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EU / MEDITERRANEAN / Nearly 2,300 die at sea, EU action plan for Italy and the Central Mediterranean and proposed code of conduct for civilian rescue groups
According to the International Organization for Migration’s (IOM) Missing Migrants Project, between 1 January and 5 July 2017, 2,297 people died at sea and 101,266 migrants and refugees entered Europe by sea. Of those arriving, nearly 85% arrived in Italy. Several EU member states including Belgium, Germany and the Netherlands have stated that they would not support Italy with the reception of migrants by opening their countries’ own ports to migrants. The Ministers of Interior of France, Germany and Italy met with the European Commissioner for Migration and Home Affairs in Paris on 2 July 2017 to discuss the situation on the Central Mediterranean migration route where they agreed on a set of measures. The measures include a search and rescue code of conduct for NGOs, additional support for the Libyan coastguard, and reinforcement of the EU strategy on returns of migrants. Human Rights Watch (HRW) stated the measures ‘fall far short of what is needed’. The European Commission published an “Action plan on measures to support Italy, reduce pressure along the Central Mediterranean route and increase solidarity” on 4 July 2017. The plan aims to ‘reduce migratory pressure’ along the Central Mediterranean route. This includes the proposal of a code of conduct for NGOs involved in search and rescue which Italy should draft, in consultation with the EU Commission and through dialogue with NGOs. NGOs rescuing migrants in the Mediterranean have faced increased allegations of creating a ‘pull-factor’ for more migrants to be brought to Europe (see PICUM Bulletin 4 April 2017). NGOs involved are concerned a code of conduct could put them under the control of the Libyan and Italian coast guards and thus limit their ability to save migrants. The action plan further foresees measures to control migration in the Mediterranean including EU and member states’ engagement with Niger and Mali to prevent movements towards Libya; EU readmission agreements and practical arrangements with third countries as well as Italy to expedite returns and increase existing capacity of stationary hotspots and detention capacity. The plan further states that EU member states should step up relocation from Italy and the EU should increase funding for migration management in Italy. Amnesty International called the plan “woefully inadequate”. The failure of European policies in the Central Mediterranean is also the topic of Amnesty International’s new report ‘A Perfect Storm’, published on 6 July 2017. The report recommends that EU member states and institutions, including Frontex, ensure adequate search and rescue, that the Libyan coastguard should allow search and rescue operations by civilian vessels including boats operated by NGOs and that EU member states should open safe and legal routes to Europe. The report is available for download here.
Sources: International Organization for Migration, Missing Migrants Project, 7 July 2017; EU Observer, 6 July 2017
LIBYA / Documentation of renewed abuse and migrants’ rights violations
New reports show that the Libyan coast guards and other officials have mistreated and abused migrants. Coast guard units have reportedly committed crimes while at the same time engaging in operations to keep migrants from leaving Libya towards Europe, funded by EU money. Some are said to have been directly involved in the sinking of migrant boats using firearms. A new UN report from the Panel of Experts on Libya addresses these issues as well as the conditions of many migrant detention centres and the manner in which they are operated and controlled. The report discusses links between armed groups and criminal gangs in regard to migrant smuggling and the control of migrant detention centres by such groups. Abuses include deprivation of food and water, lack of access to sanitation, beatings, forced labour, rape and other forms of sexual violence. The final report of the Panel of Experts on Libya, established pursuant to UN Security Council resolution 1973 (2011), was transmitted to the UN Security Council on 1 June. Human Rights Watch (HRW) stated that Libyan authorities lack the capacity, equipment and training to perform safe rescues, which should be required before they can assume coordination.
Sources: Human Rights Watch (HRW), 19 June 2017; Washington Post, 11 July 2017
GREECE / Allegations of refoulement from Greece to Turkey
Following continued reports, the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) has raised concerns about push-backs and refoulement at the land border between Greece and Turkey. UNHCR emphasises the right to seek protection as a fundamental human right and the obligation of states under international law to provide all asylum seekers with access to asylum procedures and protection from refoulement, or informal forced return. Furthermore, the agency has called upon the Greek authorities for preventive measures, rules and procedures at the border, as well as independent monitoring mechanisms and enhanced internal control structures. The Greek organisation Hellenic League of Human Rights has announced investigations about the cases of the persecuted Turkish journalist Murat Çapan, his two friends and a family with three children who made the crossing to Greece and were to be transferred to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees but forcibly returned to Turkey by masked gunmen. The organisation also reports on an incident on 2 June, where a family with four children was returned without being able to apply for asylum. The Turkish journalist Murat Çapan has meanwhile been imprisoned in Turkey, sentenced to 22.5 years.
