PICUM Bulletin — 23 May 2011


  • EU / STUDY / Ethics of border security’A study entitled

    Ethics of border security’ carried by the Centre for Global Ethics of the University of Birmingham (UK) as commissioned by Frontex aims to assist the EU border guard community by providing information on ethical standards set by the EU and challenges they may face. This study jointly with the recently published Frontex Code of Conduct form part of the Frontex Fundamental Rights Strategy which aims to apply human rights standards in the activities of Frontex and harmonising standards across the EU.
    Source: Frontex, 29 April 2011

  • GREECE / DEATH AT BORDER / A man and child drowned off the Greek coast, with another child missing A

    A man and an eight year old child drowned while another child is still missing in the sea off Nikopolis, Preveza, northwestern Greece, after a dinghy carrying 24 undocumented migrants overturned in the water on Wednesday 18 May 2011. A Preveza port authority patrol boat spotted the distressed dinghy and picked up the migrants from the sea. Divers are currently searching the area to locate the missing child which, according to information, is the twin brother of the drowned 8-year-old.
    Source: Athens News, 19 May 2011

  • TUNISIA / 58 deaths and 800 repatriations

    According to Tunisian Ministry of Interior Habib Essid, 58 dead bodies were found along the Tunisian coasts of Skhira, Chaffar, Kerkennah, Gabes, Djerba and Mahdia during the past month of April. As of 23 April 2011 repatriations are suspended as they have reached the amount of 800 repatriations agreed in the Tunisia-Italy agreement of 5 April 2011. From this point, Tunisia and Italy reinforce their equipment in order to strengthen patrols on European borders.
    Source: Fortress Europe, 11 May 2011

  • USA / Improving phone service in the deserts for more security

    A new trend and style of border crossing has been noted, increasing numbers of irregular migrants are crossing the US-Mexican border unaccompanied by traffickers (“coyotes”), but they are being guided by SMS through their mobile phones. This approach means that cibercoyote is located in a strategic place and secure hiding from which he has a good visibility of the road. He then updates the irregular migrants with warning messages when there is a patrol approaching as well as when to hide or to divert to a different path. The issue which causes problem is the common lack of network coverage in the desert along the border. This problem affects irregular migrants crossing over supported by cibercoyote who often find themselves isolated but also impacts patrol workers and can prevent irregular migrants seeking help when they are lost or in danger whilst crossing. Senator Gabrielle Giffords called for a legal initiative to improve mobile phone service in the deserts of southern Arizona to improve the security of the area and permit access to emergency services when faced with danger.
    Source: ABS, 10 May 2011

United Nations

  • ILO / REPORT / Migrants and minorities still vulnerable to discrimination at work

    The International Labour Organization (ILO) has released the new Global Report on Equality at Work 2011. Despite continuous positive advances in anti-discrimination laws migrant workers and minorities are among those groups that continue facing discrimination in the labour market as a result of the global economic and social crisis. The report warns against a tendency during economic turndowns to give lower priority to anti-discrimination policies and workers’ rights in practice. It also urges governments to put in place human, technical and financial resources to improve data collection on discrimination and inequalities.
    Source: UN News Centre, 16 May 2011

  • UNHCR / Refugee agency urges better rescue methods at sea after Mediterranean drowning

    In the wake of the latest reports of drowned people fleeing Libya by boat, on 10 May 2011 the UNHCR reiterated its call for European nations to urgently improve mechanisms for rescue at sea. UNHCR first appealed to European countries early on April 2011 to urgently put in place more reliable and effective mechanisms for rescue at sea. The number of people who arrived in Italy and Malta from Libya since the outset of the current crisis in mid-February stands at 12,360. Only in the past week nearly 600 people may have drowned when a boat broke up off the coast of Libya, while five boats carrying almost 2,400 people arrived on the Italian island of Lampedusa and all five needed rescuing by the Italian coastguard and maritime police. Europe has until now received less than two per cent of the people fleeing Libya to escape the continuing conflict, but the number of people risking the boat journey is rising.
    Source: UN News Centre, 10 May 2011

