PICUM Bulletin — 19 February 2013


  • UK / Chief Inspector of the UK Border Agency discovers a substantial backlog of marriage applications

    Chief Inspector of the UKBA John Vine released two reports in January 2013 revealing the ‘unacceptable’ delays in processing marriage applications and asylum claims. The first report, entitled ‘An inspection of applications to enter, remain and settle in the UK on the basis of marriage and civil partnerships’, focused in particular on applications made by foreign nationals seeking to enter, remain or settle in the UK on the basis of a marriage or civil partnerships between March 2011 and March 2012. The report found that there was a substantial backlog of cases which have not been dealt with, around 16,100 in total, with some cases dating back to 2003. Moreover, the report revealed that caseworkers were inconsistent in their assessment of the ‘maintenance’ criteria in the applications, which concerns the applicant’s ability to maintain them whilst in the UK. The report also noted inconsistent assessment of applicants’ human rights claims. Of the 60 cases inspected which involved children, only one case contained evidence that the best interest of the child had been considered, in line with the Borders, Immigration and Asylum Act.
    Source: Migrants Rights Network, 24 January 2013

  • WEBSITE / A new tool to provide contacts and advice to migrants on the borders of Europe

    The website w2eu.info, which is managed by the German non-profit organisation bordermonitoring.eu, provides information such as contacts and advice to refugees and migrants on their way. The webpage aims to offer information for all of those who come to Europe in a struggle for a better life through topic and country specific descriptions. In addition, the website contains a so-called ‘Transborder map’ that visualises the resistance against the European border regime. The map is the outcome of the Transborder Conference organised in March 2012 where international activists met in Istanbul to discuss the experience they gained through their projects and campaigns on the external borders of the EU. To visit the website click here.


  • SPAIN / UN Special Rapporteur called for actions against racism in Spain

    The UN Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of racism, discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance, Mutuma Ruteere, paid a visit to Spain in January 2013 and called on Spanish authorities to make the fight against racism a first priority in the country’s agenda. Mr Ruteere emphasised that in the face of the current economic crisis, it is even more important not to backtrack on the significant process achieved. He also warned that the economic crisis in many places has created a hostile climate for vulnerable groups, who are often scapegoated for economic hardships and made victims of hate speech and xenophobic discourse. According to the UN Special Rapporteur, it would be the politicians’ responsibility to strongly denounce this discourse. He stressed that stigmatisation of certain groups including migrants, and negative stereotypes based on racial prejudice have been reported in the media and a lot needs to be done in order to prevent further stigmatisation and criminalisation. Mr Ruteere also highlighted the particularly difficult situation caused by the long delays in the processing of asylum requests, especially in Ceuta and Melilla, along with problems in the agricultural sector in the area of Almeria where migrant women are increasingly exposed to sexual violence.
    Source: United Nations, Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights


  • COUNCIL OF EUROPE / Commissioner for Human Rights on racist violence in Greece

    Following a five-day visit to Greece, Mr. Nils Muižnieks, the Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights, has called for an end to the impunity for the worrying number of racist crimes in Greece. Welcoming the establishment of 70 anti-racist police units and the appointment of a special prosecutor in Athens, he called for these initiatives to be reinforced. He also urged the Ministry of Public Order to address the issue of public mistrust in the police and coast guards by creating an independent and effective police complaints mechanism. The Commissioner expressed his concern that this situation was “a real threat to democracy in Greece” and called upon Greek authorities to respond accordingly by working in collaboration with national human rights structures, such as the Ombudsman and the National Commission for Human Rights. The full report of his visit will be available soon.
    Source: Council of Europe, 1 February 2013

  • EUROPEAN COMMISSION / New study on the harmonisation of non-removable migrants’ status across Europe

    A new report launched in January 2013 by researchers from Eurasylum and Ramboll on behalf of the European Commission explores the current lack of uniform status across Europe for third-country nationals whose return or removal from the EU Member States and the Schengen Associated Countries is still pending. The preliminary executive summary to the report highlights that, as the EU Returns Directive does not establish specific provisions for migrants who cannot in practice be returned, it is necessary for the European Union to move towards specific legislation in this area of law in the near future. PICUM was interviewed for the purpose of this study and actively participated in a conference that was held in Brussels on 22 January 2013 and brought together the European Commission, representatives of Member States’ Immigration Authorities and NGOs, to debate the possibility of moving towards harmonised legislation.
    Source: ECRE, 25 January 2013

  • EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT / Civil liberties committee (LIBE) on external borders and visa

    In an article about the European funds for home affairs (migration, asylum and internal security), MEP Héléne Flautre, representative of the Green party and member of LIBE, expressed concern regarding new external borders and visa instruments. This concern regards also the activities of FRONTEX, the Schengen governance, and also the ‘Smart borders Package’ and EUROSUR – designed to encourage the externalisation of migration control through the collaboration with third countries.  According to Mrs Flautre there is a lack of coherence in the policy adopted by the EU, especially when this “security approach” is imposed on matters related to its external relations with third countries. In other words, there should be more emphasis on human rights cooperation and support to civil society organisations in the EC proposal. This was suggested by LIBE in its report on this issue, which has also integrated some “lexical recommendations”, like removing the word “migration threat” from the Commission’s dictionary.
    Source: Les Verts au Parlement Européen, 29 January 2013

  • JOINT LETTER / PICUM presents joint proposals for the ‘Recommendation on Child Poverty and Well-being’ to Commissioner Andor

    PICUM, together with other social NGOs, public authorities and rights organisations, wrote a joint letter to the EU Commissioner for employment, social affairs and inclusion, László Andor, presenting joint proposals for a roadmap to drive a more effective implementation of the up-coming ‘Recommendation on Child Poverty and Well-being’. The Road Map sets out five key messages: Ensuring strong EU leadership to drive implementation based on active partnership; Mainstreaming the Recommendation through the Europe 2020 Strategy, Putting an EU Roadmap in place for the implementation of the Recommendation that includes an EU multi-annual work programme; Facilitating and supporting national and sub-national stakeholders’ involvement in the implementation of the Recommendation and the use of EU funds to support delivery. The Ad hoc group includes: ATD 4th World, Caritas, Coface, EAPN, European Social Network, Eurochild, Eurodiaconia and PICUM. The Recommendation will be presented as part of the Commission’s proposals on the Social Investment Package in mid-February. To view the common proposals of the ad hoc group, please click here.


  • RUSSIA / Russia plans volunteer squads to track down undocumented migrants

    Russian authorities announced the creation of a “migration squad” of about 300 volunteers who will be entitled to track down undocumented migrants and apprehend them. Raids will be carried out at markets, construction sites, railways stations, shopping centers and even in private apartments. Human rights activists are alerted by this announcement as xenophobic sentiments are widespread in Russia, where dozens of members of ethnic minorities are killed every year in racially motivated attacks. Patrols of volunteers which were common during Soviet times have seen a revival in recent months in Moscow.
    Source: Radio Free Europe, 13 February 2013

  • FRANCE / Report suggests a gradual process of regularisation for undocumented migrants who cannot be deported

    In a report requested by the French Prime Minister’s Cabinet, State Advisor Thierry Tuot, proposes an in-depth reform of the French policy of integration. Mr Tuot’s reform aims to strike a balance between the current French tradition of ‘inclusion’ rather than ‘assimilation’ and ‘tolerance’. Recognising that in practice, integration has been an on-going process of French society, Mr Tuot states that the integration policy itself is almost inexistent. He argues that an integration policy is not a migration policy but a social one which is essential for the well-being of all those who are part of society. He proposes eight measures to reform the integration status including the regularisation of irregular migrants who cannot be returned to their countries of origin. Mr Tuot suggests a progressive procedure over a period of five years to regularise non-returnees reaching from the acquisition of a “tolerance status” (statut de tolerance) to the final step of regularisation. The proposal received mixed responses. Mr Guillaume Larrivé, member of the The Union for a Popular Movement (Union pour un Mouvement Populaire, UMP) called it “a user’s guide to regularisation” for irregular migrants and Mr Manuel Valls emphasised that mass regularisation is not foreseen and that it will be instead be decided on the basis of individual cases. Meanwhile, the Director of France Terre d’Asile, Pierre Henry, called the report “well meant but confusing” and expressed concern that the proposal would undermine the actual issue of integration. The full report can be downloaded here.
    Source: La Croix, 7 February 2013; BFMTV, 7 February 2013; TF1, 11 February 2013

