PICUM Bulletin — 17 January 2012

MESSAGE FROM THE DIRECTOR

Dear subscribers,

As we begin 2012, PICUM looks back with hope and promise gained from some milestones in the last months of 2011, as several institutions demonstrated their commitment to upholding the fundamental rights of undocumented migrant.

PICUM welcomes the steps taken by the Fundamental Rights Agency (FRA) to focus on irregular migration in 2011 through reports but also its annual conference; the UN Migrant Workers’ Committee confirmed that it would work towards drafting a General Comment on this issue; and the 5th edition of the Global Forum on Migration and Development was held in Geneva for which PICUM was asked to play a role during the civil society days as well as be one of the keynote panelists in the common space with governments, with over 700 participants in attendance.

And finally, at the end of the year, PICUM held a major conference on undocumented women, and we were reminded of the persistent and very real fear that many migrant women have of exercising their rights, due to their irregular status. Yet the active contributions by many migrant women, the courageous testimonies given by some undocumented women, and the numerous examples of support and advocacy given by the organizations at the conference were inspirational.

We hope that all of these major events held at the end of 2011 will bring much needed recognition as well as commitment by various institutions to the improve the situation of undocumented migrants. We hope that our newsletter will continue to be a source of information for you and invite you give us your feedback about it, so that we can continue to improve. Please feel free to send us the feedback form that you received with the last PICUM Quarterly and that you can access in seven languages on the PICUM website – http://picum.org/en/news/quarterlies/31465/.

Thank you, and our best wishes for this new year – may it bring much promise and change!

Best wishes,

Michele LeVoy
PICUM Director

 

Borders

  • EUROPEAN COMMISSION / European Commission denied financing the construction of fence in Evros

    Cecilia Malmstöm, Commissioner responsible for Home Affairs, replied on 6 December 2011 to a written question tabled by Greek MEP Georgios Papanikolaou concerning the construction of the fence in Evros, Greece. The European Commission (EC) stated that it would not support the construction of the fence with EU funding. The EC believes that this action would not provide in itself a solution to irregular migration in the region. However, it confirmed its readiness to co-finance other more effective measures within the comprehensive strategy that the Greek authorities are planning to establish in order to ensure an integrated border management system along the entire 200 km land border with Turkey.
    Source: Eleuthrotypia, 6 December 2011

  • GREECE / DEATH AT BORDER / Numerous deaths reported at Greek borders

    Numerous deaths of irregular migrants at Greece’s borders were reported in December 2011 and January 2012. A 16 year old Syrian irregular migrant was fatally injured on 1 December 2011 after a police pursuit in the area of Makri, in Evros.  As well, two dead bodies of irregular migrants were found on 9 December 2011 close to the area of Peplos, on the bank of Evros River. On 26 December 2011, four irregular migrants, including a mother and her twelve year old son, died in their attempt to cross the Evros River, in the northeast border of Greece with Turkey. Police authorities of the region stated that the death of the irregular migrants were due to the prevailing adverse weather conditions.
    Source: Ta Nea, 28 December 2011; In.gr, 27 December 2011

  • GREECE / Various incidences of deaths of irregular migrants who were seeking shelter

    A young Afghani irregular migrant was found dead in the city of Patras on 2 January 2012. The incident occurred when the victim along with two other young compatriots lit a fire in a small container, in an effort to warm themselves, inside the cabin of an abandoned truck in a vacant textile factory. As a consequence, the young Afghani migrant died from suffocation due to the fumes coming from the container combined with the lack of oxygen since there was no window or door open.  The two other irregular migrants were found unconscious and transferred to the hospital in Patras in critical condition. Another young Afghani irregular migrant was also hospitalized in the same hospital in serious condition on 22 December 2011 when he tried to avoid arrest by seeking shelter in the same vacant textile factory.  The young man suffered from serious head injuries after jumping off from the second floor of the building.  Additionally, a 55 year old Indian irregular immigrant was found dead on 3 January 2012, in a container which he used as a shelter close to the area of Eleonas, in Thiva.
    Sources: Clandestina, 3 January 2012; Lamia Report, 3 January 2012

  • REPORT / 2010-2011 Migreurop Annual Report: Externalisation of European border controls

    In the third edition of its annual report, the Migreurop network continues its critical analysis of the externalisation of migration policies by EU countries and the consequences. The report focuses on the issue of subcontracting migration controls and on the issue of transferring responsibilities from States to private companies. This latter problem becomes particularly controversial at the Turkish borders where asylum seekers are going through a difficult and humiliating asylum process. The report also looks at the treatment of stowaways on commercial ships and in ports.
    Source: Migreurop, 15 November 2011

  • REPORT / ICMC publication on legal obligations towards boat people

    The International Catholic Migration Commission (ICMC), a PICUM member, published on 8 December 2011 a report entitled “”MAYDAY! Strengthening responses of assistance and protection to boat people and other migrants arriving in Southern Europe”. Focusing on arrival in Greece, Malta, Spain and Italy, the report highlights the legal gaps that exist with regards to responding to the arrival of ‘boat people’ and other irregular migrants. The report reflects on the inadequate procedure to identify and categorizes people as to the protection they are entitled to (i.e. asylum seekers, children, victims of trafficking and torture). The report by ICMC provides good examples of good practises in those four countries and outlines key recommendations. This publication is an outcome of the DRIVE project (“Differentiation for Refugee Identification and Vulnerability Evaluation”), led by ICMC-Europe in which PICUM was a contributor.
    Source: ICMC, 8 December 2011

United Nations

  • UN/ALBANIA / Visit of UN Special rapporteur on the human rights of migrants

    The new UN Special Rapporteur on the Human Rights of Migrants, François Crépeau, visited Albania from 5 to 13 December 2011 to assess the human rights situation of migrants in Albania.  Following his visit, the Special Rapporteur expressed his satisfaction with the “comprehensive set of laws, policies and strategies put in place over the past few years to ensure a holistic and rights-based approach to migration”.  Concerns were however voiced regarding the efficiency and effectiveness of Albanian consular offices in Europe to respect the needs of their nationals abroad particularly in relation to persons deprived of their liberty, the protection of social rights and children’s rights. Mr Crépeau called on the authorities to address the issues on trafficking, forced and voluntary return of Albanians and the fact Albania is increasingly used as a transit place for irregular migration.
    Sources: OHCHR, 2 December 2011 and 13 December 2011

