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- PICUM IN THE NEWS
RECOMMENDATIONS / Civil society recommendations for protection at sea
A group of nearly 30 civil society actors presented a statement containing “Civil Society recommendations on Protection at Sea” on 8 December 2014. The statement is a direct follow-up to the Civil Society’s 5-year 8-point Plan and supported by the Civil Society Migration and Development Network (MADE) and International Catholic Migration Commission (ICMC). The statement calls for a better engagement of civil society competencies and partnership through a multi-actor framework of protection and stresses the need to address both the “route causes” and the “root causes” of forced and dangerous migration. The statement also recalls that it is key to ensure that border management is firmly based on human rights principles. The recommendations were presented as part of the UNHCR High Commissioner’s Dialogue on Protection at Sea from 10 to 11 December in Geneva. The full statement is available here.
Source: Global Forum on Migration and Development Civil Society, 8 December 2014
RECOMMENDATIONS / JRS Europe presents recommendations for safe and legal paths to the EU
In cooperation with a group of six Christian NGOs, JRS Europe has developed a set of recommendations for safe and regular paths to protection in the European Union. The recommendations call for legal instruments to be put in place by the European Union to enable migrants at risk to reach Europe swiftly and safely. The recommendations address four policy areas: resettlement and humanitarian admission, family reunification, humanitarian visas and the importance of lifting visa requirements to ensure access to asylum and proper protection for migrants in need. The recommendations are available here.
Source: JRS Europe, 20 November 2014
OHCHR / HIGH COMMISSIONER SPEECH / Why all migrants should be part of the post-2015 development agenda
Speaking at a panel organised by the International Organisation of Migration (IOM) on Migration in the Post-2015 Agenda on 17 December 2014, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, said that the post-2015 development agenda should include the protection of the human rights of all people, including migrants, as it would otherwise fail to meet one of its core objectives of ‘leaving no one behind’. The High Commissioner highlighted that “there is no such thing as an illegal human being. On the contrary, all migrants – regular or irregular – have an inalienable claim to dignity, to justice, to freedom and to all other human rights” and that irregular migrants “often do the jobs that no one else wants, and are typically less likely to claim benefits than others.”To read the full speech, click here.
OHCHR / REPORT / The economic, social and cultural rights of irregular migrants
The UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) has published a new report entitled “The Economic, Social and Cultural Rights of Migrants in an Irregular Situation”. Through a specific focus on economic, social and cultural rights, the report seeks to challenge common assumptions about the entitlement of irregular migrants to fundamental human rights such as the right to health care, to education, to an adequate standard of living, to social security and to fair working conditions. The report also defines legal and practical barriers which prevent irregular migrants from enjoying their rights in each of these areas and stresses the importance of not labelling undocumented migrants as ‘illegals’ due to their migration status. The report serves as a resource for policymakers, human rights institutions, civil society, lawyers, judges and migrants themselves to understand the scope and content of the human rights of undocumented migrants. To download the report please click here.
OHCHR / REPORT / Practical guide for civil society
The United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) has published the practical guide for civil society “Civil Society Space and the United Nations Human Rights System” in December 2014. The guide gives an overview of the UN human rights system, addresses conditions for free and independent civil society work and international legal standards relating to civil society work as well as describing how the UN human rights mechanisms can protect civil society space. The guide is available in English, French, Russian, Spanish and Arabic.
SECRETARY GENERAL / Report presents key recommendations to improve protection of migrant children and protection of rights at borders
The UN Secretary-General submitted a report to the General Assembly in August 2014 addressing two key human rights challenges for migrants: protection and promotion of the human rights of migrant children and adolescents, and human rights at international borders. Key human rights challenges for migrant children and adolescents addressed in the report include: age assessments; transition to adulthood; detention; access to economic, social and cultural rights (in particular education, health, adequate housing and decent work); gender equality and xenophobia. Among the recommendations, the Secretary-General encourages states to implement the recommendations adopted by the Committee on the Rights of the Child at the 2012 day of general discussion on the rights of all children in the context of international migration, and ensure a firewall between public service providers and immigration enforcement authorities. The securitised approach to border governance, including interception practices, detention and lack of due process are also considered, and the OHCHR Recommended Principles and Guidelines on Human Rights at International Borders (PICUM Bulletin 10 December 2014) promoted, alongside recommendations on non- or de- criminalisation of migration, ensuring due process and preventing, investigating and punishing all human rights violations and abuses experienced by migrants during their journey and at borders, among others.
