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EU / Leaked report on the European Union military operation in the Mediterranean
The report on the EUNAVFOR MED Operation Sophia for the six month period 22 June to 31 December was released by Wikileaks in February 2016. The report, dated 29 January 2016, is written by the Operation Commander from the Italian Navy for the Council of the EU. The report provides information about routes for – and changes in – irregular sea crossings to the EU, and changes in smugglers’ “tactics, techniques and procedures” from Libya and Egypt. It includes an update on operations, support to operations and outreach activities, as well as an assessment of progress made towards objectives and consideration of challenges that would need to be addressed in order for the operation to transition from Phase 2A, operating on the high seas, to Phase 2B, operating in Territorial Waters (which will require assessment and approval from the European Council). According the report, the Force had over 1,300 personnel – including ships’ companies, air detachments and logistical elements – coming from 22 member states, and while the deployed assets varied during this period, it peaked at nine surface units, a submarine, three fixed wing maritime patrol aircraft, five helicopters and one tactical unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV). As of 29 January, the operation had resulted in the rescue of 8,336 migrants, “recovering them to a Port of Safety” (Italy) and the destruction of 67 migrant vessels (wooden and rubber). As of 31 December 2015, the operation had contributed to 46 individuals being detained by Italian authorities and investigated for smuggling and trafficking crimes. No information about prosecutions is provided. Key challenges to operating in Libyan Territorial Waters raised in the report centre around the legal basis, including an agreement with the Libyan authorities, and capacity building of the Libyan Navy and Coast Guard, as an exit strategy for the operation. No mention is made of where rescued migrants would be disembarked if the operation were to move to Phase 2B. Operation Sophia was launched on 22 June 2015 by the EU to identify, capture and dispose of vessels and enabling assets used or suspected of being used by migrant smugglers or traffickers (see PICUM Bulletin 3 July 2015).
Source: Migrants at Sea, 23 February 2016
BRIEF / Research investigates relationship between EU policy decision making and migration flows across the Mediterranean
A research brief entitled “Unpacking a rapidly changing scenario: migration flows, routes and trajectories across the Mediterranean” published on 1 March 2016, summarises findings of migration flows on the Central and Eastern Mediterranean routes. The brief reflects on the policy implications at the local, national and EU levels. The research found a strong increase in the numbers of people moving through the Eastern Mediterranean into Greece, but noted little change since 2014 on the Central Mediterranean route to Italy. The brief states that deterrence policies – that deny access to protection, resettlement or humanitarian assistance – will drive demand for the services of smugglers and push people into taking ever more risky routes into and within Europe. The research also found no evidence that search and rescue operations create a so-called ‘pull effect’. The brief was published as part of a research project of the Centre for Trust, Peace and Social Relations at Coventry University working in collaboration with University of Birmingham’s Institute for Research into Superdiversity and the Centre on Migration, Policy and Society at Oxford University in the UK and partners in Greece (ELIAMEP), Italy (FIERI), Turkey (Yasar University) and Malta (People for Change Foundation). To read the brief, click here.
MEDITERRANEAN / Migrant arrivals and deaths
According to the International Organization for Migration (IOM), over 172,000 migrants and refugees arrived by sea to Europe during the first weekend of April. The largest number arrived in Greece, followed by Italy, with smaller numbers of arrivals in Spain and Cyprus. IOM estimates that over 700 people have died in the Mediterranean so far in 2016 which is an increase of nearly 50% compared to the same period in 2015. According to figures of the Hellenic Coast Guard’s personnel union federation (POEPLS), the number of unaccompanied children arriving in Greece increased substantially. A total of 537 unaccompanied children up to the age of 13 had arrived on the island of Lesvos alone in the first three months of 2016 compared to a total of 750 throughout the year 2015.