European Policy Developments

  • COUNCIL OF THE EU / Danish Presidency priorities

    The Council of the EU will be led from January to July 2012 by the Danish Presidency who revealed its priorities for its chairmanship in December 2011. Migration policy was mentioned in the presidency programme as a priority but limited to enhancing EU external border controls, visa and return policy.
    Source: Danish Presidency of the Council of the European Union, 6 January 2012

  • EUROPEAN COMMISSION / EU Global Approach to Migration and Mobility

    The EU Commission revealed its strategic policy plans on migration and mobility on 21 November 2011. The Commission Communication called the “Global Approach to Migration and Mobility” follows earlier proposals from the Commission aimed at addressing the influx of migrants following the “Arab Spring” earlier in 2011. Among other priorities, the plan calls for closer cooperation with non-EU countries on migration, maximizing the impact on development and for the reduction and prevention of irregular migration. The EU Commission’s plans on irregular migration are laid out in Pillar 2 of the strategic plan, which still is heavily focused on border control, visa and return policies.

National Developments

  • BELGIUM / More irregular migrants in transit returned home

    According to Belgian authorities, more irregular migrants in transit voluntarily returned to their country of origin in 2011. Most of them were on their way to the UK and paid large sums of money to get there but finally returned to Oostende on the Belgian coast when they could not reach Britain or returned because of a lack of opportunities.  In 2010 only four irregular migrants in transit were returned, whilst 30 returns were recorded in 2011. According to the Centrum Algemeen Welzijnswerk (CAW – Centre for General Wellbeing), figures show that giving assistance to people without documents is essential. The CAW held talks with the persons in question and claims that they ought to receive adequate information and legal counselling.
    Source: Nieuwsblad, 23 December 2011

  • CYPRUS / PICUM NEWS / Second trial observation mission in Cyprus

    On the occasion of the first hearing of the trial against Doros Polykarpou, Executive Director of KISA (Action for Equality, Support and Anti-racism), scheduled on 12 December 2011, in Larnaca, Cyprus, the Euro-Mediterranean Human Rights Network (EMHRN), The Platform for International Cooperation on Undocumented Migrants (PICUM), The European Network Against Racism (ENAR), Migreurop and The European Association for Human Rights (AEDH) sent a second trial observation mission. Several meetings were arranged with the Cypriot authorities to express concern regarding the criminalisation of Mr. Polycarpou, accused of rioting during the Rainbow Festival 2010 in Larnaca, accusations which the delegation believes are unfounded.

  • FRANCE / Toughening of the French migration policy

    French Minister of Interior Claude Guéant revealed immigration data for 2011, insisting on a record number of expulsions (32,912; +17,5% compared to 2010), a decrease  in the number of residence permits typically provided (182,500 in 2011; -3,6% compared to 2010)  and a decrease by 10% of naturalisations. This announcement of data should be put into perspective and most likely shows the toughening of the political speech on migration policy before the Presidential elections. PICUM Advocacy Officer Kadri Soova was interviewed by the American Free Speech Radio News in relation to these recent statements made by the French Interior Minister. (Read 3rd story or listen from 02:20).
    Source: Le Monde, 10 January 2012

  • IRELAND / City council calls for an earned regularization scheme, hundreds turn out for solidary march for undocumented migrants and Bishop calls on the government to start protecting the undocumented

    On the eve of the UN International Migrant day, hundreds of undocumented migrants, their families and supporters marched by candlelight to the Irish parliament to draw attention to the plight of the estimated 30,000 undocumented migrants living in Ireland.  The solidarity march, organized by Migrant Rights Centre Ireland (MRCI) was led by a giant banner which read “Justice for Undocumented” and speakers discussed their personal experiences of being undocumented, urged the government to enact an earned regularization scheme, and to remember the tens of thousands of undocumented Irish migrants living in other countries. MRCI has been actively pushing for an earned regularization scheme which won the unanimous support of the Dublin City Council on 6 December 2011. The motion calls for a practical and reasonable solution for the thousands of undocumented that are currently living in Ireland and asked for the Minister for Justice to be written and informed of the Council’s support for such a scheme.  Chair of the Council for Justice and Peace of the Irish Bishop’s Conference, Ray Field, took the occasion of the Feast of the Holy Family (the Sunday following Christmas) to draw attention to the undocumented migrants living in Ireland, 85% of which for over four years, and many of whom are separated from family members. He also called on the government, which is currently engaging with US authorities on how to resolve the status of the undocumented Irish in the US, to do something similar in Ireland for the undocumented. He questioned how it was possible to lobby for the rights of the Irish in another country and not to recognize the rights of migrants in Ireland.
    Source: The Journal.ie, 17 December 2011; The Irish Times Editorial, 20 December 2011 ; The Irish Times, 19 December 2011; The Irish Times, 3 January 2012

  • ISRAEL / Severe penalties for irregular migrants

    The Israeli parliament adopted new severe penalties on irregular migrants and Israelis who assist them on 10 January 2012. The new provision permits irregular migrants to be imprisoned over property crimes with the possibility of being detained for up to three years without trial.  The law also criminalises those that provide assistance to irregular migrants that were found to be involved in criminal acts. Jail time for such persons could be five to 15 years in jail. The new measures have received mixed feelings with some arguing it is part of “a multitier strategy” to address irregular immigration whilst other deem it is contradictory to Israel’s international human rights obligations and democracy.
    Source: NDTV, 10 January 2011; Haaretz,10 January 2011