Sources: ECRE, 16 June 2017; UNHCR, 8 June 2017; The Hellenic League for Human Rights, 29 May 2017; Fidh, 30 May 2017; Fidh, 6 June 2017
HUNGARY / Electrified border fence to deter migrants
According to media reports, the Hungarian government is testing an electrified ‘smart fence’ on the border with Serbia. Fences that have been erected on Hungary’s border use electronic monitoring equipment, including cameras, thermal imaging devices and an intelligent fence alarm system to immediately detect if the fence is cut and alerting border guards. The Belgrade Centre for Protection and Help for Asylum-Seekers stated that electrified fences are in violation of human rights agreements. Hungarian officials claimed that the voltage running in the fence is too low to hurt people and only alerts border patrols if somebody is attempting to cross the border.
Sources: Balkan Insight, 4 July 2017; Budapest Business Journal 5 July 2017
FRANCE / Court allows detention of irregular migrants at French-Italian border
The Administrative Tribunal of Nice has allowed the detention of migrants in a border zone controlled by the police at the French-Italian border in Menton. A group of NGOs, including ADDE, Anafé, Cimade, Gisti and SAF, released a joint statement on 7 June 2017, to call for an emergency procedure to protect people seeking protection and to end detention at the French-Italian border. This was rejected by the Administrative Tribunal of Nice. According to Forum Réfugiés Cosi, 95% of the nearly 36,790 migrants arrested in the area in 2016 have been sent back to Italy, without access to international protection procedures in France. Since 2015, the transit zone, where arriving migrants are not considered to have formally set foot on French territory, has allowed local authorities to detain migrants and asylum seekers and return them to Italy. Various human rights organisations such as Amnesty International and Forum Refugiés Cosi previously expressed concern about the reception conditions, lack of transparency and human rights violations in that region, as well as the lack of access to asylum and other procedures and legal aid. The Tribunal judged that their detention did not represent a certain and precise violation of freedom of movement and the right to seek asylum. However, people should be transferred to appropriate waiting zones if the detention lasts over four hours. From January to May 2017, around 15,700 migrants were subject to the non-admission procedure and returned to the Italian authorities.
Sources: GISTI, joint statement, 7 June 2017; L’Orient Le Jour, 10 June 2017; ECRE, Weekly Bulletin, 16 June 2016; ECRE, Weekly Bulletin, 5 May 2017
FRANCE / Outrage as far right group seeks to prevent search and rescue missions in Mediterranean
The far right activist group “Génération Identitaire” has raised money to prevent search and rescue missions for migrants lost and drowning in the Mediterranean. A petition was launched to prohibit their campaign, and the Paypal platform froze their fundraising, according to its policy stating that its services should not be used for activities promoting hatred, violence or racial intolerance. Migrants’ rights defenders argue that the actions of the group violate international and French law, based on the principle of non-refoulement, the prohibition on preventing assistance to a person in imminent danger, and the obligation to protect human life at sea.
Sources: Le Figaro, 14 June 2017; 24 Heures, 12 June 2017
SPAIN / Low number of migrants in Ceuta
In June 2017, the Centre for Temporary Residence of Migrants (CETI) in Ceuta, the Spanish enclave in Northern Morocco, registered 540 migrants, a historic low. Transfers to reception centres throughout Spain have been reduced as the Ceuta CETI is near its foreseen capacity of 512 places. Transfers are usually made between the Ceuta CETI and nine autonomous provinces thanks to agreements between the Ministry of Interior and local NGOs. From 1 January to 1 June 2017, 1,342 migrants were transferred to the mainland to relieve the centre in Ceuta.
