in Italian) of 2012 for irregular migrants has started in Italy. 135,000 applications for regularisation were submitted between 15 September and 15 October 2012. At present, regularisation constitutes the only means for undocumented migrant workers to obtain a work permit in Italy. The regularisation was heavily criticized, as applicants must pay 1,000€ to submit an application and need to demonstrate their presence in Italy before December 2011. This year, only 135,000 applications were submitted against the 380,000 initially estimated by the government. Maurizio Bove from the trade union CISL (Italian Confederation of Trade Unions) denounced that the candidates, after having paid the 1,000€ contribution, risk losing their right to regularisation due to the discretionary behaviour adopted in checking singular cases by the prefectures.
    Source: La Repubblica, 24 April 2013

  • ITALY / Constitutional Court stopped discrimination towards disabled foreigners

    The Italian Constitutional Court, in its judgment no. 40/2013 overruled sections of Law n.388/2000 that limited access to mobility allowances and disability pensions to migrants in possession of an indefinite leave to remain. The lawyer Angelo Marra declared that the Court, in line with the principles set out within the European Convention on Human Rights, recognised that discrimination of third-country nationals based solely on grounds of nationality would be unlawful. Migrants residing in Italy, if in possession of a valid residence permit, would therefore be entitled to mobility allowances and disability pensions on an equal basis with Italian and EU citizens.
    Source: Corriere della Sera, 1 May 2013

  • NETHERLANDS / Debate on criminalisation of irregularity risked a cabinet crisis

    A coalition agreement to criminalise irregularity in the Netherlands has put the government at risk of a cabinet crisis. According to the agreement between the social democratic PvdA (Partij van de Arbeid) and the right-liberal party VVD (Volkspartij voor Vrijheid en Democratie), irregularity should be criminalised and punished but support for irregular migrants should not be punished. The PvdA pushed through the “children’s pardon” (kinderpardon) in 2012 which entitles minor children of asylum seekers who have been residing in the Netherlands for several years to receive a residence permit. In return, the PvdA accepted the VVD’s demand to criminalise irregular migration. Both were part of the government’s agreement in October 2012. However, the majority of party members of the PvdA voted against the criminalisation of irregular migration at a party convention in late April. The VVD announced to be willing to give up on the criminalisation of irregularity as a last resort to prevent a major cabinet crisis. PvdA party leader, Diederik Samsom has been defending the compromise as a necessary concession to the VVD saying that negotiations with the coalition partner will continue. The council of party members convened on 12 May to negotiate the issue and by attempting to avoid unrest among coalition partners decided to support the party leader Samsom. The convention also pushed forward a list of other demands including an amendment on the criminalization law that support of irregular migrants will never be criminalized and the abolition of quota for the arrest of irregular migrants. According to a Gallup survey, 43 percent of Dutch voters are in favour of criminalising irregularity, 50 percent are against it and seven per cent had no opinion on the issue.
    Source: NRC Handelsblad, 8 May 2013; ANP, 5 May 2013

  • SPAIN / The Spanish Ombudsperson elaborates new recommendations to end identification controls based on racial profiles

    The Spanish Ombudsperson, Soledad Becerril, formulated new recommendations to the General Directorate of the Police (Dirección General de Policía) to end identification controls based on racial and ethnic profiling. The institution received a number of complaints, showing that more than 300 identification controls based on race and ethnicity took place in public spaces. For this reason, the Ombudsperson elaborated a number of recommendations to the General Directorate of the Police, such as the elaboration of a manual detailing specific safeguards for carrying out identification controls and the elaboration of a specific data collection system.
    Source: Defensor del Pueblo, 14 May 2013

  • SPAIN / Regional authorities in Catalonia and in the Canary Islands propose to restrict immigration policies and access to services for undocumented migrants

    The Spanish People’s Party (Partido Popular) announced, on 26 May 2013, its intention to file a motion to the Regional Parliament of Catalonia, addressed at restricting access to social services for migrants who hold a short-term visa or residence permit, as well as for undocumented migrants in the region. The motion would also establish measures addressed at preventing the provision of assistance and aid to undocumented migrants. Similarly, the President of the Parliament of the Canary Islands, Paulino Rivero, requested the Spanish Government to adopt a more restrictive immigration policy and especially to restrict access to residence and work permits for third-country nationals. The President of the Canary Islands bases his request on the need to stop the demographic increase within the archipelago.
    Source: El Mundo, 26 May 2013; El Mundo, 16 June 2013

