PICUM Bulletin — 3 February 2017


  • BULGARIA / 19,000 migrants arrested at Bulgarian border in 2016

    Data collected by the Bulgarian Interior Ministry shows that 19,000 migrants were detained at the border in 2016: 4,600 trying to enter Bulgaria and over 14,000 migrants trying to exit Bulgaria. Of the latter, only 5,000 were not already registered with the Interior Ministry. This constitutes a sharp decrease from 2015 when 9,000 irregular migrants were detained while trying to exit Bulgaria. Many people choose to leave the migrant centres and try to leave Bulgaria before their asylum procedure has been completed. Of the migrants detained while trying to enter Bulgaria the three biggest groups are Iraqi citizens (33%), followed by Afghans and Syrians. In November 2016, the United Nations’ refugee agency (UNHCR) expressed concerns about calls for asylum-seekers to be expelled on national security grounds, following tensions at the Harmanli reception centre. The call came after asylum-seekers protested the poor living conditions in the centre and the decision of the Bulgarian authorities to limit access in and out of the overcrowded centre. Tensions escalated between the migrants and the police, and the police used rubber bullets and water cannons. 300 asylum-seekers were arrested.
    Source: Dnevnik, 8 January 2017

  • BULGARIA / New joint campaign informs truck drivers how to prevent migrants from crossing the border irregularly in their trucks

    The Bulgarian Interior Ministry has disseminated half a million flyers with information on how truck drivers should prevent migrants crossing the border with them irregularly. The campaign began on 12 December 2016. The brochures instruct drivers to stay with their vehicles while they are being loaded, check trucks before customs agents seal them, and use extra locking mechanisms. The Deputy Director of Border Police, Stoian Ivanov, states that 50% of irregular border crossings in trucks are done without the knowledge of the drivers. The Secretary General of the Interior Ministry, Chief Commissioner Georgi Kostov, reports that in 2016 a total of 294 migrants were detained on the border with Turkey trying to enter Bulgaria in trucks, and 70 migrants were detained trying to cross the border in trailer-trucks into Romania.
    Source: Monitor, 29 December 2016

  • EUROPE / Over 250 people die at sea in January 2017, migrants left in freezing temperatures

    According to the International Organization for Migration’s (IOM) Missing Migrants Project, 253 people had died at sea as of 29 January 2017, compared with 367 through the first 29 days of 2016. The migrants drowned or died from hypothermia. This included two brothers, aged five and eight who died at sea in a dinghy from either hypothermia or asphyxiation. They travelled with their two older sisters trying to reach their father, who is living in France. IOM also reports that 5,483 migrants and refugees entered Europe by sea in 2017, as of 29 January. This is a significant decrease compared to the same period in 2016 (67,375). Meanwhile, thousands of migrants and refugees had to endure freezing temperatures in Greek camps as well as in other countries at the EU’s borders such as Serbia and Bulgaria. According to reports, two Iraqi men and a Somali woman died of hypothermia in Bulgaria after travelling through the snow. An Egyptian and a Syrian man both died in the Moria refugee and migrant camp in Lesvos; another Afghan man was also reported dead in Greece, due to weather conditions. Media also reported that hundreds of migrants and refugees, including many children, sleep rough in sub-zero temperatures in Serbia. A group of Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) also called on EU and national authorities to provide more emergency aid to migrants and refugees staying outside in the cold in various countries.
    Sources: International Organization for Migration, Press Release, 31 January 2017; The Guardian, 24 January 2017 ; Independent 11 January 2017 ; Focus Information Agency, 6 January 2017 ; Ekathimerini, 28 January 2017

  • EUROPE / Frontex launched new pool of ‘return experts’

    The European Border and Coast Guard Agency, FRONTEX, has launched a pool of experts who will support the deportation of migrants across the EU. This will ultimately consist of 690 return monitors, return escorts and return specialists. In 2016, Frontex coordinated the deportation of 10,700 migrants in 232 operations. According to Statewatch, EUR 66.5 million have been allocated to Frontex’ deportation related activities in 2016 and 2017, up from EUR 9.5 million in 2015.
    Sources: Frontex News 10 January 2017; Statewatch, 27 January 2017

  • MOROCCO / Child hiding in airplane luggage hold to cross border

    A 17-year old Moroccan boy was found in the luggage hold of an airplane which was due to fly from Melilla to Malaga, Spain. He got onto the tarmac and hid amongst the luggage before being transported into the hold. The boy who risked his life was put in a children’s home in Melilla by Spanish authorities.
    Source: 2M, 11 January 2017


  • EUROPEAN COMMISSION / New document outlines measures to manage migration in the Mediterranean

