PICUM Bulletin — 20 December 2013


  • GREECE / Violent refoulement of Syrians

    A new incident of violent refoulement was reported near the northern borders of Greece and Turkey. According to resources, 65 Syrian migrants were returned to Turkey on 14 November 2013, only two days after another violent refoulement of nearly 140 Syrians to Turkey. The migrants that managed to return to Greece are hiding, fearing for their lives. The returnees have called for the help of NGOs, political parties and citizens as their human rights have been repeatedly violated by the authorities. Authorities reassured protestors that no violent actions were taken against the undocumented migrants and blamed the Syrians by saying that they describe scenarios to make the Greek authorities look bad. Twelve undocumented migrants, including four children, were pulled dead from the Ionian Sea near the island of Lefkada on 15 November 2013. According to the 15 survivors of the tragedy, their boat sank before reaching the destination.
    Sources: Roz Karta, 26 November 2013; Tokaravani, 16 November 2013

  • ITALY / New report on the human rights violations and collective expulsions of migrants from Italy to Greece

    ‘Medici per i Diritti Umani’ (MEDU) presented ‘Unsafe Harbours’, a report on the allegedly illegal readmissions of migrants to Greece from Italian ports and the violations of their basic human rights carried out through readmissions by both Italian and Greek police. The report focuses on the route of migrants crossing the Adriatic Sea trying to reach Italy hiding on ferries bound to the ports of Ancona, Bari, Brindisi and Venice and is based on the testimonies of 66 migrants who have been turned away from Italy, many of whom more than once. According to the testimonies, Italian authorities are allegedly operating in breach of their own legal system and the international laws such as the ban on direct and indirect refoulement, on exposing migrants to inhumane or degrading treatment, and on collective expulsion.
    Source, MEDU, 26 November 2013

  • PORTUGAL / Airplane crew forced to fly Syrians to Portugal

    The case of a group of 74 Syrian nationals who entered Portugal with false documents on 10 December 2013 coming on a plane of the airline TAP Portugal from Guinea-Bissau has reignited the debate on irregular entry in the country. Guinean authorities had forced the head of the airplane crew with arms to take the passengers on board. The Foreigners and Border Service (SEF) is currently investigating who received and paid money for getting the Syrian migrants to Portugal and if there are potentially radical people among the group. The Syrians aimed to get to northern European countries by entering the EU through Lisbon. The Syrians were sent to the Portuguese Refugee Council ( CPR ) whose President, Teresa Tito Morais, said that the 51 adults and 23 children would be guaranteed refugee status. Following the security breach of the flight, the airline TAP Portugal announced to suspend flights to Guinea-Bissau, leaving the African country with no direct connection to Europe.
    Source: Público, 12 December 2013

  • SPAIN / Reintroducing the razor-sharp barbed wire fencing at the border

    The Spanish Interior Minister, Jorge Fernández Díaz, decided in October 2013 to reinstall the razor-sharp barbed wire in the areas of the fence in Melilla. He stated that these wires are not harmful but meant to discourage migrants from crossing the fence and entering Spanish territory. He also added that the wounds they cause are superficial and not too serious. This type of wire was installed for the first time at the Spanish enclaves of Ceuta and Melilla in 2005 by the socialist government but they were taken down partially in 2007, due to the severe injuries caused. Testimonies of migrants wounded by the wire during previous years can be found here. Sources: El País, 31 October 2013; El País, 26 November 2013


  • ILO / Tripartite Technical Meeting on Labour Migration

    The International Labour Organization (ILO) hosted a five-day tripartite technical meeting on labour migration in Geneva, Switzerland from 4 to 8 November 2013. The meeting aimed to discuss key issues such as the effective protection of migrant workers, matching skills with labour market needs, as well as international cooperation. The Meeting brought together twelve government representatives, twelve employers’ and twelve workers’ representatives as well as representatives from international and civil society organisations. The meeting agreed on conclusions which will be submitted to the March 2014 session of the Governing Body of the ILO for its consideration. The conclusions define challenges and opportunities for the ILO in the follow-up to the UN High-level Dialogue and post-2015 development debate, strategies to effectively protect migrant workers including protection mechanisms of migrant workers in an irregular situation, skills recognition and ways to promote cooperation and dialogue.
    Source: ILO, November 2013