  • UK / Private landlords might be requested to check immigration status

    The new Immigration Bill announced during the Queen’s speech might include the obligation of private landlords to check the immigration status of their tenants, as recently proposed by David Cameron. This kind of measure would foster discrimination against any person who looks foreign, convert landlords into border control agents and likely lead to more homelessness of undocumented migrants in the country. Another new initiative aims to stop rogue landlords from profiting from housing irregular migrants. The spokesman for the Department for Communities and Local Government noted the intent to avoid burdening the private rented sector with unnecessary red tape but to “send out a strong signal and help reduce unsustainable immigration”.
    Source: The Guardian, 8 May 2013

  • UK / Increase of trafficking in human beings

    Within recent years the number of trafficking victims in the UK has increased, whereas the number of prosecutions has decreased, thus sending out the message that the UK is not tough enough on trafficking. The report ‘In the Dock. Examining the UK’s Criminal Justice Response to Trafficking’   by the Anti-Trafficking Monitoring Group (ATMG) has identified cases of re-trafficking of children released from Young Offenders Institutions due to the inadequate protection and support systems. The report also found that many trafficked people are prosecuted for crimes they are forced to commit, while the criminal bosses who enslave them go unpunished. In addition, ATMG has received countless examples of situations where victims were not recognised by police but were instead referred to civil law proceedings or directed to immigration authorities. ATMG expresses concern that human trafficking is not a policing priority and calls for a unified law on trafficking to make it easier to prosecute traffickers.
    Source: The Independent, 19 June 2013

  • USA / Immigration bill passed by Senate panel

    A Senate panel voted 13-5 in favour of supporting an immigration bill which would eventually provide a path to citizenship for millions of undocumented migrants in the US, providing that they meet certain criteria. The bill includes provisions relating to the strengthening of the US-Mexican border. These recent developments follow the announcement in June 2012 by President Barack Obama allowing undocumented youth to apply for a two-year renewable visa permitting them to reside and work in the US (see PICUM Bulletin, 11 July 2012). The bill will now be debated fully in June by the full Senate. The bill being discussed represents the most important revision of the US immigration policy in the last 25 years.
    Source: BBC News, 22 May 2013

  • USA / Immigration bill – effect on social security

    After the US Senate passed the immigration bill, several authorities have given estimates on its potential impact on revenue over the next decades. According to the Center for American Progress, a supporter of immigration reform, if 70 percent of undocumented migrants are eligible for legal status under the bill, they will contribute $500 billion on net in 36 years. According to the Social Security Administration’s chief actuary, Stephen Goss, there will be a net gain from migrants because their withdrawals will be offset by their children’s contributions. However, the Social Security Administration also noted that in 2010 undocumented migrants paid a net contribution of about $12 billion, either by working under a fraudulent social security number or by using a legitimate social security number after overstaying a visa or otherwise losing permission to work. If these migrants obtain legal status and can prove their earnings, they could generally get credit for those contributions. But the Corker-Hoeven amendment to the Senate bill, which outlines a path to citizenship, would bar them from getting credit for the previous decade’s worth of payments even if they obtain legal status.
    Source: The New York Times, 2 July 2013

  • RUSSIA / Police arrests irregular migrants

    During several police raids in the area of Moscow, over 400 migrant workers were arrested of which 100 were found to have an irregular migration status. Russia increasingly relies on cheap labour from Central Asia, where many families depend on migrant earners. It is estimated that there are as many as three million undocumented migrants from neighbouring countries currently residing in Russia. The Federal Security Service has warned that the number of undocumented migrants may pose both criminal and terrorist threats to Russian national security and since December 2012 stricter punishments have been introduced to target the ‘uncontrollable flow’ of undocumented migrants.
    Source: BBC, 16 June 2013; RT.com, 05 June 2013