Sources: International Organization for Migration (IOM), press release, 8 April 2016; International Organization for Migration (IOM), press release, 5 April 2016; Amna, 29 March 2016
European Policy Developments
COUNCIL OF THE EU / EU-Turkey deal concluded despite serious legal, moral and practical concerns, migrants and refugees shot in Turkey
The deal between the European Union and Turkey, set out on 7 March 2016, was concluded at a European Council meeting on 17-18 March. A series of action points were agreed, including ‘returning to Turkey all irregular migrants crossing from Turkey to the Greek islands as from 20 March 2016, in full accordance with EU and international law; that Turkey will take any necessary measures to prevent new sea or land routes for irregular migration; for every Syrian returned to Turkey, another Syrian will be resettled from Turkey to the EU, on the basis of existing commitments; and once irregular crossings are ending, a voluntary humanitarian admission scheme will be activated.’ The remarks by President of the Council, Mr. Tusk, following the meeting and the EU-Turkey statement summarising the deal both underline that people arriving to the Greek islands will be treated individually, and protected from refoulement and collective expulsion. However, they also stated that ‘migrants not applying for asylum or whose application has been found unfounded or inadmissible will be returned to Turkey’. The Commission provides an overview of the procedural safeguards and legal basis foreseen, as well as other details relevant to the deal which is available here. Analysis by some legal experts has found that Turkey cannot be categorised as a “safe third country” and could only be found to be a “first country of asylum” after an individual assessment regarding risk of refoulement. Amnesty International also underlined that “Turkey is not a safe country for refugees and migrants, and any return process predicated on it being so will be flawed, illegal and immoral.” Amnesty has documented the deportation from Turkey of about 30 Afghani people and 1 April 2016 hours after the deal was signed, and of groups of around 100 Syrian people on a near-daily basis since mid-January, in violation of international, EU and Turkish law. Media have also reported that migrants and refugees were shot in Turkey. According to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, at least 16 people including three children have been killed in the past four months.
Further, reports since 20 March indicate that the deal is being implemented before the required safeguards, human and material resources are in place in Greece. 326 people have been deported from the Greek islands to Turkey (202 on 4 April and 124 on 8 April, one person was not accepted by Turkey). In addition, the ‘hotspots’ on the Greek islands have now become detention facilities. The situation has caused several organisations, including UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (UNHCR) and Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF), to denounce the situation and limit their role. UNHCR report that in line with their policy on opposing mandatory detention, they have suspended some of their activities at all closed centres on the islands, including the provision of transport to and from these sites. The European Commission estimates that Greece needs around 4,000 additional staff to implement the policy, including asylum case workers and experts, interpreters, judges, border guards and police officers. The Commission has appointed Maarten Verwey, Director-General of its Structural Reform Support Service, to act as the EU Coordinator of the refugee crisis in Greece, and coordinate the provision of the necessary human and material resources to Greece by the member states and EU agencies. Several organisations challenged the deal before its conclusion, including the UNHCR, the Council of Europe Human Rights Commissioner, PICUM, ECRE, Human Rights Watch and Amnesty. Further, the situation in Athens and Idomeni continues to deteriorate with thousands of people blocked by the closed borders.
Sources: EU Observer, 18 March 2016; European Commission Press Release, 18 March 2016; Reuters, 20 March 2016; European Policy Centre, 21 March 2016; Al Jazeera, 22 March 2016; EU Observer, 1 April 2016; The Guardian, 4 April 2016 and 8 April 2016
COUNCIL OF THE EU / Decision on emergency funding in the EU
The Council of the European Union adopted a regulation on 15 March 2016, setting up an EU emergency support mechanism to help Greece and other member states deal with the immediate needs of the large numbers of migrants and refugees arriving to the EU. The regulation implements a political agreement reached by the Council’s Permanent Representatives Committee on 9 March 2016, and came into force on 16 March, enabling the Commission to immediately start implementing support measures by temporarily using resources that are currently available in the EU budget. The support to be provided under the new instrument will be needs-based and will include food, shelter, water, medicine and other basic necessities. It will be delivered by the Commission or by partner organisations selected by the Commission in close cooperation with the Greek authorities. The Commission estimates that €300 million will be needed to meet the needs of refugees in 2016, and a further €200 million annually in 2017 and 2018. The Council and the European Parliament are working on a draft amending budget proposed by the Commission on 9 March 2016. Once the amending budget has been adopted, the support measures will be financed from new budget lines dedicated to the emergency support mechanism. The emergency support mechanism can also be activated in response to other crises or disasters with severe humanitarian consequences.
Source: European Council Press Release, 15 March 2016
COUNCIL OF THE EU / Council conclusion on migrant smuggling adopted
Council Conclusions on migrant smuggling were adopted on 10 March 2016. The draft version published on 26 January 2016 raised concerns among civil society, who were particularly critical regarding the failure to mention humanitarian assistance (see PICUM Bulletin 2 March 2016). Additions in the adopted conclusions include more references to registering and fingerprinting all arrivals and deporting those not in need of international protection, to cooperation with third countries and to humanitarian assistance (largely in the preamble). In particular, the possibility granted in the Facilitation Directive to exempt from sanctions persons assisting irregular entry or transit for humanitarian reasons is mentioned, but member states are neither discouraged nor encouraged to use this possibility. Social Platform has highlighted the need to review the Directive to make it mandatory to exempt from sanctions persons who provide humanitarian assistance. The Council conclusions are available here.
