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BULGARIA / Iraqi Yazidis migrants severely beaten by police, two die of the cold
A group of 17 Iraqi Yazidis fleeing from the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) who tried to irregularly enter Bulgaria from Turkey on 10 March 2015 were severely beaten by Bulgarian police. According to testimonies, some of the migrants’ legs were broken as a result and they were pushed back to Turkey. Two of the migrants froze to death, as they could not move further after the injuries inflicted during the beatings. Most of the other migrants of the group have been located by police and taken to the police department of the Turkish city Edirne for deportation procedures. Authorities announced an investigation into the case.
Source: BGN News 12 March 2015
EU COUNCIL / Launch of Joint Police Operation Amberlight
The Council of the European Union has launched a new Joint Police Operation called ‘Amberlight’ aimed at intensifying border checks at the external air borders of participating member states upon exit of third-country nationals. The operation aims at collecting and analysing information on third-country nationals who have not complied with the duration of their residence permit or visa. The Amberlight operation will take place between 1-14 April 2015 or from 18-30 April 2015. The Council is planning to debate the possible implementation of uniform sanctions for foreigners who stay in EU member states after their visa expired in view of the implementation of the Entry Exit System, as part of the “Smart Borders Package”. The operation follows the Joint Police Operation Mos Maiorum in October 2014 (see PICUM Bulletin, 18 February 2015).
Source: Statewatch, 24 March 2015
EUROPOL / Launch of Joint Operational Team MARE
Europol launched the Joint Operational Team (JOT) MARE, a dedicated maritime intelligence centre, on 17 March 2015 with the aim of better identifying and tracking smuggling networks operating in the Mediterranean Sea. JOT MARE is hosted at the Europol headquarters in The Hague and will be tasked with carrying out coordinated and intelligence-driven actions to identify smuggling networks in the Mediterranean. Thirteen member states are participating in the Joint Operational Team: Belgium, Cyprus, Denmark, France, Germany, Greece, Italy, Malta, the Netherlands, Portugal, Spain, Sweden and the United Kingdom. The Joint Operational Team also aims at facilitating exchange of intelligence and better cooperation among the participating member states, Frontex, Europol and Interpol in law enforcement activities. Welcoming the launch of JOT MARE, the European Commissioner for Migration, Home Affairs and Citizenship, Dimitris Avramopoulos, declared that “doing more and better to counter smuggling is a priority for the European Commission and it will also be one of the main pillars of the European Agenda on Migration that we will adopt in May this year”.
Sources: Europol, 17 March 2015; European Commission Press Release Database, 17 March 2015
MEDITERRANEAN / Over a thousand migrants die, thousands rescued in Mediterranean within one month
As many 700 migrants are estimated to have drowned just outside the territorial waters of Libya on 19 April 2015. If these numbers are confirmed, this will be one of the worst peacetime maritime disasters in modern history, reported the Equal Times. About 440 people died between 11 and 15 April trying to cross to Europe. Save the Children Italy estimated the number of those who died, based on testimonies the group collected among the thousands of migrants and asylum seekers rescued by the Italian Coast Guard since April 10. About a dozen of those who died were allegedly thrown overboard by fellow passengers after a religious row, Italian police said. Many of the thousands who were rescued had to remain on Italian vessels as authorities are unable to provide enough emergency accommodation. In early April five boats carrying some 1,500 migrants were rescued in the Mediterranean within 24 hours. The Italian coastguard confirmed that four of their vessels and an Italian navy ship saved three large boats off the Libyan coast. In a separate incident on 4 April 2015, a group of over 300 migrants were rescued by an Icelandic navy ship. The Icelandic vessel had been taking part in a patrol for the EU borders agency Frontex. Unrest in Libya has contributed to a rise in migrant boats setting out for Europe. Italy’s foreign minister, Paolo Gentiloni, appealed to the EU for help saying that 90% of the rescue effort in recent weeks had fallen on the Italian navy and coastguard. Meanwhile, other policymakers refuse to deploy an EU rescue mission in the Mediterranean. The German Minister for the Interior, Thomas de Maizière, reminded that Germany already granted protection to more migrants and refugees as opposed to other EU member states and that a joint rescue mission would further facilitate the smugglers’ business of brining migrants to Europe. Since the beginning of 2015, about 1,500 migrants and refugees are estimated to have died in the Mediterranean on their way to Europe.
SPAIN / New law adopted which allows immediate expulsion of migrants who enter irregularly
The Spanish government adopted the Basic Law for the Protection of Public Security on 26 March 2015 which allows automatic and collective expulsion without due process of migrants at the Spanish southern borders of Ceuta and Melilla (See PICUM Bulletin, 10 December 2014, PICUM Bulletin, 29 January 2015 and PICUM Bulletin, 18 February 2015). The new law states that migrants who are apprehended while attempting to irregularly cross the borders of Ceuta or Melilla can be immediately returned, in order to prevent irregular migration to Spain. This law thus restricts the right to seek asylum and violates the principle of non-refoulement and the prohibition of collective expulsions. Due to pressures from international organisations such as the UNHCR, the Commissioner for Human Rights of the Council of Europe and Spanish NGOs, the Spanish government introduced a last minute amendment which affirms that those automatic expulsions “should be made in accordance with international human rights standards”. However, the law fails to detail how this will be achieved in practice. A group of human rights organisations have signed a statement urging the European Commission and the European Parliament to take action to ensure that fundamental rights are not violated by EU member states.