  • UK / Most immigrants in whole of EU and largest number of people acquiring citizenship

    The United Kingdom had the largest number of immigrants in 2010, the latest year for which data is available. According to figures from Eurostat, almost 600,000 people moved to Britain in 2010. Britain is followed by Spain, Italy and Germany as a major destination of migrants in the EU. The UK also had the highest number of non-British citizens who acquired citizenship in 2010 (194,800). This figure accounted for almost a quarter of the total number of people gaining citizenship in EU countries.
    Source: The Telegraph, 7 February 2013

  • USA / Republicans speak in favour of citizenship for undocumented migrants

    After the Obama administration started its push for a comprehensive immigration reform to Congress that would include a pathway to citizenship for 11 million undocumented migrants (See PICUM Bulletin, 6 February 2013), several Republicans have tempered their tone on immigration. Most recently, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor and Mike Coffman announced that they were in favour of legislation which would allow undocumented migrants to earn citizenship if they came to the United States as children. This shift of political attitude comes after the Republican Party lost the majority of minority voters. Republican presidential candidate, Mitt Romney, won only 27 per cent support from Hispanics and even less from Asians. Nonetheless, it is unclear if these Republicans will find supporters among their party members which could eventually translate into legal changes in favour of regularization.
    Source: Huffington Post, 8 February 2013; NBC News, 11 February 2013; The Guardian, 4 February 2013

  • UK / Crackdown on trafficking gangs

    Officers from the UK Border Agency (UKBA) raided 35 addresses in England, targeting trafficking gangs who bring undocumented migrants into the country in the back of lorries through Channel ports. Approximately 40 other raids were carried out in France and Belgium as part of the same operation, and over 25 people were arrested. The majority of migrants involved in the trafficking are from Iraq, Iran and Afghanistan. Immigration Minister Mark Harper said: “The organised criminal gangs involved in people-smuggling prey on the desperation of others in order to line their own pockets. They are also a major factor involved in illegal immigration to the UK.”
    Source: Politics UK, 6 February 2013


  • SPAIN / Spanish Socialist Workers’ Party demands reintroduction of healthcare card for undocumented migrants

    The Spanish Socialist Workers’ Party (PSOE) called for the reintroduction of a healthcare card for undocumented migrants at a House of Representatives meeting on 12 February. According to the party’s spokesperson for health, José Martínez Olmos, this will ensure undocumented migrants’ equal right to healthcare. The socialist also noted that organizations of healthcare professionals have been opposing undocumented migrants’ restricted access to healthcare. Moreover, the Spanish High Court will have to reflect on the issue of protecting the health of citizens in its resolution for measures to control health spending as well as they need to recognize the risk of affecting the health of the whole community if these groups remain deprived of the right to health care.
    Source: Europa Press, 10 February 2013


  • ITALY / First trial against employment and exploitation of undocumented migrant workers

    A trial against the employment and exploitation of undocumented migrant workers in the Salento area, region of Apulia in Italy, started on 31 January 2013 at the Corte d’Assise in Lecce city. It is the first time that such a case has been brought to court since Article 603, which criminalises the recruitment of irregular migrants, was introduced in the Italian Penal Code under the law 148/2011. Four undocumented migrant workers have accused their employers, guided by Yvan Sagnet, a Cameroonian student who led the revolt of the day labourers in the summer of 2011. Investigations revealed a cartel between local employers and migrant traffickers, several of whom are of African origin.  The accused employers and traffickers could be sentenced to several years in prison and fines of several thousand euros.
    Source: La Repubblica, 30 January 2013

  • USA / Blog reporting on immigration and detention matters from the Eastern Coachella Valley, California

    Jesús E Valenzuela Félix is a blogger and reporter from Coachella, CA, currently living in Salinas and working for the United Farm Workers Foundation. His blog, ‘The Diary of Joaquín Magón’ reports on youth-led immigration matters for the website, Coachella Unincorporated, which is a new project of New America Media. The blog has taken a new form and now includes interviews with local residents from the Coachella Valley, which is largely composed of agricultural workers from the Latino region of Southeast Riverside County.
    Source: AlterNet, 2 February 2013