  • COUNCIL OF EUROPE / Parliamentary Assembly resolution on equal access to health care

    During its session in June 2013, the Parliamentary Assembly (PACE) unanimously adopted a resolution on equal access to health care. The Assembly notes that migrants in an irregular situation are particularly affected by inequalities in access to care, including mental health care. The resolution states that these inequalities lead to a phenomenon of non-recourse or delayed recourse to care with severe implications for both individual and public health and lead in the long term to an increase in health expenditure. Moreover, the resolution notes the negative impacts of austerity measures on health and calls on the Council of Europe member states to dissociate their security and immigration policies from health policy by abolishing the obligation on health professionals to report migrants in an irregular situation. Recommendations include full access to health care and social protection for pregnant women and children, irrespective of their status and the Assembly urges member states to ratify the European Social Charter if they have not yet done so.

  • GERMANY / Many migrants without health coverage

    According to the Ethical Commission of the German Medical Association (Bundesärztekammer), hundreds of thousands of migrants have no health insurance and have to rely on the goodwill of doctors for medical care. The result is that many of them go to the doctor when it is too late and die from diseases which could have been treated. This affects about 85,000 asylum seekers and about 600,000 undocumented migrants, including many children. The position paper of the German Medical Association notes that the extended confidentiality obliges that authorities who reimburse the treatment of undocumented migrants have official discretion regarding the patient’s data. However, this fact is largely unknown, which is why many doctors place the reporting obligation over medical confidentiality in the case of treatment of undocumented migrants. Therefore, doctors and hospitals treating migrants without insurance often do it for free and do not get the costs reimbursed.
    Source: Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, 2 May 2013

  • SPAIN / The Regional Ministry of Health of the Balearic Islands holds hospital’s Director accountable for the death of Alpha Pam

    Following the death of Alpha Pam, an undocumented migrant of Senegalese origins who died after having been refused access to treatment at the Inca Hospital in the Balearic Islands (See PICUM Bulletin, 17 May 2013), the Regional Ministry of Health, Martí Sansaloni, fired the director of the Hospital, Fernando Navarro. According to the Regional Ministry, Mr Navarro “should have known and duly applied the health legislation that applies to undocumented migrants”.  A formal investigation has also been opened in relation to the health professionals who denied Alpha Pam access to necessary care.
    Source: El Mundo, 22 May 2013

  • SPAIN / 43 municipalities already rejected the criminalisation of solidarity in the Criminal Code

    43 Spanish municipalities have so far rejected the Spanish government’s proposal to criminalise assistance of undocumented migrants. This is the result of the campaign ‘Let’s Save Hospitality’ (Salvemos la Hospitalidad) which was launched in February 2013 by a group of social organisations. The Spanish Penal Code defines solidarity as a crime. PICUM and Doctors of the World are amongst the international supporters of the campaign. For more information and to support the campaign, visit  www.salvemoslahospitalidad.org.
    Source: Canal Solidario, 11 June 2013

  • SWEDEN / A new reform will grant access to health care for undocumented migrants

    The Swedish Government introduced reforms to the health care system on 22 May 2013, which will enter into force on 1 July 2013. The reform grants access to health care, including ordinary care, to undocumented children under the age of 18 and grants access to health care “that cannot be postponed”, including dental care, maternity care, contraceptive counselling and sexual and reproductive care to all undocumented migrants. In addition, the new reform stipulates that county councils would be able to offer undocumented migrants the same level of care that is available to residents. Before the passing of this reform, the right of access to health care was directly linked to the patient’s administrative status. In this legal framework, undocumented migrants in Sweden had the right to receive emergency care only and were always required to pay the costs for receiving emergency care. As an example, a pregnant undocumented woman, before the passing of the new law, had to pay a fee of about €5,000 in order to give birth in a public hospital.
    Source: Riksdagsskrivelse 2012/13:230, Parliamentary Letter of 22 May 2013