Source: El Confidencial, 11 June 2017
UN / Call for input on positive practices and policies in protecting rights of undocumented migrants
The Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) is preparing a compendium of principles, good practices and policies on safe, orderly and regular migration in line with international human rights law. They would be grateful for contributions, in particular in relation to the following thematic areas which are based on the six informal thematic sessions of the preparatory process for the global compact on migration:
1. The promotion and protection of the human rights of all migrants, regardless of status, as well as ensuring social inclusion and cohesion and addressing all forms of discrimination, including racism, xenophobia and intolerance; 2. Addressing drivers of migration, including the adverse effects of climate change, natural disasters and human-made crises, through protection and assistance, poverty eradication, conflict prevention and resolution; 3. International cooperation and governance of migration at borders, in transit, at entry, and in relation to return, readmission, integration and reintegration; 4. Sustainable development and migration, including harnessing the contributions of all migrants and ensuring portability of earned benefits; 5. Identification, protection and assistance in the context of smuggling of migrants, trafficking in persons and contemporary forms of slavery; 6. Decent work, labour mobility, recognition of skills and qualifications and other relevant measures, as well as ensuring regular pathways for migration. Please send all information by 24 July 2017 to the firstname.lastname@example.org, with a copy to email@example.com and firstname.lastname@example.org. Please indicate whether the information provided can be made available on the OHCHR website. The report will be submitted to the Human Rights Council in September.
EUROPEAN POLICY DEVELOPMENTS
EUROPEAN COUNCIL / Conclusions focus on increased migration control
The European Council released conclusions on migration on 23 June 2017, focusing on border control to stop irregular migration, the implementation of the EU-Turkey Deal, and the reform of the Common European Asylum System (CEAS). The EU will seek enhanced cooperation with countries of origin and transit, in particular with Libya, to reduce arrivals. It will also increase efforts towards its deportation and readmission policy through agreements and other forms of practical arrangements with third countries. The new CEAS will seek to balance responsibility and solidarity between member states, and ensure governance of migration flows. The EU will also work on an EU list of safe third countries. The EU-Turkey deal as well as agreements with third countries have been widely criticised by human rights groups. The full Council conclusions are available here.
EUROPEAN COMMISSION / Launch of infringement procedure against Hungary, Czech Republic and Poland
The European Commission has launched an infringement procedure against Hungary, the Czech Republic and Poland on 14 June 2017, because they breached their obligation to offer places for the relocation of asylum seekers. According to the 2015 Council Decisions on relocation, the temporary emergency relocation scheme aims to relocate persons in need of international protection from Italy and Greece to other member states. Poland and Hungary have refused to take a single person under the scheme since its beginning, and the Czech Republic has not renewed its pledge to take in asylum seekers since December 2016.
Sources: European Commission, press release, 14 June 2017; Reuters, 12 June 2017
EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT / Response to EU Commission’s proposed expansion of the scope of Eurodac database
The European Parliament (EP) released its report on 9 June, reacting to the proposal of the European Commission to reshape the Eurodac regulation. The Commission suggests broadening the purpose of Eurodac from determining which member state is responsible for reviewing an application for international protection to also assist with the control of irregular migration and secondary movements of asylum seekers. The Eurodac regulation was adopted in 2003, establishing a central EU database of asylum seekers’ fingerprints, so that anyone applying for asylum anywhere in the EU or apprehended in relation to an irregular border crossing has their fingerprints transmitted to the Eurodac system. The Commission’s proposal expands the scope to also collect the fingerprints of persons apprehended for irregular residence or stay, and to collect the fingerprints of children from the age of six rather than 14. Some of the main amendments proposed by the Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs (LIBE) Committee, whose position has been tabled for the European Parliament as co-legislator, include: including stateless persons as well as third country nationals, introducing the purpose of identifying secondary movements of resettled persons and option use of data to identify and trace missing children and carry out family tracing, allowing member states to not collect fingerprints of third country nationals who entered the EU regularly and have residing irregularly for no more than 15 days, and including some additional human rights, data and child protection safeguards, including reducing the period of data retention to five years and prohibiting immigration detention of children. To read the full report of the Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs, click here.
FRANCE / Violations of fundamental rights of migrants in Calais
The French ombudsperson (Défenseur des droits) stated on 14 June that there were “fundamental rights violations of an exceptional and unprecedented severity” towards migrants in Calais, and urged the state to intervene and provide essential services to migrants. After the dismantlement of the camp last October, there are no shelters available, which impacts in particular women and children. Migrants sleep rough and are pursued by the police. NGOs are prevented from providing essential services such as access to sanitation, water or food. A group of migrants and NGOs started a legal action on 16 June against the authorities, with the aim of asking the state to comply with its obligations.