Source: El Diario, 26 March 2015; El Diario, 27 March 2015; Europa Press, 31 March 2015
SPAIN / Member of the national Congress of Deputies enquires into the use of forced sedation of migrants during return flights
A member of the Spanish Congress of Deputies, Jon Iñarritu (Amaiur), submitted on 15 January 2015 parliamentary questions concerning the use of forced sedation of migrants during return flights carried out by the national authorities and national police. In an official response issued on 20 March 2015, the Spanish Government affirmed that the current Spanish law allows for the use of forced sedation for security reasons and in the presence of a medical prescription. The Government also ensured that return flights are normally monitored and that the National Ombudsperson is regularly controlling the compliance with the law of forced sedations occurring as part of return flights. However, the National Ombudsperson, Soledad Becerril, stated that her office monitoring activities are sporadic and are only carried out on a few return flights. For example, during 2013 Spain carried out more than 150 return flights, of which only one was monitored by the office of the National Ombudsperson. In 2014, the office of the Ombudsperson monitored only four return flights and, to date, only one return flight to Bogotá and to the Dominican Republic was monitored by the Ombudsperson.
Sources: El Diario, 10 March 2015 ; Epsocial, 3 February 2015
OHCHR / Recommended Principles and Guidelines on Human Rights at International Borders
The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) organised a side-event during the 28th session of the Human Rights Council in Geneva on 23 March 2015 focused on human rights at international borders. The event followed the launch of the OHCHR ‘Recommended Principles and Guidelines on Human Rights at International Borders’ during the 69th session of the UN General Assembly in New York on 23 October 2014 (see PICUM Bulletin, 10 December 2014. The guidelines address legal and policy frameworks, human rights in rescue and interception missions, screening and interviewing, avoiding detention, and return or removal. In reference to irregular migrants, the guidelines state that measures to address irregular migration shall not be discriminatory in purpose or effect. The guidelines are available here in English, French and in Spanish.
Source: United Nations Human Rights, Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, March 2015
European Policy Developments
EUROPEAN COURT OF HUMAN RIGHTS / Grand Chamber strikes out case of ill Nigerian mother after Belgian government granted indefinite leave to remain
The Grand Chamber of the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) decided on 19 March 2015 to strike out the case of S.J. v Belgium after the Belgian government granted indefinite leave to remain to the applicants: a mother suffering from HIV and her three children from Nigeria. Despite her health conditions, the applicant and her three children were facing a deportation order to Nigeria, issued by the Belgian government. The decision issued by the Grand Chamber is accompanied by the dissenting opinion of Judge Pinto de Albuquerque who argues that there is a need for a broader procedural interpretation of Article 3 ECHR to ensure protection from removal of seriously ill migrants. The decision is available here.
EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT / Briefing analyses legislative and policy framework in the field of asylum and irregular migration
A new European Parliament briefing on the EU legal framework on asylum and irregular immigration ‘on arrival’ analyses the existing legislative and policy framework in the field of asylum and irregular migration and highlights potential areas of improvement to ensure the effective implementation of existing legislation. The briefing is available here.
PUBLICATION / New focus paper presents possibilities for regular channels for beneficiaries of international protection
The EU Fundamental Rights Agency (FRA) has published a Focus Paper in February 2015 entitled ‘Legal entry channels to the EU for persons in need of international protection: a toolbox’. In the focus paper the FRA calls for the establishment of safe and legal avenues to reach the territory of the European Union, stating that it must be considered a key component of the forthcoming European Commission Agenda on Migration and action-plan against smuggling in human beings. In particular, the FRA calls on EU member states to establish resettlement programmes and to explore additional humanitarian admission schemes. The report also highlights the need for strengthening labour and student mobility. The focus paper is available here.
Source: European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights, 6 March 2015
BELGIUM / Organisations criticise migration policy after two undocumented migrants die on the same day
On 2 April 2015 a 25-year old man from Guinea set himself on fire in the offices of the Federal Asylum Agency (Fedasil) in Brussels and died the next morning in hospital. He had arrived in Belgium in 2008 and had been trying to get a residence permit ever since. He was appealing the dismissal of his second asylum application. Another undocumented man, a Moroccan national who was detained in the detention centre of Merksplas hanged himself the same day. He had already been on hunger strike in detention and awaited a second deportation attempt to Morocco after having lived for 16 years in Belgium. Several organisations have expressed their sadness and criticised Belgian migration policy after these two deaths. On 2 April 2015 about 100 undocumented migrants protested in front of the offices of Fedasil and on 7 April 2015 several organisations organised a silent march in commemoration of the two men, reiterating their indignation over the Belgian immigration and asylum policies. Belgium’s Asylum and Migration Secretary, Theo Francken, of the Flemish nationalist N-VA, recently announced plans to increase the number of places in detention centres, as well as the number of deportations of undocumented migrants.