COUNCIL OF EUROPE / New Special Representative on Migration and Refugees
The Secretary General of the Council of Europe, Thorbjørn Jaglan, appointed a new Special Representative on Migration and Refugees in January 2016. Ambassador Tomas Boček of the Permanent Representation of the Czech Republic to the Council of Europe was appointed to carry out fact-finding missions, strengthen coordination of the relevant activities within the Council of Europe, and establish communication and co-ordination channels with international partners. During a first field visit to Greece and Macedonia, Tomas Boček visited “hot spots” and met with representatives of UNHCR, NGOs and national authorities.
Sources: Council of Europe, 28 January 2016; Independent 4 March 2016
COUNCIL OF EUROPE / Committee on Prevention of Torture publishes report on Greece
The Council of Europe Committee on the Prevention of Torture (CPT) published, on 1 March 2016, the report on its ad hoc visit to Greece in April 2015. The report includes the CPT’s observations and recommendations with respect to the situation of migrants in immigration detention, finding generally poor conditions “due to a manifest lack of hygiene and maintenance.” The CPT notes Greece’s efforts since early 2015 to use alternatives to detention, to limit the maximum period of detention to six months, and to release vulnerable migrants, all of which have significantly reduced the numbers in pre-departure centres. However, it also notes that the operation of pre-departure centres is security-focused and treats irregular migrants like criminals. The CPT describes a meeting with an unaccompanied Egyptian child held in detention in police custody for 22 days for “protective reasons” in conditions resembling solitary confinement, pending his transfer to a youth shelter. The Committee recommends that irregular migrants be held in centres designated for purpose, and calls for urgent action to address the absence of health care staff at the Corinth pre-departure centre as well as an integrated approach to health care and procedures to monitor and prevent self-harm and attempted suicides in the Petrou special holding facility. The CPT also recommends that the practice of detaining unaccompanied children in police detention be ended. The executive summary is available here. For the full report, click here.
COUNCIL OF EUROPE / Commissioner for Human Rights publishes quarterly activity report
On 24 February 2016, Nils Muiznieks, Commissioner for Human Rights for the Council of Europe, published the 4th quarterly activity report for 2015, covering the period from 1 October to 31 December 2015. The report summarises the Commissioner’s work, mission and visits. The rights of migrants were among the most common human rights issues addressed by the Commissioner. This included a visit to Hungary where the Commissioner noted that a series of swift measures taken had rendered access to international protection extremely difficult and unjustifiably criminalised migrants and asylum seekers. Concerning a visit in Cyprus, the Commissioner noted that the country should draw upon the Council of Europe’s expertise and strengthen their efforts to enhance all migrants’ integration and social cohesion, promote tolerance and eradicate hate speech and other forms of hate crime. The rights of migrants was also the subject of the Commissioner’s interventions in several cases pending before the European Court of Human Rights: ND v. Spain (no. 8675/14), and NT v. Spain (app no. 8697/15), concerning the summary return of migrants to Morocco by Spanish border guards; and S.O. v. Austria (no. 44825/15) and A.A. v. Austria (no. 44944/15), concerning the return of migrants under Dublin III Regulation to Hungary from Austria. To view the background on third party intervention in ND v. Spain and NT v. Spain, click here. For the background on third party intervention in S.O. v. Austria and A.A. v. Austria, click here.
Source: Council of Europe
EUROPEAN COURT OF AUDITORS / EU’s external migration spending found to be largely not effective
The European Court of Auditors published a report on 17 March 2016 on the two main EU financing instruments of external migration policy established for the 2007-2013 period, the Thematic Programme for Migration and Asylum, and the European Neighbourhood and Partnership instruments. Altogether, 23 projects were examined, representing a contract value of €89 million out of a total budget of €742 million. The Court of Auditors found that there was no clear strategy and the objectives of the various instruments were not interlinked, and that indicators chosen for monitoring did not reflect the objectives of the thematic programme. Moreover, the total expenditure could not be assessed and there was a fragmentation of funding. The European Court of Auditors also highlighted that many of the projects were predominantly focused on security, superseding other objectives such as development and migrants’ rights. Respect for human rights was found to be mostly theoretical and rarely put into practice. The European Commission responded by emphasising that the report looks at a very limited sample of 23 migration projects in six neighbouring countries, which were concluded by 2014. The Commission stated that these projects predate the current migration situation and none of them were relevant to the current situation of increased migration flows.