European Policy Developments
COUNCIL OF EUROPE / Report on human rights of migrants, asylum seekers and refugees in Hungary
Nils Muižnieks, Commissioner for Human Rights of the Council of Europe, published his report on 16 December 2014 following his visit to Hungary from 1 to 4 July 2014. The report addresses media freedom, the fight against intolerance and discrimination as well as the human rights of migrants, asylum seekers and refugees in Hungary. The Commissioner notes in the report that the Hungarian government’s focus has been on fighting irregular migration and preventing possible abuse of the asylum system. Moreover, he notes several shortcomings in the detention system including few alternatives to detention. In his conclusions and recommendations, the Commissioner calls on authorities to not detain children and to use detention as a last resort. Although there have been no cases of detention of families recently, the Commissioner notes that their detention is still provided for by the law. To read the full report, click here.
COUNCIL OF EUROPE / SPAIN / Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights, Nils Muižnieks visits Melilla
The Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights, Nils Muižnieks, visited Melilla, Spain on 16 January 2015. The reason of his visit was to try to prevent the proposed amendment to Spain’s immigration law that would facilitate automatic and collective expulsion of migrants from the borders of the two Spanish enclaves in North Africa, Ceuta and Melilla (See PICUM Bulletin, 10 December 2014). The proposal was already approved by the Spanish Congress on 17 December 2014 and it is awaiting approval in the Senate. Mr. Muižnieks reminded the Spanish government that no other European country has legalised this unlawful practices, and that in doing so, Spain could be an “extremely bad precedent” for the EU. He added that “it would be the beginning of the end of the EU asylum system”.Source: El Diario, 16 January 2015; Eurasia, 17 December 2014
EUROPEAN COURT OF HUMAN RIGHTS / Greece condemned for the arbitrary detention and ill-treatment of migrants
In two rulings issued on 11 December 2014, the European Court of Human Rights condemned Greece for the inhuman and degrading treatment and arbitrary detention of an Iranian and an Iraqi national. The case of Mohamad v Greece (no. 70586/11) concerned the detention of an unaccompanied child, originally from Iraq, for a period of over five months at the Soufli and Feres border posts. During detention, the child was exposed to unsanitary and overcrowded conditions, leading to psychological distress and physical harm. Stressing that no effective investigation into the legality or conditions of detention took place, the Court found a violation of Article 3 and of Article 13, in conjunction with Article 3 of the European Convention of Human Rights. The court ordered the Greek government to pay 8,500 euros to the applicant. On the same day, in the case of AL.K. v. Greece (no. 63542/11), the Court also ordered Greece to pay 6,500 euros in damages to an Iranian national who arrived in Greece in November 2010 as an asylum seeker.
Sources: Ekathimerini, 11 December 2014 ; Le Monde, 11 December 2014
EUROPEAN COURT OF HUMAN RIGHTS / Survivors of Farmakonisi shipwreck file complaint
After the prosecutor of the Naval Court of Piraeus formally shelved the investigation of the Farmakonisi case in August 2014 (See PICUM Bulletin, 25 August 2014), the survivors of the shipwreck of 20 January 2014 are now filing a complaint before the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) claiming violation by the Greek authorities of Articles 2, 3 and 13 of the European Convention of Human Rights (ECHR). According to testimonies of survivors, the Greek coastguard towed their small boat at great speed back towards Turkey and the rope was cut which caused the boat to sink and led to the death of 11 Afghans, including eight children. The survivors claim that the Greek authorities acted in violation of the right to life, the right to freedom from torture and the right to an effective remedy in the context of the coastguard operation off the Greek island (See PICUM Bulletin, 27 January 2014). Officials who took part in the operation claimed it was a rescue mission.
Sources: Amnesty International, 20 January 2015 ; Pro Asyl, 20 January 2015
EUROPEAN COMMISSION / Factsheet on migrant smuggling in the European Union
The European Commission issued, on 13 January 2015, a fact sheet summarising key issues and figures concerning the issue of migrant smuggling in the European Union. Highlighting the differences between human trafficking and migrant smuggling, in the fact sheet the European Commission lists a number of measures aimed at tackling migrant smuggling under the existing EU legal framework and notes that common efforts need to be reinforced in order to prevent smuggling, while ensuring due assistance to migrants in need of protection. Based on data collected by Frontex as of January 2015, the fact sheet highlights that, in 2014, more than 276 000 migrants irregularly entered the EU, which represents an increase of 155% compared to 2013. Meanwhile, Frontex reported that smugglers use a new route to bring migrants to Europe by embarking them on cargo ships from Turkey to Italy. According to the report, migrants pay up to €6,000 to get on board, around triple the price paid by those leaving in smaller and less safe boats from Libya.