Sources: RTBF, 2 April 2015 ; La Capitale, 3 April 2015; CIRÉ statement, 3 April 2015
BELGIUM / Numerous appeals against the introduction of application fees for residence permits
The Belgian League of Human Rights, the Movement Against Racism (MRAX) and the French and German-speaking Bar association will file a series of appeals to the Constitutional Court and the Council of State against application fees for residence permits. In a royal decree published 20 February 2015, applicable since 2 March 2015, application fees have been introduced, ranging from 60 euros for EU citizens to 215 euros for work-related residence permits or for the regularisation of undocumented migrants. According to the government, these fees will cover the administrative costs resulting from the processing of applications and will also serve as a deterrent against multiple applications. The MRAX denounces this new discriminatory obstacle for undocumented migrants. In a press statement the Belgian League of Human Rights (LDH) highlighted that the Belgian government intended to use the fees to finance 100 new places in detention centres. The organisation denounces a measure that forces undocumented migrants to finance their own detention. The statement is available in French here.
Source: RTBF, 24 March 2015
BELGIUM / Labour Court grants access to social support to a seriously-ill migrant appealing against deportation order
In a decision issued on 13 February 2015, the Labour Court of Brussels determined that the applicant, a Moroccan national appealing against a deportation order on medical grounds, is entitled to access social support while awaiting a final decision concerning his removal to Morocco. In its decision, the Brussels Labour Court highlighted that, under the Belgian legal framework, undocumented migrants in Belgium only have access to urgent medical aid and not to financial support. However, noting that the specific circumstances of the case prove that the applicant is currently in need of both medical attention and social aid, the Labour Court of Brussels concluded that the applicant does have a right to social aid until a final decision on the removal procedures has been adopted. The decision is available in French here.
Source: European Database of Asylum Law, 13 March 2015
FINLAND / Bill allowing access to health care for undocumented migrants postponed
The government’s proposal to allow access to health care for undocumented migrants was shelved on 10 March 2015 by a member of the parliament from the Social Democratic Party, with the support of a member of the Finns Party. This means that the parliament will not examine the proposal again before the next elections. This move came as a complete surprise to the government, including the Social Democratic Party, which is part of the government coalition. In practice when a proposal is shelved by a member of parliament a representative from the government can take it up again, but as the government was taken by surprise, no one took up the proposal. The Bill would have granted undocumented children and pregnant women the same access to health care as Finnish nationals, and access to emergency care to all other undocumented migrants. The fact that it has been postponed has been criticised by health care professionals. The Medical Associations had been working on this proposal since 2012, arguing that preventive care would reduce costs. The capital Helsinki has already been providing emergency health care to undocumented migrants for a year at the city’s expense. It will continue to do so, without any financial help from the state.
Source: Hufvudstadsbladet, 10 March 2015; Svenska Yle, 11 March 2015; Svenska Yle, 11 March 2015
FRANCE / New shelter for women and children opens in Calais
A new night shelter which will host over 50 women and children opened in Calais on 25 March 2015. Parts of the shelter are still currently under construction; when the work is finished the shelter will be able to host about 100 persons. Men will have access to a day centre with access to showers and meals, but will have to continue to stay in tents overnight. The night shelter and the day centre were commissioned by the mayor of Calais after a rise in the number of irregular migrants arriving in the French city in 2014 (see PICUM Bulletin, 16 September 2014). While the shelters offer more comfort than the makeshift camps, they are further away from the city centre.
Source: La Voix du Nord, 25 March 2015; La Voix du Nord, 2 February 2015
GREECE / Greek government announces the end of controversial police operation Xenios Zeus
Alternate Minister for Immigration Policy, Tasia Christodoulopoulou, announced in February 2015 that Greek authorities plan to put an end to the controversial police operation codenamed Xenios Zeus. The operation aimed at cracking down on irregular immigration in Athens by targeting foreign looking persons. Several human rights organisations, including Human Rights Watch, have condemned the Greek police sweep operations for being based on racial profiling.
Source: Migration News Sheet, March 2015; Kathimeriní, 4 February 2015
IRELAND / Undocumented migrants’ St Patrick’s Day appeal for immigration reform on both sides of the Atlantic
To mark the annual national holiday St Patrick’s Day on 17 March, a large banner was draped across the Dublin city-centre offices of the Migrant Rights Centre Ireland (MRCI) carrying a special message for the undocumented Irish in America. Located on Dublin’s Dame Street, a main thoroughfare for the city’s St Patrick’s Day parade, the banner was organised by MRCI’s Justice for the Undocumented campaign, which is calling for a regularisation scheme similar to that which has been proposed in the United States. Undocumented campaigners, families and supporters turned out to watch the banner being dropped and to begin St. Patrick’s Day celebrations. The banner was part of an action calling on the Taoiseach (Ireland’s prime minister) to provide the same reforms in Ireland that he is urging for the undocumented Irish in the United States. Taoiseach Enda Kenny has strongly supported President Obama’s plan to regularise millions of undocumented migrants emphasising that: “Addressing the undocumented addresses your national economic need and the very human need of those living in the shadow.” Undocumented migrants in Ireland and their supporters are asking the Taoiseach to recognise these very same needs for the undocumented migrants living and working in Ireland.
