PICUM Bulletin — 18 September 2012


  • CYPRUS / DEATH AT BORDER / Boat carrying Syrian migrants sinks off Northern Cyprus, Human Rights Watch denounces further deaths in Mediterranean

    Six Syrian migrants, including two children, died off the coast of the Karpas Peninsula in Northern Cyprus, when the boat on which they had left the Syrian port city of Latakia sank. Their death was reported on 27 August. According to Human Rights Watch, the death toll in the Mediterranean during the first six months of 2012 has reached at least 170. Denouncing the recent events and developments in the Mediterranean, Human Rights Watch has released a report entitled “Hidden Emergency: Migrant Deaths in the Mediterranean.” For more information and to read the full report click here.
    Sources: Migrants at Sea, 4 September 2012; Human Rights Watch, 16 August 2012; Migrants at Sea, 30 August 2012

  • GREECE / Request for increased patrols of Aegean Sea operated by Frontex

    Frontex has decided to enhance its forces in Greece, following recent letters sent by Greek Minister of Mercantile Marine and Island Policy to EU Commissioner for Home Affairs Cecilia Malmström and to the Executive Director of Frontex Ilkka Laitinen where he stressed the continuing influx of irregular migrants into the country particularly to islands located in the eastern Aegean Sea. The assistance will include the deployment of four aerial vehicles, four patrol boats, three mobile surveillance units and eight expert officers. The costs will be covered by EU funds. Meanwhile, police and coast guard officers reported the detention of 146 undocumented migrants during August 2012 on the islands of Symi, Farmakonisi, Samos and Lesvos. On the other hand, it appears that the enhanced presence of border guards in the northern region of Evros has deterred the arrival of irregular migrants with only two migrants being stopped on 25 and 26 August 2012 compared to 447 on 2 August 2012.
    Source: ToVima, 3 September 2012; Infomobile, 4 September 2012; Ekathimerini, 28 August 2012

  • ITALY / DEATH AT BORDER / Shipwreck in Lampedusa, dozens of migrants still lost at sea

    A trawler which was carrying more than a hundred migrants, including 10 women and 6 children, sank off the coast of Lampedusa on 6 September. Two persons were found dead; 56 migrants, all Tunisian, had been rescued and were in good health and a further 80 migrants are feared to have drowned. Italian Coastguard vessels and aircraft, together with three NATO ships, are taking part in the rescue operations, which started soon after a distressed migrant who was travelling on board the trawler called the Italian Coastguard to seek help. Rescuers are still looking for the wreck of the vessel to confirm the circumstances of the tragedy. The Public Prosecutor’s Office in Agrigento is now conducting an inquiry. A further 82 migrants who were travelling from Libya on another ship were rescued off the shores of Lampedusa on 9 September 2012.
    Sources: La Repubblica, 7 September 2012; La Repubblica, 7 September 2012; La Repubblica, 9 September 2012; La Repubblica, 9 September 2012

  • SPAIN / Mass expulsion of Sub-Saharan migrants through joint operation between Spain and Morocco

    A group of 71 migrants from Sub-Saharan Africa reached Isla de Tierra, a small uninhabited island which is part of the Spanish Alhucemas archipelago and is located 300 meters from the Moroccan coast, on 28 August 2012. The group of migrants included two women and eight children in urgent need of humanitarian help who were accompanied to Melilla to receive assistance. The Spanish and the Moroccan Governments launched, on 4 September 2012, a joint police operation to return migrants to Morocco in accordance with a bilateral agreement signed by the two countries in 1992. According to the bilateral agreement, Morocco should proceed to the identification and eventual repatriation of the migrants to their countries of origin or to the country they left immediately before entering Moroccan territory. Many NGOs, and in particular a group formed by Andalucía Acoge, Asociación Pro-Derechos Humanos de Andalucía, Comisión Española de Ayuda al Refugiado, Elin and SOS Racismo, have criticised the fact that the migrants were not repatriated to their countries of origin and instead were conducted to the border with Algeria, in the area of Oujda, without prior identification and any legal guarantees. To read the Bilateral Agreement between Spain and Morocco see BOE Num. 100, 25 April 1992.
    Source: El Pais, 25 August 2012; El Pais, 4 September 2012