Sources: European Commission, Fact Sheet, MEMO/15/3261; EU Observer, 6 January 2015
BELGIUM / BROCHURE / Methodology for migrant supporters to find future opportunities and solutions
The Belgian organisation Kruispunt Migratie-Integratie published on 9 December 2014 its new brochure “Toekomstoriëntering. Met precaire verblijvers werken aan een zinvol toekomstperspectief” (Future Orientation. Working on a meaningful perspective for those with a precarious residence status). The brochure introduces a new methodology and vision offering advice and assistance to undocumented migrants and migrants with a precarious residence status. Belgian organisations working on integration and social wellbeing have developed this methodology to guide undocumented migrants as they define future opportunities. This methodology was developed to address the difficulties faced by counsellors of undocumented migrants as they often feel powerless and confined to providing emergency help without the ability to offer long-term solutions. To read the brochure (in Dutch), click here.
DENMARK / Research finds increase of irregular migrants
The independent Rockwool Foundation Research Unit in Denmark published new research on irregular migration in the country in December 2014. The analysis found that the number of irregular migrants in Denmark has more than doubled since 2008, with 33,000 irregular immigrants in Denmark in 2013. The analysis found that the average age of irregular migrants was 32 and of those who were apprehended in Denmark, most came from Russia, followed by Pakistan, Kosovo, Philippines, Vietnam, Thailand, India, Iran, Albania, Iraq and Algeria.
Source: Copenhagen Post, 9 December 2014
FRANCE / In the aftermath of Paris attacks, formerly undocumented ‘hero’ is granted French citizenship
The formerly undocumented migrant, Lassana Bathily, was naturalised in France on 20 January 2015, following his actions to help save the lives of several people during an attack on a Jewish supermarket in Paris on 9 January 2015. The attack on the Jewish supermarket was linked to the murder of 12 people at the headquarters of the Charlie Hedbo satirical magazine two days before, on 7 January. Four of the Jewish clients were killed in the anti-Semitic attack. In the midst of those events, Lassana Bathily, an employee of the supermarket, helped several clients to hide in the cold chamber before he managed to escape and provided the police with some crucial information about the assault helping to free those held hostage at the supermarket. Lassana Bathily is a 24-year-old Malian national who arrived in France at the age of 16 to join his father in Paris, leaving the rest of his family behind in Mali. When he turned 18, he made a request for a residence permit, which was denied. He received an order to leave the territory at the end of 2010 and remained in an irregular situation in France. With the help of several of his teachers, some of them being members of RESF (the Education without Borders Network), he obtained a permit in 2011 and filed a naturalisation request in 2014. After receiving a lot of media attention, with much of the media coverage underlining the fact that he is a practising Muslim who saved the lives of several Jewish clients of the supermarket, Mr Bathily learned that he would receive French citizenship earlier than expected, in celebration of his ‘heroic’ actions. Both the Minister of the Interior, Bernard Cazeneuve, and the Prime Minister, Manuel Valls, attended the ceremony during which he was naturalised. Lassana Bathily has been described as humble and declared he did not feel like a hero and that he was very proud to now hold dual citizenship.
Source: Le Monde, 20 January 2015
FRANCE / Human Rights Watch denounces police brutality against migrants in the city of Calais
On 20 January 2015, Human Rights Watch (HRW) released a statement denouncing the lack of accommodation as well as police violence against migrants in Calais. In 2014, the number of migrants in Calais, waiting for an opportunity to cross the channel into the UK, almost doubled (see PICUM Bulletin 16 September 2014). Tensions between migrants run high and incidents of violent fights between different groups have been reported as most of them have been in an irregular situation in Calais for several months and are determined to reach British territory. Most of these migrants are destitute and, according to HRW, they are at risk of random acts of police brutality. Migrants have reported being beaten or attacked with pepper spray as they were hiding in trucks going to the UK or even just as they were walking in the street. Government authorities denied the abuse and declared that any claim of police brutality would be duly investigated. Civil society organisations however report that migrants face many difficulties in formulating complaints. HRW called on the French government to take a stronger stance against police violence and investigate migrants’ claims of abuse and to comply with its obligation under the EU reception directive and to provide accommodation to all asylum applicants.
Sources: Human Rights Watch, 20 January 2015 ; Le Monde, 20 January 2015
GERMANY / Migration Report 2013: Over 32,500 irregular migrants apprehended at borders and airports
The German Federal Agency for Migration and Refugees (Bundesamt für Migration und Flüchtlinge, BAMF) released its Migration Report for the year 2013 on 21 January 2015. The number of apprehensions of irregular migrants at the German borders and airports increased to 32,533 compared to 25,670 registered irregular migrants in 2012. However, this figure does not include migrants who irregularly stay in Germany and are not known to authorities. The number of apprehensions of smugglers with 1,535 in 2013 increased by 70.6% compared to 2012. The number of deportations increased to 10,198 compared to 7,651 in 2012. The main countries of origin of deported migrants were Serbia, Russia and Kosovo. The annual Migration Report provides figures on refugees, asylum seekers and migrants and outlines developments. Meanwhile, the German Federal Agency for Migration and Refugees categorised Bosnia-Herzegovina, Serbia and Macedonia as ‘safe countries of origin’ which is expected to lead to more deportations to those countries in 2015. To download the Migration Report 2013 and view previous editions, click here.