Sources: Migrant Rights Centre Ireland, 17 March 2015; The Irish Times, 15 March 2015
SPAIN / Photographer arrested in Melilla and accused of aiding and abetting irregular migration
A freelance photographer working for Agence France Presse (AFP) and El Mundo was arrested in Melilla on 11 March 2015. She was accused of transporting four undocumented migrants to the Centre for foreigners. According to her lawyer, she denies having transported these migrants and says she saw them while she was driving and only gave them directions. She was detained for about 12 hours and was then released on bail. A week later the judge dismissed and filed the case.
Source: France 24, 11 March 2015; El Mundo, 19 March 2015
UNITED KINGDOM / Home Office ‘Migrant Journey’ study shows evidence of settlement trends
The Home Office in the United Kingdom published the fifth edition of the ‘Migrant Journey’ research report in February 2015. The report shows the process migrants go through in the immigration system. The key findings show that while a vast majority of those with a family visa were granted settlement five years later, and migrants entering the UK as workers in 2008 were less likely to have reached settlement or have valid leave to remain.
Source: Migrants’ Rights Network, 18 February 2015
EU / European Patients Forum calls for health care for all
The European Patients’ Forum (EPF) recently released a position paper entitled ‘Healthcare for all: Tackling discrimination in healthcare’ which reiterates the right of all people to receive health services without discrimination. The paper highlights the contradictions between discrimination and the overarching values of universality, access to good quality care, equity, and solidarity that the Council committed to in the Council Conclusions on Common values and principles in European Union Health Systems of 2006. The paper highlights the discrimination faced by undocumented migrants in accessing health care. EPF’s recommendations include: that the EU put in place a joint action or common initiative to ensure exchange of promising practices between member states on measures to tackle discrimination and health inequalities; that the European Commissioner for Health takes leadership in fostering a fundamental rights culture and encouraging universal health coverage for all those residing in the EU as per the key demands expressed by NGOs before the confirmation hearing of the Commissioner; and that member states and the EU put in place a right to assistance for seriously ill undocumented migrants who cannot have access to care in their country of origin. The position paper is available here.
FRANCE / Expulsion of undocumented migrants with serious health problems
The Prefecture of Rhône has begun refusing many applications for residence permits for medical reasons, even in cases where they were recommended by the regional health agency. It is on the basis of the opinion of the regional health agency that the immigration service of the prefecture decides whether to grant a residence permit or a deportation order, but the immigration service is not obliged to follow the opinion of the regional health agency. Until 2013, the prefecture almost always followed the opinion of the agency but more recently, has only done so in approximately 80% of the cases. Several organisations reviewed the case files to find out on what basis the prefecture made its decisions and their findings suggest that applicants of certain countries of origin are more likely to be rejected. Those nationalities are also the most represented non-European nationalities in Lyon. Many organisations are concerned that with a planned revision of the immigration law, the competencies of the regional health agencies will be transferred to the national immigration office. The Observatoire du droit à la santé des étrangers (Observatory for the foreigners’ right to health) has launched an awareness-raising initiative sending cards to the Minister of Health concerning cases of seriously ill undocumented migrants facing deportation, and the consequences – including death – deportation would have, urging him to intervene in the individual cases and push for a change in policy and practice. The latest card is accessible here.
Source: Rue89Lyon, 9 March 2015
ITALY / Piemonte Region: free paediatric treatment for undocumented migrant children
All children living in Piemonte, regardless of residence status, will be registered within the Italian National Health System and will receive free medical treatment until the age of 14. This was announced by the City Council on 16 March 2015 and follows some of the provisions of a policy document adopted on 20 December 2012 by the Italian State-Regions Permanent Conference, entitled “Guidelines for the correct application of legislation on health care to the foreign population by the Italian Regions and Autonomous Provinces” (see PICUM Bulletin, 22 January 2013). The agreement aims to adjust the uneven provisions supplied by the Regional Health Care Systems to the foreign population, and promote correct implementation of the national law, including through providing full and equal access to the national health system for all children (defined as age 0-18), regardless of residence status, in line with the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child. Monica Cerutti, Regional Minister for Immigration, affirmed that this measure is a positive step in the direction of the inclusion of foreigners, and concluded that it will also produce positive effects on National Health System expenditures.
Source: West – Welfare, Società, Territorio, 19 March 2015; Piemonte Informa, Agenzia della Giunta Regionale, 16 March 2015
SPAIN / Free primary health care services to be re-introduced for undocumented migrants
The Spanish Health Minister, Mr Alfonso Alonso, announced that undocumented migrants will once again be entitled to access free primary health care services from 31 March 2015. However, Mr Alonso affirmed that health cards would not be reinstated for undocumented migrants and gave no further details about how access to primary health services would be organised. In 2012, the Spanish government adopted the Royal Decree Act 16/2012 (See PICUM Bulletin, 29 May 2012 and PICUM Bulletin, 9 May 2012) that restricted access to health care for undocumented migrants to emergency care, care for pregnant women and care for children only. According to Doctors of the World, more than 800,000 people (including undocumented migrants) have been excluded from accessing health care since its adoption. The announcement received criticism from a number of Spanish NGOs that demand not only the restitution of free primary health care but of all other medical services, equating the rights of irregular migrants to health to those of Spanish citizens.