  • TURKEY / Boat carrying Palestinian, Iraqi and Syrian migrants sinks off Turkey

    A fishing boat which was carrying Palestinian, Iraqi and Syrian migrants heading to Europe sank off the Western coast of Turkey, causing the death of at least 61 people, on 6 September. 49 of the migrants on board were rescued, including the Turkish ship’s captain who was arrested. The high death toll seems to have occurred because many of the migrants were trapped or locked under the main deck of the boat. Ms Tineke Strik, rapporteur of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) issued a statement on 7 September noting that the real cause pushing migrants to cross over to Europe was the humanitarian crisis in their countries of origin. She called on the EU to give greater priority to the humanitarian crises and find new ways of tackling irregular migration.
    Source: Migrants at Sea, 9 September 2012; Migrants at Sea, 9 September 2012


  • EUROPEAN COURT OF JUSTICE / JUDGMENT / European Parliament to review the annulled Frontex Sea Borders Rule

    The European Court of Justice (ECJ) has issued a decision which annuls Council Decision 2010/252/EU of 26 April 2010, a provision which supplemented the Schengen Borders Code in reference to the surveillance of the EU external sea borders coordinated by Frontex, also known as the Frontex Sea Borders Rule. The ECJ stated in its judgment that the provisions contained in the contested rule constitute a major development in the Schengen Borders Code system and that therefore the European Parliament should further consider and approve the contested rules. The rule which is being challenged lays down the measures which border guards may take against ships or in order for ships to be stopped, boarded, searched and seized. In addition, the rule sets down specific rules on the disembarkation of people intercepted or rescued. The Court pointed out that this issue involves important political choices and that the exercise of specific powers by the border guards requires specific authorisation which must be accorded through a Parliamentary review of the rule.
    Source: Migrants at Sea, 10 September 2012; Case Law of the Court of Justice, 5 September 2012

  • EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT / NGOs send further letter on EUROSUR

    Following an initial letter sent to the Civil Liberties committee (LIBE) of the European Parliament in early 2012, PICUM in partnership with SOLIDAR, the Jesuit Refugee Service – Europe (JRS), the European Network Against Racism (ENAR), the European Association for the Defence of Human Rights (AEDH) and the Euro-Mediterranean Human Rights Network (EMHRN) sent another letter on 3 September 2012 to MEP members of the LIBE Committee. The group of NGOs is calling for the proposed EUROSUR surveillance system to guarantee and protect the fundamental rights of all migrants and asylum seekers. The current proposal focuses largely on fighting organised crime and irregular migration with little focus on protecting the rights of irregular migrants.
    Source: SOLIDAR Weekly Newsletter, 7 September 2012


  • MOROCCO / Violence and racism against undocumented migrants go unpunished

    Ongoing acts of violence and aggression against Sub-Saharan migrants in some cities of Morocco were reported in various media including in the newspaper, Le Soir –Echos and by France 24 in their weekly programme “A week in Maghreb”. Most of the victims who report serious injuries successfully seek assistance in hospitals, although sometimes they must wait for days before receiving treatment that rarely includes analysis or scans. In addition, irregular migrants face difficulties in submitting a complaint, as it is hard to find legal assistance and even their own embassies have so far being resistant to giving any kind of support. The Council of Migrants, the trade union for migrant workers CSTIM/ODT and other NGOs are combining efforts to raise awareness among the general population and public authorities, and to seek justice through court proceedings. The National Council of Human Rights (CNDH), a national institution with consultative powers, will also conduct an investigation into this situation.
    Source: France 24, 25 August 2012; Le Soir Echos, 3 Septembre 2012

  • USA / CAMPAIGN / Undocumented migrants travel on the “UndocuBus” to the Democratic National Convention

