PICUM Bulletin — 18 February 2015


  • MEDITERRANEAN / At least 300 migrants die at sea

    At least 300 sub-Saharan migrants are believed drowned after their dinghies sank in the Mediterranean after they left Libya on 7 February 2015. The migrants were in four small inflatable boats and had allegedly been at sea for days without sufficient food and water facing cold temperatures and a rough sea. Details of the deaths emerged after nine migrants belonging to a group of more than 200 packed into two dinghies were rescued by the coastguard and taken to the Italian island of Lampedusa. At least 29 migrants died of hypothermia after they were picked up by Italian coast guards near the island of Lampedusa on 9 February 2015. They were part of the group of migrants found on board an inflatable boat about 160km from the Italian territory. According to accounts, waves were up to eight metres high, with freezing temperatures. The migrants called for help via satellite telephone after getting into trouble. The migrants then spent about 18 hours on the decks of the coast guards small patrol boats, until they reached Lampedusa. Lampedusa’s mayor Giusi Nicolini blamed the closure of Italy’s search-and-rescue mission Mare Nostrum for the tragedy. Since the end of Mare Nostrum no bigger vessels capable of keeping large numbers of migrants below deck have patrolled the waters near the Libyan coast.
    Sources: The Guardian, 9 February 2015; BBC, 9 February 2015; UNHCR Press Review, 5 – 13 February 2015

  • SPAIN / Migrants continue to try to scale border fence one year after incident in which 15 died

    A group of about 50 sub-Saharan migrants tried to scale the border fence at the Spanish North African enclave of Ceuta on 3 February 2015. During the attempt, one of the migrants managed to reach Ceuta and another six remained on top of the fences for more than two hours before voluntarily coming down but the majority of the group was prevented by Moroccan guards. The incident took place as migrants’ rights advocates recalled the deaths of 15 migrants who tried to reach the coast of Ceuta one year ago, on 6 February 2014. Members of the Spanish Civil Guard had opened fire with large rubber bullets and tear gas to stop 200 sub-Saharan migrants from arriving, resulting in the death of 15 people (see also a multimedia page depicting details of the incident and PICUM Bulletin, 15 April 2014). One year later, 16 guards who were involved in the case were accused of reckless homicide. The magistrate court number 6 in Ceuta launched formal investigations against them and they will have to testify between 3 and 11 March 2015. The Spanish Congress of Deputies adopted amendments to the immigration law, currently awaiting final approval in the Senate, which would allow the automatic and collective expulsion of people at the Spanish borders in Ceuta and Melilla without any procedural safeguards (See PICUM Bulletin, 10 December 2014 and PICUM Bulletin, 29 January 2015)
    Source: El País, 4 February 2015; Human Rights Watch, 4 February 2015; Cadena Ser, 11 February 2015; El  País, 11 February 2015

  • TURKEY / At least seven migrants die in shipwreck off Turkey

    At least seven migrants died when a boat capsized and sank off the coast of Turkey’s south-western province of Muğla on 7 February 2015. There were around 15 people on board when the boat sank after its engine failed. Six were rescued and two are still missing. The migrants were said to be on their way to the Greek island of Kos, about two miles off the coast of Turkey, when the boat capsized. Turkey, which hosts about 1.7 million Syrian migrants and refugees, has become a key transit point for migrants aiming to get to Europe.
    Source: Hurriyet Daily News, 7 February 2015

United Nations

  • OHCHR / Europe must bank on regulated openness and mobility

    The United Nations Special Rapporteur on the human rights of migrants, François Crépeau, visited Brussels from 2 to 5 February 2015 as a follow-up of his study on the management of the external borders of the European Union published in 2013. In his End of Mission Statement published on 5 February 2015, the Special Rapporteur called on European countries to bank on regulated openness and mobility instead of focusing on repressive policies, which without regular migration channels foster smuggling operations and underground labour markets. Moreover, he called for the standardising of reception conditions and Refugee Status Determination (RSD) procedures throughout the EU and urged the EU to strengthen its search and rescue capacity to avoid increasing numbers of migrants dying in the Mediterranean Sea. The Special Rapporteur also noted the need for access to justice for all migrants if Europe really wants their rights to be respected. During his visit to Brussels François Crépeau met with a range of EU officials responsible for border management, EU member state representatives, international organisations and civil society organisations to discuss the complex management of the EU border. To view the full statement, click here.