Sources: Court of Auditors’ report 17 March 2016; Euroactiv, 17 March 2016; European Commission, statement, 17 March 2016
FRANCE / Adoption of law on foreigners’ rights
France adopted new legislation in February 2016 on a broad range of topics including residence permits and detention conditions. Among other provisions, this law allows a residence permit to be granted to those suffering serious illness when they cannot be provided with appropriate health care in their country of origin. It also provides for acquisition of French nationality by migrants turning 18 who were not born in France if they meet all of the following criteria: they have resided in France since the age of six, they attended school, and they have a sibling who was born in France and has French nationality. The latter is based on the assumption of better integration in the French community through a family member (in this case, a brother or a sister) who is also French. Detention has been reduced from five days to 48 hours and migrants have 48 hours to contest a decision of deportation. The law also grants journalists the right to access detention centres.
Sources: Légifrance, 8 March 2016; Vie Publique, 8 March 2016
FRANCE / French administration argues police checks based on skin colour are legitimate
The French government is contesting the Court of Appeal’s decision of June 2015 regarding discriminatory police checks in the state’s highest court, the Cour de Cassation. In June 2015, the Court of Appeal held that the French state did not prove that these checks were not based on the applicants’ appearance and condemned it for serious offences. Mediapart, a French newspaper, has leaked information about the memo of the French administration presented to the Cour de Cassation. In this document, the French government justifies racial profiling by police on the basis that it is legitimate to control people of North African or African origin as they have higher chances of being non-citizens and thus undocumented. For more information about police checks and their impact on society, a 2013 study on US practices from the New York Civil Liberties Union can be found here.
Source: Mediapart, 8 March 2016
REPORT / New report on sexual and reproductive health rights of undocumented migrants
On the occasion of World Health Day on 7 April 2016, PICUM launched its report entitled “The Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights of Undocumented Migrants: Narrowing the Gap Between Their Rights and The Reality in the EU”. Available in English and Spanish, the report calls attention to the gulf between restrictive national laws and policies limiting access to services for undocumented migrants on the one hand, and governments’ clear obligations and commitments to provide those services, on the other. The report provides recommendations to policymakers, service providers and the European Union and calls for reforming legislation and policies that deny or limit access to sexual and reproductive health services on the basis of residence status. To access the report, click here.
SPAIN / Regions extend access to health care for undocumented migrants despite national restrictions
A number of Spanish communities and regions have recently re-implemented health care coverage for undocumented migrants. In Castilla- La Mancha, the government extended access to health care for all irregular migrants by giving them a health card (Tarjeta para la Atención Sanitaria) on 1 March 2016. The card is valid for 12 months and provides access to health care only in that region. According to the organisation Red Acoge, only 30 health cards have been requested to date but numbers are expected to increase once people become aware of the new situation. In Valencia, the Constitutional Court (Tribunal Constitucional) has lifted the restriction imposed by the national government on access to health care for undocumented migrants. In 2012, the Spanish government adopted the Royal Decree Act 16 / 2012 which restricted access to essential and preventive health care services for undocumented migrants, entitling them to emergency care, maternity and child care only (See PICUM Bulletin, 29 May 2012 and PICUM Bulletin, 9 May 2012). Valencia will continue to provide access to health care for irregular migrants. The community of Madrid has also issued an internal order allowing access to health care to all migrants irrespective of their status.
Source: El Diario, 10 February 2016; Castilla-La Mancha, 1 March 2016; El Mundo, 4 March 2016; Tribuna de Ciudad Real, 13 March 2016
UK / Government holds public consultation on plans to extend charging to migrants for primary care services
On 7 March 2016, the UK government closed a public consultation on proposals to extend charging to migrants, currently limited to hospital-based care, to include primary care. Proposals would impose charges on migrants for accident and emergency care, ambulances, prescriptions, dental care, eye care and some aspects of GP (general practitioner) services. Under existing rules, eligibility for care within the UK National Health Service (NHS) is based on ordinary residence. Since April 2015, migrants without a European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) have been charged 150% of the tariff price for secondary care, but GP services remain free. Since charging for secondary care was introduced, organisations working with migrants in an irregular situation or on visitor’s visas report bills up to £4,000 (€5,030) for maternity care, which cannot be denied but remains chargeable. As a result, those unable to pay avoid seeking care or are left with significant debts that can jeopardise future immigration status, since individuals owing more than £1,000 (€1,260) in health care costs can be denied a new visa or a visa extension. Under the new proposals, exempted groups would include recognised victims of domestic violence, sexual violence, torture, female genital mutilation and trafficking, as well as children who are charges of the state, and failed asylum-seekers supported by the government, but would not include other groups, such as migrant children who are not charges of the state and pregnant women. Civil society organisations have challenged the proposals’ exemptions as under-inclusive, and have also argued that they are unworkable and will not result in the savings promised.