  • GLOBAL / International Migrants Day

    International Migrants Day is observed each year on 18 December. Institutions, civil society organisations and migrants groups marked the International Migrants Day 2013 by calling on policymakers to ensure the rights of migrants including undocumented migrants and by raising awareness of the contributions of migrants to societies worldwide. The United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Human Rights of Migrants, François Crépeau, the Chairperson of the UN Committee on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families, Abdelhamid El Jamri, and the Rapporteur on the Rights of Migrants of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, Felipe González said in a statement that human rights must lie at the heart of all discussions about migrants and migration policies and urged states to decriminalise irregular migrants, find alternatives to administrative detention and fight xenophobia and discrimination. For more information on International Migrants Day, click here.


  • EU / European Border Surveillance System (EUROSUR) becomes operational

    The European Border Surveillance System (EUROSUR) became operational on 2 December 2013. It aims to  to reduce the number of irregular migrants entering the EU undetected, help member states to react faster to incidents regarding undocumented migrants and cross-border crime (see PICUM Bulletin 31 October 2013). Its main pillars are the ‘national coordination centres’, in which all authorities responsible for border surveillance are required to coordinate their activities. EUROSUR will be operational in a total of 30 countries. Critics have described this measure as extremely expensive (144 billion euro), discriminatory and anti-immigrant and that it will only be justified if there is a substantial decrease in the number of deaths involving migrants attempting to get into the EU.
    Sources: European Commission press release, 29 November 2013; PressTV, 13 December 2013

  • EU / FRONTEX treatment of refugees at sea to be reviewed following EP vote

    The European Parliament has proved to be open to negotiations with EU governments as the civil liberties committee voted on a new EU legislation governing sea missions by the EU border agency FRONTEX . The Green migration policy spokesperson, Ska Keller, stated that this vote would represent “an important breakthrough in how the EU deals with refugee boats in the Mediterranean if MEPs can convince EU governments to follow suit” and “bring FRONTEX in line with international law”. EU governments are expected to adopt a common position with legislative negotiations foreseen to start before Christmas.
    Source: The Greens in the European Parliament, 09 December 2013

  • EU / Readmission Agreement signed between Turkey and the EU

    EU Commissioner for Home Affairs, Cecilia Malmström, signed an EU-Turkey readmission agreement in Ankara, Turkey on 16 December 2013.  Turkey and the European Union agreed on 4 December 2013 on the agreement which foresees a visa liberalisation dialogue to make progress towards the elimination of the visa obligation currently imposed on Turkish citizens travelling to the Schengen area for a short term visit in return for Turkey to accept irregular migrants who entered the EU via Turkey. Franziska Keller, member of the European Parliament for the Green Party, criticised the agreement for sending irregular migrants back to Turkey even though Turkey is just a transit country to which they have no relation and where they cannot apply for asylum.
    Sources: European Commission Press Release, 16 December 2013; Deutsche Welle, 6 December 2013


  • UK / Home Office accidentally publishes personal data of undocumented migrants

    Personal details of almost 1,600 undocumented migrants in the process of being returned to their countries of origin were accidentally published on the Home Office website from 15 to 28 October 2013. In a written statement to the UK Parliament, Immigration Minister, Mark Harper, stated that the department has taken steps to establish whether the data was viewed or accessed outside of the Home Office. Shadow immigration minister of the Labour Party, David Hanson, said the episode showed a “staggering level of incompetence in the Home Office”.
    Source: BBC, 12 December 2013