European Policy Developments

  • COUNCIL OF EUROPE / Nominations to GREVIO Committee taking place at national level

    After the Council of Europe Convention on Preventing and Combating Violence against Women and Domestic Violence (Istanbul Convention) entered into force on 1 August 2014, a group of independent experts is now to be selected. This ‘Group of experts on action against violence against women and domestic violence’ (GREVIO) will measure the extent to which state parties who have signed the Convention are adhering to it. In addition to reports received from national governments, these experts will rely on information from NGOs and national parliaments, and may also conduct field trips as part of their inquiry. States Parties to the Convention have until 2 March 2015 to submit nominations for up to three candidates to the Council of Europe Secretary General. Civil society will also play a role in this process by encouraging States Parties to nominate strong candidates. Once the GREVIO is in place, civil society can contribute to the monitoring process through shadow reports to GREVIO. The ‘Istanbul Convention’ sets out, and calls for the implementation of, legally binding standards to prevent violence against women, protect survivors and punish perpetrators, and prohibits discrimination on the grounds of migration status (Article 4). It has been signed by 36 states, and ratified by 16 states, including most recently by Poland on 6 February 2015, where the ratification was met with criticism by the conservative opposition MPs and the Conference of Polish Bishops. To view the rules on the election procedure of the GREVIO, please click here.

  • EU / Over 19,000 migrants apprehended during Mos Maiorum joint police operation

    A total of 19,234 undocumented migrants were apprehended (9,890 at the external EU borders and 9,344 within the EU territory) during the joint police operation called ‘Mos Maiorum’, which took place across the European Union from 13 to 26 October 2014. This operation was proposed by the Italian Council Presidency of the EU in July 2014 and was jointly carried out by all EU member states, apart from Croatia, Greece and Ireland. Frontex and Europol gave technical and analytical support to the operation (see PICUM Bulletin, 10 October 2014). The operation led to the apprehension of 257 facilitators of irregular migration, of whom 53 were at an external EU border, and 204 who were within the EU internal borders. The number of apprehensions as part of the operation Mos Maiorum was significantly higher than the total reported as part of a previous operation ‘Perkunas’, which led to the apprehension of a total of 10,459 migrants over an equal period of two weeks in September-October 2013.
    Source: Statewatch, 23 January 2014

  • EU / First meeting of EU Migration Forum

    The first meeting of the new European Migration Forum took place from 26 to 27 January 2015 in Brussels and focused this time on the migratory flows in the Mediterranean, in particular on the smuggling of human beings. An initiative of the European Economic and Social Committee and the European Commission, the European Migration Forum takes over from the EU Integration Forum as a broader platform for dialogue with civil society organisations and local and regional authorities on the EU agenda for migration, asylum and integration. Kadri Soova, Advocacy Officer of PICUM, and Yonous Muhammadi of the Greek Forum of Refugees were elected as new civil society representatives to the Bureau of the Forum. The Bureau is responsible for the preparation of the Forum and will meet in mid-March 2015 to discuss the theme and format of the Forum’s next edition.
    Sources: Migrant’s Rights Network, 2 February 2015

National Developments

  • BELGIUM / Pilot project targeting irregular migrants committing petty crimes

    The test period of the pilot project ‘Gaudi’, an initiative launched on 11 December 2014 by the Belgian Secretary of State to Asylum and Migration, Theo Francken, and the Interior Minister, Jan Jambon, both of the nationalist New Flemish Alliance (N-VA), came to an end on 18 January 2015. The project was carried out in eight Belgian municipalities and consisted of increased police controls in order to arrest migrants in an irregular situation who had committed minor crimes such as pick-pocketing and shoplifting, with the aim of thus fast-tracking their deportation. Theo Francken declared he was very satisfied with the results, as 542 migrants in an irregular situation were arrested during the test period, out of which 70 have already been deported, 61 are about to be deported and 18 have been sent to prison. The project, however, was not unanimously welcomed by all mayors of the municipalities concerned. Brussels mayor, Yvan Mayeur, underlined that this ‘muscled’ initiative only served to mask inconsistencies in the federal migration policies of the Belgian government. He denounced the targeting of people who are remaining in the country without being granted a residence status and who are forced to commit petty crimes in order to survive. The city and police of Charleroi, one of the test municipalities, also expressed their lack of willingness to develop the pilot project and make it permanent as “it is not in line with any existing priorities”. Alexis Deswaef, president of the Human Rights League, expressed his concern in the face of what he qualified as an encroachment of the executive powers on legislative and judicial prerogatives. He underlined that the fast-tracking of deportation presented a risk for the respect of the fundamental rights of migrants who were arrested during these types of operations.
    Sources: La Libre, 3 February 2015; La Libre, 4 February 2015