Sources: Bundesamt für Migration und Flüchtlinge, 21 January 2015 ; N24 4 January 2015
MOROCCO / End of regularisation campaign for undocumented migrants
The regularisation campaign launched in January 2014 (see PICUM Bulletin 27 January 2014), open to thousands of undocumented migrants in Morocco, has come to an end. One of the criteria was a continuous five-year presence on Moroccan territory but many undocumented migrants reported having difficulties in providing the authorities with proof of their residence. The final results of the campaign will be available in March 2015, once all requests have been examined. It is estimated that the 83 offices in charge of examining the files received about 24,000 requests. About 7,000 migrants have already received a residence permit while 3,000 have received a favourable opinion and are still awaiting a final decision. The Secretary General of the Migrant Workers Union in Morocco, Marcel Amiyeto, stated that his union was satisfied with the results of this operation, even though more than 50% of requests were not positively considered. Marcel Amiyeto underlined that this was the first operation of this kind in Morocco and that in the midst of reports of violence against migrants from Sub-Saharan Africa, it was an encouraging process. According to reports from civil society organisations, however, on 16 December 2014, two days before the celebration of International Migrants’ Day, Moroccan authorities forcibly dismantled a camp of Sub-Saharan undocumented migrants in the region of Oujda, flattening the tents of about 80 Nigerian nationals, including women and children.
Sources: L’Economiste, 12 January 2015 ; Yabiladi, 18 December 2014
NETHERLANDS / Dutch Court: Social welfare system violates the rights of undocumented migrants to medical assistance and to housing
The European Committee of Social Rights (ECSR) concluded on 10 November 2014 in the case of Conference of European Churches’ (CEC) v. the Netherlands that the current Dutch social welfare system violates the rights of undocumented migrants and that it is not in conformity with Articles 13.4 and 31.2 of the European Social Charter, referring, respectively, to the right to social and medical assistance and to the right to housing (see PICUM Bulletin 10 December 2014). However, the Dutch government has since refused to comply with the Committee’s decision. On 15 January 2015, the Hague Court upheld the Committee’s decision by concluding that the lack of shelter, food and clothing for undocumented migrants interferes with human dignity to the extent of inhuman treatment and therefore this should be provided by the government. The Court also specified that housing in immigration detention centres is not appropriate as restriction of movement is not justified. The Dutch government has announced that it will appeal the decision but has agreed to temporarily compensate local authorities for the costs of providing emergency accommodation in local shelters. Read the Court’s decision in Dutch here.
Original source: Stichting Los Nieuwsbrief (English and Dutch), 19 January 2015
EU / Quarterly health policy magazine spotlights health for undocumented migrants
The December 2014 edition of Eurohealth magazine (Vol.20 No.4, 2014) includes two articles addressing health services for undocumented migrants: ‘Health care for undocumented migrants in Europe leaves much to be desired’ by Ewout van Ginneken; and ‘Health Systems and Services for Undocumented Migrants: Developments in Spain and Sweden’ by Lilana Keith and Michele LeVoy (PICUM) and Frank Vanbiervliet (Medecins du Monde- International network). Eurohealth is a quarterly publication, published by the European Observatory on Health Systems and Policies that provides a forum for researchers, policymakers and experts to express their views on health policy issues and contribute to a constructive debate on health policy in Europe.
REPORT / Challenges in the reintegration of return migrants with chronic medical conditions
The report ‘Challenges in the reintegration of return migrants with chronic medical conditions’ was published in October 2014. It presents narratives of return migration experiences and data that give insights to the challenges migrants with chronic medical conditions face trying to integrate into their countries of origin following participation in an assisted voluntary return and reintegration programme with the International Organisation of Migration (IOM). These interlinked challenges include the high costs of medication and health care, psychological problems, economic dependency on family, unemployment and stigma. Almost half of the migrants interviewed – 13 out of 28 – stated that their conditions worsened after return, and 22 reported that their mental health deteriorated after their return. Four of the migrants confessed to having contemplated suicide. The longer the length of residence in the country of destination, the greater the difficulties for integration in countries of origin. IOM the Netherlands also published a booklet ‘Seventeen Return Stories’ which is a collection of stories selected out of the return cases that IOM has assisted in recent years and is available here.
