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- PICUM IN THE NEWS
BULGARIA / Bulgarian-Turkish border to be extended
On 14 January 2015, the Bulgarian government approved the construction of an additional 82 kilometres of fence at the Turkish border. The construction of the border fence, which was initially 30 kilometres long, began in January 2014 as one of the policies adopted by the government to deter irregular entry from Turkey (see PICUM Bulletin, 2 December 2013 and PICUM Bulletin, 15 April 2014). In 2014, 38,500 migrants were intercepted while trying to enter Bulgarian territory irregularly. The government stated that it was concerned by the increase in interceptions, as the numbers doubled compared to 2013. However, the number of migrants intercepted at the Turkish border fell from around 11,500 in 2013 to about 6,000 in 2014. The extension plan is set to cost about 46 million euro. UNHCR and several migrant rights organisations have denounced this plan to extend the border, as it forces migrants to take more dangerous routes into Europe and risk their lives in the process. Border officials also regularly intercept migrants who try to irregularly cross the northern border into Romania. On 18 February, for instance, border officials arrested and detained 44 irregular migrants coming from Syria and Iraq, including three children.
Sources: Hurriyet Daily News, 14 January 2015; Reuters, 14 January 2015; Novinite, 18 February 2015
FRANCE / UNHCR is back in Calais
The United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR) is back in the city of Calais where currently about 2,500 irregular migrants are living in makeshift camps (see PICUM Bulletin 16 September 2014). The agency recently appointed a protection officer who will support the installation of a new migrant centre. UNHCR was previously present in Calais between 2009 and 2012 and works to ensure that the Convention relating to the Status of Refugees is respected by French authorities. The situation in Calais has also been highlighted in a recent report from the Council of Europe’s Commissioner for Human Rights which is available here in French and in an Amnesty International Report. On 2 January 2015, a temporary winter shelter for migrants in Calais which had opened just one week before, on 26 December 2014, was closed because temperatures were rising. The shelter was an industrial hangar which was heated and lit during the night, and housed between 150 and 200 migrants every night. The director of Solid’R, the NGO in charge of managing the shelter, declared that around 500 different migrants came to sleep in that hangar, taking turns, to leave people to watch out for their personal belongings left in the tents.
Sources: La Voix du Nord, 25 February 2015; Le Figaro, 2 January 2015
MEDITERRANEAN / 1,000 migrants rescued within two days, at least 10 dead
Italy’s coastguard and navy and several cargo ships saved over 1,000 migrants in several operations on 3 and 4 March 2015 in the Mediterranean. The migrants were in dinghies and were rescued about 50 miles north of Libya. The Italian coastguard also reported that it recovered the bodies of 10 migrants who had died. More than 30 children were among those rescued and about 50 pregnant women. The incident follows the death of at least 300 migrants who drowned after their dinghies coming from Libya sank in the Mediterranean on 7 February 2015 (see PICUM Bulletin 18 February 2015). Many civil society organisations have been calling for more rescue efforts. The German organisation ProAsyl launched a petition addressed to the President of the European Parliament, Martin Schulz, to establish safe and regular channels for migrants and refugees and provide financial means for a European rescue mission. The petition can be signed here.
Source: The Guardian, 4 March 2015
REPORT / Frontex: Number of irregular border crossings highest since 2007
In its risk analysis report covering the third quarter of 2014, the European Agency for the Management of Operational Cooperation at the External Borders of the Member States of the EU (Frontex) reports that the number of irregular border crossings amounted to over 110,000, reaching its highest level since 2007. The report highlights that, compared to the third quarter of 2013, detections at the external borders of the EU increased by more than 150%. The report states that almost 90% of irregular border crossings are detected at the sea borders of the EU. The full report is available here.
USA / Data suggests that irregular migrants travel longer period risking their lives to avoid detection
The article “Structural Violence and Migrant Deaths in Southern Arizona: Data from the Pima County Office of the Medical Examiner, 1990-2013” which has been published by the Journal of Migration and Human Security analyzes numeric trends and demographic characteristics of undocumented border crossers who died in southern Arizona. The article states that despite a decrease in Border Patrol apprehensions in the Tucson Sector, the number of deaths remains high with an average of 163 investigated each year between 1999 and 2013. This coincided with increased border control during the mid-to-late 1990s, which led to a shifting of irregular migration flows into more desolate areas. The findings suggest that migrants are being forced to travel for longer periods of time through remote areas risking their lives and increasing the probability of death to avoid detection by US authorities. To download the article, click here.
UN / Special Rapporteur: Detention inextricably linked with ill-treatment of children
The United Nations Special Rapporteur on torture, Juan E. Méndez, urged states on the occasion of the presentation of his new report to the UN Human Rights Council to adopt new alternatives to the detention of children that fulfil the child’s best interests. He noted that within the context of administrative immigration enforcement, the deprivation of liberty of children based on their or their parents’ migration status is never in the best interests of the child, exceeds the requirement of necessity, becomes grossly disproportionate and may constitute cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment of migrant children. He recommended that states expeditiously and completely cease the detention of children, with or without their parents, on the basis of their immigration status. The 28th Regular Session of the United Nations Human Rights Council is taking place from 2 to 27 March 2015 in Geneva. To view the Special Rapporteur’s report (A/HRC/28/68), click here.