  • SPAIN / In Melilla migrants from Congo request their transfer to mainland

    A group of 30 migrants from the Democratic Republic of Congo met in front of the Government Delegation in Melilla to protest against their situation and request to be transferred to mainland Spain. According to the migrants’ spokesman, many have been in the Migrants Centre for Temporary Stay (CETI) for over two years whilst other migrants who arrived later were already transferred to the peninsula. The spokesman said that the fact that many of the migrants were single men was seen as a handicap, as families were prioritized.
    Source: SUR, 22 November 2011

  • SPAIN / The Spanish Popular Party plans to eliminate the regularization of immigrants due to social or occupational reasons

    Immigrants who have been in an irregular situation in Spain for two or three years and want to regularize their situation in order to access social or labour benefits because they have got a job will no longer be able to do so. According to the Spanish Popular Party’s (PP) spokesman on immigration issues, it will only be possible in some “very exceptional cases, which will be established according to the Autonomous Communities and City Halls”. Some organizations have already showed opposition to this plan. The president of the Association of Ecuadorian immigrants, for instance, asked for a respect of the current norms hoping that the more progressive streams inside the PP will be stronger. The economic department for the Federation of Associations of Immigrants and Refugees (FERINE) believes these measures would represent another violation of the fundamental rights of immigrants insisting that by removing avenues for integration, the number of undocumented migrants in Spain will increase.
    Source: El País, 25 November 2011

  • MEXICO / Government liable to report how much spent on protecting migrants’ rights

    In 2012, for the first time and because of a campaign organised by Fundar, the Mexican government will need to report the amount of economic resources that they are channelling to the programmes which aim to protect migrants’ rights and that are implemented by the National Migration Institute. The need to report is in the 2012 Budget Bill which was recently enacted by Congress. In Article 60, the bill obliges the Ministry of Interior and the National Migration Institute to report to Congress the amount of resources channelled to, at least, four programs: Paisano Program, Human Repatriation Program , Grupos Beta for Humanitarian Assistance Program and Officers to Protect Migrant Children. The information must be provided in public reports on a three-month basis. It is a very important step in order to identify and understand the priorities of the Mexican government. Also, it will make public how much money the government is channelling to protect migrants’ rights (at least the National Migration Institute) vs. the money they channel to control immigrants.
    Source: El Universal, 14 December 2011

  • USA / Obama introduces a change in immigration rule on waivers

    The Obama administration plans a rule change to help reduce the time that undocumented spouses and children are separated from citizen relatives while they try to win legal status in the United States. Under the new rule, immigrants would be allowed to stay in the US and apply for a waiver as long as they can prove that their absence would cause an extreme hardship for their citizen spouse or parent. As the system is now without the waiver, the undocumented migrant would be banned from re-entering the US for up to 10 years. The proposal could affect more than 100,000 undocumented migrants in the US and would not require congressional approval.
    Source: CBS News, 6 January 2012; Los Angeles Times, 6 January 2011; Department of Homeland Security, 8 CFR Part 212, 9 January 2012

  • USA / Federal courts block major parts of South Carolina’s and Alabama’s anti-immigrant legislation

    A federal district court blocked major parts of South Carolina’s anti-immigrant law from going into effect on 1 January 2012. The court determined that major sections of the law (SB 20) were likely to be held unconstitutional, such as criminalizing the failure to carry documentation at all times and making it a crime to transport or harbor undocumented migrants.  In the state of Alabama, a federal judge temporarily blocked a  part of the states’ legislation which would require residents to show proof of citizenship when registering mobile homes within the state (see PICUM News Bulletin 7 December)
    Source: NILC, 22 December 2011 ; The Guardian, 13 December 2011

  • USA / The state of California bans the practice of towing automobiles which targeted undocumented migrants

    On the 1 January 2012, a new law took effect in California that prohibits police from impounding cars at sobriety checkpoints if a driver’s only offense is not having a license.  The practice had hit undocumented migrants the hardest since California passed legislation in 1993 making them ineligible for a license.  California has had a sharp increase in federally funded sobriety checkpoints, and unlicensed drivers are also targeted because they are seen as hazards on the road.  Many civil and immigrant rights groups say that immigrants are unfairly targeted at the checkpoints and question the practices of the towing companies which are able to keep the impound fees for themselves and are allowed to auction off the cars of which are believed to be abandoned.
    Source: NBC, 26 December 201; USA Today, 28 December 2011

Health Care

  • GREECE / Minister of Health blames undocumented women for HIV infections and calls for their deportation

    “The infection goes from the illegal migrant women to the Greek client, into the Greek family” announced Greek Health Minister Andreas Loverdos  on 15 December 2011 at a public health conference, “HIV infected migrant women should be deported”. While at a UN General Assembly High-Level meeting on AIDS in June 2011, Mr Loverdos recognised human trafficking of Sub-Saharan women brought to Greece and forced to work as prostitutes as a cause of infections, his comments made at national level are remarkably more reactionary. He has been quoted elsewhere as calling undocumented pregnant women as a huge burden on the Greek National Healthcare service (ESY- Ethniko Systima Ygeias) and makes frequent comments to the ‘public health risks’ caused by the ‘ influx’ of African and Asian migrants arriving in Greece since 2010. Critics note that the Greek National Health System has been in a state of continued crisis since its establishment in 1983 and accuse Mr Loverdos of scapegoating the most vulnerable and disempowered members of Greek society.
    Sources: Infomobile, 17 December 2011; Greek Reporter, 27 December 2011; The Body, 10 June 2011

  • NORWAY / Health centre for undocumented migrants gets prize from Amnesty

    The Amnesty International Norway Prize 2011 has been awarded to a health centre for undocumented migrants in Norway run by Red Cross and Church City Mission. The award was given to the health centre because of the tough and courageous battle that the three employed doctors and approximately 100 volunteer health workers have been fighting since the opening of the centre in 2009 to provide basic human rights to everyone living in Norway. Over the two years it has been operational the centre has developed from being seen as very controversial to a “public secret”. Its growth is due to the fact that the Norwegian law denies undocumented migrants access to free state provided health care.
    Source: Amnesty.no, 14 December 2011