Source: El Diario, 31 March 2015; El Mundo, 31 March 2015
SWEDEN / Jönköping county examining possibility of broadening undocumented migrants’ access to health care
The administration of the Jönköping County in Sweden is currently examining the possibility of granting undocumented migrants the same access to health care as Swedish nationals. The initiative is based on Article 8 of the ’Law 2013:407 on healthcare to some foreigners who reside in Sweden without the necessary permits’ (Lag (2013:407) om hälso- och sjukvård till vissa utlänningar som vistas i Sverige utan nödvändiga tillstånd) which was adopted by the Swedish parliament in 2013. It grants undocumented children the same access to health care as Swedish children, and undocumented adults access to health care that cannot be postponed. Article 8 of the law gives regional governments the possibility to provide additional health services to undocumented adults.
Source: Sveriges Radio, 6 March 2015
Labour and Fair Working Conditions
PUBLICATION / Periodic review could break EU deadlock on the UN International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families
The European Journal of Migration and Law has published an article by Alan Desmond in March 2015 entitled ‘The Triangle that could Square the Circle? The UN International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families, the EU and the Universal Periodic Review.’ The article argues that the universal periodic review may hold the potential to break the EU deadlock on the UN International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families (ICMW). The ICMW is one of the ten core international human rights instruments but has not yet been signed or ratified by any of the 28 EU member states. The article notes that since the universal periodic review began in 2008 the 28 EU member states have received a combined total of over 200 recommendations concerning ratification of the ICMW. The author points out that the ICMW does explicitly extend protection of certain fundamental human rights to all migrants, regardless of their migration status, but at the same time it distinguishes between documented and undocumented migrants. The full article can be purchased here.
CAMPAIGN / Highlighting the International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of their Families
‘Step It Up: Dignity, Rights, Development’ is a global campaign launched by the Migrant Forum in Asia network and affiliated civil society organisations, trade unions, the Committee on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of their Families, and the International Labour Organization, which highlights the significance of the International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of their Families (CMW / UN Migrant Workers Convention). The campaign was launched in light of the 25th anniversary of the adoption of the Convention on 18 December 2015. The campaign promotes the ratification of the UN Migrant Workers Convention, addresses the situation of children of migrant workers, particularly ending immigration detention of children, migrant domestic workers, contributions of migrant workers in the countries of origin and destination, and situations of forced labour, human trafficking and slavery-like practices that migrant workers experience. To view the campaign page, click here.
UK / Modern slavery bill leaves out migrant domestic workers
Anti-Slavery International, Kalayaan, and Justice for Domestic Workers (J4DW) have been lobbying for an amendment to the UK’s Modern Slavery Bill, which would reinstate the protections of the original Overseas Domestic Worker visa. The right of migrant domestic workers in the UK to change employers was retracted during a 2012 revision of the Overseas Domestic Worker visa. Denied essential protection and security, these workers now risk a stark choice between remaining in exploitative situations or becoming undocumented. The amendment would once again allow migrant domestic workers to change employer and thereby leave abusive situations, and to renew their work visa annually. While the House of Lords voted in favour of this amendment to restore migrant domestic workers rights on 25 February 2015, the House of Commons voted out the Lords amendment to the Bill on 17 March. The Government-proposed amendment – allowing migrant domestic workers who have been officially recognised as trafficked to receive a six month domestic work visa – was passed. Kalayaan has criticised this amendment for failing to improve the current situation for migrant domestic workers who will remain tied to their employers, lacking essential protection and security until they receive a positive recognition as a victim of trafficking. As a result, migrant domestic workers would be expected to approach the authorities while their immigration status was still insecure. Kalayaan has urged support for final amendments tabled by Lord Hylton to redress this situation.
Source: Kalayaan, 23 March 2015; Anti-Slavery International, March 2015
EVENT / Migrant women come together in Cyprus to set out future priorities and actions
KISA (Action for Equality, Support, Antiracism) held a seminar in Nicosia, Cyprus on 22 March focusing on migrant women in Cyprus and their experience of racism, violence and gender equality. Held on a Sunday to facilitate the participation of the large number of migrant domestic workers in Cyprus, the seminar assessed the impact of existing strategies and actions taken at both European and local level upon their daily realities. The conclusions and recommendations deriving from these discussions will help the newly established ‘Migrant Women’s Forum’ to formulate their future priorities and actions. Seeking to advance the needs of all migrant women in Cyprus, irrespective of their nationality or migration status, this forum aims to become an independent and self-organised source of representation and support for migrant women in Cyprus. For more information on this event, click here.