  • FRANCE / Protest against punishment of support of irregular migrants

    A migrants’ rights activist in Dijon was called before the Judicial Precinct of the city, facing accusations of facilitating the irregular residence of several migrants whom he provided with proof of accommodation to allow them to access social and medical services and to file a claim for asylum. An activist of the Human Rights League, Paul Garrigues, was not the object of criminal proceedings but received a “notification of the law” (rappel à la loi). About 50 persons gathered on Tuesday 27 January 2015 in front of the Judicial Precinct of Dijon in order to protest against the criminalisation of assistance to undocumented migrants. The president of the Human Rights League in Dijon, Georges Berlier, underlined that a proof of accommodation is required for the files of asylum seekers to be considered and Mr Garrigues declared that this constitutes a great obstacle for migrants who are trying to regularise their situation. A collective of 29 associations organised the protest with signs reading “Solidarity is not a crime” or “Solidarity always”.
    Sources: Bien Public, 28 January 2015; Macommunce.info, 27 January 2015

  • GERMANY / Church asylum movement withstands criticism

    The German Minister for the Interior, Thomas de Maizière, (Christian Democratic Party, CDU) has criticised churches for providing shelter to undocumented migrants and refugees. Mr de Maizière questioned the legitimacy of church asylum and argued that church asylum supporters defy existing laws. Representatives of the Catholic as well as the Protestant Church in Germany have been withstanding criticism by referring to international human rights frameworks and their Christian conviction to help those in need. Moreover, churches providing temporary shelter to undocumented migrants and refugees criticised the plan of the German Federal Office for Migration and Refugees (Bundesamt für Migration und Flüchtlinge, BAMF) to consider those who find shelter through church asylum as ‘fugitive’.
    Sources: Spiegel online, 30 January 2015; Evangelischer Pressedienst, 6 February 2015

  • GERMANY / Plans to turn former concentration camp into migrant detention centre scrapped

    The council of the German city of Augsburg proposed in late January 2015 to transform a building which was formerly part of the concentration camp Dachau into a home for migrants and asylum seekers. On 2 February 2015, the mayor of Augsburg, Kurt Gribl, announced in a press release that the proposal is not to be considered further. The decision followed criticism of, among others, the President of the Jewish religious community Munich who argued that the proposal disregarded the commemorative status of the building. During the Nazi regime, about 2,000 forced labourers worked in the building. The proposal follows a similar plan in the city of Schwerte, in the federal state of North Rhine-Westphalia, which aimed to transform a satellite camp of the former concentration camp Buchenwald into an asylum seeker home. However, the plan was met with criticism by local politicians as well as the Refugee Council of North Rhine-Westphalia, which blamed authorities for insensitivity.
    Sources: Focus, 16 January 2015; Süddeutsche Zeitung, 31 January 2015; Spiegel online, 2 January 2015

  • RUSSIA / Russia forbids re-entry of irregular migrants

    New amendments of the Russian Federal Law on the Rules of Departure and Entry came into force on 11 January 2015. With the amendments, authorities aim to prevent foreign nationals from overstaying their visa and subsequently re-entering Russian territory. The amendments of the law ban foreign nationals who stayed irregularly in the Russian Federation for more than 180 days, but less than 270 days, from entering the country for the next five years. In cases in which the irregular stay exceeds 270 days a person will be banned from entering the country for the next 10 years.
    Source: Garant.ru (Law web-portal), 12 January 2015

  • UNITED ARAB EMIRATES / Migration ‘inspection campaigns’ lead to arrest of over 7,780 undocumented migrants in 2014