  • SUBMISSION / PICUM and its members submit recommendations to CEDAW

    Following a call for submissions to the General Discussion on “Access to Justice” by the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), PICUM has submitted its recommendations to raise its concerns regarding the obstacles and risks faced by undocumented migrant women. This submission is part of a consultation process in view of a half-day discussion on “Access to Justice” organised by the CEDAW which takes place in the UN Offices in Geneva, Switzerland on 18 February 2013 on the occasion of its 54th session, held from 11 February to 1 March 2013. The discussion is part of a first step in the Committee’s process of elaborating a “General Recommendation on Access to Justice”. These recommendations provide authoritative guidance to State Parties on the measures to be adopted to ensure full compliance with their obligations under the Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women to protect, respect and fulfil women’s human right to access to justice. Click here to download PICUM’s submission and to visit the event’s page which includes written submissions by other civil society organisations including PICUM members: Andalucía ACOGE (Spain) and the Immigrant Council Of Ireland (Ireland). To find out more about undocumented migrant women, we invite you to download the PICUM report entitled “Strategies to End Double Violence Against Undocumented Women Protecting Rights and Ensuring Justice”, published in 2012 in English, French and Spanish.


  • FILM / Two recent films revealing the plight of two undocumented girls and their families

    ’Mosquita y Mari’ charts the journey of a girl, Mari, whose father dies unexpectedly, leaving her undocumented mother to provide for the family on her own. As a result, Mari is forced to take a job to supplement the household income, whilst also taking on the role of looking after her younger sister in her mother’s absence. The film follows her journey and explains her struggle. ‘“Inocente’ is an Oscar-nominated documentary following one girl, Inocente, who at the age of 15 refuses to give up her professional dreams to become an artist just because her status is irregular and because she has been homeless for the past nine years of her life.
    Source: The Williams Record, 6 February 2013; Inocente

  • NETHERLANDS / Restricted amnesty for unsuccessful underage asylum seekers

    The announced amnesty for unsuccessful underage asylum seekers in the Netherlands has stricter conditions than initially thought. ‘Defence for Children’ was counting on 800 people being given a permit for having been in the Netherlands for at least five years, but unaccompanied minors, minors born after their parents’ application was rejected, and minors whose identity cannot be established, all face difficulties in meeting the conditions.
    Source: NOS.nl, 29 January 2013

  • PICUM / EVENT / International conference on undocumented children and their families

    PICUM will hold an international conference on 26 February 2013, in Brussels, entitled “Children First and Foremost: Realising the rights of children and families in an irregular migration situation”. This international conference seeks to consolidate both PICUM’s work on undocumented children and PICUM’s two-year capacity-building project entitled “Building Strategies to Improve the Protection of Undocumented Children in Europe.” The conference will highlight the difficulties undocumented children face in accessing rights such as education, health care and housing, and the good practice strategies that have been developed to surmount the practical and administrative barriers to accessing rights. This will also be an opportunity for PICUM to present the project’s final publication, a guide on realising the rights of undocumented children in Europe. Intended for civil society advocates, front-line organisations, public officials, policy makers, professionals and social service providers, this event will guarantee a rich participation of experts and professionals working with undocumented children.  The event is open to the public.

  • KOREA / Civil society asked to support re-entry of Mongolian youth to Korea

    A Mongolian high school student (age 17) was deported from Korea on 5 October 2012 because of his irregular status. This is a violation of the Convention of the Rights of the Child (CRC) which Korea has ratified. Migrant Forum Asia (MFA) has called on civil society to mobilize support for the student’s re-entry in order to permit him to complete his education as part of a process of ensuring that rights-based procedures relating to the rights of children are effectively implemented. The Joint Committee with Migrants in Korea (JCMK) held a press conference on 31 January 2013 in front of the National Human Rights Commission to present a petition signed by 1,943 individuals and supported by 112 domestic and international organizations. As part of a collective mobilisation, MFA is urging its members and partners to show their support and send letters to the Korean Ministry of Justice, the National Human Rights Commission and the Korean Embassy in the members’ countries.
    Source: Korea Times 19 November 2012