Sources: La Croix, 16 June 2017; La Croix, 14 June 2017
GERMANY / NGOs call for a more open Europe and regular pathways for migration
VENRO, the umbrella organisation of development and humanitarian aid non-governmental organisations (NGOs) in Germany, together with 20 civil society organisations called on the German government in a joint position paper, released in June 2017, to provide regular pathways for migration and to counter xenophobia. The paper demands more human rights-based migration policies, the sharing of a positive, developmental understanding of migration, the creation of regular pathways for migration, the improved protection of undocumented migrants, the ratification of existing conventions concerning protection of migrants and to not link development aid funding to migration control. See the full position paper here. Similarly, ProAsyl and other NGOs called for an open Europe for refugees and migrants and improved access to asylum in a joint statement on 19 June. They argue against passing responsibility to third countries where people might be exposed to injustice and abuse. The full statement can be viewed here.
Sources: epo, 6 June 2017; ProAsyl, 20 June 2016; EpochTimes, 19 June 2017
GERMANY / Violence against LGBTI migrants and refugees
A written request of the social democrat and Member of Parliament, Tom Schreiber, to the senate of Berlin reveals alarming numbers of violent assaults against LGBTI migrants and refugees. Mr Schreiber asked the senate to provide information concerning homophobic and transphobic incidents or assaults on refugees in Berlin in the past three years, how many cases involved security personnel of refugee accommodation in Berlin, if appropriate reports have been passed on, which measures are being implemented, what kind of training for staff has been conducted, which quality standards are being met and if the senate is aware of incidents involving German authorities in the past three years. The detailed response of the senate reveals that in the past three years, 355 cases of violence against LGBTI migrants and refugees have been documented by civil society organisations, while only very few of these cases have been reported to the police. According to the organisation LesMigraS, at least 86 cases are known where LGBTI migrants and refugees were assaulted at public authority offices. Affected persons report numerous verbal insults. The request of Tom Schreiber with the detailed answers of the senate can be viewed here.
Sources: Queer.de, 11 June 2017, Abgeordnetenhaus Berlin, 31 May 2017
GERMANY / Church asylum remains in place after authorities’ arrest of migrants
After authorities searched two church buildings where church asylum was granted in the federal state of Rhineland-Palatinate and detained and deported a family from Egypt, the federal government of Rhineland-Palatinate called a crisis meeting of the government, communities and the churches. Representatives of the Green and Socialist parties expressed their concerns about breaking the tradition of church asylum that is more than a century old. After the meeting, the Ministry of Integrational Affairs of Rhineland-Palatinate prohibited any further police or state operations against church asylum. On the occasion of the conference of the Ministers of Interior on 12-14 June 2017, the German Ecumenical Consortium on Church Asylum (Ökumenische Bundesarbeitsgemeinschaft Asyl in der Kirche) wrote a letter to the German Interior Minister and the Interior Ministers of the federal states, describing their impressions and experiences with returns and deportations of rejected asylum seekers and their families. The letter urged the attendees of the conference to consider church asylum as a Christian duty and instead of questioning the impact of church asylum to reconsider the root causes which lead to a need for church asylum. The full letter can be viewed here.
Sources: SWR, 16 May 2017; domradio, 17 May; SWR, 23 May 2017; BAGKirchenasyl, 9 June 2017
IRELAND / REPORT / New report in Irish Parliament recommends regularisation for undocumented migrants
The Joint Committee on Justice and Equality in the Irish Parliament recently launched its ‘Report on Immigration, Asylum and the Refugee Crisis’. The report includes a recommendation to introduce a regularisation scheme for undocumented migrants in Ireland. The report refers to information and data provided by the Migrant Rights Centre Ireland (MRCI) about undocumented migrants in Ireland. The proposal for the regularisation scheme would allow all undocumented migrants living in Ireland for at least four years to register for regularisation. A serious criminal bar would be imposed and a two-year probationary period would apply during which applicants would be allowed to work and travel. Undocumented migrants with children born in Ireland or those who have attended a minimum of three years of schooling would also be eligible to register for the scheme. The Justice for the Undocumented group and Migrants Rights Centre Ireland welcomed the political support and urged the government to take action. The report also addresses issues such as family reunification and the situation of unaccompanied children. To read the report, click here.