  • UK / Migrant patients are still receiving substandard treatment in healthcare

    Project:London, a clinic in East London which was established by Doctors of the World UK, found that in 2010, 40 out of the 66 pregnant women who attended the clinic for the first time were in their second and third trimester. The women waited so long because they had been unable to register with a general GP and the majority were migrants or asylum seekers. Barriers mentioned were legislation that affects migrant patients and the misunderstanding of GPs concerning the rights of the migrants. An investigation in July 2011 found that while the Department of Health permits GPs to treat undocumented migrants at their own discretion, one in ten primary care organizations place practices that do so under investigation. According to the Department of Health, immigration status is not considered reasonable grounds to refuse to register someone as an NHS patient in primary care. However, Section 175 of the NHS Act 2006 allows hospitals to charge non-UK residents for some secondary care procedures.
    Source: 50.50 Inclusive Democracy, 12 January 2012

  • UK / Department of Health provides assurances that migrants will not be pursued for GP service costs

    Since 30 October 2011, the UK Border Agency (UKBA) is able to refuse an application to enter or remain in the UK when someone has an unpaid NHS debt of £1,000 or more. Such a regulation has a huge impact on migrants who may have a large debt due, for example because of maternal care or a chronic illness. Advocacy groups in the UK are organizing against the rule and have written letters to the Parliamentary Under Secretary for Public Health, Anne Milton, with their concerns. On 11 January she responded by providing assurance that migrants and visitors who consult GPs or use other primary health care services while in the UK would not be pursued by the UKBA to pay the costs or lose the right to re-enter the country. The application of the law will be limited to people who have received hospital treatment and with the understanding that a charge would be made and remains unpaid. Advocacy groups are still concerned with the way that immigration officers understand the position, the wider issue of using immigration controls as a form of punishment for people with NHS debs and how such legislation can in the long run, counter public health. Organizations such as the National AIDS Trust, MRN, and the UK Refugee Health Network are asking people to participate in a letter writing campaign which calls for guidance letters to be consulted publicly on the implementation and highlights that the new rule risks harm to vulnerable groups who may now be more hesitant in accessing immediately necessary treatment, especially those that are unable to pay for the treatment.
    Source: Migrants’ Rights Network, 16 January 2012; Migrants’ Rights Network, 9 December 2011; Refugee Health Network, 14 December 2011; Migrants Rights Network, 12 December 2011

  • USA / A Chicago hospital agrees to provide free treatment to undocumented migrants lacking health insurance

    Pro-immigrant activists are celebrating in Chicago after Rush Hospital agreed that it would provide free treatment to undocumented migrants lacking health insurance, including those who are in need of urgent transplants. Most undocumented would often go to Cook County hospital, another hospital in the Chicago area, but it has since cut back on its services to the uninsured and undocumented because of budget cuts.
    Source: Fox News Latino, 29 December 2011

  • USA / Program to improve cancer protection and detection for irregular women not accessing care

    In Miami, an innovative project is working to improve cancer protection and early detection for women in the neighbourhood known as ‘Little Haiti’, many of whom are undocumented. The University of Miami has identified that women living in this neighbourhood had over four times the rate of cervical and breast cancer than those living in other parts of the city. The university then teamed up with a Haitian-born female community leader to launch a culturally-sensitive health programme to identify and address the reasons for cancer rates in the area. The programme identified irregular status as a key barrier to enabling early detection and treatment due to fear of contact with authorities, ineligibility for Medicaid and general lack of information about health and health services. For the past five-years, Patne en Aksyon (“Partners in Action”) have employed bilingual English-Creole community health workers, operated a free clinic for Pap smears, distributed a ‘self-testing’ kit for cervical cancer that they created with illustrations to explain use.
    Source: Miami Herald, 3 January 2012

Labour and Fair Working Conditions

  • BELGIUM / REPORT / Publications to help undocumented workers

    OR.C.A. (Organisation for Undocumented Migrant Workers), a PICUM member, is providing information to defend the rights of undocumented workers in three publications: “Undocumented workers: a guide of rights” is a legal assistance guide to inform concretely undocumented workers about their rights and possibilities to defend; “First aid in case of violations of rights of undocumented workers” explains in three steps the measures to be taken by social workers to help undocumented people; and finally, the brochure “Rights of undocumented workers: a legal guide” summarizes the possible measures and complaints through the current legislation. Guides are available for purchase on www.orcasite.be or on www.travailleurssanspapiers.be

  • ITALY / New measures needed to avoid 350,000 migrants falling into irregularity due to the crisis, says Minister for International Cooperation

    600,000 residence permits expired in 2011 and 250,000-350,000 migrants may risk falling into irregularity, according to Andrea Riccardi, the new Italian Minister for International Cooperation. During a hearing at the Italian Parliament, Mr Ricardi said that this period needed to be extended to one year compared to the current six months to allow irregular migrants to search for work, an issue which he said he will discuss with the Minister of the Interior.  He also said that the residence permit fees should be revised and tailored according to the different means of subsistence.
    Source: La Repubblica, 11 January 2011

  • NETHERLANDS / Employing workers without a permit will lead to fines for employer

    The Dutch Minister for Social Affairs and Employment, Henk Kamp, has said that employers that hire workers without a permit will in the future have to bear the costs of repatriation themselves and might receive a hefty fine. The Minister introduced a notification commitment which obliges employers to notify authorities two days in advance when they hire temporary non-EU personnel without a permit.
    Source: HR Praktijk, 5 January 2012

  • PORTUGAL / Slave work of irregular migrants

    D. Vitalino Dantas, bishop of the Beja district, in the Alentejo region, denounced the existence of slave work of irregular migrants of Asian origin in several agricultural companies in the Odemira region. Most of these workers come from Thailand and live in sub-human conditions. Mr. Francisco Palma, head of the Farmers’ Association of the Lower Alentejo, declared he was surprised by this denunciation, and stressed that the local authorities have enhanced oversight mechanisms to combat slave work. A year ago D. Vitalino called the attention of the City Council to the existence of slave work of Romanian and Moldovan nationals during the olive harvest season.
    Source: Correio da Manhã, 18 December 2011