EVENT / Women’s labour migration: flawed development strategies and the way forward
The Women’s Global Migration Working Group (WGMWG) held a parallel session on 12 March at the fifty-ninth session of the Commission on the Status of Women in the UN Headquarters, New York. Challenging current development assumptions which rely on migrant women’s labour and remittances while criminalising them and subjecting them to violence, the session addressed key barriers to the realisation of the Beijing Platform. Namely, how the focus on exports (including that of women’s labour), privatisation, deregulation, and commodification of nature and free trade has led to increasing income inequality, loss of land, precarious jobs, failed social service infrastructure, and displacement. The WGMWG underlined how the exploitation of migrant women’s labour and their remittances to finance development undermines their rights. Seeking to advance women’s human rights, including labour rights and migrant rights, the session allowed participants from around the world to develop strategies for development justice through organising, advocacy and collation building at national, regional, global levels.
Source: Women and Global Migration Working Group
UK / Protection gap for women and girls seeking asylum
The Joint Committee on Human Rights (JCHR) published its inquiry report on Violence Against Women and Girls (VAWG) on 19 February 2015. The report assesses how the United Kingdom, as a signatory to the Istanbul Convention (Council of Europe Convention on preventing and combating Violence Against Women and Domestic Violence) measures up to its standards, article by article. The Committee underlined a number of key concerns regarding women and girls with insecure immigration status who are often overlooked in policies about violence against women and girls. Firstly, that the Home Office policy of leaving undocumented women destitute places them at greater risk of violence (Paragraph 201). Secondly, there is a lack of clear responsibility for providing them with refuge space and insufficient funding is given to supporting these victims (Paragraph 201). Thirdly, the routine use of male interpreters, the operation of fast-track detention system and the reported culture of disbelief within the Home Office creates further trauma (Paragraph 220). Fourthly, that migrant women who allege that they are victims of violence are being detained through the fast-track process (Paragraph 221). The Committee urged the UK Government to address the gap in service provision for women with insecure immigration status and to review the use of the detained fast track process for victims of violence against women and girls.
Source: Joint Committee on Human Rights Violence against women and girls Sixth Report of Session 2014–15
Undocumented Children and Their Families
EU / HANDBOOK / How to put the European Commission’s Investing in Children Recommendation into practice
The ‘Implementation Handbook – Putting the Investing in Children Recommendation into Practice’ was launched in the European Parliament on 1 April 2015. The publication, by the EU Alliance for Investing in Children, traces the emergency of combating child poverty in Europe and demonstrates how the European Commission Recommendation ‘Investing in children: breaking the cycle of disadvantage’ can be implemented in practice. It presents 15 promising examples of existing policies and practice across Europe that put the EU policy guidance into action and explains the process and methodology for collecting those examples. Two of the examples address the inclusion of undocumented migrant children: the Legal Front Office – Legal Clinic model in Italy, which aims to tackle child poverty and inequality through improving access to justice, and the inclusive practices in the City of Barcelona in Spain, which include measures to improve municipal registration and access to education and health care. The handbook, release and documents from the exchange of views with stakeholders on 1 April 2015 are available to download here.
REPORT / Protecting undocumented children: Promising policies and practices from governments
PICUM launched a new report entitled ‘Protecting undocumented children: Promising policies and practices from governments’ on 19 March 2015. The report gathers several examples of practices by various levels of governments in the areas of education, health care, protection from violence, and non-detention, alongside some available data and relevant policy documents at EU level. It also includes a detailed overview of legal entitlements for undocumented children to access health care services in the 28 EU member states. By highlighting several laws, policies and practice, as well as tools at the EU level, the report seeks to support governments, and stakeholders working with them, to enact positive reforms to promote the well-being and development of every child residing in the European Union. To read the full report, click here.
UK / Secondary school students stage play about undocumented migrants
Pupils at a secondary school in Willesden in London examined the real-life stories of undocumented migrants before performing in a play to highlight the plight of migrant children and their families. Students from Capital City Academy in Doyle Gardens spent weeks working with researchers from the Centre on Migration, Policy and Society (COMPAS) from Oxford University, discussing and interpreting five scripted monologues, based on interviews with migrants, at drama classes after school. Students worked on themes through interpretation and improvisation, highlighting the plight of migrant children and their families, exploring issues such as getting into a school or finding a doctor. The school performance was followed by a panel discussion involving the audience who were given information sheets about some of the issues raised.
Source: Brent & Kilburn Times, 2 April 2015
UK / Joint Committee on Human Rights highlights violations of migrant children’s rights
A Joint Committee, made up of members from both the House of Lords and House of Commons, released a report on 24 March 2015 detailing how the current UK government is complying with its commitment to give “due regard” to the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) when making new policy or legislation, and analysing how the situation for children’s rights has improved or deteriorated in its term. In its focus on the rights of migrant children, the report highlights that there are clear trends that the best interests of the child have been subordinated to a wider concern with restricting immigration. Examples provided include the tendency to grant unaccompanied children temporary status rather than refugee status, failure to provide best interests determinations, and that training provided to decision makers on the best interests principle is only provided to decision-makers that handle claims from unaccompanied children. Evidence from the UNHCR indicates that dependent children are not being interviewed at any stage of the asylum process. Other issues raised include restrictions on residential tenancies and access to health services, failure to provide guardians with legal powers for all migrant children, deportation of children born in the UK, and, despite significant reductions in figures, continued use of immigration detention. The report also notes that the cuts in the legal aid budget and restrictions on access to legal aid flagrantly contravene the UNCRC. The report concludes that the treatment of child migrants is an area in which, despite some improvements, the situation has grown worse overall during this Parliament, and that the Government must ensure that the best interests of the child are paramount in immigration matters, and must work with other departments to ensure that the needs of these children are met and their rights safeguarded.