Source: EMN Bulletin – 9th Edition, August 2014- November 2014
UNFPA / Guidance for national human rights institutions on reproductive rights
The United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) and the Danish Institute for Human Rights have jointly published a handbook entitled ‘Reproductive rights are human rights: a handbook for National Human Rights Institutions’. The purpose of the handbook is to provide National Human Rights Institutions (NHRIs) with tools and guidance on how to integrate reproductive rights into their work. It gives an introduction to reproductive rights – both what they mean in practice and their normative background – guidance on how NHRIs can work within this field, and a number of examples of experiences from NHRIs. The handbook aims to support NHRIs to take charge in the area of reproductive rights, help set the public agenda and assist the state in living up to its responsibilities in a way that is transparent, participatory, non-discriminatory, empowering and sustainable. Maternal mortality, gender-based violence, lack of access to appropriate health care and an absence of family planning services drive violations of reproductive rights across the world. The information on the normative framework includes specific references to discrimination against undocumented migrants, and the need for equal access to services, protection and justice for undocumented migrants.
Labour and Fair Working Conditions
CAMPAIGN / International movement to support migrants’ rights
A group of migrants’ rights organisations launched a new campaign to promote an international movement to support the rights of migrants on 1 May 2015 in the context of the celebration of the 25th anniversary of the UN Convention for the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families. The campaign arose from an international meeting of migrants’ rights organisations held in Buenos Aires, Argentina in June 2014. The campaign is not being led by one or more specific organisations but by all persons and institutions interested in participating and convening this initiative, whether at the local, national, regional or global level. 18 December 2015 marks the 25th anniversary of the adoption of the Convention that specifically guarantees the rights of all migrant workers and members of their families and that establishes, in certain areas, the principle of equality of treatment with nationals for all migrant workers and their families, regardless of their migration status. To date, there are 47 ratifications, mostly by migrant-origin states, while destination countries are underrepresented. The campaign has no official website yet. For more information, go to CDHUNLa – Programa Migración y Asilo.
ITALY / Undocumented migrants disproportionately affected by economic crisis
Undocumented migrants are disproportionately affected by the economic crisis in Italy. The employment situation, however, is particularly critical for undocumented migrants. This is the conclusion of the report on the integration of undocumented migrants in the labor market published by the Italian NGO Naga in December 2014. The data, which covers the period 2009 – 2013, shows that in each year undocumented migrants have the lowest employment rates. Moreover, within this period, undocumented workers’ employment rate suffered a sharp decrease (27.7% versus 10% for documented workers). Undocumented women were particularly affected: their employment rate dropped by 30%, while their male counterparts suffered a 25% decrease. Naga’s data also provides insight to undocumented workers’ perception of insecurity by distinguishing between “occasional” and “permanent” employment. “Permanent” employment dropped from 52% to 25% and “occasional” employment rose from 47% to 69%. Finally, almost all undocumented workers carry out low wage jobs which do not require special qualification, even if they were specialised or highly specialised workers in their country of origin.
Sources: LaVoce.Info, 18 December 2014 ; Pagina 99, 18 December 2014 ; Full Naga Report, 17 December 2014
QATAR / Amnesty International briefing on the abuse of migrant workers in Qatar
Six months after the government of Qatar announced a series of reforms to tackle exploitation of workers ahead of the 2022 World Cup, Amnesty International has published a new briefing reporting that Qatar’s authorities are lagging severely behind on efforts to address the rampant abuse of migrant workers’ rights. For instance, the briefing states that, despite the Qatari Ministry of Interior’s announcement to introduce reforms including the sponsorship system and the exit permit, the government’s proposals under the current system “seem likely to offer a marginal tinkering at best”. In recent years, the widespread exploitation of migrant workers in Qatar has been exposed through investigations by various civil society organisations, journalists and UN bodies. For additional information click here.
UK / GUIDE / Tackling exploitation and forced labour in the UK hotel sector
A research project conducted by researchers at the Heseltine Institute for Public Policy and Practice at the University of Liverpool gives insight into labour exploitation in the UK hotel business. The hotel sector directly employs over 403,000 people with a further 1.2 million indirectly engaged in providing services to the industry in the UK. However, the research report explains that many of these posts are seasonal, low-wage service jobs, which are often filled by migrant and agency workers. Weak levels of labour rights enforcement in low-wage sectors, including hotels and hospitality, have created a structural vulnerability in the UK labour market, leading to potentially high levels of exploitation. A policy guide was launched as a result of this project designed to help businesses in the UK hotel sector to meet their responsibility to promote and protect human rights and to understand and address any associated risks. Read the project booklet here and the hotel policy guide here.