  • GREECE / UN experts concerned by detention conditions and limited access to legal assistance

    After an eleven-day visit to Greece, the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention concluded that improvements of detention conditions are necessary, as well as an effective implementation of recent positive legislative developments in the area of migration and asylum. According to Vladimir Tochilovsky, a member of the Working Group, “in most detention facilities visited by the Working Group, the conditions fall far below international human rights standards, including in terms of severe overcrowding”. He added that “detainees are being held for months in police holding cells and border guard stations, although these facilities were designed for a maximum stay of 24 hours”. Equally concerning was the right to free legal assistance where the Working Group noted that legal requirements were not applied accordingly. On a positive note, the Working Group acknowledged efforts of legal reform made by the Greek authorities, such as the creation of the new Asylum Service Department and the establishment of the First Reception Service responsible for screening procedures, both services being under the control of civilian and specialised personnel.
    Source: United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR)

  • ITALY / BOOK / Confiscated rights

    A new book entitled Diritti sotto sequestro (Confiscated Rights), by Fulvio Vassalo Paleologo, gives an overview of the legal framework and the main practices existing on the ground related to forced expulsions of irregular migrants in Italy. This work makes a critical analysis of emergency practices that too often seem to justify human rights violations, prioritising security matters over migrants’ protection. Italy has a significant record of international convictions for abuses occurring in application of removal orders: judicial proceedings related to administrative detention, expulsions and removals are still rare and very slow, testifies the author, and more improvement is needed in order to comply with international standards.You can access to this publication (only in Italian) through Aracne Editrice website.

  • USA / President Obama’s State of the Union address misses out on record levels of deportation

    In his State of the Union address on 12 February, President Barack Obama emphasized efforts of reducing irregular migration and called out the benefits of a comprehensive immigration reform. According to data from the U.S. Border Control, apprehensions of undocumented migrants trying to cross U.S. borders are indeed at their lowest level in 40 years (327,577 in 2011) but these figures give no precise information on how many people actually tried to cross the border including those who try to enter the country several times. Referring to Obama’s statement on border control in the speech, Aura Bogado, a journalist who covers immigration for The Nation, lamented on Democracy Now that he did not say anything on deportation. The Obama administration has deported more undocumented migrants than any other administration before in the United States. According to Aura Bogado, it would take about 10 years to process the applications for citizenship of the roughly 11 million undocumented migrants if 5,000 applications are processed per day. Thus, even if the announced immigration reform is implemented, the question remains what will happen in those 10 years and if deportations and detention continue.
    Sources: Democracy Now, 13 February 2013; The Guardian, 13 February 2013; CNN, 13 February 2013

  • PUBLICATIONS / Detention Profile for Poland

    The Graduate Institute of Geneva has issued a new report on the detention situation in Poland in the frame of its Global Detention Project. As a country that is not traditionally known as a migrant destination country but a key border country of the EU, Poland currently maintains 12 detention centers. Observers have reported that the capacity does not meet the demand imposed by the system. Moreover, facilities appear to be unable to provide basic services which have resulted in several major protests and hunger strikes of the detainees. Last December, the government decided to review the detention conditions in order to improve the country’s image as a recipient country of immigrants and to prevent it from looking like a “Polish hell”. To read the full report click here; To visit the Global Detention Project website click here.

  • RUSSIA / Deported irregular migrants are now able return to Russia after three years

    A new law allows deported migrants to return to Russia after three years instead of five, if they can pay their plane ticket out of Russia. This new piece of legislation also allows the country of the deportee as well as NGOs to pay for the plane ticket.  The objective of this new legislation is to encourage irregular migrants to return to their countries voluntarily with the side effect that the government will spend less money on detaining and deporting irregular migrants.  However, the President of the Federation of Migrants considers this new law insufficient suggesting instead that there should be attempts to legalize as many undocumented migrants as possible.  The President of the Federation of Migrants recommends instead that the discussion focuses on a migration amnesty, in particular reducing the punishment of irregular migration, especially if they voluntarily present themselves to the authorities.
    Source: Newsland, 25 January 2013