    The Director of Dubai’s naturalisation and residency directorate, Mohammed Al Marri, revealed in a press conference that a series of ‘inspection campaigns’ led by immigration authorities resulted in the arrest of more than 7,780 undocumented migrants in the year 2014. According to figures of the UK-based Emirates Centre for Human Rights, migrant workers make up about 90 percent of the United Arab Emirates’ (UAE) labour force. Civil society organisations have denounced the immigration system of the country for allowing widespread abuse of the rights of migrant workers and for its lack of protection. The focus of migration reform led by the government seems, however, to crack down on irregular migrants, with authorities arguing that undocumented migrant workers allegedly pose a security threat. Reports of migrant workers’ abuse is not uncommon in the Gulf region, where many South Asian migrants come to find work and are employed in precarious conditions, as is the case in Qatar, which has been criticized for rampant exploitation of its migrant labour force (see PICUM Bulletin, 29 January 2015). To see the factsheet of the Emirates Centre for Human Rights on migrant workers in the UAE, click here.
    Source: International Business Times, 6 February 2015

Health Care

  • SWITZERLAND / REPORT / Overview and recommendations to improve access to and quality of health care for vulnerable populations in Switzerland

    The national platform for undocumented migrants’ access to health care (‘Plate-forme nationale pour l’accès aux soins de santé des sans-papiers’) in Switzerland has published a report reviewing the current barriers and challenges faced by undocumented migrants in accessing health services in Switzerland. The report proposes a set of recommendations tailored to the local context, but with resonance for other European countries. The short version of the document is available in German, French, and Italian. A longer version, only available in French and providing a more in-depth analysis, is available here: Accès aux soins des vulnérables (version détaillée).

  • NORWAY / 11 organisations urge the government to provide health care for undocumented migrants

    A group of 11 organisations sent a letter to the government of Norway on 27 January 2015 urging it to provide health care to undocumented migrants on the basis of need, professional ethics and human rights. The organisations are Red Cross Norway, Church City Mission, Amnesty International Norway, Médecins sans frontières Norway, Antiracist center, Norwegian Organization for Asylum Seekers, LHLs international tuberculosis foundation, Norwegian Peoples Aid, the Norwegian doctors association, the Norwegian nursing association, and the Norwegian midwife association. The letter is available (in Norwegian) here.

Labour and Fair Working Conditions

  • FILM / Life of undocumented migrant workers in the Netherlands

    The Indonesian Migrant Workers Union in the Netherlands (IMWU NL) is to release a documentary about the lives of Indonesian migrant workers in the Netherlands.  The documentary, with the title ‘Dispereert niet’, which in Old Dutch means ‘Do not Dispair’, has been directed by Irwan Ahmett and Tita Salina and filmed by Rangga Aditiawan. The film aims to show migrants’ daily lives, their concerns and sacrifices, their unfulfilled dreams as well as their collective struggle to voice their rights in the Netherlands. The launch will be accompanied by a discussion on the issue and a photo exhibition. For more information on the film and to watch the trailer, click here.
    Source: Doorbrak, 20 January 2015

  • HONG KONG / Woman found guilty in case of torture and abuse of Indonesian domestic worker

    A Hong Kong woman who tortured and abused her Indonesian domestic worker was found guilty of 18 charges on 10 February 2015 including assault, grievous bodily harm, criminal intimidation and failure to pay wages or give time off work. Photos showing the domestic worker Erwiana Sulistyaningsih’s injuries gained widespread attention about a year ago, triggering protests against the poor treatment of migrant domestic workers (See PICUM Bulletin, 29 January 2015). The court heard that the employer, Law Wan-tung, punched Sulistyaningsih in the mouth, fracturing her teeth; jammed a metal vacuum cleaner tube in her mouth, cutting her lip; and hit her on the back with a feather duster when she was sleeping. Moreover, she forced the domestic worker to stand naked in the bathroom during winter while she sprayed water on her and pointed a fan at her.
    Source: Al Jazeera, 10 February 2015

  • PUBLICATION / ‘The Age of Dignity: Preparing for the Elder Boom in a Changing America’