    UndocuBus is a caravan of undocumented migrants riding from Phoenix to Charlotte in a mobile protest for immigration reform. The bus arrived in Charlotte at the beginning of September to demonstrate before the Democratic National Convention under the slogan of “No Papers, No Fear”. Inspired by the 1961 Freedom Riders, the group staged demonstrations, street theatre and travelled through states with some the harshest immigration laws in the country, risking deportation by coming out publicly as undocumented. Bus riders met with local undocumented migrants at various stops and encouraged them to speak up for migrant rights. The campaign can be followed on Twitter @undocubus and is using the following hash tag #NoPapersNoFear.
    Sources: No Papers, No Fears; Democracy Now, 4 September 2012


  • SPAIN / Médicos del Mundo issues manifesto as law restricting access to health care comes into effect and doctors conscientiously object

    Médicos del Mundo has issued a manifesto highlighting eight reasons why individuals and groups should reject the recently implemented measures that deny undocumented migrants access to public health care. A platform has been created, called Yo Sí Sanidad Universal (on Twitter @ Yosisanidaduniv), to protest against the health reforms that came into effect on 1 September 2012 (see PICUM Bulletin 29 May 2012, 20 August 201211 July 2012). The Platform is a network of health workers and users who object to the restrictions. Nearly 1,000 doctors have so far joined the movement as conscientious objectors who will continue to provide health care for undocumented migrants. The site provides useful information and documents for both health care providers and users, testimonies of affected service users and campaign materials. The Lancet, a weekly British medical journal, published an article on “Civil society organisations and universal health care” making direct reference to the current situation in Spain and the work of NGOs such Médecins du Monde, PICUM and the European Public Health Alliance to give access to universal health care to undocumented migrants.
    Source: AEDH newsletter no. 211, 24 August 2012; El País, 20 August 2012; Yo Sí Sanidad Universal; The Lancet, 8 September 2012

  • UK / HIV treatment for all in England

    In February 2012, the UK Department of Health had announced that it would make HIV treatment free for all who need it, regardless of citizenship or immigration status (See PICUM Bulletin, 14 March 2012). This change will be adopted from 1 October 2012 and therefore testing and treatment for all Sexually Transmitted Infections (STI), including HIV, will be free to everyone in England. Because of health being a regional competence, it is thus the responsibility of the respective regional governments, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland can decide to apply different standards and they have currently decided not to make access to HIV treatment free of charge.

  • USA / No access to affordable health care for beneficiaries of deferred deportation

    The United States government has announced that beneficiaries of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, which allows young undocumented migrants fulfilling certain criteria to remain in the U.S. without the threat of deportation (see PICUM Bulletin 11 July 2012), will be excluded from affordable health coverage. The administration released two policy announcements on 28 August 2012, both of which take immediate effect. The announcements include 1) an interim final rule that excludes DACA individuals from key features of the Affordable Care Act, and 2) guidance from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services that prevents children or pregnant women approved for DACA from enrolling for affordable government health insurance under the Medicaid or the Children’s Health Insurance Program. Prior to these changes, the existing federal eligibility rules would have allowed DACA individuals to be considered eligible for affordable health coverage, like any other individuals granted deferred action. Thus DACA beneficiaries have been specifically excluded, and as a result will have the same access to health care as undocumented individuals (only emergency care, public health services, community health centers where available, and state-funded health programs).
    Source: National Immigration Law Centre, 30 August 2012

  • USA / Hospitals try to block state from limiting payments for irregular immigrants

    Hospitals throughout Florida are challenging a state rule that limits payments to hospitals for the treatment of undocumented migrants. The dispute hinges on how much Medicaid pays hospitals for emergency services and when an emergency patient turns into a “stable” patient still in need of care. The Agency for Health Care Administration’s position is that Medicaid covers emergency care for undocumented patients, but not the on-going treatment needed to keep the patient stable. The hospitals are challenging the rule on the grounds that it was made without following the proper procedures, and that ACHA unfairly wants them to reimburse some of the Medicaid payments used to treat undocumented migrants. The ACHA claims it has not changed its policies, but simply conducted an audit to enforce existing rules.
    Source: The Miami Herald, 17 August 2012