European Policy Developments

  • COUNCIL OF EUROPE / Inquiry into the deaths of 61 migrants claiming failure of military units to rescue them

    The Council of Europe has called for an inquiry into the deaths of 61 migrants in the Mediterranean, claiming an apparent failure of military units to rescue them marked a “dark day” for the continent. Mevlüt Çavusoglu, president of the council’s parliamentary assembly, demanded an “immediate and comprehensive inquiry” into the fate of the migrants’ boat which ran into trouble in late March en route to the Italian island of Lampedusa. On 9 May 2011, the Guardian reported that the boat encountered a number of European military units including a helicopter and an aircraft carrier after losing fuel and drifting, but no rescue attempt was made and most of the 72 people on board eventually died of thirst and hunger. Father Moses Zerai, Eritrean priest in Rome who runs the refugee rights organisation Habeshia and who was one of the last people to be in communication with the migrant boat before its satellite phone ran out, speaks of “an abdication of responsibility which led to the deaths of over 60 people, including children”. Read the personal account from one of the few survivors, click here.
    Source: The Guardian, 9 May 2011

  • EUROPEAN COMMISSION / The Netherlands not permitted to carry out border checks on trains

    The Netherlands regularly carries out border controls on international trains to prevent undocumented migrants from entering the country, but the European Commission has stated that this is not permitted. The Netherlands even continued such systemic controls after the ruling of the European Court in Luxembourg on the 22 June 2010 that identity checks cannot have the same effects as border controls. Stopping people in trains or at motorway exits is only permitted if the police have serious indications that it concerns criminals. The authorities have operated in breach of a European ruling and the government, by way of the Minister of Immigration, Gerd Leers, has been fined in a local court ruling after a man was stopped on a train and placed into detention, eight months after the ruling of the European Court.
    Source: Trouw, 14 May 2011

  • FUNDAMENTAL RIGHTS AGENCY / EU criticises ‘phallometric test’ in Czech Republic

    The European Commission and the Fundamental Rights Agency have criticised the phallometric test that the Czech Republic uses to determine whether asylum seekers are homosexual as claimed and fear persecution upon return. The agency said Czech Republic was the only EU country still using a “sexual arousal” test. Gay asylum seekers are hooked up to a machine that monitors blood-flow to the penis and are then shown heterosexual porn. Those applicants who become aroused are denied asylum. The agency said in a report that “it is dubious whether [the test] reaches sufficiently clear conclusions”. It said the practice could violate the European Convention on Human Rights “since this procedure touches upon a most intimate part of an individual’s private life”.
    Source: Gazet van Antwerpen, 18 May 2011; BBC News, 8 December 2010

  • EUROPEAN COMMISSION / Commission presents the “Victims’ Directive”

    On 18 May 2011, the EU Justice Commissioner Viviane Reding presented the proposed directive on minimum standards for victims that should ensure that, in all 27 EU countries, victims are treated with respect, get the medical, legal and practical support they deserve, and the protection they need throughout the investigation and court proceedings. In relation to this, the Commission is also proposing a regulation on mutual recognition of civil law protection measures.
    Source: Europa, 18 May 2011

  • EUROPEAN COMMISSION / Communication on Migration

    On 4 May 2011, the European Commission presented a Communication on Migration outlining the legal and practical initiatives that the EU is undertaking in the field of immigration and asylum. The Communication specifies that, on 24 May 2011, the Commission will present a package of proposals in the area of migration, mobility and security with the Southern Mediterranean countries.  The Commission explores the feasibility of introducing a “last resort mechanism that would allow for a decision at the European level defining which Member States would exceptionally reintroduce internal border control and for how long” in cases when a “Member State is not fulfilling its obligations to control its section of the external border, or where a particular portion of the external border comes under unexpected and heavy pressure due to external events”.
    Source: ECRE Weekly Bulletin, 6 May 2011

  • COUNCIL OF THE EU / EU moves to tighten border controls

    EU Ministers of Justice met at an extraordinary closed meeting in Brussels on 12 May 2011 to discuss the possibility of tightening border controls in the Schengen area as a response to the influx of migrants from North Africa. Ministers from more than a dozen EU member states supported plans to amend the Schengen rules. Fifteen states voted for the temporary return, as a last resort and under strict conditions, of border guards to deal with any sudden surge in migration. The decision will be have to be agreed at the upcoming June EU summit and will likely come up against strong resistance from the European Parliament.
    Source: The Parliament.com, 13 May 2011

  • EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT / EP supports the ILO Convention on Domestic Work

    On 12 May 2011, the European Parliament endorsed the Resolution for the ILO Convention on Domestic Work. In the Resolution the European Parliament supports the adoption of a new ILO Convention supplemented by a Recommendation on decent work for domestic workers. The Parliament calls upon the 27 EU Member States to quickly ratify and implement this ILO Convention once adopted to ensure that the entire spectrum of labour and social rights of domestic workers will be respected.
    Source: SOLIDAR, 13 May 2011

  • EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT / CONFERENCE / Does Europe’s respect for Human Rights end at its borders?

    This event will discuss the development of the new mandate of Frontex and will be an opportunity to reflect on what it should include including the possibility of setting up an independent and efficient evaluation and monitoring mechanism to ensure the respect of fundamental human rights in the future activities of Frontex. This event will take place in Brussels, on Wednesday, 25 May 2011 and is organized by Heinrich Böll Stiftung, Büro Brüssel.
    Source: Heinrich Böll Stiftung

National Developments

  • FRANCE / Law on immigration to be adopted in May

    On 4 May 2011, a joint committee of senators and deputies adopted a tougher version of the draft law on immigration with 8 voices against six. Although the issue on withdrawing nationality was postponed, the other controversial issues including a re-entry ban from two to five years into the EU for deported irregular migrants, increasing the length of detention to 45 days and postponing the intervention of the magistrate (“juge des libertés”) to 5 days instead of 2 were approved. The Law should be adopted by the Senate and Parliament in May 2011, but the Constitutional Council might still oppose if some of the measures of the law would affect fundamental freedoms.
    Source: La Cimade, 5 May 2011

  • GREECE / Nationalist Mobs Attack Immigrants in Athens

    Greek government officials appealed for calm on 13 May 2011, after three days of attacks against dark-skinned foreigners in Athens. The violence was reportedly sparked by the fatal mugging of a 44-year old Greek national in a high-crime area of the capital on 10 May 2011. Nationalists blamed the murder on immigrants, although no one has been arrested for the crime yet. According to a Pakistani community spokesman, more than 100 Asian and African immigrants were attacked by rampaging youths, and dozens of immigrant-owned shops were looted or damaged. Given that Greece is under extreme economic pressure from the burdens of an austerity program (including slashed wages, higher taxes, and job losses), some are taking their anger out on the large numbers of migrants (regular as well as undocumented migrants and asylum seekers) who have settled in Athens.
    Source: International Business Times, 13 May 2011

  • USA / State of Georgia passes anti-immigration legislation

    In the state of Georgia, the governor signed into law one of the toughest anti- immigrant measures enacted by an individual state. The measure allows law enforcement officers to ask about immigration status when questioning suspects in certain criminal investigations. SB 87 also imposes prison sentences of up to one year and fines of up to $1,000 for people who knowingly transport undocumented migrants during the commission of a crime. It also asserts that workers convicted of using fake identification to get jobs could be sentenced to 15 years in prison and fined $250,000.  Leaders in the local Latino community railed against the measure. Threats of the state-wide boycott have already resulted in anxiety from the tourist and hospitality industries for example; the US Human Rights Network has already pulled their 500-person conference out of Georgia. When receiving an award at a baseball game in the capital of Georgia, musician Carlos Santana used the opportunity to speak against the legislation and shaming those that are promoting fear in the immigration debate.
    Source: CNN, 13 May 2011; News Latino, 16 May 2011

  • NETHERLANDS / More undocumented workers according to Dutch Labour Inspection

    The Labour Inspection in the Netherlands has noted an increase in people working without a permit. Almost one fifth of inspected companies (18%) employed people without a permit. Because of contracting undocumented workers, underpayment and sub-par labour conditions a total of 4,000 companies were fined for a grand total of 42.7 million euro.
    Source: Arbeidsinspectie, Ministerie van Sociale Zaken en Werkgelegenheid, 12 May 2011