Source: ELENA Weekly Legal Update, 27 March 2015; Migrant Children’s Project Newsletter, March 2015
Detention and Deportation
BELGIUM / Drop in the number of deportations and regularisations
The number of deportations in Belgium has dropped for the first time since 2010 as a consequence of budget cuts. In 2014, 2,586 undocumented migrants were deported compared to 3,167 in 2013. The Immigration Office has been subject to budget cuts for a couple of years. Two years ago, a total of 600 places were available in detention centres compared to 480 places today. Despite the budget cuts, the Secretary of State maintains his intention to make the deportation of undocumented migrants one of the priorities of his asylum and migration policy. At the same time, the number of regularisations decreased with 14,000 applications for regularisations processed in 2014, compared to 23,500 in 2013. The total number of irregular migrants who were granted a residence permit dropped from 1,336 in 2013 to 994 in 2014. The sharpest decrease was for the residence permits granted for humanitarian reasons, which fell from 1,131 to 680. The number of regularisations for medical reasons has however increased, from 148 in 2013 to 295 last year.
Sources: Migrations News Sheet, March 2015; La Dernière Heure, 27 February 2015; La Libre, 10 March 2015
GREECE / Government presents road map for asylum, migration issues at EU Council
After the Greek government announced changes in the national migrant detention policies in a joint statement on 17 February 2015 (see PICUM Bulletin, 17 March 2015), the alternate Minister for Migration Policy Tasia Christodoulopoulou presented the Greek government’s road map for asylum and migration issues at the EU Justice and Home Affairs Ministers’ Council held in Brussels on 12 March 2015. The Minister called for a European migration and asylum policy based on respect for human rights but also based on the principle of responsibility sharing and solidarity among all EU member states. The Greek government is planning to secure 2,500 places for migrants in open reception structures, and to adopt a national policy for unaccompanied children. In February 2015, more than 300 migrants and asylum seekers had been released from six detention centres across Greece, including 17 unaccompanied children who were transferred to a reception centre in Volos. A report describing the current asylum and migration management system in Greece was released by the European Council on Refugees and Exiles (ECRE) on 13 March 2015. The report, entitled ‘What’s in a name? The reality of First “Reception” at Evros’, provides information on the structure, conditions and procedural frameworks in the Fylakio First Reception Centre and in the Fylakio Detention Centre in the Evros region.
Sources: Greece 2day, 13 March 2015; Ekathimerini, 26 February 2015; European Council on Refugees and Exiles (ECRE), 13 March 2015
HUNGARY / Prime Minister proposes law to prolong detention or enable rapid expulsion of irregular migrants
Prime Minister Viktor Orban announced on 14 February 2015 his intention to pass a law allowing the extended detention or rapid deportation of irregular migrants. According to Orban, the measure would prevent the country from becoming a “camp for economic migrants”. Hungary is currently experiencing an increase in the number of migrants and asylum-seekers, mostly from Kosovo; in January 2015, some 14,000 people sought asylum in the country. Antal Rogan, parliamentary leader of Orban’s Fidesz party, expressed the idea to also keep asylum seekers in detention until their applications were assessed, expelling rejected applicants with immediate effect. Human rights organisations are concerned over the announced law. In a press statement the Hungarian Helsinki Committee warned that it would breach EU law and international obligations.
Source: Reuters Canada, 13 February 2015; Migration News Sheet, March 2015
ITALY / Centres for Identification and Expulsion (CIE): Committee of enquiry installed
A new Committee of enquiry on migrant reception and detention centres in Italy started its work on 26 March 2015. The Committee is composed of 21 Members of Parliament (MPs) and was established in November 2014 by the Italian Lower House of Parliament. It has a budget of 100,000 euros to investigate conditions, potential rights violations and the efficiency and management of immigration detention centres (CIEs) and asylum-seeker reception centres (CARA). The investigation will last one year and the Committee will be supported in its activities by police officers and other public officials. Mr Mario Marazziti, MP (Centro Democratico), one of the Vice Presidents of the Committee, stated that the aim of the inquiry is to find out the causes of the current poor living conditions and to help the country to build a reception system based on solidarity and the respect of human rights.
Source: Stanieri in italia, 26 March 2015
LIBYA / PUBLICATION / Deplorable detention conditions
The Global Detention Project released its ‘Libya Detention Profile’ in February 2015 as part of a series of country detention profiles. Concerns highlighted by observers include the increasing absence of supervision at detention facilities, the involvement of militias in detaining foreigners, a lack of legal process provided in detention, corruption and endemic anti-black racism at detention facilities, as well as “unacceptable” conditions at most facilities. Meanwhile, the international news organisation Vice News published a video on 18 March 2015 showing conditions inside a detention centre in Zawiyah, Libya. The video is available here. Despite these concerns, the EU and Italy have continued to invest millions of euros in Libyan detention efforts and have maintained pressure on the country to block the passage of migrants to Europe.