  • CZECH REPUBLIC / WORKSHOP / Migrant workers’ rights

    The Consortium of Migrant-Assisting Organisations in the Czech Republic will organise a seminar on the issue of migrants in low paid jobs and violations of their working rights (mainly in the connection to payment of salaries and changes of work load). The topic will be further explored in a public debate on the working conditions of migrants working in sales and the response of labour unions. The debate will concentrate on the Czech and US experience in the area.
    Source: Konsorcium nevládních organizací pracujících s migranty v ČR, 4 September 2012

  • IRELAND / New INIS guidelines for migrants experiencing domestic violence

    The Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Service (INIS) has published information which clarifies the status of migrant victims of domestic violence who may be reluctant to come forward for fear of losing their right to be in Ireland. The move is aimed at non-EEA nationals whose immigration status has been dependent on their relationship with their abuser. The service has set out the process whereby a person may seek an immigration status that is independent of their relationship. A fact sheet and press release from the Immigrant Council of Ireland are also available.
    Source: ICI News Bulletin, Issue 101, 30 August 2012

  • IRELAND / Court ruling leaves undocumented migrants unprotected

    The Migrant Rights Centre Ireland has claimed that a ruling by the Irish High Court on 31 August 2012 in the case Hussein v The Labour Court & Anor [2012] IEHC 364 has left undocumented migrant workers in Ireland without any protection from exploitation under current labour laws. It was judged that Section 2 of the Employment Permits Act 2003 prevents an undocumented worker from seeking redress under labour law because the employment contract cannot be recognised “in the absence of the appropriate employment permit”. As such Justice Hogan quashed an award of €92,000 to Pakistani chef Mohammad Younis, who worked 77 hours per week for a number of years at EUR 55 cent per hour. His employer had failed to renew Mr Mohammad’s work permit which rendered him undocumented (he was not aware of his irregular status). Justice Hogan said he would send a copy of his judgment to be reviewed by the government. Solicitor James McGuill acting for Mohammad Younis stated that they will be examining all possible avenues including challenging the decision in the Supreme Court and the European Court of Human Rights.
    Source: MRCI, 31 August 2012; The Irish Times, 31 August 2012

  • MOROCCO / Migrant workers blamed for unemployment rate

    Following a declaration by the Minister of Employment in Morocco, Mr Abdelouahed Souhail, affirming that the recent rise in the unemployment rate is also due to migration flows, the trade union for migrant workers CSTIM/ODT  (Collectif Syndical des Travailleurs et Travailleuses Immigrés au Maroc /Organisation Démocratique du Travail) published statement to denounce the discriminatory nature of the allegations made by a Moroccan state authority. The press release highlights evidence from past research and government statistics estimating the total number of Sub-Saharans migrants, regular and irregular, working and unemployed, at no more than 15,000. This corresponds to 0,03% of the Moroccan population, a tiny group that could hardly affect the unemployment rate in the country.
    Source: Collectif Syndical des Travailleurs et Travailleuses Immigrés au Maroc, 30 August 2012


  • UK / REPORT / Women criminalised by immigration control procedures

    Researchers at the Institute of Criminology of Cambridge published a report on the criminalisation of migrant women in the United Kingdom. The report investigates the extent to which the UK authorities were complying with the European Convention on Trafficking and the Convention on Human Rights in relation to migrant women detained in prison or in immigration removal centres in South East England between May 2010 and November 2011. The conclusion of the report sets out recommendations for the improvement of both policy and practice in this area.
    Source: Migrants’ Rights Network, 29 August 2012


  • USA / Alabama immigration law requiring schools to check immigration status of pupils is deemed unconstitutional