  • UK / Migrant workers could be needed in horticultural sector

    According to the Home Office’s Migration Advisory Committee’s report, migrant workers from outside the EU are needed to ensure the subsistence and competitiveness of the UK fruit-picking industry. At the end of 2013, work restrictions for Romanian and Bulgarian migrants will be lifted and it is expected that they will switch to other types of employment. At the same time horticultural work is a kind of job that British workers are less likely to do. Professor David Metcalf, the committee chairman, suggested a change in the seasonal agricultural workers scheme in order to target workers from outside Europe, such as Ukraine.
    Source: London Evening Standard, 14 May 2013

  • UK / 81-year old woman died after migration raid on private care company

    Gloria Foster, a UK widow, died in February 2013 after being left nine days without health care following an immigration raid and subsequent closure of Carefirst24, the agency which cared for her. The UK Border Agency suspected the agency was employing undocumented migrants and arrested nine persons during the raid. After the arrest of the migrant care workers, the agency and local authorities apparently forgot about Ms. Foster and she was discovered by a nurse by chance and taken to the hospital where she died some days later. The investigation carried out by Surrey police has not led to criminal charges.
    Source: The Guardian, 29 June 2013

  • UN / New ILO report on ending child labour in domestic work

    Within the framework of the two ILO conventions on child labour and the recently adopted instruments on decent work for domestic workers, a new report from the ILO sets the scene for a better understanding of child labour in domestic work. It outlines why involvement of children in domestic work should be a global concern and presents the basic concepts in this area as well as the required responses. The particular vulnerability of undocumented child domestic workers is noted. Read the report here.
    Source: International Labour Organisation, 12 June 2013


  • ITALY / Italy ratifies Council of Europe Convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence

    Italy unanimously ratified the Council of Europe Convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence, 2011, also known as “Istanbul Convention” on 19 June 2013. The Convention sets out, and calls for the implementation, of legally binding standards to prevent violence, protect its victims and punish perpetrators (see also:PICUM Bulletin – 7 June 2011). The Istanbul Convention has so far been ratified by five countries: Albania, Montenegro, Portugal, Turkey and Italy.
    Source: La Repubblica, 19 June 2013

  • USA / Documentary on sexual harassment of female farmworkers

    Female farmworkers frequently become victims of sexual assaults, harassment and intimidation by supervisors and fellow workers. Many have suffered in silence, afraid to tell authorities for fear of losing their jobs or being deported. Women make up 24% of the agricultural work force in the United States, according to federal statistics. According to experts, at least 60% of farmworkers are undocumented. A new documentary report, entitled “Rape in the Fields”, addresses the issue and gives a voice to victims. The report interviewed 50 women working a variety of crops in California, North Carolina and the state of New York. Researchers found that women who resisted their supervisor’s advances were fired or not rehired the following year. The perpetrators are rarely brought to justice. The documentary was produced in partnership with Univision, the Center for Investigative Reporting and the investigative reporting program at the University of California at Berkeley.  The documentary is available here.
    Source: The Fresno Bee, 23 June 2013

  • USA / Report by the Immigration Policy Center shows that immigration law is not gender neutral

    The Immigration Policy Center released a new study entitled ‘Gendered Paths to Legal Status: The case of Latin America Immigrants in Phoenix, Arizona’ on 29 May 2013. The study is a result of ten years of research on the experiences of men and women in connection with immigration law in the United States. The report shows that immigration law is not gender neutral, as it contains gender biases that create enhanced barriers for migrant women. The report highlights that a number of inequalities can be identified within immigration law provisions and that, even laws specifically addressed at protecting women, as for example the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), continues to present gender-biased lines.
    Source: Immigration Policy Center, 29 May 2013


  • EU / Support for European Commissions Child Focus Recommendation

    The European Parliament’s Employment and Social Affairs Committee has adopted the resolution ‘Towards Social Investment for Growth and Cohesion including implementing the European Social Fund.’ The resolution includes an endorsement of the European Commission’s recommendation ‘Investing in Children – Breaking the Cycle of Disadvantage’. The support comes in a form of a resolution adopted by the Employment and Social Affairs committee. This resolution, which has a section dedicated to the Recommendation, was further improved with references to the comprehensive three-pillar approach to child poverty that recognises children as rights holders; and the need to focus on early intervention and prevention rather than reaction in the effort to tackle child poverty. Here you can read the European Parliament draft motion resolution.
    Source: Eurochild e- News Bulletin, 31 May 2013