  • USA / Two new labour policies protect immigrant workers

    The Department of Labor (DOL) released its new protocols for certifying U visa applications for immigrant victims of certain crimes.  The new protocols follow up DOL’s announcement last year that it would begin to use this tool to ensure that immigrant workers can safely present their claims in the face of rampant retaliation by employers.  DOL’s protocols specify that it will certify U visa applications for five federal crimes uncovered in the course of wage-and-hour investigations:  involuntary servitude, peonage, trafficking, obstruction of justice, and witness tampering. As well, the DOL and Department of Homeland Security (DHS) reached an agreement to prevent employers from using immigration status as a weapon in labour disputes.  In the revised Memorandum of Understanding, DHS’s Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency assures that ICE will refrain from immigration enforcement at worksites that are being investigated by DOL, and that ICE agents will not masquerade as DOL agents. The National Employment Law Project (NELP) has created an analysis on both of the DOL’s actions along with recommendations on how to further ensure the rights of immigrants.
    Source: NELP, 28 April 2011

Undocumented Women

  • SPAIN / 32% of women forced into prostitution in Spain are irregular migrants

    On Tuesday, 10 May 2011, during a seminar on human trafficking in Spain, the Ombudsman’s office stated that 32% of women forced into prostitution in Spain were irregular migrants. The Ombudsman stressed the need to focus on identifying victims following a recent incident of a girl from Nigeria who was detained for 29 days at Barajas airport because the border agents did not know she was a victim of sexual exploitation. It called for better training with custom agents of how to deal with such situations. The secretary of Equality put the focus on the clients: “The law is useless unless we convince citizens. I would be satisfied if all men who defend human rights in their daily lives thought about what is behind when they pay for prostitution”.
    Source: Público, 11 May 2011

Undocumented Children and Their Families

  • BELGIUM / Denying adults the right to language and adult education

    The Flemish Minister for Education, Pascal Smet, announced a new decree which states that adults without a valid residence permit cannot take part in adult and language education. The Minister declared that he wants to be consistent and ‘provide clarity’ for everyone. He claimed that offering undocumented migrants possibilities for education would give them the wrong signal as it dissuades voluntary return. He also said that because of the limited number of places in these educational institutions undocumented migrants might take the place of those who do have papers and are currently on waiting lists. However, several educational associations as well as the country’s largest unions have opposed the decree and started a petition in protest against this law. As a response the Minister has said that people who are a currently in the asylum procedure or have appealed are eligible to take classes.
    Source: De Standaard, 17 May 2011

  • USA / Divided families and how they live along the Mexico and US border

    It is reported that there is an increase in mixed-status families living in the United States and that many of the families will be affected by the Obama administration’s aggressive deportation plans, with a record 400,000 immigrants expected to be returned to their home countries this year. It’s likely that more than 20,000 of those deportees have children who are U.S. citizens, according to experts who have analyzed federal data. Parents are left to choose between dividing the family between two countries, to keep children who are U.S. citizens in U.S. schools, or moving together to Mexico or Central America, where the education is inferior and the language is often foreign to U.S.-born children. The situation is told through the real life story and experience in a video (see link below) of Ms Martinez who is an American, along with her six children and her husband, who is undocumented.
    Source: The Washington Post, 9 May 2011

  • USA / The US federal government warns schools against checking immigration status

    Federal officials issued a memorandum to the nation’s school districts saying it was against the law for education officials to seek information that might reveal the immigration status of children applying for enrolment. Civil liberties advocates and others have complained in recent months that many school districts are seeking children’s immigration papers as a prerequisite for enrolment. Some state and local officials have also considered bills to require prospective students to reveal their citizenship or immigration status.  The letter cited a 1982 Supreme Court decision that recognized the right of all children, regardless of immigration status, to attend public school as long as they met the age and residency requirements set by state law.  It noted that the undocumented or noncitizen status of a student (or his or her parent or guardian) is irrelevant to that student’s entitlement to an elementary and secondary public school education. New York Civil Liberties Union found that 139 districts in New York State – about 20 percent of the total – were requiring children’s immigration papers as a prerequisite to enrolment, or asking parents for information that only lawful immigrants could provide.
    Source: The New York Times, 6 May 2011