Source: OHCHR, Press Release, 10 March 2015
European Policy Developments
COUNCIL OF EUROPE / Report on human rights of migrants, asylum seekers and refugees in France
Nils Muižnieks, Commissioner for Human Rights of the Council of Europe, published a report on 17 January 2015, following his visit to France from 22 to 26 September 2014. The report addresses the fight against intolerance and extremism, the human rights of Roma people as well as the human rights of migrants, asylum seekers and refugees in France. He expressed concern about the situation in Calais, where about 2,500 irregular migrants currently live and called on authorities to find more sustainable solutions. The Commissioner also voiced strong concerns on the situation of undocumented children and called for an end to the detention of children. To read the full report, click here.
COUNCIL OF EUROPE / REPORT / Racism and hate speech in Greece
In its fifth report on Greece, launched on 24 February 2015, the Council of Europe European Commission on Racism and Intolerance (ECRI) highlights that, despite the adoption, in 2014, of the new antidiscrimination law, racism, xenophobia and violence against migrants in the country continued to increase over the past year. ECRI highlights that hate speech against migrants in Greece is common in both public and political discourse and recommended national authorities to create a taskforce to develop a strategy to combat racism and xenophobia, in cooperation with civil society, the Ombudsman and the National Human Rights Commission. The full report, drafted on the basis of ECRI’s visit to Greece in March 2014, is available here.
Source: Council of Europe, Press Release 24 February 2015
COUNCIL OF EUROPE / Committee for the Prevention of Torture monitors a Frontex Joint Return Operation by air
The Council of Europe’s Committee for the Prevention of Torture (CPT) has conducted its first monitoring mission of a Frontex Joint Return Operation by air on a charter flight from Rotterdam, Netherlands, to Lagos, Nigeria. The countries participating in the joint operation were: Bulgaria, Germany, the Netherlands, Slovenia and Spain. The monitoring mission took place from 16 to 18 October 2013. In its final report on the monitoring mission, issued on 5 February 2015, the CPT stresses that the removal of migrants by air is becoming a widespread practice across Europe and highlights that these operations “entail a manifest risk of inhuman and degrading treatment (during preparation for the removal, the actual flight or when the removal is aborted)”. The CPT noted at some stages of the removal procedure an excessive use of physical constraints and highlights that one of the returnees was body-cuffed from 6.10am to 3.45pm, despite being under constant and close surveillance by escorts. Among its recommendations, the CPT stressed that an individual risk assessment should be carried out to justify the use of physical constraints and recommended that healthcare professionals on return flights should be equipped with emergency tools. The CPT also stressed that the returnees should always be prepared and informed about the removal procedure well in advance.
Source: ECRE, 13 February 2015
EUROPEAN COMMISSION / Introduction of main elements of the upcoming European Agenda on Migration
First Vice-President Frans Timmermans of the European Commission together with the Commissioner for Migration, Home Affairs and Citizenship, Dimitris Avramopoulos, launched the key priorities of the European Commission’s work on a comprehensive European Agenda on Migration at a press conference on 4 March 2015. For the first time, migration is an explicit priority of the European Commission, as presented in the political guidelines of President Jean-Claude Juncker, A New Start for Europe. All European Commissioners held a first joint orientation debate on key actions to step up the EU’s efforts in this field. Four priorities were announced: improving the functioning of the asylum system, protecting the EU’s borders mainly by strengthening Frontex operations, fighting irregular migration by targeting trafficking networks and smugglers, and improving labour migration. The new migration agenda is expected to be published in May 2015. A video of the press conference is available here.
The President of the European Commission’s Political Guidelines are available here.
Sources: EU Commission Press Release, 4 March 2015
EUROPEAN COMMISSION / Frontex operation Triton to be extended until the end of 2015
As a response to the death at sea of about 300 migrants in the Mediterranean on 13 February 2015 and after the rescue of about 3,800 migrants by the Italian authorities the week after, the European Commission decided to increase its assistance to Italy to deal with the situation in the Mediterranean. The European Commission announced on 19 February 2015 that the Frontex Joint Operation Triton will be extended until at least the end of 2015 and awarded an amount of €13.7 million in emergency funding from the Asylum, Migration and Integration Fund (AMIF) to Italy. The Italian Minister for Foreign Affairs, Paolo Gentiloni, stated in an interview on 25 February 2015 that the decision of the European Commission to prolong the Joint Operation Triton until the end of 2015 does not constitute a sufficient response to the situation in the Mediterranean and that he will present a formal request for Triton to be further strengthened at the next meeting of EU Ministers of Foreign Affairs on 16 March 2015.
Sources: Farnesina, 25 February 2015; European Commission Press Release, 19 February 2015.
COUNCIL OF THE EUROPEAN UNION / Proposal to harmonise legislation concerning sanctions for irregular residence
The Latvian Council Presidency of the EU is proposing to evaluate member states’ statistics on cases of migrants who previously had a visa or residence permit and continue to reside irregularly after its expiry or invalidation, with a view to harmonising legislation in the area, focusing especially on the harmonisation of sanctions to be imposed at EU level. The Presidency states its intention to make use of data collected as part of the police operations “Mos Maiorum”, “Perkunas” and “Mitras” in order to gather data concerning the presence of undocumented migrants across the territories of the member states. The Presidency also states that other sources of information will be Frontex data, the Fundamental Rights Agency (FRA) report on “Criminalisation of migrants in an irregular situation and of persons engaging with them”, the results of Project CLANDESTINO, as well as a short questionnaire to be submitted and completed by all member states regarding the situation at national level. The document is available on Statewatch’s website
Source: Statewatch News Online, February 2015.