  • DENMARK / New health centre for undocumented migrants in Aarhus

    The peninsula of Jutland saw the opening of a health clinic for undocumented migrants on 2 December 2013 in Aarhus. This comes after the clinic in Copenhagen has proven the need for health care services to migrants who are otherwise not entitled to health care in Denmark. Since its opening in 2011, the Copenhagen clinic has treated 4.000 undocumented migrants and midwives were called in 320 cases. The Danish Medical Association has opened this second clinic in cooperation with the Danish Refugee Council and the Danish Red Cross. Private foundations fund the clinic and around 200 volunteers will provide medical care. The clinic’s address will not be publicised widely. The police have been made aware of the clinic and stated that they won’t carry out raids at the clinic.
    Sources: Dagens Medicin, 3 December 2013; Jyllands-Posten, 3 December 2013; Jyllands-Posten, 3 December 2013

  • SPAIN / Molina Segura discards fees imposed to undocumented migrants for accessing health care

    The Spanish municipality of Molina Segura rejected the fee imposed by the national Ministry of Health to undocumented migrants who had lost their health insurance card after the law amendment in 2012 (Real decreto Ley 16/2012), which denies access to regular health assistance for undocumented migrants (see PICUM Bulletin 29 May 2012). At the request of a motion of the Municipal Group of the Progress and Democracy Union (UPyD), the case was brought to the Municipal Health Council with local health representatives and civil society to evaluate its impact and with the aim of ensuring that undocumented migrants will have access to health in their region. The spokeswoman of UPyD, Encarna Hernández, described the fees approved by the Ministry of Health (between 60 and 157 euros/month) as “disproportionate and unjust as they are targeting the most vulnerable, the people who have nothing, who face great difficulties in covering these costs”.
    Source: La Verdad, 26 November 2013


  • SPAIN / New programme approved by Cantabria allowing undocumented migrants to access health care services

    The Ministry of Health and Social Services of the Government of Cantabria, the autonomous community in Spain, has approved a Programme on Social Protection of Public Health (Programa de Protección Social de la Salud Pública) that will allow undocumented migrants to access health services and will guarantee that it is done free of charge. This programme is contrary to the law amendment made by the national government in 2012 (Real decreto Ley 16/2012) (see PICUM Bulletin 29 May 2012) that denies access to regular health assistance for undocumented migrants. According to the Vice President and Minister of Health and Social Services in Cantabria, María José Sáenz de Buruaga, this programme only serves as additional guarantee for undocumented migrants to access health services, as the region of Cantabria had never denied this right to undocumented migrants.
    Source: Europa Press, 4 December 2013

  • CAMPAIGN / Anti-trafficking – one story, two outcomes

    On the occasion of International Human Rights Day on 10 December 2013, La Strada International NGO Platform launched a new campaign urging governments to fully implement anti-trafficking legislation. The campaign ‘One Story, Two Outcomes’ presents the exemplary story of Anna, based on a real life case. Anna is offered employment abroad and finds herself ruthlessly exploited on a mushroom farm. Police raids the place where she is being held. After that, the story has two outcomes, depending on whether Anna is given access to her rights or not. The Council of Europe Convention on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings (CETS No 197) was ratified by all European countries except for Czech Republic, Estonia, Greece, Liechtenstein, Monaco, Russia and Turkey. In 2011 the EU countries adopted the Directive on preventing and combating trafficking in human beings and protecting its victims (Directive 2011/36 EU). The most important rights under the abovementioned legal frameworks are access to shelter and basic support, free legal aid, time to reflect before testifying, financial compensation for unpaid wages, not to be punished for laws broken as a result of being trafficked and temporary residence. For more information on the campaign, click here .

  • CAMPAIGN / Migrants Matter: Promoting the ratification of the UN Migrant Workers Convention

    A group of over fifty Masters Students of the European Masters in Human Rights and Democratisation (E.MA) based in Venice, Italy, has launched an advocacy campaign called ‘Migrants Matter’. The international students aim to use their diverse experience and backgrounds to raise awareness of the abuses suffered by migrants, including undocumented migrants. The primary aim of the campaign is to put ratification of the UN Migrant Workers Convention back on the European agenda, in the context of the absence of such ratification by any EU Member State. ‘Migrants Matter’ wants to ensure the protection of the rights of migrants, and particularly undocumented migrants through encouraging the ratification of the Convention. To view the group’s Facebook page, click here.
    Source: Migrants Matter, December 2013

  • CONFERENCE / First European Conference on Trade Union Services for Migrants

    The First European Conference on Trade Union Services for Migrants organised by the European Trade Union Confederation (ETUC) took place on 12 December 2013 in Brussels. The conference aimed at improving the living and working conditions for migrants. Three working groups were held during the conference focusing on the solutions that trade unions and NGOs found in the field of collective bargaining, provision of services to migrants and trade union membership. Speakers also highlighted the need for trade unions to remove practical barriers for undocumented workers to join and actively foster their participation and leadership within the movement. For more information, please click here.