Source: Migrants’ Rights Network, 16 December 2014
REPORT / Analysis of challenges and difficulties migrant women face
The Centro Scalabriniano de Estudos Migratórios (CSEM), a philanthropic research institution on human mobility based in Brazil, published its report ‘Mulher Migrante: Agente de resistência e transformação’ (‘Migrant Women: Agents of resistence and transformation’) in December 2014. The Portuguese language report aims to analyse the difficulties migrant women face in their countries of destination such as finding employment or regularising their status shows strategies for migrant women to overcome these difficulties. In this context, the report provides figures on the researched groups’ occupation, age and education and an overview of their family lives, employment and income situation and access to services in the country of destination. Assessing the situation of, among others, Haitian women living in the Dominican Republic, Colombian women living in Ecuador, and Filipinas living in Italy, the report also shows how an irregular status increases migrant women’s difficulties in finding stable employment or achieving family reunification. The report in Portuguese is available for download here.
UN / Campaign to honour women human rights defenders and report on women’s rights
The UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) launched the campaign ‘#reflect2protect’ to honour women human rights defenders on the occasion of the 20th anniversary in 2015 of the United Nations’ Fourth World Conference on Women held in Beijing, which laid out a vision for ensuring women’s human rights and achieving gender equality around the world. The campaign runs from Human Rights Day, 10 December 2014 to International Women’s Day on 8 March 2015 and includes the release of a series of 12 short video profiles of women human rights defenders. Alongside the videos, OHCHR published the report “Women’s Rights are Human Rights” which also mentions the vulnerability to discrimination and violence of irregular migrant women and addresses the impact of migration on the enjoyment of women’s rights.
Source: UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), December 2014
Undocumented Children and Their Families
EU / New intergroup to mainstream children’s rights through work of European Parliament
An intergroup on children’s rights was approved in December 2014 for the current parliamentary term (2014-2019). Intergroups are informal structures within the European Parliament to foster exchanges between MEPs and civil society on particular subjects. This new intergroup aims to promote children’s rights and ensure that the best interests of the child is taken into account in EU internal and external action. It will bring more visibility to children’s rights and can play a key role in mainstreaming the rights of the child across the work of the European Parliament. The creation of this intergroup is the result of the advocacy efforts of the Child Rights Action Group and its Child Rights Manifesto.
Source: Eurochild – eNews Bulletin, December 2014
EUROPE / Up to 50% of unaccompanied migrant children arriving in Europe go missing
According to the organisation Missing Children Europe, up to half of the number of unaccompanied migrant children who arrive in Europe and are placed in reception centres disappear every year, many within the first 48 hours. While some run away out of fear of being returned, others likely become victims of trafficking and sexual exploitation. The Italian Minister for the Interior, Angelino Alfano, stated that 26% of migrant children who arrived in Italy by boat had gone missing in 2014. The proportion of migrant child arrivals who go missing is particularly high in Sicily, with 1,882 out of 4,628 migrant child arrivals that authorities are unable to trace. Mr Alfano stated that the government has launched a specific mission unit to deal with the cases of missing children with the aim of protecting the children from becoming victims of exploitation and abuse.
Sources: Missing Children Europe, 2 December 2014 ; The Local, 15 January, 2015
MOROCCO / REPORT / The ‘right to identity’ of undocumented youth in Morocco and undocumented Moroccan youth in Europe
In December 2014, the Moroccan NGO Al Khaima released a report on the ‘right to identity’ of undocumented young migrants residing in Morocco and of Moroccan undocumented youth in Europe. The report focuses on the issue of identity as an obstacle for the full enjoyment of rights. For example, in Morocco, many children are not registered when they are born and if they choose to migrate, they will often find themselves in an irregular situation because of the lack of proof of their identity. Since 2000, Al Khaima has worked transnationally in order to register young Moroccan migrants who have migrated to European countries. On the basis of this work, they have also started addressing the issue of young migrants arriving in Morocco without having been registered in their country of origin. This report showcases the main types of interventions realised by the NGO in order to guarantee access to rights for young Moroccan migrants in Europe and for young migrants arriving in Morocco. The objective in publishing this practical information is to make it accessible to any organisation or entity working on the issue of the right to identity for undocumented youth. The report is available here.
POLAND / Migrant children speak out about the migration system
In the framework of Terre des Hommes’ Mario project a group of migrant children from Chechnya, Georgia, Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan, residing in Poland, produced a videoclip “Applies/doesn’t apply: young refugees about the Polish system”. The video was produced during the Mario Child Consultation Board held in Poland and is the result of the discussions held by the children and young people, who shared their experiences and talked about institutions in Poland, such as school, the migration office or the refugee centre. They searched for answers to the following questions: What is the system like? Do I feel protected? Who should protect me? What rights do I have? What are the roles and functions of people working in different institutions? Terre des Hommes is also compiling a filmography (http://destination-unknown.org/filmography/), with films, documentaries and videos about migrant children, and the situation of migrants in general. This list not exhaustive and still under construction. To contribute please send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Detention and Deportation
AUSTRIA / Country report on detention
In the frame of its country report series, the Global Detention Project has published a country report on detention in Austria in January 2015. Austria opened its first specialised immigration detention facility in early 2014. Previously, the country almost exclusively employed Police Detention Centres (PAZ) to confine migrants. This form of immigration detention has been criticised by human rights institutions and advocates including the European Committee for the Prevention of Torture, the Commissioner for Human Rights of the Council of Europe. The findings show that Austria has detained fewer people for immigration-related reasons in recent years. Between 2009 and 2013, the annual number of detainees decreased by nearly 30%, from 5,996 in 2009 to 4,171 in 2013. The Interior Ministry has explained that this decrease is due to the adoption of cost-saving measures and purportedly more humane migration policies. To view the report and access other country reports in the series, click here.