COURT OF JUSTICE OF THE EUROPEAN UNION / Opinion of Advocate General: Being undocumented and using false documents is not automatically ‘a risk to public order’
The Court of Justice of the European Union’s Advocate General Sharpston issued her Opinion in Case 554/13 EU. The case concerns two undocumented migrants, Mr. Zh and Mr. O, who were ordered to leave the Netherlands with immediate effect on the ground that they constituted ‘a risk to public order’ in line with Article 7(4) of the EU Return Directive. Mr. Zh was arrested while transiting through the Netherlands, and was convicted of travelling with a false travel document and Mr. O, who was residing in the Netherlands after the expiration of his short visa, was arrested and detained on suspicion of domestic abuse. They were not entitled to opt for voluntary departure within a certain time limit. In her opinion, the Advocate General highlights that an individual assessment must be undertaken when examining whether a third-country national constitutes a risk to public order. However, the Advocate General also considers that if an undocumented migrant is suspected of a criminal offence, then the authorities do not need to wait for the legal process to be completed in order to deport the person, as “in principle, suspicion of having committed a criminal offence could be enough to invoke the Article 7(4) derogation”. The Opinion of the Advocate General in Case C 554/13 is available here.
BELGIUM / Belgian Immigration Office wants to enter homes of undocumented migrants without seeking Court decision first
The Belgian Minister for Asylum and Migration, Theo Francken (N-VA), is exploring possibilities that would allow for the immigration police to forcibly enter the homes of undocumented migrants with the purpose of arrest and deportation if they do not open the door voluntarily. Currently, in such cases, the police must first apply for a permission from a judge to allow for forcible entry. The Belgian Minister for Privacy and Fight against Social Fraud, Bart Tommelein (Open VLD), is against the proposal as the inviolability of property and residence is a constitutional right and can be restricted only by a judge, as stipulated in law. The proposal is available in French and Dutch here.
Sources: De Standaard, 22 December 2014; Knack, 22 December 2014
FRANCE / Leader of centre right party youth group found out to be undocumented
A 27-year old man from Cameroon who was elected president of the youth organisation of the conservative political party Union pour un Mouvement Populaire (Union for a Popular Movement, UMP) in December 2014, is undocumented. Stéphane Tiki arrived in France with a student visa in 2006 and belongs to the party’s ‘hard right’ current which is most strongly opposed to irregular migration. He tried to apply for naturalisation but was rejected and has no residence permit. He joined the UMP party shortly after his arrival in France to support Nicolas Sarkozy for the 2007 presidential elections and has been active in the party ever since. After his irregular status was revealed in early February 2015, he has been put on leave.
Source: Le Monde, 11 February 2015
FRANCE / Undocumented migrant awarded “Best Apprentice” prize
Armando Curri, a 19 year-old undocumented man from Albania, was awarded the prize of “Best Apprentice Carpenter in France”. Due to his irregular status, he has been under threat of deportation and was first uninvited to the awards ceremony at the Senate, whose President argued that they could not welcome an irregular migrant. The President later changed his mind stating that while the institution should respect the laws it creates, it could nonetheless promote apprenticeships and therefore welcome Armando Curri in the context of the ceremony. In the meantime, the Prefect of Loire decided to repeal the deportation decision and give Mr Curri a temporary residence permit of three months. Many young migrants face similar situations: when they arrive in France they are under the age of 18, and as unaccompanied children, they are brought under the protection of the state. They start studying or training for jobs and risk deportation as soon as they turn 18.
Sources: Le Figaro, 03 March 2015; La Dépêche du Midi, 05 March 2015
GREECE / Irregular migrants instrumentalised in debt negotations between Greece and the EU
Panos Kammenos, Greece’s Defence Minister and Greek Vice Interior Minister, Giannis Panousis, stated that they would provide travel documents to enable “hundreds of thousands of irregular migrants” to move to Germany and other Western European countries, if the eurozone does not meet demands for bailout payments. Several German politicians and officials reacted with outrage and warned that Greece would be temporarily kicked out of the Schengen area or that Schengen border controls would be re-introduced if the Greek government continued to use the “threat” of irregular migrants. Greece has been struggling with the arrival of large numbers of asylum seekers and migrants and severe cuts to public spending, and has frequently been criticised for the treatment and detention conditions and a poor functioning asylum system. Civil society organisations across Europe have been calling for a review of the Dublin regulation, as well as additional support to countries at Europe’s southern borders, such as Greece.
Sources: Handelsblatt 28 February 2015; The Local, 9 March 2015; Deutsche Presse Agentur, 9 March 2015
USA / New data on irregular migration population and costs of law enforcement
A study by the American Action Forum published on 6 March 2015 shows that the US government would have to spend approximately $400 to $600 billion to apprehend, detain, legally process and deport the estimated total of 11.2 million undocumented migrants in the US and prevent future irregular entry into the country. This process would take about 20 years and in turn, it would shrink the labour force by 11 million workers and reduce real GDP by $1.6 trillion, according to the study, the Center for Migration Studies of New York (CMS) published a paper on its development of a new database that provides detailed information on irregular migrants in the US. The report “Democratizing Data about Unauthorized Residents in the United States: Estimates and Public-Use Data, 2010-2013” authored by Robert Warren of the Center for Migration Studies, gathers information and data on irregular migrants in the US with the aim to better develop and evaluate US immigration policy and determine the social and economic effects of irregular migration. Among others, the report finds that the largest group of irregular migrants is in their twenties and thirties and California and Texas are the states with the largest populations of irregular migrants. To address the issue that a certain percentage of irregular migrants are potentially eligible for regular migration status, the study “Paths to Lawful Immigration Status: Results and Implications from the PERSON Survey” found that over 14 % of those found to be eligible for the temporary deportation relief DACA were also found to be eligible for some other form of immigration status relief.