    Alabama’s current immigration law requires public schools to check the immigration status of all new students. On 20 August 2012 a Federal Appeals Court ruled that this law was unconstitutional. The 11th Circuit Court of Appeals held that the law is discriminatory in its singling out of undocumented children.  Judges noted that the law “significantly deters undocumented children from enrolling in and attending school.” Private groups and the Obama administration have filed lawsuits to block the law, which is considered the harshest in the country.
    Source: Associated Press, 21 August 2012; Fox News, 21 August 2012

  • USA / Massachusetts College offers scholarships to undocumented migrant students

    A small, private, liberal arts college in Western Massachusetts has established a scholarship fund of more than USD 25,000 per year to help undocumented migrant students pay for the USD 43,000-plus tuition fees at Hampshire College in Amherst. The college spokeswoman, Elaine Thomas, said that the endowment should support one student’s education at the college, every four years. It is estimated that there are 65,000 undocumented migrants graduating from American high schools every year. Of these, only 5-10% apply for college admission. Although no legislation expressly prohibits the application or admission of undocumented migrants to US colleges, each institution has its own policy. For example, some states treat undocumented students as international students, levying them exorbitant out-of-state tuition fees.
    Source: Fox News, 24 August 2012

  • USA / Increase in number of undocumented children who have to self-represent at Immigration Courts

    Undocumented migrant children in the US do not have the right to state-funded lawyers or legal representation. The New York Times has reported an increasing number of undocumented migrant children who have to represent themselves in court. Even children as young as 5 and 6 years old find themselves trying to fight deportation, alone in court, without the help of a lawyer. So far in 2012, 11,000 unaccompanied migrant children have been subject to deportation proceedings in the USA. Meredith Linksy, Director of the South Texas Pro Bono Asylum Representation Project (ProBAR), notes that “It is almost impossible for children to receive relief in immigration courts on their own. The reality is they cannot comprehend the system and what is being asked of them.”
    Source: New York Times, August 25 2012

  • USA / MAGAZINE / Lack of resources for undocumented migrants

    “UNCENSORED: American Family Experiences with Poverty and Homelessness”, a free quarterly magazine produced by the Institute for Children, Poverty, and Homelessness, dedicated the cover story of its Summer 2012 edition to highlighting the harsh realities faced by undocumented migrants in the USA. The article entitled “Reaching into the Shadows: Navigating the Intricacies of Serving Undocumented Workers” discussed the challenges for one of the US’s most resource-less population which is simply unable to access public services. The cover story includes a spotlight on Alabama, where anti-immigration laws are making it hard to assist undocumented migrants by criminalising certain activities such as renting an apartment to an undocumented migrant.

  • UN / EVENT / PICUM side event to DGD on the Rights of all Children in the context of International Migration

    The Committee on the Rights of the Child (CRC), the body of independent experts that monitors implementation of the International Convention on the Rights of the Child, will hold a Day of General Discussion (DGD) on the Rights of all Children in the context of International Migration, on 28 September 2012, in Geneva, Switzerland. In view of this important event, PICUM will be hosting a side event entitled “Children and Irregular Migration” on Thursday, 27 September 2012 from 13:00 to 15:00 at the Palais Nations, Geneva. Click here to view the concept note for the day. Speakers are still to be confirmed. More information including the agenda will be available soon on the PICUM Website.
    Source: PICUM News, 11 September 2012


  • GLOBAL / CAMPAIGN DOCUMENTARY / Campaign to End Immigration Detention of Children

    The Global Campaign to End Child Immigration Detention, supported so far by 75 national, regional and international organisations, is now producing, in cooperation with director Tim Hawkins, an animated documentary that describes the degrading practice of detaining child migrants, refugees and asylum seekers. The voices of children locked up in detention centres in one of four countries (Australia, Greece, South Africa and the US) will be heard through the main characters of the animated movie. The film is a unique advocacy tool and will be given a multiplatform release following its international debut at the United Nations Human Rights Council. For more information click here
    Source: Global Campaign to End Child Immigration Detention, 5 September 2012