Sources: Open Democracy, 4 March 2016, Pulse Today, 16 February 2015, Background (consultation document)
Labour and Fair Working Conditions
CANADA / Migrant Workers Rights Coalition calls for changes to foreign worker programme
The Coalition of Migrant Workers Rights Canada (CMWRC), a coalition of organisations representing migrant workers, is asking the government to end the practice of tying migrant workers to specific employers and is calling for a transition towards permanent residency for all migrant workers. The CMWRC is calling for a review of the Temporary Foreign Workers Program and asking the new government to improve the living and working conditions for caregivers, seasonal agricultural workers and other low-wage temporary foreign workers within the Temporary Foreign Workers Program. According to Migrante Canada, which represents migrant workers in the province of Alberta, under the previous government, the CDN$1,000 (€690) processing fee imposed on employers was sometimes charged to workers. There were also other restrictions on workers’ permits which prevented migrant workers from changing employers. In British Columbia, the West Coast Domestic Workers Association which serves caregivers highlights that application for permanent residency was removed by the previous government and replaced by a quota which limits migrant caregivers’ ability to stay or switch jobs if they find themselves in an exploitative situation. The coalition is advocating for caregivers to be able to change jobs, have open work permits and permanent immigration status upon landing in Canada.
Source: The Coalition of Migrant Workers Rights Canada, 23 February 2016
CYPRUS / District court sanctions company for trafficking but victims left without compensation
On 24 June 2015, the District Court of Nicosia convicted a company for trafficking and exploitation of human beings and fined it €126,000. Local civil society organisations have criticised the court’s failure to provide compensation to the victims and prosecute the company’s owner and director. The victims have since filed a civil case against the defendants and the Republic of Cyprus. The case involves migrants who from July 2007 until September 2011 had been forced to work in poultry farms managed by Comet Hatcheries LTD under threat of deportation for noncompliance. Ten months’ worth of salary was withheld and, by the company’s own admission, €900 was stolen from one of the workers. In August 2011, criminal action for labour exploitation, threats and fraudulent theft was brought against the company, the owner and the director. In June 2015, the Attorney General made a decision to suspend the criminal case against the director on health grounds, a decision which resulted in the acquittal of individuals implicated in the case. Subsequently, the company reached an agreement with the authorities to accept all responsibility for the acts committed by its owner and director. Cypriot law provides for penalties of up to 20 years in prison for human trafficking.
Source: KISA, 9 February 2016
BRIEFING PAPER / Sex workers’ rights, feminist ideologies and women’s rights
The International Committee on the Rights of Sex Workers in Europe (ICRSE) published a briefing paper on 8 March 2016 which explores the intersection of feminist ideologies, women’s rights and sex workers’ rights. The paper is entitled “Feminism needs sex workers, sex workers need feminism: Towards a sex-worker inclusive women’s rights movement” and highlights how sex workers often live and work in precarious and dangerous contexts, due to criminalisation of their work and violence. The paper underlines the regulation and indirect criminalisation of migrant sex workers through immigration policies such as the inclusion of immigration officials in the policing of sex work and listing sex work as grounds for deportation. With regards to undocumented migrant sex workers, the paper notes that criminalisation of sex work increases their exposure to detention, raids, deportations and evictions and decreases their labour protection and access to health services. To read the paper, click here.
Source: International Committee on the Rights of Sex Workers in Europe (ICRSE), statement, 8 March 2016
IRELAND / Au pair awarded almost €10,000 by Irish employment courts in ‘landmark’ decision
A Spanish au pair has been awarded almost €10,000 by the Irish Workplace Relations Commission on 8 March 2016 after the family she worked for was found to have breached employment laws. Under the ruling, the au pair has been recognised as an employee and therefore entitled to the minimum wage, holidays, rest periods and other employment protections. The family was ordered to pay her almost €10,000 in back pay and compensation after working for five months in their home. The Migrant Rights Centre Ireland (MRCI), a PICUM member, supported the au pair to take the case. MRCI Legal Officer, Virginija Petrauskaite, stated “this judgment sends a very clear message: au pairs are workers, and any family employing an au pair must abide by employment laws – including the National Minimum Wage Act” and added that “there is a childcare crisis in this country, but exploitation is not the solution”.