Sources: The Atlantic 6 March 2015; Center for Migration Studies, 4 December 2014; Center for Migration Studies, 10 December 2014
EU / Major European health conference addresses undocumented migrants’ health
The Conference Report of the 17th European Health Forum Gastein “Electing Health – The Europe We Want!”, held from 1-3 October 2014, has been released. The report includes a summary of a workshop on undocumented migrants and access to health care organised by the Platform of International Cooperation on Undocumented Migrants (PICUM) and entitled ‘Undocumented migrants. Walk the public health talk: access to healthcare’. Bringing together around 600 health professionals from government and administration, business and industry, this was the first time that the Forum hosted a free NGO-led workshop. A 10-minute summary video of the Forum also mentions, among other things, the need to address the gap between health system principles (e.g. universal and preventive care) and national laws that restrict undocumented migrants’ access, and to promote a needs-based approach for all health service users. A press release and cartoon about undocumented migrants’ access to health care were also produced within the framework of the Forum.
POLICY BRIEF / Intimate partner violence against migrant and ethnic minority women
The World Health Organization (WHO) has published a policy brief entitled “Preventing and addressing intimate partner violence against migrant and ethnic minority women: the role of the health sector”. It describes the scope of the problem, presents key evidence and makes recommendations for health policy and health systems, health facilities and health service providers. The policy brief also mentions barriers undocumented women face when trying to access health care including legal restrictions and fear of deportation. In the context of strengthening the coordination between the health system and other sectors, the report recommends coordination with police. This coordination, however, must guarantee confidentiality and safety, as well as continued access to services and must not affect women’s residence status. Moreover, health providers should know about the legal implications of their work such as the fact that medical reports could be used in legal proceedings. The policy brief can be accessed here.
SWEDEN / Doctors of the World plans to open new dentist surgery
The organisation Doctors of the World plans to open a dentist’s surgery in Stockholm, Sweden within their clinic which has been providing treatment free of cost since 1995. Until recently, most of the patients consulting the clinic have been undocumented, but since Sweden passed a law in July 2013 providing access to health care for undocumented migrants suffering from acute illness (“healthcare that cannot be postponed”), the clinic has mostly received EU migrants who do not have health insurance cards. However, the clinic continues to serve many undocumented migrants, who are denied the care they are entitled to, for example due to different interpretations of the term “health care that cannot be postponed”. The network of Doctors of the World provides medical care and aims to improve access to health care for people who face numerous vulnerability factors all over the world.
Sources: Fria Tidningen, 19 February 2015; Sveriges Radio, 4 March 2015
UK / NRPF Network makes case for exemption from health care charging for local authority supported migrants
The No Recourse to Public Funds (NRPF) Network has submitted a report to the Immigration Minister outlining the impacts of the National Health Service (NHS) Charging Regulations upon migrants in receipt of local authority support, providing a number of case studies. The report highlights the contradiction between the local authority duty to support the non-exempt NRPF clients and the absence of any such duty upon the NHS. It also looks at the similarities in the status of non-exempt (from charges) NRPF clients and refused asylum seekers who are exempt. Finally, it analyses the costs and benefits of charging NRPF clients based on their typical financial situation and, of significant concern, the fact that NHS debt may be used as a reason for refusing applications for leave to remain. The report concludes by requesting an exemption for local authority supported migrants in new Regulations made under the Immigration Act 2014, which would impose a new charging regime as part of the Department of Health’s Visitor & Migrant NHS Cost Recovery Programme that is currently being implemented. As a result of civil society advocacy, these plans to extend charging for accident and emergency care and primary services within the Programme have been ‘deprioritised’ and will be subject to further public consultation. Read the report here. http://www.nrpfnetwork.org.uk/Documents/NHS-report.pdf
Sources: NRPF Network Bulletin, 27 January 2015; Migrants Rights Network, 16 February 2015
Labour and Fair Working Conditions
GULF COUNTRIES / PUBLICATION / Persisting exploitation of migrant workers
The International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) recently released the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) legal and policy brief on domestic workers “Facilitating Exploitation: A Review of Labour Laws for Migrant Domestic Workers in Gulf Cooperation Council Countries”. The brief gives an overview of the compliance with ILO Convention 189 on decent work for migrant workers in Gulf countries. In the publication abuses of migrant domestic workers and violations of their rights such as non-payment of wages, lack of daily and weekly rest, physical confinement and isolation, physical and sexual abuse were reported. To read the legal and policy brief on domestic workers, click here. Migrant workers’ abuse in the region has been frequently reported and, for instance in the case of Qatar, has not yet been sufficiently addressed by governments (see PICUM Bulletin 29 January 2015). According to figures sources by the Guardian from Nepalese authorities, Nepalese migrants building the infrastructure to host the 2022 World Cup have died in Qatar at a rate of one every two days in 2014. The figure does not include deaths of migrants of other countries of origin such as India or Bangladesh. Many of the Nepalese workers died of sudden cardiac arrest and several ones of heart attacks; 34 deaths were recorded as workplace accidents. There are about 400,000 Nepalese workers in Qatar among the 1.4 million migrants working on a £137bn construction spree in the tiny Gulf state.