REPORT / International Committee of the Red Cross focuses on child detention
The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) published a booklet on 17 November 2014 entitled ‘Children and Detention’. The report emphasises that detention can be stressful and dangerous, entailing physical, emotional and intellectual deprivation, that even resilient adults find hard to cope with. For children therefore, detention is likely to have a particularly severe and lasting effect. The report outlines the various reasons and locations of child detention, the relevant legal framework, the ICRC’s work with children in detention, and the ICRC’s particular concerns. These include issues around age assessment; access to justice; torture, ill-treatment and sexual violence; detention of migrant children; family separation through detention of a parent, guardian or other close relative; and children growing up in detention with their sole caregiver. For more information, click here.
UN / REPORT / Challenges and opportunities of migration for young people
The Global Migration Group released a book entitled Migration and Youth: Challenges and Opportunities on International Migrants’ Day on 18 December 2014. The book includes a chapter entitled “Human Rights of Adolescents and Young Migrants, Particularly those in Irregular Situations”, co-authored by PICUM, François Crépeau, UN Special Rapporteur on the Human Rights of Migrants with the assistance of Bethany Hastie of McGill University, and Pablo Ceriani and Alejandro Morlachetti of the University of Lanús, and prepared under joint auspices of OHCHR and UNICEF. The book was edited by Jeronimo Cortina, Patrick Taran, Jérôme Elie and Alison Raphael on behalf of the Global Migration Group © 2014 UNICEF.
UK / Guards found not guilty of manslaughter in the case of Jimmy Mubenga
Three private security guards who restrained the Angolan deportee Jimmy Mubenga on a British Airways flight on 12 October 2010 were found not guilty of manslaughter by a jury at the Central Criminal Court of England and Wales, commonly known as the Old Bailey, on 16 December 2014. The three guards working for G4S on contract to the UK Home Office were accused of manslaughter by forcing the 46-year-old father’s head down and restricting his breathing. According to other passengers, the handcuffed Mr Mubenga had cried out that he could not breathe but the guards did not stop pinning him down in his seat during the deportation flight until he died under the restraint. The guards denied having heard his cries. One of the judges in the trial refused to allow the jury to hear about dozens of offensive and allegedly racist text messages on the phones of two of the G4S security guards who were acquitted of killing Jimmy Mubenga, arguing that the messages were not sufficiently relevant to the trial.
Sources: The Guardian, 16 December 2014 ; The Guardian, 17 December 2014
UK / Survivors of sexual violence detained and vulnerable to further abuse
A report published by Women for Refugee Women in January 2015 has found that the UK government is detaining women who are survivors of rape, sexual violence and other forms of torture. Of the 34 women interviewed at Yarl’s Wood immigration removal centre, 19 women said they had been raped in their countries of origin; 21 women had experienced other sexual violence; 28 women said that they had experienced gender-related persecution in their country of origin (including rape, sexual violence, forced marriage, forced prostitution, or female genital mutilation). Out of the 2,038 women who had come to the UK to seek asylum and were detained during 2013, 43% were held for more than a month with the average length of detention amounting to 93 days. The report further highlights that 50% of the 34 women interviewed had been on suicide watch, 40% self-harmed and over half of the women did not know why they had been put in detention. Furthermore, the report notes the series of allegations of sexual assaults and violations of intimacy of female detainees at Yarl’s Wood. Six women interviewed by Women for Refugee Women said that staff at Yarl’s Wood had made sexual suggestions to them, and three said that they were touched sexually. Almost all of the women interviewed said that men watched them in intimate situations such as while naked, partly dressed, in the shower or using the toilet. In June 2014, the management of Yarl’s Wood said that 31 allegations of sexual contact had been investigated and 10 staff had been dismissed. The report also notes that the cost for detaining an individual in an immigration removal centre for a year is £37,230. The report is based on findings of Women for Refugee Women’s 2014 report (see PICUM Bulletin 27 January 2014).