  • SWEDEN / Sweden plans to open a reception centre for unaccompanied minors in Kabul, Afghanistan

    The Swedish Migration Board is holding talks with Afghani authorities about the possibility of opening a reception centre in Kabul to host minors who have voluntarily returned to Afghanistan but also to children who have been deported from Sweden. This reception centre is part of a joint project between Sweden, Norway, Great Britain and Holland and was initiated after an increase in unaccompanied children seeking asylum in Europe.
    Source: The Local, 1 June, 2013

  • SWEDEN / New age assessment method sparks criticism from child rights organisations

    A medical age assessment, including x-rays of the wrists, teeth and skeleton, as well as a doctor’s opinion, has been introduced for cases where migration officials have doubts about the age of unaccompanied children. The new assessment has sparked criticism from Save the Children (Rädda Barnen) in Sweden, which believes children’s own accounts about their age should carry weight. Further, even Oskar Ekblad, head of the asylum assessment division at the Migration Board, explained that one cannot completely rule out that someone is a child, even with the new methods. The Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights, as well as the Ombudsmen for Children at European level, have voiced concerns about the reliability and ethics of bone x-rays, and called for multi-disciplinary age assessment methods to be carried out only in cases of serious doubt, by independent experts, with the child given the benefit of the doubt and a right to appeal.
    Source: The Local, 4 June 2012 c.f. AEDH newsletter No. 246, 7 June 2012

  • SWITZERLAND / Member of the Swiss People’s Party challenging access to education for undocumented children

    On 23 May 2013, Oskar Freysinger, Member of the Swiss People’s Party in charge of public instruction in the Canton of Valais in Switzerland, declared that he will no longer accept undocumented children in schools. He also called Swiss citizens and public teachers to denounce the presence of undocumented children and their families living in the Canton. His declaration has been largely commented on in the news, and has provoked counter reactions as the Swiss Federal Constitution states that all Cantons who are in charge of the education policy ensure sufficient primary education open to all children, regardless of their immigration status.
    Source: RTS TV, 23 May 2013

  • UK / Family migration rules separating spouses and children based on financial earnings

    A cross party group of UK MP’s are calling for an urgent review of family migration rules which, as of July 2012, require British citizens to earn over £18,600 per year in order to sponsor a non-EU spouse to reside with them in the UK.  According to the inquiry report published by the group, these measures are causing great anguish to families that are separated based on the financial threshold, which it is estimated 47% of the UK working population would fail to meet. The restrictive conditions were introduced to curb immigration in Britain and also to guarantee that a migrant joining a UK spouse would not become a burden on the taxpayer. The cross party group however stresses that this clearly fails to meet the government’s pledge to support the family and moreover whatever the objectives of the policy children should not be the ones to suffer from infrequent contact with separated parents. The Migrants Rights Centre asks those interested in showing their support for the right to family life to add their signature to their letter to the UK government, available online.
    Sources:  The Guardian, 11 June 2013; The BBC, 11 June 2013

  • UK / Committee finds immigration concerns prioritised over migrant children’s welfare

    The Joint Committee on Human Rights (JCHR) has published its ‘Report on the human rights of unaccompanied migrant children in the United Kingdom’. The Committee heard evidence of the range of issues that unaccompanied migrant children face during their time in the country. The Committee concludes that, despite the rights to protection and support owed to those children by the UK under the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, immigration concerns are too often given first priority. The Report calls for a change in emphasis; to put the best interests of such children at the heart of the often complex and stressful asylum and immigration processes affecting them. Download the report here.
    Source: Joint Select Committee, 12 June 2013

  • UK / Local authorities’ perspective on changes to legal aid

    The Association of Directors for Children’s Services, the Local Government Association and the NRPF Network have compiled a document expressing their concern about the proposed changes and impact of legal aid on local authorities and communities. The document expresses apprehension that the proposed residency test will indirectly discriminate against nationality, contrary to the Equality 2010 Act and the ECHR. It is also likely that the test would be unlawful in cases where legal proceedings are the only way to effectively safeguard other human rights and would leave vulnerable people and children at risk in cases of domestic violence, abduction, or care proceedings. Moreover the proposal to remove legal aid for borderline cases jeopardizes the rule of law as it makes access to legal proceedings more difficult. The Association of Directors for Children’s Services, the Local Government Association and the NRPF Network have invited the Ministry of Justice to meet with their representatives to discuss these proposals in more detail. For more information, please click here.