Sources: ILO Newsletter Migrant Domestic Workers in Focus, Issue 4, October – December 2014; The Guardian, 23 December 2014
UK / Case Law Court upholds diplomatic immunity in domestic workers’ trafficking case
The UK Court of Appeal has in its judgment of 5 February 2015 in the case of Reyes & Suryadi v Malki upheld diplomatic immunity leaving migrant domestic workers employed by diplomats without remedy. The case concerned migrant domestic workers who were found by UK authorities to be victims of trafficking and their claim for compensation for racial discrimination, harassment and wage theft by their Saudi diplomat employer in London. The diplomat successfully claimed entitlement to diplomatic immunity under the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations. The Court justified its decision by stating that “sometimes the apparent unfairness to an individual is outweighed by the harm that would be caused by a failure to give effect to diplomatic immunity in circumstances such as those that have arisen in this case”.
Sources: Courts and Tribunals Judiciary, 5 February 2015; Kalayaan, 5 February 2015
Undocumented Children and Their Families
AMERICAS / New multi-country study on childhood migration in Central and North America calls for regional response rooted in human rights
A comprehensive regional study, entitled ‘Childhood and Migration in Central and North America: Causes, Policies, Practices and Challenges’ was released on 12 February 2015. It finds that conditions, laws, policies and practices throughout the Northern Central America-Mexico-United States corridor systematically violate the human rights of migrant children and children whose parents are migrants. The authors—civil society organisations and academics with expertise on children, migration and human rights—call on Honduras, El Salvador, Guatemala, Mexico and the United States to reform laws and policies and to develop a regional response to guarantee children’s rights in countries of origin, transit and destination. Overall, the study finds four major shortcomings that deny the basic rights of children and adolescents in the context of migration: (1) lack of attention to the causes of migration including social exclusion, marginalisation and poverty, violence and the need to reunite with family, (2) policies that prioritise immigration enforcement—such as detention and deportation—over the rights and best interests of children and adolescents, (3) an absence of adequate reintegration programs for repatriated children and (4) the lack of comprehensive regional accords and policies informed by human rights, human development, humanitarian law and international refugee law. The study concludes that the countries of the region must act immediately and jointly to promote and guarantee comprehensive human rights. The study and the press release are available to download in English and in Spanish. An article entitled ‘Children’s Migration to the United States from Mexico and Central America: Evidence from the Mexican and Latin American Migration Projects’ by K. M. Donato & S. Blake has also been published in the Journal on Migration and Human Security. The findings show that the migration of children is closely linked to their parents’ migration history, and that the increase in child migration from Central America and the continued high levels of child migration from Mexico result from widespread migration networks and the United States’ long-standing reliance on the children’s parents as migrant workers. The findings suggest that these children need protection in the form of family reunification and permanent residence status.
FRANCE / Call to sign petition to ban bone x-ray age tests for unaccompanied children
A call for signatures was launched in January 2015 to ban the use of bone x-rays to determine the age of unaccompanied migrant children. Bone x-rays of the left hand and wrist are used to determine the age of unaccompanied children. If there are no more growth cartilages, the person is estimated to be more or less 18 years old. Medical professionals and legal experts have denounced the unreliability of these tests for determining the age of children, as well as raising additional ethical and legal concerns. When these unaccompanied children are judged to be minors, they fall under the protection of the state; if they are deemed to be adults they risk being deported or can be sent to prison for misleading the authorities about their true identity. These tests, intended to be used as a last resort to determine the age of children, are now widely used by the French authorities with severe consequences for the unaccompanied children. To sign the petition, click here.
Sources: Le Monde, 17 January 2015
IRELAND / Grade for protecting migrant children’s rights: ‘Unacceptable’
The Children’s Rights Alliance published Report Card 2015, the seventh in its annual series of Report Cards, on 23 February 2015. The Report Cards grade the Irish Government’s performance on issues affecting children against stated commitments in the Programme for Government 2011-2016, and gives it an E+ grade for migrant children. The Irish system grades from A (very good) to F (very bad) and the report defines an ‘E’ grade as ‘unacceptable, taking steps in the wrong direction, no positive impact on children’. While recognising limited progress made, including steps to improve the protection of asylum-seeking children and their families, the report calls on the government to enact both the proposed International Protection Bill and an Immigration and Residence Bill. It also calls to consolidate and update existing immigration law and ensure that other migrant children are also protected, including children at risk of trafficking and undocumented children. It recommends that both bills are proofed against the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (as called for also in Report Cards 2012, 2013 and 2014), and include a specific legal provision requiring decision-makers to set out in writing how the best interests of the child have been considered in their final determination on that child’s migration status or any other immigration-related decision which will have a negative impact on that child. Specialist training should be held with all staff and specialist staff should be employed to work directly with children. Read the report here.