  • UK / JCWI actively looking for migrant care workers to become involved in ongoing appeals

    The Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants (JCWI), a PICUM member, is a campaign organization in the field of immigration, asylum and policy in the UK. They are currently involved in legal action on behalf of migrant care workers who went to the UK in the early years of this century at a time when the UK needed to fill vacancies in the nursing homes, retirement homes and hospices throughout the country. They accepted the job trusting the promise made by the UK Government that, after four years of work, they would have the right to settle in the UK. Now some of these workers were refused settlement on the grounds of their salary levels not being high enough according to a new a rule that went into effect in April 2011. Since then, JCWI has successfully represented two of the care workers in their appeals and is in the process of acting on others. For more information on the cases or to contact a staff member, visit JCWI’s website.
    Source: JCWI, 14 December 2011

  • UK / REPORT / Research finds that there is no association between rising immigration and rising unemployment

    Economists from the National Institute of Economic and Social Research have released a report stating that there was no association between rising immigration and rising unemployment, which contradicts persistent claims coming from anti-immigration activists and politicians. The researchers from the institute actually suggest that the opposite is more likely true and that immigration acts as an economic stimulus and pushes total employment levels higher. Such studies are crucial at a time while the government has imposed a cap on immigration from outside the EU and pledged to reduce net migration by the end of 2015.
    Source: The Independent, 10 January 2012; The Guardian, 10 January 2012

  • USA / Undocumented migrants do pay Social Security but will not benefit

    While many Americans believe that undocumented migrants do not pay taxes, billions of dollars deducted from pay checks issued to undocumented workers go to the Social Security Administration every year. Most certainly, those workers will never see that money again. In 2009, the last year for which figures are available, employers reported wages of $72.8 billion for 7.7 million workers who could not be matched to the legal Social Security numbers.
    Source: The Seattle Times, 28 December 2011

Undocumented Women

  • FRANCE / Plight of undocumented migrant sex workers highlighted

    Grisélidis, an organisation working with sex workers in Marseille since 1999, has identified increasing immigration controls, including mass arrests, detention and deportation as well as lack of access to regular migration channels, as factors facilitating violence and male domination against female migrant sex workers. The organisation, which operates a full-time telephone hotline and meets an average of 550 prostitutes through their twice weekly mobile unit, has witnessed many cases in which women reporting trafficking and domestic violence are subsequently detained, and note that police are often more interested in meeting their deportation targets then protecting the women. Grisélidis is concerned that the criminalization of solicitation under the Internal Security Act of 2003, has meant that sex workers are often based far from town centres in more isolated areas. While those who present themselves as a victim of trafficking should receive a temporary residence permit, they find that foreign prostitutes are rarely considered “good victims” and are often treated as if they are tricking the system in order to obtain papers. Marriage is almost the only route to regularity, but as they often enter into a relationship with customers, these women frequently find themselves in a violent situation and their abusive husbands are rarely punished.
    Source: MediaPart, 18 December 2011

  • SPAIN / 50% of the claims brought by immigrants are dismissed

    Amnesty International (AI) said that about 50% of domestic violence complaints by women in an irregular situation are dismissed, and it requests to the next Government that legislation be ‘correctly applied’ in order to provide protection to these people. In a report on the occasion of the International Day against Violence against Women on 25 November 2011, AI noted that the reform of the migration law provides that no woman who reports abuse may be expelled from the country until there is a contrary sentence because this is “a particularly vulnerable group”, and that they make up 38 % of persons whom are killed in Spain. On the same day, PICUM also released a press release entitled “Survivors of Violence, Victims in Silence?” which called on the EU and its member states to renew their efforts to fight all forms and expressions of gender-based violence and to protect all victims without discrimination in order to reclaim the rights of undocumented migrant women in Europe.
    Source: El Día, 25 November 2011

  • USA / Civil society and State initiatives seek to support undocumented women experiencing violence

    The Mexican consulate in Laredo, Texas have launched a special programme to support undocumented women experiencing partner violence to remain in the US and avoid separation from their children. With financial support from the Mexican Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the consulate hired a female immigration lawyer to handle over 260 cases, 85 of which have already been resolved favourably for the women and the remainder are on track for success. In Ohio, the media have highlighted the work of the “Domestic Violence and Child Advocacy Center of Greater Cleveland” in providing over 600 Hispanic women experiencing violence with safety and stability programs regardless of their immigration status. The “Latina Domestic Violence Project” was established to address the unique needs and barriers facing Hispanic women experiencing violence, providing them with emergency shelter, contact with prosecutors, and assistance to apply for a U-visa.
    Source: Cleveland.com, 5 January 2012

  • CALL / Applications for the Migrant & Refugee Woman of the Year Award

    There is an open call for nominations for the Migrant & Refugee Woman of the Year Award. Any woman who defines themselves as a migrant or refugee is eligible and must have been actively involved in community work in London during the last 12 months. The aim of the award is to recognize and celebrate women who have migrated or fled persecution themselves, find time to provide essential support and inspiring leadership at the grassroots level to other migrants attempting to start a new life in the city. The nomination process closes on 6 February 2012 and further details on eligibility and how to apply are available on the Migrant & Refugee Communities Forum (MRCF) website.
    Source: MRCF, 5 January 2012

  • CAMPAIGN / Goals set at Women’s Caucus of PGA on Migration and Development in Geneva

    The Women’s Caucus of the “People’s Global Action (PGA) on Migration, Development and Human Rights” met on 2 December 2011 in Geneva, Switzerland. This is the second year of the Caucus which PICUM has co-hosted alongside global partners on migrant women’s rights. A civil society initiative held alongside the Global Forum on Migration and Development (GFMD), the PGA gathers migrants’ rights advocates from across the world. In Geneva, the Women’s Caucus developed three campaign goals in the lead up to the sixth GFMD, due to be held in Mauritius in November 2012. Firstly, it will lead  a joint campaign against the criminalization of migrants. Secondly, it will address the issue of guaranteeing economic and social rights, through the provision of quality public services to all, including temporary workers, undocumented migrant women and their families. This includes access to shelter, legal protections, healthcare, domestic violence rescue and support, and education among others.  It is necessary to build a ‘firewall’ between service providers and migration enforcement, so that migrant women are able to freely access services without fear. Lastly, the Women’s Caucus will campaign against gender-based violence towards undocumented migrant women and temporary workers, affirming a women’s right to move freely without being bound to their spouse or employer, which keeps women in violent situations.