  • UN / Committee releases guidance on best interests of the child principle

    The Committee on the Rights of the Child has released General Comment No. 14 on the right of the child to have his or her best interests taken as a primary consideration in all actions or decisions that concern him or her, both in the public and private sphere (Article 3.1 of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child). As well as analysing and providing guidance regarding the interpretation and applicability of the article, the General Comment looks practically at implementation. The Committee clarifies that decisions made by administrative authorities at all levels as well as implementation measures, including those concerning education, health, living conditions and immigration, must be assessed and guided by the best interests of the child. Read the General Comment.


  • ITALY / New report shows that criminalisation of irregular entry and irregular stay does not deter irregular migration

    The University of Pisa issued a report entitled ‘The criminalisation of irregular immigration: law and practice in Italy’ in May 2013. The report analyses the most commonly adopted procedures for deportation of undocumented migrants in Italy and shows that the Centres for Identification and Expulsion (CIEs) are ineffective and inefficient. Based on data collected by researchers of the University of Pisa, the report shows that the cost for detaining and returning undocumented migrants in Italy amounts to €55 million per year. According to the report, only 0.6 per cent of undocumented migrants who have been detained are returned. Moreover, the Italian NGO Doctors for Human Rights criticises the lack of basic fundamental human rights and human dignity and experts note that the system has not deterred migrants from entering Italy.
    Source: Corriere Immigrazione, 12 May 2013; International Herald Tribune, 06 June 2013

  • UK / Death of two men following their detention in immigration removal centre near Heathrow

    The Institute of Race Relations (IRR) revealed that two asylum seekers died after being held in the detention centre in Harmondsworth, due to lack of health care in the first three months of 2013. A report issued by the Independent Monitoring Board reveals that these deaths are not the first to occur following detention in this centre, as two others men died in hospital on 17 November 2012 and on 6 December 2011. According to the report of the Institute of Race Relations ‘Driven to Desperate Measures 2006-2010’, which documents deaths of migrants or asylum seekers who have died either attempting to reach or in the UK, a total of 19 people have died in immigration detention and at least another five people have died following release from immigration removal centres on health grounds in the UK.
    Source: Institute of Race Relations, 2 May 2013

  • USA / Children kept in adult detention centres

    From October 2011 to October 2012 some 31,000 juveniles were apprehended by border patrol, many of whom were then held in immigration centres. Moreover the National Immigrant Justice Centre (NIJC) has obtained information documenting that children are often detained within adult detention centres and often for uncertain periods of time; varying from days to weeks but also, in exceptional cases, children have been held for more than a year. One such child was detained for over a decade from the age of fifteen. According to US law, apprehended undocumented children should be held in the least restrictive setting appropriate to their age and needs and the law also explicitly mandates that “juveniles will not be detained with an unrelated adult for more than 24 hours.” Thus as the NIJC points out the current system is failing. An additional issue of concern highlighted by the NIJC is the lack of access to legal counsel for undocumented immigrants which, in light of the number of detainees each year, also adds to the chaos of a system that is crying out for reform.
    Source: Mother Jones, 11 June 2013


  • DUBLIN II PROCEDURE / Publication of the Jesuit Refugee Service Europe ‘Protection Interrupted’

    The Jesuit Refugee Service (JSR) Europe released ‘Protection Interrupted: The Dublin Regulations Impact on Asylum Seekers’ protection’, a report which examines the problems of the European asylum process from the perspective of migrants. The research demonstrates that despite the Dublin II intention to harmonise EU member states’ shared responsibility for assessing asylum seekers’ applications, the system vastly differs from one member state to the next and contains many flaws, e.g., inconsistent provision of housing and the frequency of detention. In response, the study proposes ensuring adequate reception conditions such as housing and medical care, keeping families together for the duration of Dublin procedures, closely monitoring member states’ implementation of the Dublin regulations to guarantee the protection of fundamental rights, ending automatic detention and implementing a legal presumption against detention, and improved information about Dublin procedures for migrants including access to qualified lawyers. To view the report, click here.
    Source: Jesuit Refugee Service, 04 June 2013