Source: Eurochild – eNews Bulletin – February 2015
EU / REPORT / Explainer on child poverty in the EU now available in eight languages
The Eurochild and EAPN guide ‘Towards Children’s Well-Being in Europe: Explainer on child poverty in the EU’ launched in 2013 (see PICUM Bulletin 17 April 2013) is now available in eight languages: English, Estonian, French, Italian, Macedonian, Polish, Slovakian and Spanish. The Explainer aims to raise public awareness on child poverty in Europe and on the devastating effects it has on lives of children and families as well as on society as a whole. It challenges the myths around child poverty, provides arguments and concrete solutions at EU, national, local and individual levels to help stakeholders mobilise around the implementation of the European Commission Recommendation ‘Investing in Children’. It highlights effective solutions that can help to fight child poverty and promote the well-being of all children and families, particularly in times of austerity and public spending cuts. The particular situation of children of undocumented migrants is addressed in the report as one of the groups with a greater risk of experiencing absolute or extreme poverty. The Explainer is available in the eight languages here.
Source: Eurochild – eNews Bulletin, February 2015
REPORT / UNICEF discussion paper on the repatriation of unaccompanied and separated children
UNICEF has released a report entitled ‘Children’s rights in return policy and practice in Europe. A discussion paper on the return of unaccompanied and separated children to institutional reception or family’ in February 2015 with contributions from UNICEF Netherlands, Belgium, Denmark, Norway, United Kingdom, and Sweden. The report highlights key concerns around policy and practice for repatriation of unaccompanied and separated migrant children, including the European Return Platform for Unaccompanied Minors (ERPUM). The report considers both family tracing, for children to be received by their families, and the establishment of institutional reception facilities in countries of origin for children to be sent to. UNICEF is concerned that government efforts to scale up repatriations of unaccompanied and separated children may lead to protection gaps for these children and give insufficient consideration to their rights and best interests. The authors of the discussion paper conclude that relevant policy approaches remain fragmented and do not address all relevant aspects of the repatriation of unaccompanied and separated children: Best Interests Determinations are not undertaken systematically; relevant best interests considerations are not routinely accounted for in the documentation of decision making processes; family tracing may be undertaken without proper regard for potential risks or best interests considerations; and the practice of repatriations to institutional reception facilities remains insufficiently sensitive to the potential risks entailed for the children concerned, including through the children’s possible disappearance from facilities. Alongside a presentation of available data and some children’s viewpoints, the paper provides a number of considerations for government practice. Read the paper here.
SWEDEN / First judgment under new Swedish law shows no improvement for children’s rights
In July 2014, a new law aiming at easing regularisation conditions for children entered into force in Sweden (text available here in Swedish). Before, undocumented persons could get a residence permit due to exceptionally distressing circumstances, as a last resort, and while the new law kept this terminology for adults, children can now get residence permits on the basis of particularly distressing circumstances. Stakeholders hoped that this would allow children to get residence permits if, for example, they have lived in Sweden for long periods or if they have specific health issues. However, the first judgment of the Migration Court of Appeal under this new law is very restrictive: a 13 year-old girl and her family will be deported even though the girl has lived in Sweden half of her life.
Sources: Sveriges Radio, 25 February 2015; Sveriges Radio, 13 November 2014
SWEDEN / Increasing number of unaccompanied children disappearing from state care
Many unaccompanied children are disconnecting from state care arrangement in Sweden, fearing deportation. These children are marginalised and at risk of human trafficking and other forms of violence. The trend has been increasing; 2014 set a record for the past decade with 374 children having gone missing (compared to 347 in 2013). During the past ten years more than 2,000 children have disappeared.
Source: Sveriges Radio, 9 February 2015; Sveriges Television, 12 February 2015
UK / Continued violations of undocumented children’s rights
The Children’s Rights Alliance for England (CRAE) has published the State of Children’s Rights in England (SCRE) report, examining whether enough has been done to ‘fulfil the human rights of children in England.’ A chapter is dedicated to immigration, asylum and child trafficking, and highlights key issues around immigration detention, separation of families – both temporarily and permanently – in order to secure deportation arrangements, lack of access to legal aid for immigration cases (including to challenge such cases of family separation), use of force in detention and other challenges facing undocumented migrant children. These include issues in immigration and asylum decision-making and procedural guarantees, and lack of access to housing, further education and health care. Read the report. In a separate development, a pilot programme was introduced in Lewisham local authority in June 2014 (recently extended to June 2015) to set up a dedicated team to manage support for migrants with No Recourse to Public Funds and reduce costs for supporting families. Following the initial pilot stage (as of February 2015), 88% of cases had been refused support at the initial triage assessment on the grounds that they did not meet the eligibility criteria. The Migrants Rights Network is concerned about the restrictiveness of criteria imposed on families who are presenting as needing support, and whether local authorities are meeting their safeguarding obligations for vulnerable migrant families. If you are aware of cases of support being refused in your local areas based on this new eligibility process, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
Sources: Institute of Race Relations, 29 January 2015; Migrants Rights Network, Weekly Migration News, 2 February 2015
UN / Switzerland urged to do more to meet its legal obligations to undocumented children
The UN Committee on the Rights of the Child has issued its ‘Concluding Observations’ and recommendations to Switzerland as part of the regular reporting process for all States Parties on how the Convention is being implemented. The recommendations include developing policies and programmes to prevent social exclusion and discrimination of undocumented children and allowing these children to fully enjoy their rights, including ensuring access to education, health care and welfare services in practice. Switzerland was one of the States examined during the Committee’s 68th session from 12-30 January 2015. Read the Concluding Observations here.