Undocumented Children and Their Families

  • BELGIUM / Associations to help young people plan legal action against the State for lack of appropriate reception for unaccompanied children

    Brussels-based associations for the support of young people estimate that there are 200 unaccompanied children living in hotels and a further 100 in squats. “Those seeking asylum are given inadequate accommodation in hotels, without social support and age-appropriate teaching. The others are excluded from the Fedasil reception network” denounces MENAMO, an organization which provides support to these children. Asylum seeking children are accommodated in hotels with no educational support during the initial review of the cases, and unaccompanied children who do not claim asylum are completely abandoned. Faced with no change in the reception of separated children for over two years, the associations are planning to take legal action against the Belgian government in January 2012 for breaching its obligations under the Convention on the Rights of the Child.
    Source: Le Soir, 3 December 2011

  • EU / Case law further clarifies implications of Zambrano ruling

    The European Court of Justice (ECJ) ruled on 15 November 2011 on several cases presented by Austria’s Supreme Administrative Court (see PICUM Bulletin 29 August 2011) following the ECJ’s ruling in the Zambrano case (see PICUM Bulletin 14 March 2011 and 11 April 2011). The Court clarified that the Zambrano ruling does not imply the right of family reunion for third-country nationals if the sponsoring EU family member has not exercised their right of free movement within the EU, unless it would deprive that family member of their rights as an EU citizen, as in the Zambrano case. The Zambrano case concerned an EU citizen child who would be deprived of his means of subsistence, and so his right to live in the EU, by the refusal to grant the right to reside and work to his primary caregivers.
    Source: Migration News Sheet, December 2011(Members only)

  • FRANCE / The rights of unaccompanied children in France

    Lassana B., an unaccompanied child (in French “mineur isolé”) in Paris, rejected from the ASE shelter because of a controversial age test indicating that he actually was 18 years old, was not recognised the legal capacity to defend his rights in French courts. This is not an exceptional case in France, as hundreds of unaccompanied children are confronted with administrative barriers to defend their rights. The case of Lassana B. has been forwarded to the State Council by GISTI, a French NGO and PICUM Member, and might lead to a condemnation of France by the European Court of Human Rights. Other associations have also denounced the government and various departments which are refusing the responsibility to take care of unaccompanied migrant children, who are living in difficult and perhaps dangerous situations.
    Source: Combats pour les droits de l’homme, Le Monde, 7 January 2011; Journal du Droit des Jeunes

  • ITALY / Steep rise in number of unaccompanied children

    The number of unaccompanied children reaching Italy has gone up from 4,600 in 2010 to 7,500 in 2011, and while most in 2010 came from Bangladesh, Afghanistan, Albania, Egypt, Morocco and Kosovo the year 2011 has seen a shift towards North Africa. About 845 Italian municipalities currently house unaccompanied minors. The Committee for foreign minors has said that most of them are male, while the average age is decreasing. As the number increases it is said that Italian municipalities should invest more in having proper facilities to receive unaccompanied minors.
    Source: La Repubblica, 20 December 2011

  • NETHERLANDS / Celebrities launch campaign for regularization of undocumented children

    Following the political and media debates about the case of Mauro Manuel (who has now been granted a temporary study visa; see PICUM Bulletin 11 October and 9 November 2011), a group of Dutch celebrities have launched a petition for a “children’s pardon” – a regularisation for children who have lived in the Netherlands for a number of years and put down roots in the country.
    Source: De Pers, 19 December 2011 and 20 December 2011

  • NETHERLANDS / MEPs endorse European core standards regarding guardians of separated children

    The NGO Defence for Children – The Netherlands launched its “Core Standards for guardians of separated children in Europe” in the European Parliament on 30 November 2011. The ten standards are the result of the project “Closing a protection gap”. Within this project, eight country reports (Belgium, Denmark, Germany, Ireland, Italy, the Netherlands, Slovenia and Sweden) include views of unaccompanied children and their guardians measured against international standards. The goal of the core standards is to empower all guardians in Europe to work towards common goals and inspire State authorities to offer guardians the work environment and mandates needed. The Core Standards were endorsed during the launch by MEPs Judith Sargentini (NL, Greens) and Cecilia Wikström (SE, ALDE).
    Source: ECRE Weekly Bulletin, 2 December 2011

  • SPAIN / Shelters for unaccompanied children are over capacity

    The councillor of Social Welfare of Melilla, María Antonia Garbín reported that accommodation facilities were stressed and accommodating over their capacity. She noted that in the last few months numbers had been rising and provided the example that in just a few hours, Melilla had received 14 immigrant children which were in need of accommodation.  Ms Garbín added that if the trend continued it could generate ‘an unwanted situation in these kinds of protection centres’ because teenagers that access the centre claim there are “many more” waiting for their chance to get into Melilla.
    Source: Sur, 7 December 2011

  • USA / Bill introduced in Kansas that would mandate schools to verify immigration status of students

    A bill (SB 590) has been introduced in the Kansas state senate which would mandate that all public schools verify the immigration status of enrolees as well as make it a state misdemeanour for not carrying proper citizenship documentation. Immigration advocates say that the bill unfairly focuses on immigrants and their families, opens the state up to future litigation and forces school officials to act as immigration agents.
    Source: Kansas City Star, 11 January 2012