Source: Migrant Rights Centre Ireland (MRCI), 29 June 2017
MALTA / Marriage equality bill does not ensure equal access to marriage for undocumented migrants
Malta is currently amending its 1975 Marriage Act to allow same-sex couples to marry. This, however, still excludes undocumented migrants from getting married because they cannot produce the required documentation on name, surname, place of birth and residence of each of the persons to be married, to be presented to the Marriage Registry. The Aditus Foundation recommends granting the registrar discretion to assess on a case by case basis the situation of undocumented persons wishing to marry. Detailed commentary of the Aditus Foundation on the amendments is available here.
Sources: Aditus Foundation, Press release, 5 July 2017; Times of Malta, 5 July 2017
UK / Temporary 12-month permit for undocumented survivors of the Grenfell Tower fire
Following the fire in the Grenfell Tower block on 14 June 2017 killing at least 80 people, the Home Office eventually announced a temporary 12-month leave to remain in Britain for undocumented survivors who come forward. Migrants’ rights supporters feared that undocumented survivors would not come forward due to a risk of arrest. Jolyon Maugham, Director of the Good Law Project, said that the risk of being deported prevented them from seeking support or from notifying the police of missing relatives. He and others called for the leave to remain. The Grenfell Action Group asked the government to provide housing to any resident of the tower, regardless of migration status. The shadow Home Secretary, Diane Abbott, welcomed the announcement but said the 12-month permit did not go far enough because survivors would fear being arrested after this period. Similarly, a coalition of migrant rights groups called in an open letter for indefinite leave to remain for undocumented survivors of the fire.
Sources: The Guardian, 5 July 2017; Politics.co.uk, 19 June 2017
ENGLAND / STUDY / NGO study reveals immense impact on health inequalities of charging migrant women for maternity care
The organisation Maternity Action recently released a study entitled “The Impact on Health Inequalities of Charging Migrant Women for NHS Maternity Care”. In England, women without indefinite leave to remain the country cannot be denied maternity care, but may be charged afterwards for the cost of that care. (See Maternity Action information sheet: https://www.maternityaction.org.uk/advice-2/mums-dads-scenarios/3-women-from-abroad/entitlement-to-free-nhs-maternity-care-for-women-from-abroad/). The National Health Service (NHS) can contact the Home Office for information about a person’s nationality and immigration status to determine if she can be charged for maternity care – and may inform the Home office if someone who has received care has unpaid debts of over 500 pounds. On the basis of this information, the Home Office can pursue immigration enforcement. The Maternity Action study is based on assessments of 32 professionals providing information on how charging for maternity care affects vulnerable migrant women in England, with a focus on undocumented women. These professionals included advisers at migrant advocacy services, legal advisers and midwives and nurses. The study also includes information provided by 19 interviewed migrant women who were charged for maternity care. The study shows that chargeable women generally have no access to social benefits. Many women often already faced serious financial problems before they are charged for maternity care, which means there was little or no realistic expectation that they could cover the costs of their care. These women were particularly likely to be dependent on their partners and to have faced domestic violence and sexual or other exploitation. The results of the study also reveal a high number of cases where migrant women had current or previously medically complex pregnancies. Moreover, the results suggest that the risk of being charged for treatment or reported to the Home Office because of debts to the National Health System (NHS) serve as significant obstacles for undocumented women to obtain necessary maternal care, with an increased risk of pre-term births and other adverse pregnancy outcomes. The study concludes that there is a need for further and more in-depth investigation on the matter. Previously, various NGOs reported increasing numbers of pregnant women who only seek medical attention in the later stages of their pregnancy, due to high medical bills from the NHS and the risk of being reported to immigration authorities and deported (see PICUM Bulletin 7 June 2017). To read the full report, click here.
Sources: Maternity Action, March 2017
FRANCE / Bad living conditions lead to increased levels of skin disease among migrants
On the streets of Paris, migrants living in precarious and unsanitary situations without access to proper shelter and health care suffer from scabies, according to NGOs and health institutes (Institut de veille sanitaire and Haut Conseil de la santé publique). While this skin disease can be treated easily, through proper medical attention and washing clothes and bedsheets, for migrants sleeping on the streets it is more difficult. They often do not have access to showers, the only clothes they own are the ones they wear every day, and without shelter they are at high risk of reinfection. Complications can arise as the scratching leads to further infection of the skin. Organisations point to the responsibility of the state, which has already been warned about the situation but has not taken action so far.