  • USA / The state of Illinois advances the rights of immigrants

    The Illinois Senate passed the Illinois Dream Act with an overwhelming bipartisan vote in favour of the bill. The Illinois DREAM Act now moves to the Illinois House, where it is expected to pass later this month. The bill would also make it easier for high school advisors and university and college admission officers to become informed about the available opportunities for undocumented students and to know how to work with this group. As well, presidents and chancellors from 12 universities expressed their support for the Illinois version of the long-stalled federal DREAM Act to use private funds to help undocumented students pursue their studies as the first step toward nationwide immigration reform. In other news, the Governor of Illinois, with the support of law enforcement, made Illinois the first state in the country to opt-out of the Secure Communities program which resulted in the deportation of 72,000 people across the country last year.
    Source: Fox News Latino, 18 May 2011; ColorLines, 5 May 2011

Detention and Deportation

  • FRANCE / First effects of the last ECJ ruling on detention of undocumented migrants

    Following the European Court of Justice’s decision to declare illegal the detention of a foreigner only for the purpose of his irregular stay, the Appeal Court of Nimes has freed a Chechen citizen from Nimes detention centre. The Courts of Rennes and Toulouse have followed, confirming that arrest or police custody of foreigners on the basis of irregular documents has become illegal. This decision might shake the whole judicial and administrative system of expulsion of foreigners in France. Contrary to the Interior Minister who said that France would not be concerned by the decision, the Ministry of Justice declared they are now analysing the decision, after being questioned by the union of magistrates “Syndicat de la Magistrature”.
    Source: La Cimade, 10 May 2011; Le Monde, 5 May 2011

  • ITALY / Freed after European Court of Justice ruling

    Following the European Court of Justice (ECJ) ruling of 28 April 2011 decriminalising irregular migration and predicated on Italian migration legislation, the Public Prosecutor’s Offices of Turin and Rome have so far freed a total of 42 undocumented migrants who had been previously imprisoned. They had been convicted for not having complied to the order of leaving the country. Such cases have now been archived by the Public Prosecutor Offices. It is expected that other Public Prosecutor Offices in Italy will follow suit.
    Source: Fortress Europe, 5 May 2011 and 5 May 2011

  • NETHERLANDS / Parliament opposes repatriations for asylum seekers that might come under psychosocial pressure

    The Dutch parliament wants an arrangement with the Minister for Immigration, Gerd Leers, to prevent failed asylum seekers being send back in case they run the risk of coming under pressure in their home countries. The Afghan girl Sahar Hibrahim Ghel was given a residence permit after she was deemed to be ‘too westernised’ to be repatriated to Afghanistan. Many political parties stated that a situation of randomness should be avoided and that all asylum seekers that might find themselves under severe psychosocial pressure upon return should be given a residence permit.
    Source: De Gelderlander, 17 May 2011
    See also PICUM Bulletin, 27 April 2011

  • UK / REPORT / Corporate Watch find that unlawful and inhumane detention continues

    The report “Immigration Prisons: Brutal, Unlawful, and Profitable: Yarl’s Wood a case study” examines the procedures at Yarl’s Wood Immigration Removal Centre, the closure of the family unit, and the implications for the future of immigration detention. According to Corporate Watch, Yarl’s Wood was the main ‘immigration prison’ for women and children and has been heavily criticised in the past for its overcrowding, physical abuse, privacy infringement, communications restrictions, poor medical care, and so on. As a result of a campaign by many organisations (churches, charities, and campaigning groups) and individuals, the current coalition government has supposedly ended child detention and the family unit at Yarl’s Wood has been closed. Corporate Watch argues, however, that the focus on ending child detention has served to somehow legitimise the detention of adults, and that fewer people now appear to have the political will to argue that immigration detention should be stopped altogether. Corporate Watch’s briefing demonstrates that the impact of immigration prisons on adult refugees and migrants is no less cruel, inhumane and, in many cases, unlawful. For news on the continued use of child detention in the UK, see PICUM bulletins 27 April 2011 and 28 March 2011.
    Source: Corporate Watch, 24 May 2011; IRR News, 12 May 2011