Source: MRCI, 8 March 2016; Irish Examiner, 9 March 2016
REPORT / Impact of EU policies on migrants’ rights and their ability to access protection
Caritas Europa launched a report on 17 March 2016 entitled “Migrants and refugees have rights! Impact of EU policies on accessing protection.” The report looks at different aspects of migration, including access to international protection, non-refoulement, family reunification, labour migration and irregular migration. It highlights the challenges migrants face when seeking protection in Europe, such as bureaucratic hurdles, denial of protection and inconsistent reception standards across Europe. The report also points to the challenges facing non-EU nationals including irregular migrants, to access the EU labour market and ensure their employment rights. The report argues that common legislation and policy addressing labour migration into the EU is lacking particularly with regards to low-skilled and medium-skilled workers, leaving a huge gap in the EU’s ability to deal with a significant part of migration into Europe, for which the need for rights protection, regulation and cooperation is substantially greater than for high-skilled migration. The report calls on the EU to open more safe and regular paths to Europe and to develop the EU labour migration framework to ensure regular channels for low-skilled workers. The report also urges the EU to ensure full implementation of the right to family reunification, to respect the principle of non-refoulement and to guarantee the right to asylum.
Source: Caritas Europa, 17 March 2016
UK / Study found that modern slavery is widespread among East Asian migrant domestic workers
A survey of soon-to-be, current, or returned domestic workers interviewed in the Philippines, Indonesia, Singapore and Hong Kong found high levels of forced labour and abuse. Many domestic workers from the Philippines and Indonesia reported abuse even before they had migrated, with recruiters confiscating their documents, and abusing them verbally, physically and sexually. Many also reported receiving false information about their future work, their wages and living conditions and were informed that they had built up debts between $1,600-$1,800 (€1,400 – 1,600) to acquire a job. According to the study, between two and five million migrant domestic workers from Indonesia and the Philippines are working abroad at any given time, with many returning and re-migrating on an ongoing basis.
Source: Thomson Reuters Foundation, 25 February 2016
USA / Labour brokers accused of exploiting and abusing migrant workers
A large number of migrant workers are recruited to work in temporary jobs in the United States by middlemen known as labour brokers. According to a Reuters investigation, the number of foreign workers has doubled in the past two decades; in the fiscal year ending in August 2015, the government had issued more than 350,000 temporary work visas. In more than 200 civil and criminal cases, tens of thousands of migrant workers claim abuse by these middlemen, including wage theft, human trafficking, charging of illegal recruitment fees and fraud. The cases show how lack of oversight by the government has enabled some labour brokers to exploit migrant workers and how the use of middlemen can also shield American companies from any blame regarding the conditions in which migrant workers are recruited. For more details on this investigation click on the link below.
Source: Reuters Investigates, 16 February 2016.
USA / Website launched to provide information and resources for undocumented women
On 8 March 2016, International Women’s Day, a new website was launched in English and Spanish to provide undocumented migrant women in the United States and their families with information about their rights. Undocumented women were consulted regarding the website’s design and about the resources they would find the most useful. The website, called Women Step Forward, was launched as part of the We Belong Together campaign, with the assistance of the Immigration Advocates Network. The website will make it possible to track the status of cases in the US Supreme Court addressing migrants’ rights, will provide information about existing programmes, and allow undocumented women to submit personal stories. The website includes a section with resources on undocumented migrants’ rights in a variety of areas, including fraud and workers’ rights, and a database of organisations and practitioners near them providing low-cost or free legal services.
Source: International Business Times, 9 March 2016
COUNCIL OF EUROPE / State Parties to Istanbul Convention now under examination, key opportunity for migrant organisations
States which have ratified the Council of Europe Convention on Preventing and Combating Violence against Women and Domestic Violence (Istanbul Convention) will now be examined to measure the extent to which they are adhering to it. The Convention requires that state parties bring their laws and policies in line with its requirements, and provides for a committee of experts to monitor this through a country-by-country evaluation procedure as well as special inquiry procedure. GREVIO “the Group of experts on action against violence against women and domestic violence” has adopted a provisional timetable outlining the countries that will be evaluated in 2016-2017, namely, Austria and Monaco, Denmark and Albania, Montenegro and Turkey, Sweden and Portugal. As part of this process, GREVIO will send a detailed questionnaire for the government to report upon and welcome information from non-governmental organisations working on the ground. Following a dialogue with the competent authorities, GREVIO will adopt its final reports and conclusions, and sends them to the Parties concerned and the Committee of the Parties. The Istanbul Convention sets out, and calls for the implementation of, legally binding standards to prevent violence against women, protect survivors and punish perpetrators. Requiring state parties to ensure availability of services such as hotlines, shelters, medical assistance, counselling, and legal aid. Notably, the Convention prohibits discrimination on the grounds of migration status (Article 4), and contains a chapter on Migration and Asylum (Articles 59 to 61), part of which requires state parties to provide an autonomous permit to victims whose status is dependent on a violent partner or spouse (Article 59). In this regard, organisations working with migrant women have play a role in providing information regarding measures relating of migrant women victims of violence as covered by the Convention, including undocumented women and asylum seekers fleeing gender based violence. In March 2016, GREVIO opened its examination of Austria and Monaco (accepting reports between March 2016- September 2017), and will then assess Denmark and Albania (accepting reports from September 2016- January 2017). The questionnaire on legislative and other measures giving effect to the provisions of the Istanbul Convention is available here. To view steps in the evaluation procedure, click here. An infographic on country-by-country evaluation is here. For more information on how civil society can engage in the monitoring process, click here.