  • REPORT / Restrictions ‘in name of integration’ separate families in practice

    Migration Policy Group has published the fourth in a series of policy briefings to help policymakers and stakeholders respond to the European Commission’s Consultation on the EU Family Reunion Directive (deadline 1 March 2012). The briefing’s analysis suggests that most policy restrictions will likely function as obstacles to the right to family reunion enshrined in EU law. Restrictions on family reunion may also increase the number of families living irregularly as they are unable to reunite through the official mechanisms. Migration Policy Group argues that the burden should be on supporters of the restrictions to prove their claims that reducing the number of reuniting families effectively improves the integration of those families that do reunite.
    Source: Migration Policy Group, 7 December 2011

Detention and Deportation

  • BELGIUM / Breach of the European Convention on Human Rights for detention of children

    The European Court of Human Rights ruled on 14 December 2011 in a case brought forward by a Sri Lankan woman and her three children claiming that their stay in a (closed) detention centre in early 2009 was in breach of Articles 3 and 5 of the European Convention on Human Rights. The court ruled that the detention breached the right to freedom of the children and stated again that detention centres do not provide adequate facilities for minors. In the meantime, the family was recognised as refugees in September 2009.
    Source: Newsletter Kruispunt Migratie-Integratie, 21 December 2011

  • BELGIUM / Breach of the European Convention on Human Rights for detention of HIV patient

    The European Court of Human Rights ruled in a case brought forward by a woman from Cameroon who was held at a Belgian detention centre that her confinement was in breach of Articles 3 and 5 of the European Convention on Human Rights because for several months she was not given the necessary medication. However, her repatriation was ruled not to violate the ECHR, though six judges were of a different opinion.
    Source: Newsletter Kruispunt Migratie-Integratie, 21 December 2011

  • DENMARK / Government to act faster on children facing deportation

    In response to several recent high-profile cases of children who have been threatened with being separated from their families through deportation from Denmark, the new government has decided to speed up the process of relaxing the rules for family reunification regarding children. According to Berlingske newspaper, following a meeting last week between the immigration spokespersons from the Socialdemokraterne-Radikale-Socialistisk Folkeparti (SRSF) coalition parties and justice minister Morten Bødskov (S), children facing deportation will no longer have to wait until parliament adopts changes to family reunification law. Instead, they can see their deportations put on hold as early as February.
    Source: The Copenhagen Post, 28 December 2011

  • FRANCE / Detained migrant children in France

    To reach the expulsion quota fixed by the government (30,000 “removals” planned in 2011), children, pregnant women and entire families were placed in immigration detention centres (‘centres de retention’ in French) in France. In 2010, associations counted 356 children behind bars (10 out of 27 detention centres can officially host children in France). The case of the Chechen family Dzhanaraliev with eight children, expulsed from Roche-sur-Yon last 29 September 2011, and retained in Rennes before being sent back by plane to Poland, their first country of arrival in the Schengen area, is a consequence of this policy of statistics.
    Source: Le Nouvel Observateur, 15 December 2011

  • FRANCE / NOTE / GISTI practical note on “What to do following an obligation to quit the French territory or a ban to come back?”

    A new immigration law from 16 June 2011 changes the removal procedures for undocumented migrants in France. The law introduces new exceptions such as the ban to come back on the French territory for up to five years, extends the delay for detention control in immigration detention centre (‘centre de rétention’ in French) to five days (instead of two), and extends the maximum detention duration to 45 days. The note produced by GISTI summarizes the main measures and procedures related to the new law. Available on the GISTI website.

  • FRANCE / REPORT / Report on administrative detention centres in France

    The five associations now providing legal assistance to migrants in French detention centres (Assfam, Cimade, Forum Réfugiés, France Terre d’Asile and Ordre de Malte) have drafted a common report condemning “the obsession of statistics and forfeiture of rights” of a “policy which pushes authorities to remove migrants, thus scoffing at procedures and most fundamental rights” and asking to end detention of children. According to them, detention conditions and difficulties to protect fundamental rights of detained people create permanent tension and violence. Report available on the La Cimade website.

  • GREECE / 50 irregular immigrants on hunger strike at the prison of Alikarnassos in Crete

    50 irregular immigrants started a hunger strike on 3 December 2011 at the police department of Alikarnassos, in Crete, where they are imprisoned. The hunger strike was in response to the poor conditions of their detention. They claim that they are given little food, are not provided health care and are only able to leave their cells if using the toilet. Most of the migrants are from Syria where the existence of repressive regimes have forced them to leave their country. Two of the strikers were transferred to the hospital following a breakdown.
    Source: Clandestina, 8 December 2011

  • GREECE / Report of CPT

    The Council of Europe’s Committee for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CPT) published on 10 January 2012 in Strasbourg a report concerning its ad hoc visit to Greece in January 2011. The report also includes the response on behalf of the Greek Government. The Committee underlines in its report its concerns about the very poor and deplorable conditions in police stations and other ill-adapted premises in which irregular immigrants are held. Additionally, according to the report, it is found that great numbers of irregular immigrants are held in the border guard stations in bad conditions, in cells which are very poorly furnished, non-ventilated and with insufficient light, and with no daily access to outdoor exercise. Moreover, it is stated that women were held with men and detainees were not allowed to change their clothes. According to the Greek government’s response, which is attached to the report of CPT, Greek authorities present all the measures which they intend to implement, thus taking into account the recommendations of the CPT for better conditions and improvement of the detention centers, while emphasizing the particularly difficult economic situation of the country.
    Source: CPT, 10 January 2012; TVXS, 10 January 2012

  • ITALY / New minister revokes order limiting access to detention centres

    After the previous Italian Minister of Internal Affairs, Roberto Maroni, had stipulated in April 2011 that NGO’s and journalists were no longer allowed to access detention centres in order to prevent “obstruction of their activities” the new Minister Anna Maria Cancellieri revoked this order.
    Source: La Repubblica, 13 December 2011