Publications and other Resources

  • BELGIUM / REPORT / CGKR Annual Report on Migration in Belgium

    The Belgian Centre for Equal Opportunities and Opposition to Racism (CGKR) launched its 2010 report and criticised the Belgian government for not developing a sustainable migration policy. The report mainly focused on Family Reunion, Repatriation and Regularisation. The Centre urges the government to go for a comprehensive policy of voluntary instead of forced return.
    Source: Centrum voor Gelijkheid van Kansen en voor Racismebestrijding (CGKR), 10 May 2011

  • IRELAND / REPORT / Migrants and their experience applying for naturalization in Ireland

    The Immigrant Council Ireland (ICI) launched, “Living in Limbo – Migrants’ Experiences of Applying for Naturalisation in Ireland”, a research report which examines the experiences of 315 migrants from more than 60 countries and includes 22 in-depth case studies. The research showed many migrants were applying for citizenship to obtain a secure and permanent immigration status as a direct result of Ireland’s immigration system for non-EU citizens being based primarily on issuing temporary residence permits. The report makes 13 recommendations for reform. These include establishing a permanent residence status, introducing clear, fair rules for both permanent residence and citizenship, allowing migrant parents to include minor children in their application and establishing an independent appeals mechanism for citizenship decisions.
    Source: Immigrant Council Ireland, May 2011

  • REPORT / European cities and active inclusion

    This report released by Eurocities in May 2011, entitled ‘Cities and active inclusion: quality of social services and the social economy – Key lessons from cities’. The report emerged from the framework of ‘Cities for Active Inclusion’, which is an EU funded initiative to carry out research and shared learning activities on how active inclusion policies are implemented by local authorities in Europe. It analyses trends, challenges and processes experienced by European cities that are implementing active inclusion policies and delivering social services and social economy initiatives. The report identifies 7 groups of people most in need of active inclusion as identified by cities, including migrants. The report notes an overall trend to develop innovative social inclusion strategies in a context of budget cuts, economic turmoil and political change.
    Source: Eurocities, 5 May 2011


  • FRANCE / Theatre promoting regularisation of undocumented migrants

    “La compagnie irrégulière” is a theatre company created during the walk between Nice and Paris organised in 2010 by the “Ministry of regularisation of all undocumented migrants”. This year, the company will play in towns and villages of France, including Grenoble, Drôme, Avignon, Marseille on the topic of undocumented migrants.

  • BELGIUM / SEMINAR / “Future orientation courses’ for undocumented migrants”

    A network of social organisation based in Brussels will be organising a conference on future orientation courses’ for undocumented migrants” which will take place on Monday, 20 June 2011 at the Erasmushogeschool campus Dansaert in Brussels will be in Dutch. The seminar is aimed at individuals/organisations working on the issue of undocumented migrants and access to primary health services as well as housing. The conference is an opportunity for organisations to share their experiences. The cost of registration is €20 and registration ends on 10 June 2011.

Other News

  • BELGIUM / 11th edition of Summer School on Immigration and Asylum Law and Policy of the European Union

    The Odysseus Academic Network will be holding the 11th edition of its Summer School on Immigration and Asylum Law and Policy of the European Union, from 4-15 July 2011 in Brussels. The goal of this Summer school is to provide a diverse group of individuals with a comprehensive legal understanding on EU migration and asylum policies which provides in-depth knowledge of these two issues. The Odysseus Academic Network also organizes a one-year course which starts in September 2011 on European law on immigration and asylum.

  • GERMANY / FILM / Short film on young man with tolerated status nominated for Studio Hamburg Nachwuchspreis 2011

    A film entitled ‘Stranger at home’ which tells the story of a young man with tolerated status in Germany is nominated for the Studio Hamburg Nachwuchspreis 2011. Tolerated status is a special status given to undocumented migrants who are neither given proper residence status nor are returned to their country of origin.
    Source: Lena Liberta

Related Posts