Undocumented Children and Their Families
COUNCIL OF EUROPE / Child rights strategy to address rights of children affected by migration
The Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe adopted a Strategy for the Rights of the Child 2016-2021 on 2 March 2016. The five priorities of the strategy are equal opportunities for all children: fighting poverty and preventing exclusion and countering discrimination, including against children affected by migration; participation of all children in policy-making processes; a life free of violence for all children; child-friendly justice; and rights of the child in the digital environment. The strategy builds on the Council of Europe’s previous work on migrant children, mainstreaming the rights of children affected by migration in several priority areas, including specific work in countering discrimination. This will include protecting and promoting their rights through the work of the various Council of Europe bodies; supporting member states in upholding their human rights obligations in line with the case-law of the European Court of Human Rights and the conclusions of the European Committee on Social Rights (ECSR), the Committee for the Prevention of Torture (CPT), the Group of Experts on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings (GRETA) and the European Commission against Racism and Intolerance (ECRI); and guiding member states in taking a co-ordinated child rights based approach. The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe will also continue to support the Campaign to End Immigration Detention of Children. The new Strategy will be launched at a High Level Conference in Sofia on 5 and 6 April 2016, during the Bulgarian Chairmanship of the Committee of Ministers. The strategy is available in English.
Detention and Deportation
BELGIUM / Immigration office forced to release migrant found to have been detained unlawfully
A Tunisian man was released from detention, following a decision by the Brussels Court of Appeals holding that his arrest was unlawful. Early in the morning, in autumn 2015, Leuven police entered the home of a young Tunisian man with a deportation order under appeal, and arrested him for irregular stay. He was taken to a detention centre outside of Brussels, where he was held for several months. The Brussels Court of Appeals held that his arrest was unlawful, and that the Immigration Office have no right to order the police to arrest a person in his home without complying with Article 14 of the Belgian Constitution and Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights which require that such an intrusion must be legally authorised. The operation was conducted by SEFOR teams, which are composed of officials from the Foreign Office and the police who do “home visits.” Individuals, including undocumented migrants, have the right to refuse police entry at the door. According to lawyer, Zouhaier Chihaoui, SEFOR teams have various ways of circumventing the legal requirement to obtain a warrant, such as false claims by the police that the person detained was arrested in the lobby of their building or in other public spaces, or that the person consented to the police entering their home. In the present case, the court took into consideration the fact that the applicant had been violently handcuffed, with resulting injury to his wrists, in rejecting the argument that he had given consent.
Sources: Amoureux, Vos Papiers, 2 March 2016; HLN.be, 22 December 2015
GREECE / MALTA / Increased deportations
According to European Commission figures, a total of six forced removal operations were carried out in March 2016, as of 17 March, deporting 565 people from Greece. This compares to zero deportations from Greece in February 2016 and 97 in January. A Frontex-coordinated joint return operation to Pakistan, with a stopover in Greece, took place on 17 March. The Times of Malta reported on deportations from Malta between 1 July 2014 and 30 June 2015 with funds from the European Return Fund (ERF) 2013-2016. During this period, 124 people were deported, a significant increase compared to the 52 repatriated as part of the previous project co-financed under the Return Fund Annual Programme for 2012.
Sources: Deutsche Welle, 10 March 2016; Times of Malta, 14 March 2016
NETHERLANDS / Number of people in immigration detention decreased
The organisation Stichting Los reported that the number of people in immigration detention has decreased in the Netherlands. Referring to government figures, the organisation reported that in 2015 a total of 2,000 people were placed in immigration detention compared to 6,000 in 2011. On average, 270 people are in immigration detention in the Netherlands at any given time. For more information (in Dutch), click here.
Source: Stichting Los Newsletter, Volume 6, Nr 7, 29 March 2016
WEBSITE / Monitoring of deportations
Returnwatch is a new initiative of volunteers and researchers to monitor risks that people face following deportation from the European Union. Operating under the umbrella of the Post-Deportation Monitoring Network, the initiative focuses on forced returns to Turkey in light of the implementation of the EU-Turkey deal. The aim is to hold policy makers in Europe and Turkey accountable, by gathering information on whether the deportations can be qualified as collective expulsions, whether returnees have effective access to international protection on a case by case basis and whether people are safe from being sent to countries where they are at risk of serious harm. They also seek to connect those deported with lawyers and human rights NGOs in Turkey. Migrants at risk of deportation or who have been deported to Turkey are encouraged to contact the initiative here.