Source: France Info, 11 June 2017
GERMANY / Medical consultation in cooperation with health authority in Bremen at risk
The health authority of the city of Bremen in cooperation with civil society has provided health care to undocumented migrants and other uninsured people through a humanitarian consultation. The future of the weekly consultations is now uncertain due to increased demand and an alleged lack of funding. The health authority as well as several local politicians have indicated that the project is not expected to fully end but that other, possibly private, funders will have to be found. A debate organised by Medinetz Bremen on 19 June gathered local politicians, representatives of the health authority, medical staff and volunteers involved in the health care provision to discuss possible solutions.
Sources: taz, 15 May 2017; Ärzte Zeitung, 23 May 2017; DocCheck News, 22 May 2017
LABOUR AND FAIR WORKING CONDITIONS
EU / Open public consultation on EU legal framework for regular migration
The European Commission is evaluating the EU’s regular migration policies. It has launched a public consultation to collect opinions on the effectiveness of the existing legislation, its contribution to regulating migration to the EU and possible gaps and inconsistencies. It aims to collect the views and experiences of non-EU citizens considering moving to the EU, residing or having resided in the EU; employers, business representatives and non-EU service providers for the EU market; public authorities; trade unions; NGOs assisting migrants (including potential and former migrants) both within and outside the EU; and interested citizens. The EU rules for the management of regular migration from non-EU countries cover the entry, stay and residency rules for non-EU citizens to come to the EU to study, work or join their families. These rules also aim to promote equal treatment with EU citizens. The evaluation does not cover migration to Denmark, Ireland and the United Kingdom, since these countries do not implement the EU laws in question. The public consultation’s webpage and questionnaire are available in all EU languages. It will run until mid-September 2017.
BELGIUM / Belgian court condemns Emirati princesses for modern slavery
A tribunal in Brussels sentenced eight persons to suspended 15-month prison sentences and a €165,000 fine for trafficking in human beings and degrading treatment, indicating that this was a case of modern slavery. The case concerned 23 women employed by a company based in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and working for the princesses during their stay at the Conrad Hotel in Brussels. The investigation revealed that they did not have residence or work permits, were working for little or no remuneration, day and night, sleeping together in one room or on mattresses in front of the princesses’ rooms, and were not allowed to leave the hotel. The tribunal awarded the 23 women financial compensation for their emotional pain and suffering, but no material damages for their lost salaries.
Source : Le Soir, 23 June 2017 ; RTBF, 23 June 2017
UK / Modern Slavery Registry keeps record of companies’ statements
The organisation Business and Human Rights Resource Centre has set up a Modern Slavery Registry to keep track of companies’ statements under the UK Modern Slavery Act. The Modern Slavery Act requires companies doing business in the UK with a total annual turnover of £36m to make a statement each year on the steps taken to identify and eradicate slavery and human trafficking in its own business and supply chain. The Registry currently contains more than 2,000 publicly available statements. It can be searched by company, sector, country, and it is possible to download the data. Statements can also be submitted to carrier (at) business-humanrights.org. Access the Modern Slavery Registry here.
Source: Business & Human Rights Resource Centre, 2017
EU / EU signs Istanbul Convention
The EU signed the Council of Europe Convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence on 13 June, also referred to as the ‘Istanbul Convention’, the place of its adoption. The Convention is the most comprehensive international legal framework to combat violence against women and girls and domestic violence. Joseph Filletti, Permanent Representative of Malta to the Council of Europe and Věra Jourová, EU Commissioner for Justice, Consumers and Gender Equality signed the Convention in June on behalf of the EU. While the Istanbul Convention has been signed by all EU member states, 14 have yet to ratify it. The EU’s accession to the convention is, however, not on a broad basis, but is narrowly limited to the areas of judicial cooperation in criminal matters and asylum and non-refoulement. Nonetheless, signature by the EU is believed to send a strong signal at the EU level as well as globally, reinforcing its international standing. Secretary-General of the Council of Europe, Thorbjørn Jagland, called on the EU and its member states to now work towards full implementation of the Convention.