  • ITALY / Seven Chinese migrant workers killed in a fire of a textile factory in Prato

    Seven migrant workers died in a fire that broke out at their workplace, a textile factory in Prato. The Chinese workers were caught by the fire while sleeping, as their bodies were found in the ‘drywall cells’ built in the factory to ‘accommodate’ workers during nights. Italian politicians and authorities denounced that this tragedy is the direct consequence of a situation of widespread illegality in the black labour market where thousands of Chinese migrants are exploited and live in conditions below human rights standards, especially in the Tuscan town of Prato, a major destination for Chinese migrants working in the garment sector (See PICUM Bulletin, 10 October 2013).
    Source: La Repubblica, 1 December 2013

  • PUBLICATION / Recipe book done by migrant domestic workers in Brussels

    The Organisation for Undocumented Migrant Workers (OR.C.A) published a new recipe book  entitled «Nos droits sur le plat» (‘Our Rights on the Plate’) on 10 December 2013. Two Belgian Federal deputies, Nahima Lanjri and Karin Temmerman, were present at the book launch and cooked the Halo-Halo, a Filipino dessert. The book combines recipes from Latin America and the Philippines with legislation on workers’ rights such as articles of the ILO Convention on domestic work (C189) as well as real stories from the migrant domestic workers. “These women are among hundreds of people who live and work in Brussels as domestic workers” affirmed OR.C.A. The recipe book is available in French and Dutch and can be ordered online through OR.C.A’s website.
    Sources: Le Soir, 10 December 2013; Deze Week, 5 December 2013


  • DENMARK / Au pair visas push pregnant women into irregularity

    The insecure situation migrant women on au pair visas face is gaining increasing attention in Denmark. The programme, designed as a cultural exchange to improve language skills and placing strict limitations on the time spent ‘participating in family chores’, is increasingly being used across northern Europe as a means to gain cheap childcare and domestic work. In Denmark, au pairs who become pregnant during their stay automatically have their visas revoked and are asked to leave the territory within 30 days. Around 4,400 au pairs currently work in Denmark, with nearly 75 percent of those coming from the Philippines. The Fagbladet FAO (Trade and Labour Union) and KIT (Churches’ Integration Ministry) recently brought this issue to the attention of Labour Minister Mette Frederiksen. Underlining the need to abolish the rule that au pairs must not have kids or be married, the letter recommends that Denmark urgently ratifies the ILO Convention on Domestic Workers Rights.  Representing 18 different labour unions, the Danish Confederation of Trade Unions (LO) is also developing proposals on how to improve the programme, demanding that au pairs get the same rights as other professionals on the job market, including an increase of their monthly salary. Migrant community organisations such as Babaylaan Denmark report that the stigma and destitution Filipino au pairs would face if returning home pregnant and unmarried lead many with little choice but to obtain abortions. Indeed, the Abortion Council in Copenhagen have underlined disproportionate rates of late abortions among migrant women.
    Sources: Copenhagen Post, 10 December 2013; FAO, 10 November 2013; Copenhagen Post, 14 October 2013; Scandasia, 7 July 2010