  • USA / Detained undocumented migrants work

    A report by the Nation revealed that detained undocumented migrants at Broward Transitional Center (BTC) in Florida are working in the detention facilities and being paid USD 1 per day of labour. These tasks feed into the general operations of the detention centre including working in the kitchen and general maintenance. The report commented on the irony of the situation considering that those detained are ineligible to obtain work permits because of their immigration status. The report also comments on the Geo Group, Inc., the owner of this detention facility have invested into a lobbying strategy to guarantee that Congress does not ease its current immigration policy which could result in a loss for them if fewer irregular migrants are detained.
    Source: The Nation, 30 January 2013; Latinos Post, 5 February 2013

  • ITALY / Long detention periods have negative consequences for migrants’ health

    According to the most recent data the Italian NGO Doctors for Human Rights (Medici per I diritti umani, MEDU) has received from the police, almost 7,950 undocumented migrants were held in immigration detention centres (CIE in Italian) in Italy in 2012. In total 4,015 were repatriated in 2012. The maintenance of the CIEs can cost millions and the extension of detention periods to a maximum of eighteen months contributed to the escalation of tensions and has caused internal revolts. Several detainees experienced forms of depression which led them to commit suicide. One example given by MEDU is the case of M. (full name not revealed) who landed on the island Lampedusa and was detained without ever having been in conflict with the law. M. tried to commit suicide but did not succeed, followed by an ongoing hunger strike. The NGO MEDU has repeatedly called upon authorities for his release.
    Source: La Repubblica, 30 January 2013


  • USA / The connection between food and immigration reform

    An article, co-authored by Catherine Tactaquin of National Network for Immigrant and Refugee Rights (NNIRR) in the US, explains the power of the food movement as it begins to realize its influence on the current debate of immigration reform. According to the authors, in the coming round of the immigration debate, the emerging convergence of food and immigration justice may play a significant role as the current misguided immigration policies prevent people from accessible and healthy food and from respected labor and human rights. The agricultural sector in the United States always relied on cheap labor to ensure profits in an increasingly concentrated system.  Evidence is given by the Food Chain Workers Alliance’s 2012 report The Hands That Feed Us, which describes how undocumented workers experience lower wages and greater wage theft than other workers while their low wages are coupled with poor working conditions. These conditions disproportionally affect undocumented migrants. The article furthermore calls on US citizens to recognize this link to immigration if they care about food and to promote a comprehensive immigration reform where food and immigration justice are granted.
    Source: Civil Eats, 11 February 2013

  • GERMANY / Government issues migration report for 2011

    The federal authority for migration and refugees issued its Migration Report for 2011 on 30 January 2013. The report also includes a chapter on irregular migration. The report states that Germany has increasingly become a transit country for irregular migration and that the number of foreigners trying to cross the German border without permission increased by 18.6% since 2010. Moreover, the number of people who were deported by German authorities slightly increased in comparison to 2010. Deportations were mainly made to Eastern European countries such as Serbia, Turkey, Kosovo and Macedonia. The report also states that thousands of irregular entries into the country could be prevented through the deployment of document and visa counsels abroad. The chapter first speaks about ’illegal’ and ‘irregular’ migrants and concludes speaking about “suspects of illegal residence”.The report can be downloaded here.


  • BELGIUM / Solidarity march for undocumented migrants

    A march across Belgium will take place between 6 and 21 April 2013, organised in solidarity with undocumented migrants. Migrants with or without papers, activists and people that simply wish to support this cause are invited to join this walk that calls for dignity and respect of the human rights of all. More information is available on this blog.

  • GERMANY / Refugee Congress in Munich March 2013

    From 1-3 March 2013, a conference will take place in Munich, Germany, which aims to provide a platform for a collective critical analysis of the protests of refugee and undocumented migrants across Europe. The movement started in Germany in 2012 and has since spread across various EU member states. The conference is organised by the Independent Action Committee of Protesting Refugees and wants to discuss new ideas for future protests. The main goal is the creation of independent refugee councils. Under the slogan “We will rise”, the event gathers refugees, undocumented migrants and people with a migration background, activists, students, and journalists, as well as human rights activists. For more information and registration, click here.

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