Sources: Independent, 14 June 2017, Council of Europe, 13 June 2017; Council of Europe, 13 June 2017
UNDOCUMENTED CHILDREN AND THEIR FAMILIES
EU / Member states emphasise protection of all children in migration a priority
Council Conclusions on the protection of children in migration emphasise that protecting all children in migration is a priority at all stages of migration. They underline that the best interests of the child must be a primary consideration in all actions or decisions concerning children and in assessing the appropriateness of all durable solutions – resettlement, integration or return depending on their specific situation and needs. The Conclusions welcome the European Commission Communication of 12 April, inviting member states to implement actions building on the recommendations presented, inviting the Commission and the relevant EU agencies to support member states, as well as regular reporting by the Commission to the European Parliament and the Council on the implementation of these actions. The full text of the Conclusions of the Council of the European Union and the representatives of the governments of the member states on the protection of children in migration adopted by the Council at its 3546th meeting held on 8 June 2017 are available here.
COUNCIL OF EUROPE / Action Plan on children in migration
The Council of Europe has published a Council of Europe Action Plan on Protecting Refugee and Migrant Children in Europe (2017-2019). The Action Plan is based on a clear principle: in the context of migration, children should be treated first and foremost as children. It concerns all children in migration who arrive/have arrived in the territory of any Council of Europe member state, including asylum-seeking, refugee and migrant children. The concrete activities proposed thereunder are based on existing norms, including Council of Europe laws and standards that guarantee rights to all migrant children without discrimination based on their nationality or migration status. The Action Plan has three main pillars: 1) ensuring access to rights and child-friendly procedures; 2) providing effective protection; and 3) enhancing the integration of children who would remain in Europe. The Action Plan outlines concrete actions under these pillars, that will be implemented by various Council of Europe entities and coordinated by the Special Representative of the Secretary General on Migration and Refugees, within the 2017-2019 time period. Some of the actions particularly relevant for undocumented children include those related to child-friendly procedures, alternatives to detention, education, transition to adulthood, age assessment and statelessness.
SPAIN / CAMPAIGN / UNICEF launches campaign to stop stereotypes against migrant children
The new UNICEF campaign “Rompe el Muro” (break the wall) seeks to counter myths and stereotypes about migrant children in Europe and change mentalities. The campaign also challenges the current discourse that migrants as responsible for many economic and social issues and the perception that they are not deserving of human rights. Children are affected by this narrative, a growing xenophobic sentiment, and by policies that promote their detention and limit their access to services.
Source: El Diario, 27 June 2017
SWEDEN / Cities report undocumented families who receive social assistance to the police
At the request of border police, Malmö’s social services shared addresses of undocumented migrants who were registered after seeking support. Social services in the city of Malmö are more inclusive than most other municipalities in Sweden and other EU countries, providing assistance (e.g. food, rent, diapers, money for medicines) for undocumented migrants, mostly families. This was the first time that the provision in the Aliens Act that requires social services to provide personal information of foreigners if needed to determine residence status or enforce a deportation has been used. As of 7 May 2017, 60 out of the 520 addresses had been provided to the border police. This illustrates the lack of a firewall between service providers and migration authorities. The data sharing was denounced by civil society and professionals who fear that undocumented migrants will no longer dare to seek assistance, or put their children in school. A complaint was taken to the Swedish Justice Ombudsman arguing a violation of the Convention on the Rights of the Child. However, on 20 April 2017, the Justice Ombudsman found that the social services did as required under the law, noting that the Aliens Act has a higher status in law than the Social Assistance Act and includes the best interests of the child as a general principle. Social services are allowed to inform the people concerned that their data has been requested, and must do so if the person asks directly.
Sources: SVT, 21 April 2017; SVT; Sydsvenskan, 1 December 2016; Svenska Dagbladet, 7 December 2017
UK / System pushes more children and young people into undocumented status
A new report from the Coram Children’s Legal Centre (CCLC) ‘This is my home: securing permanent status for long-term resident children and young people in the UK’ explores the means by which children and young people are able to regularise their immigration status, and some of the barriers they face. These include the complexity of law and policy in this area; lack of awareness and understanding; the lack of free, quality legal representation; and very high application fees, with very limited fee waivers. The report highlights that the current system is unfair, inaccessible and pushes more children and young people into undocumented status. Recommendations include: a shorter route to permanent status for long-resident children and young people with lower application fees; an urgent review of children and young people’s needs for legal services and at least the reinstatement of legal aid for separated children’s immigration cases; and better information for social workers and improved local authority practice through training and designated social care leads. The report can be read alongside the companion paper ‘Securing permanent status: existing legal routes for children and young people without leave to remain in the UK’, an easy-to-use guide to the different routes to regularise status, and associated applications and statuses. The executive summary, report and companion paper are available to download here.