  • DENMARK / Commissioner urges to implement children’s rights

    Nils Muižnieks, the Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights, visited Denmark from the 19-22 November 2013 to assess the Danish migration policies and practices. The Commissioner pointed out that only minimum requirements of the conventions Denmark is a party to are met and recommends an enlarged consideration for human rights and children’s rights especially. He drew attention to decisions leading to forced returns for children to countries of origin with one or more family members and possibly unaccompanied to return centres such as in Afghanistan. Furthermore, he expressed concern over the fact that unsuccessful asylum seekers who cannot be deported are living in the Sandholm reception centre for extended periods of time, sometimes years. While some people have been deemed qualified to live outside of the Sandholm centre, the Commissioner again focused on the lack of opportunities for children to go to school as children their age. He argued that the conditions children are met with in the Danish migration system are not fully in line with the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.
    Sources: Council of Europe, Commissioner for Human Rights, 22 November 2013; Berlingske Media, 22 November 2013

  • REPORT / State of Children’s Rights in England

    The Children’s Rights Alliance for England (CRAE) has published its flagship annual publication, the State of Children’s Rights in England Report 2013. The UN Committee on the Rights of the Child issued 118 recommendations in 2008 on children’s rights in the UK. The report summarises key developments in England – positive as well as negative – in relation to the UN’s recommendations for improving children’s human rights for the period from to November 2012 to November 2013. Migrant children are identified as a particularly vulnerable group. The Immigration Bill undermines their right to family life, health, housing, and to be protected from harm and to have their best interests taken into account. Failure to increase the rate of asylum support, already inadequate to meet children’s basic needs, will leave then in worsening destitution. Discriminatory proposals in relation to legal aid will leave them unable to challenge most breaches of their rights. In producing the report, CRAE draws on the evidence and expertise of its members, who attend evidence gathering events, respond to calls for evidence, help draft sections of the report, and comment on drafts.
    Source: Children’s Rights Alliance for England (CRAE), December 2013

  • US / Obama administration to extend programme on Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals

    The Obama administration is planning to extend the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals. The program was set to expire shortly before the midterm elections in November 2014. Under the current two-year deferred action measure, the Obama administration has allowed 567,000 young undocumented migrants to work in any state across the country, receive some government benefits, enroll in school and obtain a driver’s license. The announcement for the extension of the program was made on 11 December 2013 by White House Domestic Policy Director, Cecilia Munoz, during a video chat set up by the Bing online search service run by Microsoft which encourages the inflow of foreign workers.
    Source: Newsmax, 12 December 2013


  • CYPRUS / Baby sleeping on the floor in detention cell

    A 13-month old baby and its mother from Afghanistan were detained in the center of Oroklini Police Station in Cyprus were they were found sleeping on the floor due to the conditions of the cell. The Afghan family’s asylum application had been rejected and authorities transferred first the father to the detention centre in Menoya, near Larnaka, and then his wife. As a result their three children were placed temporarily in foster care.  The baby who was still breastfed, however, could not adjust and kept crying which led authorities to bring the infant to the detention centre where the mother was held.
    Sources: Philenews, 4 December 2013; Press Release KISA – Action for Equality, Support, Antiracism, 13 December 2013

  • FRANCE / Government accused of not complying with the electoral promise of changes in migration policy on detention and deportation of migrants

    Current French President, François Hollande, had promised major changes in immigration policies during his election campaign in order to make detention the ‘exception’ and not the rule. However, organisations accessing French detention centers report that the situation improved only for migrant families and not for all migrants, as they are still detained in large numbers. If there was a decrease in the total number of detainees  (23.500 in 2012 as against 27.000 in 2011) , the associations say this is only due to the repeal of the ‘garde a vue’ regime following to a decision of the ECJ.  The left-wing government was also criticised for worsening instead of improving the situation of deportations: the total number of those expelled from the mainland territory of France increased by 12 % in 2012 and, according to the associations, 60 % (compared to 25 % in 2011) had no access to a judicial authority before deportation.
    Source: Agence France Presse, 4 December 2013


  • EU / Directive on Seasonal Work

    The Equal Times published an opinion piece by PICUM’s Programmes Director, Eve Geddie, on widespread labour exploitation of undocumented migrants in the EU and the EU Directive on Seasonal Work. The piece discusses how the EU Directive on Seasonal Work recognises the need to protect undocumented migrant workers but can only be put into practice if labour unions also reach out to undocumented migrant workers.
    Source: Equal Times, 12 December 2013

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