  • GREECE / Hunger strike at Samos island by migrants

    35 Syrian migrants including six children began a hunger strike on 1 September 2012 to protest against their nine days of detention by Samos Port authorities. The Solidarity Group of Samos, after visiting the place where migrants were being kept, stressed that the detention conditions were poor. Detainees could not enjoy even basic medical care, sanitation and hygiene standards were low and migrants had no access to lawyers in order to receive information about their rights.
    Source: Infomobile, 2 September 2012 ; Lathra, 28 August 2012

  • NORWAY / Detrimental detention conditions at Trandum Police Immigration Detention Centre

    The Norwegian organisation Foreningen av tolvte januar denounced the poor conditions in which detainees are kept at the Trandum Police Immigration Detention Centre and which fall short of the protection to which detainees are legally entitled. Cecilie Schatvedt, a Member of the Bar Association’s Human Rights Committee denounced the presence of small isolation cells and the poor conditions in which migrants are kept, and highlighted that in relation to the Trandum Detention Centre, Norway has been criticised for the standard of the boarding by the Council of Europe and the UN Committee Against Torture. Foreningen av tolvte januar denounces that both before and after 2007 there have been multiple and serious incidents at Trandum, especially suicides, episodes of violence committed by officials and cases of forced medication. In particular, the organisation criticises the absence of specialised medical practitioners able to deal with serious mental disorders or traumas suffered by detained migrants as a result of their background and detention.
    Source: Foreningen Av Tolvte Januar, 3 September 2012

  • UK / UKBA Operation Mayapple

    The UK Border Agency has officially announced that, as a consequence of Operation Mayapple, launched by the British Government in May 2012, 2,000 migrants who had been overstaying their visas have now been returned to their countries of origin. In particular, according to the information provided by the Home Office, more than 400 over stayers who were based in London were ‘persuaded’ to leave the country after being informed that they had no right to remain in the UK and that they had to make arrangements to leave the UK. A further 800 migrants will leave of their own accord and 58 over stayers left London under the Assisted Voluntary Return Scheme operated by Refugee Action. In addition, more than 700 over stayers have been forcibly removed following raids on businesses and residential premises, mainly in London. Operation Mayapple’s main aim was to tackle visa abuse by first urging migrants who no longer had a right to remain in the UK to leave the country and then by imposing a ban on re-entry to the UK for those who fail to leave before their visa expires. Of the 2,000 London cases, approximately a third were from India and the other migrants involved were from Pakistan, Nigeria, China, Bangladesh and Brazil. The Home Office has published statistics for removals as part of Home Office Quarterly Immigration Statistics. The UKBA has also attracted criticism for posting pictures and videos of the raids on social media sites like Twitter, Flickr and YouTube. In particular, pictures and videos on the websites show a raid on a butcher’s shop in Atlantic Road, Brixton where a number of people were detained on 21 August 2012.
    Sources: Home Office, 22 August 2012 ; YouTube, 22 August 2012


  • MALTA / BOOK / “Migration and Asylum in Malta and the European Union: Rights and Realities”

    As a result of two seminars held between 2010 and 2011 and of a research project, the Malta University Press with the assistance of the European Commission’s Jean Monnet Programme has published a new book entitled “Migration and Asylum in Malta and the European Union: Rights and Realities 2002 to 2011”. The new publication studies in depth the legal, policy, political and social issues relating to migration into the EU, with a particular focus on Malta. In particular, the book describes migrants’ experiences through their journey from their country of origin to the EU and analyses the difficulties faced by migrants upon their arrival in Europe or in Malta.


  • ITALY / DOCUMENTARY / The arrival of 20,000 Albanians remembered in a short film presented at the Venice Film Festival

    “La nave dolce” (The sweet boat) by Daniele Vicari is a documentary presented at the 69th Film Festival in Venice that includes archive footage, interviews with survivors and a detailed political analysis of the biggest arrival on the Italian coast of migrants from Albania which took place in August 1991. This is also recalled as probably the first big operation of mass expulsion from Italy that contained some elements of the country’s future strategy on border controls and migration management. To watch the trailer on YouTube click here.
    Source : CinEuropa, 2 September 2012

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