  • GREECE / Human Rights Watch report on police in Greece abusing migrants

    Human Rights Watch (HRW) have released ‘Unwelcomed Guests’, a report which examines the concern of ethnic profiling and discrimination exercised under Operation Xenion Zeus, the Greek approach to identifying undocumented migrants. Launched in August 2012, the Greek operation has increased the police’s powers to verify the status of presumed undocumented migrants by conducting identity checks. However the report illustrates a serious lack of procedural safeguards under European and international human rights law including absence of legal precision and lawful deprivation of liberty. According to Greek authorities, inspections are carried out based on information about where undocumented migrants congregate but HRW highlights the likelihood of racial and ethnic profiling based on the discretionary powers given to untrained police. This resulted in 85,000 inspections within the first seven months of the operation, of which only 6% led to the identification of undocumented migrants.
    Source: Human Rights Watch, 12 June 2013

  • REPORT / Amnesty International’s ‘The state of the world’s human rights’ 2013 draws the attention to the situation of migrants and refugees

    2013 Amnesty International’s (AI) report on ‘The state of the world’s human rights’ asserts that the world has become more dangerous for refugees and migrants and points at the European Union for its border control policy that puts asylum seekers’ and migrants’ lives at risk. AI declares that anti-immigration measures create a populist rhetoric that provides the path for impunity before migrants’ exploitation and abuse. The report assesses the situation of 159 countries, including EU countries. In Italy, AI draws attention to the bad condition in detention centres, lack of safeguards for the return of irregular migrants to their countries of origin and inadequate access to justice. AI also denounces migrants’ discrimination in Spain as one of the main areas of human rights abuses in the country, including racial and ethnic profiling in police identifications and the exclusion of irregular migrants from access to health care. In Greece, the report criticizes the legislation approved last year that allows detention of irregular migrants and asylum seekers on grounds such as being suspected of carrying infectious diseases. To read the full report in English click here.
    Source: BBC News, 23 May 2013; La Repubblica, 23 May 2013; Eldiario.es, 22 Mai 2013; EnetEnglish, 23 May 2013

  • HOMELESSNESS / Free movement and homelessness within the EU

    The European Federation of National Organisations Working with Homeless (FEANSTA) has published ‘Homeless in Europe’, a document which examines the fundamental EU principle of free movement and member states responses to migrants who have exercised this right but subsequently become destitute in the host state. The study focuses on the level of rights these categories of migrants hold and demonstrates that there is a variation of policy measures between member states. Reports on France, Poland, Ireland, Sweden and the UK each document the various national rules that often restrict EU migrants’ access to basic needs such as shelters that rely on public funds, housing and health care. Wayne Stanley notes the consequences to limiting support to EU citizens can give rise to increased homelessness and often hinder migrants from moving on from homelessness. FEANSTA also emphasizes that the denial of services is not the answer to the problem of homelessness within Europe and proposes that the only way to achieve a long term solution is with adequate access and clarity on social polices throughout the EU.
    Source: FEANSTA- The European Federation of National Organizations Working with Homeless, 05 June 2013

  • USA / Human Rights Watch Report ‘US: Prosecuting Migrants is Hurting Families’

    Human Rights Watch published a report entitled ‘Turning Migrants into Criminals: The Harmful Impact of US Border Prosecutions’  on 22 May 2013.  The report highlights the negative effects of irregular entry and re-entry of migrants in the United States. The report shows that criminalisation and prosecution of undocumented migrants under criminal law have important consequences, especially in relation to their family rights. The research is based on a thorough analysis of official data provided by the US government and on interviews with more than 180 people, including undocumented migrants themselves and their families, but also lawyers, prosecutors, and judges.
    Source: Human Rights Watch, 22 May 2013


  • WORKSHOP / Housing and Homelessness of Undocumented Migrants in Europe: Building Alliances and Developing Strategies