USA / New York State addresses discriminatory school registration practices that block access for undocumented children
A review of state compliance with national regulations to ensure all children are enrolled in school regardless of status found that 20 school districts in New York State were contravening the law by requiring migrant families and children to provide documents, such as social security cards and proof of district residency, before their children were enrolled. The joint review by the State Education Department and the Attorney General’s office which was made public in mid-February 2015 has resulted in agreements between Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman and the 20 districts which will compel them to stop asking for documents that effectively exclude undocumented children from school. In addition to changing their enrolment requirements, the districts agreed to develop new training for enrolment officials and to report any denials of admission until June 2018.
Source: New York Times, 18 February 2015
Detention and Deportation
AUSTRALIA / Inquiry finds detention harming hundreds of children
The Forgotten Children: National Inquiry into Children in Immigration Detention provides first-hand evidence of the negative impacts that prolonged immigration detention is having on children’s mental and physical health. The aims of the Inquiry have been: to assess the impact of prolonged immigration detention on children’s health, wellbeing and development by collecting evidence from children and their families, scholarly research, Department of Immigration and Border Protection data and the views of medical experts and the Australian community; and to promote compliance with Australia’s international obligations to children’s rights. The evidence given by the children and their families is fully supported by psychiatrists, paediatricians and academic research. The evidence shows that immigration detention is a dangerous place for children. Data from the Department of Immigration and Border Protection describes numerous incidents of assault, sexual assault and self-harm in detention environments. Australia currently holds about 800 children in mandatory closed immigration detention for indefinite periods, with no pathway to protection or settlement. This includes 186 children detained on Nauru. Children and their families have been held on the mainland and on Christmas Island for, on average, one year and two months. Over 167 babies have been born in detention within the last 24 months. The recommendations include that all children and their families be released into community detention or the community on bridging visas with a right to work. The Inquiry, and a summary and discussion paper are available to download here.
BELGIUM / Solidarity march for undocumented migrants in detention
About 200 undocumented migrants and their supporters marched on 1 March 2015 from Brussels to the detention centre in Steenokkerzeel, Belgium to raise awareness of immigration detention and call for the closure of detention centres in Belgium. There are currently five centres in Belgium with a total of 700 spaces. A similar march was organised on 14 and 15 February 2015 between Brussels and Antwerp to draw attention to the situation of undocumented migrants. A festival called “Visa Vie” (in English: Visa for Life), took place from 23 to 28 February in Louvain-la-Neuve, Belgium to show solidarity with undocumented migrants in the country.
Sources: La Libre, 01 March 2015; RTBF, 15 February 2015.
GREECE / Government announces changes in immigration detention practices
After the death of three migrants detained at the Amygdaleza detention centre in the Greek Attica region, Yannis Panousis, Alternate Citizen Protection Minister, and Tasia Christodoulopoulou, Minister for Migration Policies, announced in a joint statement issued on 17 February 2015 their plan to release all migrants who have completed six months in one of the country’s detention centres. The plan also foresees the release from detention of vulnerable migrants, including children, the elderly, pregnant women and people with serious health problems. The Ministers also expressed their commitment that undocumented migrants would no longer be detained for more than 18 months and that the Amygdaleza detention centre should be eventually closed. The statements came after the suicide of Nadim Mohammed, a 28 year-old migrant from Pakistan at Amygdaleza detention centre on 13 February 2015. Two young migrants from Afghanistan and Pakistan, held at Amygdaleza, died on 9 and 10 February 2015. A delegation of Doctors of the World visited the detention centre on 18 February 2015 and reported a series of malpractices, including insufficient food, lack of medical care, detention of children along with adults and lack of information on the reasons and length of detention. Similar incidents have been reported in other detention centres across the country. On 11 February 2015, Fata Abdul, a 23 year-old man from Yemen, hung himself in his cell at Thessaloniki Aliens’ Police Department. Detained migrants reported to the authorities that the victim had been held in isolation for one month. Between 3 and 4 February 2015 a group of 103 newly arrived migrants and refugees, including a 6 month old baby and his father, were held in detention in the island of Chios.
Sources: Amnesty International and Greek Council for Refugees Joint Statement, 11 February 2015; To Vima, 18 February 2015 ; Greek Reporter, 14 February; Enikos.gr, 13 February 2015; Aplotaria, 10 February 2015.
ITALY / Detrimental conditions in detention in Bari and Rome
Reda Mohammed, a 26 year-old Egyptian national, died on 7 February 2015 in the Centre for Identification and Expulsion (CIE) in Bari, Italy. The young migrant died from “irreversible cardiopulmonary arrest” while still in the detention centre. Criticising the damaging conditions in which migrants are held in the CIE of Bari Palese, structural deficiencies and poor sanitation conditions of the centre, civil society organisations, with the support of the Member of the Italian Senate, Luigi Manconi, have been calling on authorities to promptly close down the CIE. Since the maximum period of detention for migrants was lowered in Italy, the five detention centres (CIEs) currently active in the country hold a total of 749 inmates.
Sources: La Repubblica, 16 February 2015; Class Action Procedimentale, 14 February 2015; Lettera 43, 7 February 2015.