Source: ECRE Weekly Bulletin, 23 January 2015
USA / Thousands of undocumented parents of US citizens still deported
According to findings by the organisation Human Rights Watch (HRW), about 15% of the nearly 700,000 adult and child migrants apprehended by US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) in the fiscal years 2011 and 2012 were parents of a US citizen child. The figures only apply to apprehensions at the border during these two years and do not include others apprehended in the interior of the country by Immigration and Customs Enforcement offices of Enforcement and Removal Operations (ICE ERO) or Homeland Security Operations. Moreover, 60% of parents with US citizen children apprehended at the border are processed under expedited removal or reinstatement of removal, both of which do not allow them the opportunity to make claims about their ties to the United States. The Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) published a memorandum entitled Policies for the Apprehension, Detention and Removal of Undocumented Immigrants (20 November 2014). It includes guidelines which distinguish three categories of undocumented migrants, divided in levels of an alleged threat they pose, from “Priority 1” defined as threat to national security, to “Priority 3” concerning undocumented migrants in general. In November 2014, US President Barack Obama made changes to the US immigration system without legislative action by Congress (See PICUM Bulletin 19 December 2014). This delays the deportation of over four million undocumented migrants living in the US. In order to qualify for the new category of deferred deportation (Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents program (DAPA)), migrants must meet certain criteria, including having been living in the United States for more than five years, not falling into one of the priority groups for enforcement action and having US citizen or regular permanent resident children. However, any irregular migrant apprehended that cannot establish they have been physically present in the United States since 1 January 2014, remains a priority for enforcement action, so the existing border removal policies continue, and frequently result in the deportation of parents of US citizen children, who may have been separated under the previous deportation regime.
Publications and other Resources
GUIDE / How regional and local authorities can use fundamental rights policies
The European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights (FRA) and the Committee of the Regions jointly published the booklet “Making rights real: guide for local and regional authorities” on 2 December 2014. The guide addresses questions such as how to ensure that regional and local initiatives comply with fundamental rights obligations; how different levels of government can work together to coordinate activities and avoid duplication and how to understand and engage communities and stakeholders. Moreover, the guide discusses how to define sustainable funding and how to communicate fundamental rights to convince the public. The guide is available here.
Source: European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights (FRA), 2 December 2014
EVENT / International UNITED Conference “Overcome all borders: UNITED against Intolerance”
From 4-9 May 2015, the European network UNITED for Intercultural Action will organise the conference “Overcome all borders: UNITED against Intolerance” that will take place near Malaga, Spain. Interested organisations are invited to nominate representatives to attend. The conference will focus on the intolerance migrants face in Europe with an emphasis on the scapegoating reaction to migration at Southern European borders. The aim of the conference is to explore the current situation in Europe and to develop strategies in order to advocate for migrants’ rights and against intolerance. During the conference, participants will work on strategies in order to address media, local communities, local and international level politicians and vulnerable groups. Organisations that are interested in nominating a representative, are invited to fill in the online expression of interest form in English as soon as possible, the deadline being 1 March 2015.
GLOBAL / International Migrants’ Day sees new initiatives calling for the rights of undocumented migrants
On the occasion of International Migrants’ day on 18 December 2014, several stakeholders, civil society organisations and institutions called to ensure the rights of undocumented migrants. Among others, a group of international experts including United Nations Special Rapporteur on the human rights of migrants, François Crépeau, and the United Nations Committee on the Protection of the Rights of Migrant Workers and Members of their Families, called in a statement for open, safe and regular migration channels. A pan-European initiative highlighted the need to use accurate terminology in reference to undocumented migrants to end the use of the term ‘illegal migrant’ and ensure that undocumented migrants are considered rights holders. Caritas Europe published a call to save the lives of migrants in the Mediterranean Sea and reminded the EU that Frontex operation Triton will not ensure the rescue of migrants in international waters. The US based International Migrants Bill of Rights (IMBR) Initiative, announced the launch of the IMBR Network, a global network of members of civil society committed to the protection of migrants’ rights. The International Bill of Rights Initiative is based at Georgetown University Law Center in Washington D.C. since 2009 and contributes to important, ongoing debates about the way the world understands, treats and protects people.
PICUM IN THE NEWS
EUROPE / Migrants’ rights advocates call to stop using the term ‘illegal migrant’
Several media reported on PICUM’s joint initiative with other migrants’ rights advocates from across Europe to stop using ‘illegal migrant’ and adopt accurate and neutral terms in reference to undocumented migrants, on the occasion of International Migrants’ Day. Media included the Greek The Best and Lifo, the Italian Voci Globali and the Albanian Albinfo.
Sources: Best news, 18 December 2014 ; Lifo, 18 December 2014 ; Voci Globali, 18 December 2014 ; Albinfo, 18 December 2014
This newsletter was compiled by PICUM, with contributions from Micol Beittel.