    Published in February 2015, the book ‘The Age of Dignity: Preparing for the Elder Boom in a Changing America’ by Ai-Jen Poo, finds that the failure to address care needs has created a reliance on migrant workers, “the invisible infrastructure” of US economy and social fabric. Domestic and care workers have an essential and intimate role in the lives of many Americans, but are at best undervalued and at worst categorically abused. Lacking the basic labour protections and employment standards guaranteed to other workers, the isolated nature of their work often presents barriers to organising and collectively bargaining. Consequently, care work is increasingly performed by the most excluded and marginalised workers. The book argues that undocumented caregivers should be allowed to attain regular status, receive the training needed to raise the quality of care and improve their wages. The author also outlines how the money could be raised to accomplish these goals. In addition to testimonies from individual caregivers, the book gathers many useful resources. This is a can-do book aiming to rouse the public into action. It is the first book of Ai-Jen Poo, a leading activist for domestic workers rights in the United States, the director of the National Domestic Workers Alliance and the co-director of Caring Across Generations, a national coalition of 200 advocacy organisations working to transform the long-term care system in the US, with a focus on the needs of aging Americans, people with disabilities, and their caregivers.
    Source: Kirkus, 3 February 2015

  • PUBLICATION / Matching Economic Migration with Labour Market Needs

    The publication ‘Matching Economic Migration with Labour Market Needs’ gathers papers presented at a conference jointly organised by the European Commission and the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) in February 2014. It provides new evidence on the role that international migration has played in Europe and in selected other OECD countries over the past decade in terms of labour force; educational attainment; and occupational changes. It analyses the availability and use of migrants’ skills based on an in-depth literature review as well as new data analyses for Europe and the United States, Canada and the OECD as a whole. Several chapters discuss the potential role of international migration in meeting current and future labour market needs in Europe, in the United States and in the European Union. This work shows that although migration can make an important contribution to labour force growth, its role in counterbalancing the effects of population ageing will depend on the capacity of countries to match labour needs to migrants’ characteristics. The publication can be read here.

  • USA / The Coalition of Immokalee Workers (CIW) receives the Presidential Award for Extraordinary Efforts to Combat Trafficking in Persons

    US Secretary of State John Kerry presented the 2015 Presidential Award for Extraordinary Efforts to Combat Trafficking in Persons to the Coalition of Immokalee Workers (CIW) at the White House Forum on Combating Human Trafficking in Supply Chains on 29 January 2015. CIW has pioneered a worker-based social responsibility model, the Fair Food Program, to include workers in addressing exploitation and abuse and to eradicate modern slavery in Florida’s tomato fields. The unique program leverages the market power of major corporate buyers, coupled with strong consumer awareness, worker training, and robust enforcement mechanisms to increase wages, end labour trafficking, and promote worker rights.
    Sources: The White House blog, 29 January 2015; Freedom Network USA, 29 January 2015

Undocumented Women

  • USA / Undocumented woman becomes a licensed attorney

    Vanessa Pumar, an undocumented migrant who came to the United States with her parents from Venezuela when she was 12 years-old, was sworn in as attorney in California on 30 January 2015 after attending South-western Law School in Los Angeles and taking the state Bar Exam. Ms Pumar is the first recipient of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), a programme that deferred undocumented immigrant youths from deportation, to become an attorney in the US. Having decided to study law to figure out her family’s migration status, she has now agreed to work as a legal representative for the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles to serve the community she remains a part of.  She is also a leader of the DREAM Bar Association, a group of undocumented lawyers and law students across the US. In January 2014, the California Supreme Court ruled that 36 year-old Sergio Garcia, who entered the country irregularly and earned his way through law school doing manual work, would be admitted to the state bar and allowed to practice law (see PICUM Bulletin, 27 January 2014).
    Sources: NBC Los Angeles, 29 January 2015; Orange County register, 28 January 2015

Undocumented Children and Their Families

  • USA / Undocumented students suffering from anxiety

    There are an estimated quarter of a million undocumented undergraduate students in the United States, many of whom have qualified for deportation relief (for more information on deportation relief see the National Immigration Law Centre). A new report from the UndocuScholars, released on 26 January 2015, sheds light on the range and complexities of undocumented undergraduates experiences based on a sample of 909 participants across 34 states, originating from 55 different countries. The report, entitled ‘In the Shadows of the Ivory Tower: Undocumented Undergraduates and the Liminal State of Immigration Reform’ describes students’ diverse demographic characteristics, experiences in college, and aspirations and anxieties, making specific recommendations to policy-makers, colleges and universities, and higher education associations, scholarship providers, foundations, and corporations. Undocumented undergraduates reported significantly elevated levels of anxiety: 28.5% of male and 36.7% of female participants’ anxiety scores were above a clinical cut-off level (in contrast to 4% and 9% of a normal population). While DACA recipients reported it had positive impacts on their lives, some limitations remain, and levels of anxiety were actually higher. Among the findings is that deportation is a constant concern: over 75% of the total participants reported worries about being detained or deported, 55.9% reported personally knowing someone who had been deported. The other main concerns included financial issues, unfair or negative treatment on campus, and isolation, underlining the importance of colleges and universities to better support undocumented students.