  • MALTA / Death in detention

    An irregular migrant of Somali origin who had been rescued 75 miles south of Malta and placed in a detention centre, died on 13 December 2011. He rapidly became ill and was taken to a health centre where he was given medicine for gastro enteritis and diarrhoea but a few hours after his return to the detention centre he collapsed, lost consciousness and was declared dead. An inquiry is being held into his death.
    Source: International Detention Monitor, Issue 25, December 2011; Times of Malta, 13 December 2011

  • SWEDEN / Detention of rejected asylum seekers

    The Swedish Green Party was content to announce that after long discussions with the Swedish centre-right government coalition, the confinement of unsuccessful asylum seekers has been limited to two months. This time period can be extended by one month for those who refuse to leave the country following the decision over their asylum case and up to 12 months in exceptional circumstances when the unsuccessful asylum seeker does not co-operate with the authorities.
    Source: International Detention Monitor, Issue 25, December 2011; Radio Sweden, 18 November 2011

  • UK / UK compensates child asylum seekers for 13 months detention

    Four children in the United Kingdom who had been locked up in detention centres for 13 months received compensation from the UK Home Office. Thirteen months is the longest time children have ever been detained in the UK. Their lawyer claimed that they had been detained unlawfully and for too long. The case has been settled out of court. The Ay family, Kurdish asylum seekers from Turkey, were detained in 2002. “We spent 13 months with my mum and the four children crammed into one room. Before we went to sleep each night the guards counted us, something we really hated. Now freedom for me means being able to sit in a room all by myself,” said Beriwan, who is now 23. At the time, the children of the family were just 7, 11, 12 and 13 years old. “In detention we didn’t get much of an education and since leaving detention we’ve all found it much harder to study. The Home Office stole not only part of our childhood but also our future”, they say. The UK has ruled to end the detention of children in immigration centres in May 2011, but there are delays in implementing this promise. The campaign “End Child Detention Now” received increasing support over the year. Controversy also persists about new rules that allow them to be kept in a short-term holding facility for up to a week (see PICUM Bulletins: 26 September 2011, 29 August 2011, 20 June 2011, 23 May 2011, 27 April 2011, and 28 March 2011)
    Source: The Guardian, 6 January 2012; BBC News, 7 January 2012; End Child Detention Now

  • USA / New hotline for immigrants in detention centers

    The US immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) launched a new hotline to help locate detained undocumented immigrants and avoid US citizens from mistakenly being taken into immigration custody. The toll-free hotline will be staffed 24 hours a day by the agency personnel and is available for detainees to phone if they think they may be a US citizen or a victim of a crime. It seems that such mistaken deportations do happen, as shown in the case of a 15 year old from Texas, who, after being arrested for shop lifting, provided false information to US authorities, and waived her right to an immigrant attorney, ended up in jail for six weeks and was then deported to Colombia.
    Source: The Chicago Reporter, 3 January 2012; The Christian Science Monitor, 7 January 2012

  • USA / REPORT / Rare look inside immigration detention centres

    A researcher for the Applied Research Center, a think tank which looks at racial justice and focuses on media and activism, gained rare access to a jail and five other immigration detention centres in the United States. The article looks at the conditions of people in the centres, for example lack of medical care and attention, as well as the treatment from the guards. It also provides a background on the actual business that is behind detention, for example how the building of one facility was done to foster growth in a community and after the increase in deportations in the last few years has made it the largest employer in town. The report notes that immigration detention is one of the most rapidly expanding segments of the American prison system and that since 2007 the Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency (ICE) has entered into agreements to build or expand at least ten detention facilities.
    Source: Colorlines, 4 January 2012

Publications and other Resources

  • FRANCE / New GISTI publication on compensation for victims of offenses

    According to French law, victims of offenses are entitled to compensation when they experience damages and can therefore address a civil jurisdiction called Civi.  In a publication by GISTI and the Association of victims of lead poisoning (AFVS), they explain the conditions under which victims can refer to the Civi and condemn the fact that undocumented migrants are unable to take advantage of such legal redress. They note the discrimination and find it unjustified that undocumented migrants are unable to receive compensation because of their immigration status.

  • ITALY / Italians more favourable of migration

    A study by the German Marshall Fund in the United States and five European countries (France, Germany, Italy, Spain, and the United Kingdom) points out that Italians are still worried about irregular migrants. About one in five citizens consider the issue an absolute priority, while slightly less (48% compared to 53% in 2010) are of the opinion that there are too many irregular migrants in Italy. At the same time, 58% of Italians consider migration to be benefiting society, compared to 49% the previous year. Finally 60% of Italians think the EU should establish quotas for the reception of migrants in the EU.
    Source: Transatlantic Trends, 15 December 2011; La Repubblica, 15 December 2011

Events

  • BELGIUM / Seminar on the criminalization of migrants

    PROGRESS Lawyers Network (PLN) will hold a seminar entitled “Is being a foreigner a crime? We don’t think so”. The main objective of the seminar will be to carry out an in-depth analysis of the violations of migrants’ rights perpetrated by systems and policies which increasingly criminalize migrants. To register, please visit the PLN website. The deadline for registrations is 6 March 2012. The seminar will take place at the International Association Centre in Brussels.
    Source: PROGRESS Lawyers Network

  • HUNGARY / One-week Litigation Summer School held by Open Society Justice Initiative and Central European University

    Applications are now open for a week-long summer course on human rights litigation, which will be held by the Open Society Justice Initiative and the Central European University from 16 to 20 July 2012 in Budapest, Hungary. The course will explore the steps involved in strategic litigation, and will develop the skills and knowledge needed to successfully bring cases to the regional human rights systems and the UN treaty bodies. Young human rights professionals with at least three years’ experience are invited to submit applications by 15 February 2012. More info on the Summer University website.
    Source: ENAR Weekly e-mail, 13 January 2011

Other News

  • EU / Funding opportunities

    DG Justice of the European Commission has issued various calls for proposals to apply for grants in the field of human rights, justice, anti-racism and anti-discrimination. Visit the DG Justice website for further details.

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