Source: Global Detention Project, February 2015
MALTA / New law provides for review of detention of migrants and asylum seekers
The Law 15/2014 for improved transposition of the EU Return Directive, adopted by the Maltese government in January 2014, has introduced a new requirement for detention. The time period for the judicial authority to review a person’s detention should not exceed three months. The Asylum Information Database (AIDA) issued a country report update authored by JRS Malta and PICUM member Aditus Foundation in February 2015, detailing the changes emerging in the practices of detaining migrants in Malta as a result of the implementation of the law adopted in January 2014. The report highlights that, during the second half of 2014, several reviews of the legality of detention were conducted and that, in the majority of cases, migrants were released from detention as a result of the review.
Source: European Council for Refugees and Exiles (ECRE), 26 February 2015
UK / Proposal to introduce time limits for immigration detention
The Labour Party announced its intention to introduce new time limits for immigration detention in Britain, should they be elected in the general elections in May 2015. The shadow home secretary of the Labour Party, Yvette Cooper stated that the current system is insufficient and that the Labour Party would launch a consultation on the ‘appropriate’ limits to detention length. The number of people being held for three to six months rose from 1,757 in 2010 to 2,385 in 2014. In 2014, about 700 migrants were also detained for up to a year. A cross-party parliamentary inquiry into immigration detention recommended in March 2015 that the next government should introduce a maximum time limit of 28 days (See PICUM Bulletin, 17 March 2015). Meanwhile, protests against the conditions in the centres started to spread in at least six UK detention centres in March. According to reports, about 200-300 migrants went on hunger strike. Poor conditions and degrading treatment of detained migrants were also revealed by an undercover Channel 4 News report on 4 March 2015.
Sources: The Guardian, 25 March 2015; Vice, 11 March 2015
Publications and other Resources
BELGIUM / Book collects testimonies of undocumented migrants living in Brussels
The Belgian organisation ‘SOS Migrants published and presented a book called ‘Visages humains’ (human faces) on 18 March 2015, which collects the testimonies of 23 undocumented migrants who live in Brussels. Two of the migrants have since been regularised. The organisation is planning additional meetings to promote the book, including meetings with the regional, federal and European parliaments. This book comes at a time where undocumented migrants living in the Brussels region are mobilising for their rights, with weekly protests. A video about the release and content of the book is available here (in French). More information is also available on the Facebook page of SOS Migrants.
Source: RTBF, 20 March 2015
EVENTS / Victim Support Europe Annual Conference
The Portuguese Association for Victim Support (APAV) and Victim Support Europe are organising an international conference on ‘Victims of Crime in Europe: the future is now!’, on 13 and 14 May 2015 in Lisbon, Portugal. The focus of the conference will be on the EU Directive on Victims’ Rights which will have to be implemented by 16 November 2015. More information on the conference is available here.
CONTEST / Call for entries for youth video festival
The United Nations Alliance of Civilizations (UNAOC) and the International Organisation of Migration (IOM) invite young people aged 9-25 to take part in this year’s PLURAL+ Youth Video Festival. Participants are asked to submit original and creative videos focusing on the themes migration, diversity and social inclusion of five minutes maximum in length. The deadline for submission is 15 June 2015. The winners will be invited to New York to present their work at the PLURAL+ 2015 Awards Ceremony at the Paley Center for Media in December 2015. For more information, click here.
SPAIN / Campaign against racial discrimination
On the occasion of the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination on 21 March the Spanish organisation Red Acoge launched a new campaign called ‘#TambiénSoyGafotas’ (‘I also wear glasses’) on 11 March 2015. The campaign aims to raise awareness among (Spanish) society about racial discrimination while trying to put an end to the stereotypes associated with migrants. A series of videos serve as a tool for the campaign, showing the different every-day situations in which someone wearing glasses is discriminated against. Red Acoge’s message is that any type of discrimination should be considered as ridiculous, just as it is in the case of those who wear glasses. For more information about the campaign, please click here. To watch the videos in English, please click here.
Source: Europa Press, 11 March 2015
PICUM IN THE NEWS
BELGIUM / Initiatives on adequate use of terminology in reference to undocumented migrants
The French and English language versions the European online magazine Cafébabel published an article about various initiatives across Europe which work for accurate terminology in reference to undocumented migrants. The article also features PICUM’s ‘Words Matter!’ campaign.
Source: Cafébabel, 24 March 2015 French; 14 April 2015 English
ITALY / Launch of PICUM’s report on the rights of undocumented children
The Italian News Agency Il Velino reported on the release of PICUM’s report ‘Protecting undocumented children: Promising policies and practices from governments’.
Source: Il Velino, 19 March 2015
This newsletter was compiled by PICUM, with contributions from Camilla Schiaroli.