  • UK / WEBSITE / Supporting innovation to help undocumented children and youth

    The Supported Options Initiative is a special initiative of the Paul Hamlyn Foundation, delivered in partnership with Unbound Philanthropy. It encourages and supports innovation in helping children and young people with irregular immigration status in the UK. The initiative has launched a website to gather and publicise information about all the funded projects and various films, articles and reports. The initiative was established in 2010 to address the particular vulnerability of children and young people with irregular migration status who are unable to access the help and support available to other young people. There is an estimated 120,000 undocumented children living in the UK. To view the website, click here.

Detention and Deportation

  • FINLAND / REPORT / The practical application of the Finnish law regulating detention of migrants

    As part of the international research project ‘Law and the other in post-multicultural Europe’, the University of Helsinki finalised in January 2015 a report providing an overview of the practical application of the Finnish legal system regulating the grounds and conditions of detention of migrants in the country. The study provides an overview of the legal framework on administrative detention of migrants in Finland and describes the main grounds of detention and their interpretation by the police and the court. The data for the study was collected from the District Court of Helsinki detention cases between 15 February and 31 May 2013. The data comprises records of a total of 167 district court cases. The report also includes data on the number of migrants detained in Finland and notes that, between 2008 and 2012, the number of children detained each year varied between 10 and 24. The findings of the report highlight that alternatives to detention are rarely used and that a thorough analysis of the individual case against the principle of proportionality of detention by the court is very often lacking. The report also shows that the risk of absconding has become the most common ground for detention and being in a process of removal is in itself considered a reason for a risk of absconding. Finally, the study notes that the poor quality or complete absence of reasoning by the national courts, together with a low number of releases, is strongly suggesting that the nature of judicial review serves as a mere formality. The report ‘Administrative Detention of Migrants in the District Court of Helsinki’ is available here.

Publications and other Resources

  • WORLD REPORT / Undocumented migrants marginalised in the EU

    Human Rights Watch (HRW) published its World Report 2015 on 29 January 2015. The 25th edition of HRW’s annual World Report summarizes human rights conditions in more than 90 countries and territories worldwide in 2014. The report is divided into an essay section, and country-specific chapters. Human rights violations against undocumented migrants are noted in chapters on the human rights situation in several EU countries. Addressing the migration and asylum policy of the European Union, the report notes concern about limited access to health care for undocumented migrants in several EU member states as well as criminalisation of undocumented migrants. Moreover, the report states that Qatar has failed to enact reforms to its labour system, which continues to facilitate the trafficking and forced labour of migrant workers. Particularly high numbers of irregular migrants have passed through Mexico exposing them to abuse and human rights violations. To purchase or download the complete report click here.


  • CYPRUS / Article on trafficking addresses how media perpetuates stereotypes through discriminating language

    The Cypriot news platform Sigma Live published an article on trafficking mentioning PICUM’s terminology campaign. Quoting Kleitos Papastylianou of PICUM’s member organisation KISA, the article describes PICUM’s ‘Words Matter’ leaflet providing accurate terms in all EU languages and reasons why not to use the term ‘illegal migrant’.
    Source: Sigma Live, 1 February 2015

  • ITALY / Terminology in reference to undocumented migrants

    The Italian news organisation which focuses on migration related news reported on PICUM’s terminology campaign advocating to end the use of the term ‘illegal migrant’. The article puts particular focus on PICUM’s ‘Words Matter’ leaflet providing accurate terms in all EU languages and reasons why not to use the term ‘illegal migrant’.
    Source: Piu Culture, 29 January 2015

    This newsletter was compiled by PICUM, with contributions from Asya Pisarevskaya

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