Source: Coram Children’s Legal Centre – Migrant Children’s Project Newsletter – June 2017
DETENTION AND DEPORTATION
FRANCE / REPORT / New data on immigration detention in France and petition to end migrant children detention
A group of five French NGOs published their annual report on immigration detention in France for 2016. They denounce a massive and abusive use of detention, including for children, abusive practices of deportations including discrimination against some nationalities, and the lack of alternatives to camps or detention for people seeking protection. In 2016, close to 50,000 people were detained in France, including 4,285 children in the department of Mayotte. Read the full report here. Meanwhile, a group of French organisations has launched a petition calling for a commitment from the new French president, Emmanuel Macron, to end migrant children’s detention. In 2016, 182 children were detained in administrative detention centres in mainland France, and 4,285 children were detained in Mayotte. France has been condemned six times by the European Court of Human Rights for this practice. The petition is available here.
FYROM / Immigration detention in the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia
The Global Detention project (GDP) has released an immigration detention profile for the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) in June 2017. FYROM is considered a key transit country for migrants through which the Western Balkan Route crosses. In 2015, the government introduced a state of emergency which was extended in 2016, the same year the Balkan route was closed and about 1,200 migrants and asylum seekers were stranded in Macedonia. Until 2015, newly arriving irregular migrants were considered ‘smuggled’ people and could be detained on these grounds until they gave court testimony against their alleged smugglers. Nearly 1,350 people were detained at the country’s sole official detention centre in 2015. According to the paper, the Gazi Baba specialised detention facility held five times as many people as its presumed capacity. The number dropped to less than 400 in 2016, following the introduction of a “humanitarian corridor” in August 2015. According to the country’s law, a person can be detained for up to 24 hours to enable border control procedures and if there are reasons which prevent an individual’s deportation, a person can be detained up to 12 months. There are no legal provisions prohibiting the detention of children. The report quotes statistics, according to which 22 children were detained at the official detention centre in 2016. The immigration detention profile also found that detainees are not sufficiently informed about their detention and rights and translations of detention orders and related documents are not available. To download the immigration detention profile, click here.
GREECE / Greek police and coast guard detain 20 people in migrant reception centre
The Greek police and coast guard entered the migrant reception centre “Souda” on the Greek island Chios on 9 June, trying to trace people whose asylum appeals were rejected. More than 20 people were detained. Tensions on Chios have been rising due to overcrowded refugee camps, with an increasing number of violent incidents. Smugglers bring migrants and refugees to the island from Turkey.
Source: ekathimerini, 9 June 2017
SPAIN / Migrant women victims of discrimination in detention centre
The NGO ‘Women’s Link’ has denounced the discriminatory treatment of migrant women and their poor living conditions in the detention centre for foreigners of Algeciras (CIE in Spanish). It has posed questions to the national ombudswoman and the judge supervising the CIE concerning the inhumane and degrading treatment these women suffer, as they have been left to live in a run-down prison while men have already been transferred to other centres due to the poor conditions of the building. The authorities have ignored demands of the CIE judge and social organisations, who are asking for improvements in access to food, sanitation and health services.
Source: 20 Minutos, 5 June 2017
SPAIN / CAMPAIGN / New campaign to close immigration detention centres
SOS Racismo Madrid has launched a new campaign, ‘Imagínate’ (Imagine yourself), calling for the closure of migration detention centres (Centros de Internamiento de Extranjeros or CIEs in Spanish). The campaign consists of a video of famous actors speaking up for the rights of migrants. It was launched on 15 June 2017, designated as the ‘day for the closure of CIEs and the end of deportations’. To follow or share the campaign, use the following hashtags: #ImaginateCIErre #CIEsNO.
Source: SOS Racismo Madrid, 15 June 2017
TRAINING / Fundraising training for foundations and organisations working on migration, refugees and asylum seekers projects
The Green European Foundation (GEF) and The Greens European Free Alliance (Greens-EFA) organise a training on European Commission funds such as the Asylum, Migration and Integration Fund (AMIF), as well as a solid background and practical experience on innovative fundraising techniques. The training will take place in Athens, Greece, from 28 September to 1 October 2017. The training is available for 25 participants working in foundations, organisations, NGOs and movements who work on migration, refugees and asylum seekers projects. For more information and to apply, click here.
With contributions from Salomé Guibreteau (PICUM Trainee), Laura Przybyla (PICUM Intern)