NORWAY / Unlawful detention of children
A major finding of a new report from the Norwegian Organisation for Asylum Seekers (NOAS), entitled ‘Freedom First – a report on alternatives to detention‘, is that children are being unlawfully detained in the Trandum detention centre (the only detention centre in Norway). Published in February 2015, the report finds that the lack of adequate regulation of the detention of children and families results in arbitrary application of the law, and violations of migrant children’s rights. The report also describes various alternatives to detention and reflects on the need to discuss the legal basis for detention, the consequences of detention and Norwegian practice in relation to international obligations, as well as to further develop and implement alternatives in the Norwegian context. It calls for increased focus on legal assistance and case resolution to promote the choice of assisted return among refused asylum seekers who have reached the end of their appeal options. This applies particularly to the Norwegian practice of detention of children. Read the report in Norwegian here.
Source: NOAS release, 26 February 2015
PUBLICATION / “Made Real” Project: Alternatives to immigration detention in the EU
In the framework of the Made Real Project funded by the EU, the Odysseus Network published in January 2015 a report on “Alternatives to Immigration and Asylum Detention in the EU”. The report aims at providing a comprehensive understanding of the EU legal framework on alternatives to detention (ATD) for migrants and asylum seekers. It outlines schemes which are currently used as alternatives to detention including regular reporting to the authorities; the deposit of a financial guarantee; an obligation to stay at an assigned place; sponsorship by a citizen of the country or by a long-term resident; designated residence such as in publicly-run centres as well as electronic tagging. The report highlights that, while alternatives to detention are still underused in the EU, a range of practices is available in selected member states. In particular, the report analyses the operationalisation of alternatives to detention in six EU member states (Austria, Belgium, Lithuania, Slovenia, Sweden and the UK). In addition, it includes legal research on the scope of member states’ obligations to implement alternatives to immigration detention under international, and European law.
Source: Odysseus Network
UK / REPORT / Inquiry into the use of immigration detention
A joint inquiry into the use of immigration detention by the All Party Parliamentary Group on Refugees and the All Party Parliamentary Group on Migration in the United Kingdom was released on 3 March 2015. The group of parliamentarians recommended that the next government should introduce a maximum time limit of 28 days on the length of time anyone can be detained in immigration detention in the UK. The panel also noted that the enforcement-focused culture of the Home Office does not follow guidance to use detention for the shortest possible time, leading to many instances of unnecessary detention. Among others, the panel also recommended that women who are victims of rape and sexual violence should not be detained and that pregnant women should never be detained for immigration purposes. In 2009, over 1,100 children entered immigration detention in the UK and after the General Election in 2010, the new coalition agreement included a commitment to end the detention of children for immigration purposes. Since then, the number of migrant children in detention has declined with 131 children who entered detention in the year to September 2014. While the panel welcomed this reduction, they expressed concern about the fact that a number of children are being detained in adult facilities. The panel also heard directly from detained individuals. Migrants’ rights organisations in the UK such as Right to Remain and the Detention Forum helped individuals gather and submit written evidence to the panel. Evidence submitted to the inquiry is available here. On the eve of the report’s release, Channel 4 News released footage shot undercover inside the Yarl’s Wood detention centre, revealing abusive treatment of detained migrants. To view the full report, click here. A summary of views and responses to the inquiry is available here.
Source: Right to Remain, 3 March 2015
CONFERENCE / Mobile Applications for Empowerment & Social Inclusion of Immigrants
The project Mobile Assistance for Social Inclusion & Empowerment of Immigrants with Persuasive Learning Technologies & Social Network Services (MASELTOV) will hold its final conference at the Open University in London on 16-17 March 2015. The project has researched mobile services and developed technologies for promoting integration of migrants and cultural diversity in Europe. This included mobile application solutions to common problems faced by migrants, including social isolation, understanding of language and culture, and practical information about getting on in work and life in a new place. The conference will bring together technical experts, academics, migrant support organisations, social enterprises and start-ups interested in the topic of integration and migrant support through mobile technology. For more information click here. To find out more about the MASELTOV project, click here.
CALL FOR PAPERS / Undocumented immigration: effects of policy on the experience of illegality
The Russel Sage Foundation (RSF) Journal of the Social Sciences has opened a call for articles for a special issue of the journal on undocumented migration. The special issue “Undocumented Immigration: Effects of Policy on the Experience of Illegality” will explore the effects of federal, state and local policy on irregular migration in the United States. Published articles will investigate the effects of irregularity on various pathways to social mobility and the barriers created by this status to full civic participation in the country’s institutions. (Click here for a full description of the topics covered in this call for papers). Those who wish to contribute should send a CV and an abstract of their study via this link by 15 May 2015. All submissions must be original work that has not been previously published. Each paper will receive a $1,000 honorarium when the issue is published, in late 2016. Papers will be published open access on the RSF website as well as in several digital repositories, including JSTOR.
PICUM IN THE NEWS
EUROPE / Migrants in the Mediterranean: mourning deaths, not saving lives
The electronic magazine Open Democracy published an opinion authored by PICUM Programme Officer, Maria Giovanna Manieri and PICUM Communications Officer, Elisabeth Schmidt-Hieber in response to the death of another 300 migrants in the Mediterranean. The article explains how border security is prioritised over saving migrants’ lives and the lack of political will to find durable solutions such as the creation of more regular channels.
Source: Open Democracy, 23 February 2015