Source: Returnwatch, April 2016
UK / Immigration detention centres under scrutiny
In the UK, the Chief Inspector of Prisons released a report on 1 March 2016 denouncing the deteriorating conditions of detention of migrants. The report focuses on the Harmondsworth immigration detention centre, considered the largest in Europe. It condemns the unlimited length of detention and the increasing vulnerability of detainees. The report comes at a time when the government faces pressure to reform its detention programme. A previous government-commissioned report – the Shaw review – criticised the practice of detaining mentally ill migrants. A further evaluation of UK detention centres will take place during the upcoming visit of the Committee against Torture of the Council of Europe. The Committee’s previous report of 2012 had already recommended the UK to end its practice of indefinite immigration detention. While the report has been welcomed by NGOs in the UK, no action has yet been taken by government officials.
Source: The Detention Forum, 1 March 2016
Publications and other Resources
GUIDE / Multilingual video guide on access to protection in Italy
On the occasion of the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination on 21 March 2016, Arci Comitato Territoriale Catania presented a video guide which explains the procedure for the recognition of international protection in Italy. AsylEasy contains videos explaining how to seek asylum in an accessible way. The video guide is already available in Italian and will shortly also be available in English, French, Arabic, Tigrinya and Farsi. The video guide is accessible via the website, YouTube, and shortly also via a smartphone application. For more information, click here.
REPORT / Amnesty International: Human rights under threat globally
Amnesty International has recently published its annual report 2015 / 2016 highlighting that human rights are under threat globally. Concerning migrants, the report found that a countless number of migrants and refugees faced intolerance, xenophobia, abuses and violations. Many fell prey to human trafficking networks or languished in camps that failed to provide proper access to water, food, health care, sanitation or education. At least 30 countries illegally forced migrants and refugees to return to countries where they would be in danger. Concerning human rights in Europe, the report also highlights insufficient policy responses ensuring human rights in light of increased numbers of migrants and refugees arriving. In this context, the report also notes continuous ‘outsourcing’ of migration control to third countries. To view and overview with key findings, click here. To read the full report, click here.
REPORT / Civil society progress in migration and development
The Migration and Development (MADE) civil society network has published a report on progress in implementing the global civil society’s ‘5-year 8-point Plan of Action’ agreed in 2013. This first edition of a “Movement” report as an independent assessment of what progress has been made is based on interviews, literature review and a global survey among over 300 civil society organisations. The report also includes key recommendations to civil society and governments. An Executive Summary is available in English, French and Spanish. The full report is also available in English, French and Spanish.
VIDEO / Call for entries for youth video festival
As part of the Plural+ Youth Festival, the United Nations Alliance of Civilizations (UNAOC) and the International Organization for Migration (IOM) call for submissions of short videos which focus on migration, diversity and social inclusion. Open to those under 25 years old, videos should have a maximum length of five minutes and submitted by 29 May 2016. Winners will receive $1,000 and be invited to a ceremony in New York. The PLURAL+ festival takes place annually. For more information, click here.
PICUM IN THE NEWS
EU / World Health Day: Europe ignores irregular migrants’ reproductive health care
On the occasion of World Health Day, PICUM Director, Michele LeVoy, authored an opinion piece about sexual and reproductive health rights of undocumented migrants. Published by the European news platform Euractiv, the piece argues that restricting access to healthcare violates individuals’ human right to health care, is economically unsound and contrary to national and international medical standards of care. Achieving more inclusive access advances undocumented migrants’ human rights, improves individual and public health outcomes, and saves health systems unnecessary costs.
Source: EurActiv, 7 April 2016
EU / New report on access to sexual and reproductive health care for undocumented migrants
Politico’s Pro’s Morning Health Care picked up PICUM’s press release on the occasion of World Health Day announcing its new report entitled “The Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights of Undocumented Migrants: Narrowing the Gap Between Their Rights and The Reality in the EU”. The release of the report was also covered by the blog Health Investigator.
Sources: Politico, 7 April, 2016; Health Investigator, 7 April 2016
SPAIN / Cities’ responses to national and EU migration policies
PICUM was mentioned in an article as participant of an event of Eurocities at the European Commission on 6 April 2016 discussing cities’ migration and refugees policies.
Source: La Vanguardia, 5 April 2016
USA / Universal health care for undocumented migrants
National Public Radio published a piece about health care provision for undocumented migrants in different countries around the world and quoted PICUM on examples of health care services in Europe.
Source: NPR, 31 March 2016