    PICUM held its annual conference entitled ’Housing and Homelessness of Undocumented Migrants in Europe: Building Alliances and Developing Strategies’ on 28 June 2013 Brussels, Belgium. The conference was organised in partnership with FEANTSA (European Federation of National Organisations working with the homeless) and EAPN (European Anti-Poverty Network). The workshop which was attended by nearly 200 people, strengthened dialogue amongst service providers, anti-poverty organisations, migrants’ organisations, local authorities and policy makers by focusing on access and protection of rights within the private market and access to shelter provided by the state, local government or civil society. For a selection of speakers’ presentations, visit the PICUM website. To view the workshop’s photos, click here.


  • HUMANITARIAN AWARD / Council of Europe opens nominations for Raoul Wallenberg prize

    The Council of Europe Raoul Wallenberg prize, worth €10,000, is open for nominations for extraordinary humanitarian achievements by a single individual, a group of individuals or an organisation. The award is in honour of the Swedish diplomat Raoul Wallenberg who used his status to save thousands of Jews from the Holocaust and is renowned worldwide for his outstanding courage during World War II. The Council of Europe Secretary General launched the call for nominations in March 2013 and all nominations must be received by 30 September 2013. For more information please click here.
    Source: Council of Europe, 13 June 2013

  • FRANCE / PHOTOS / The situation of irregular migrants in Calais

    A French independent photographer, Marion Osmont, published a book entitled ’Des Hommes vivent ici’ (People are living here) tracing in images the history of migrants living in Calais during these last ten years. Her photographs illustrate the extreme precarious humanitarian situation of migrants after the dismantlement of the Sangatte centre in 2002, leaving them no other choice but to live in squats or in the streets, with the constant fear of being evacuated by police forces. The book also shows examples of initiatives taken by associations and municipalities to provide migrants shelters in the region of Calais.
    Source: Le Monde Diplo, 9 May 2013


  • EU / EU urged to ensure migrants’ human rights at the external borders

    The launch of François Crépeau’s, UN Special Rapporteur on the human rights of migrants, report on the EU’s border management and the human rights of migrants, co-organised by PICUM at the European Parliament on 30 May, 2013, was covered by several national and EU media outlets. The European Union affairs portal EurActiv also quoted PICUM Director, Michele LeVoy, on the importance of using correct terminology to avoid the criminalisation of undocumented migrants.
    Source: EurActiv,31 May 2013; De Standaard,27 May 2013. The event was also covered by EUObserver, New Europe, La Libre Belgique, and NewsNow.

  • EU / Joint statements of NGOs demanding the EU to respect migrant workers’ rights

    The Spanish EU affairs news agency Europa Press published an article on a joint statement of Caritas Europe, PICUM and other NGOs recalling the need to guarantee a uniform and extensive set of labour rights for third-country workers across the EU. The statement is a response to the European Commission’s proposed directive on ‘conditions of entry and residence of third-country nationals for the purposes of seasonal employment’.
    Source: Europa Press, 14 May 2013

  • CZECH REPUBLIC / Proposal for regularisation of irregular migrants in the Czech Republic

    The Czech edition of the European Union affairs portal EurActiv discussed the Czech Republic’s Foreigners Act proposal and the regularisation of undocumented migrants. The piece quotes PICUM Programme Officer, Lilana Keith on the advantages of regularisation.
    Source: EurActiv CZ, 17 May 2013

  • SPAIN / 43 Spanish municipalities have so far rejected the proposal for criminalisation of solidarity

    PICUM was mentioned as supporter of the “Let’s save hospitality” (Salvemos la hospitalidad) campaign in a guest blog written by Malaga Acoge on the Spanish social affairs blog Canal Solidario.
    Source: Canal Solidario, 12 June 2013

  • UK / Opinion on the proposal for private landlords to check the immigration status of tenants

    Inside Housing UK published an opinion authored by PICUM Director, Michele LeVoy, on the UK government’s proposal to make landlords check their tenants’ residency status. The piece followed PICUM’s annual workshop which focused on access to housing and homelessness of undocumented migrants.
    Source: Inside Housing UK, 1 July 2013

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