    Ahead of a meeting of EU heads of state and government in Malta on 3 February 2017, the European Commission has published a joint communication with the High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy entitled “Migration on the Central Mediterranean route: Managing flows, saving lives”. Proposed actions include reducing the number of crossings and saving lives at sea; stepping up the fight against smugglers and traffickers; protecting migrants, increasing resettlement and promoting assisted voluntary return; managing migrant flows through the southern Libyan border; increased cooperation with Egypt, Tunisia and Algeria and mobilising funding for North African countries. Human Rights Watch (HRW) expressed concern about proposed policy measures including Maltese Prime Minister Joseph Muscat’s proposal for a deal with Libya similar to the EU’s agreement with Turkey. HRW also stated that the suggestions to deport people back to Libya would violate the law and betray the values on which the EU and its member states were built, amidst evidence of abuse of migrants in Libya. The European Commission’s communication states that the main countries of origin of migrants who disembarked in Italy in 2016 were Nigeria (21%), Eritrea (11%), Guinea (7%), the Ivory Coast (7%), Gambia (7%), Senegal (6%), Mali (6%), Sudan (5%), Bangladesh (4%), and Somalia (4%). Among the 181,000 migrants who disembarked in Italy, around 24,000 were women (13%, almost half of whom from Nigeria), and around 28,000 were children (15%), of which the vast majority (91%) were unaccompanied. To read the communication, click here.
    Source: European Commission News, 25 January 2017


  • EUROPE / Citizens charged for helping undocumented migrants

    Pierre Mannoni, a 45-year-old French geography professor, was arrested at a highway toll booth while driving three injured Eritrean teenage girls to Nice for medical care. He was acquitted in court in January 2017 but the prosecution has appealed and called for a six-month prison term. In a separate development, Houssam El Assimi was arrested during a police raid on a Paris camp in September 2016. According to reports, Mr El Assimi had helped migrants and translated between French and Arabic. He was arrested for “violence against persons holding public authority” when he protested police force during a raid on a Paris camp. His trial was adjourned until May 2017. The French organisation Gisti has documented a rise in the number of such cases and more than 100 French NGOs, charities and labour unions signed a statement calling for an end to the criminalisation of humanitarian assistance. A retired British soldier who attempted to bring a four-year old Afghan girl to the UK from the camp in Calais, France (See PICUM Bulletin, 2 March 2016 ) just narrowly avoided jail. He said that the event changed a lot for him in his life. Among the hate mail he received was a message saying that he should be hung for smuggling. However, as a former Calais volunteer, he has also won many supporters. Danish author Lisbeth Zornig Andersen described her own experience of being investigated on the charge of people smuggling and receiving hate mail after her case went public.
    Sources: The Guardian, 7 January 2017; Granta, 7 December 2016; Al Jazeera, 25 January 2017

  • GREECE / About 13,000 people who registered in Greek camps unaccounted for

    The Greek Ministry for Migration denied claims that approximately 13,000 migrants who registered in Greek camps were unaccounted for in early December. According to official estimates, approximately 63,000 migrants and asylum seekers are currently in Greece, awaiting processing and relocation within the country. According to reports, only 50,000 persons can be accounted for and it is not clear where people who have not turned up at migrant-processing centres, referred to as “no-shows”, are. According to officials, they might have made their way towards other European countries. The Greek Ministry for Migration maintains that no more than 7,000 live outside state-run facilities, a figure that represents the gap between initial registrations upon arrival, and daily registrations in each facility that people were assigned to. A Greek ministry spokesperson stated that it does not mean they lost track of people. The reception centres are open and people might not be present each day, at the time of registration.
    Sources: To Vima,  December, 2016; The Wall Street Journal, 7 December 2016

  • MOROCCO / Residence permit to pass from one to three years

    The Minister of Home Affairs has announced future changes in regularisation procedures. In an effort to try to improve the social and economic integration of migrants, Moroccan authorities plan to extend the residence permit for migrants regularised at least a year ago. The permit which is only valid for one year will be valid for three. Delivery and renewal of permits will also be simplified and accelerated. This is part of the plan launched on 12 December to have a second phase of regularisation of undocumented migrants. The first phase launched in 2014 resulted in the regularisation of around 25,000 people.
    Sources: Actu Maroc, 11 January 2017; La nouvelle tribune, 10 January 2017

  • UK / Action to show what society would be like without migrants

    Migrant workers and their supporters in the UK are planning a day of action on 20 February 2017 to show what society would be without migrants. The ‘One Day Without Us’ action invites all migrants and their supporters to engage through different actions such as taking the day off work, wearing a badge to show their support, or organising gatherings. Triggered by concerns about the rising levels of racism and xenophobia in the UK, the aim of ‘One Day Without Us’ is to demonstrate how much the British economy and society would struggle without migrants’ contributions. The event will coincide with the UN’s World Day of Social Justice and is based on similar events in the US in 2006 and in Italy in 2010. Full details of the event are available here. You can also follow on Twitter @1daywithoutus.

  • USA / New Trump administration starts targeting undocumented migrants

    Following his inauguration as the 45th President of the United States on 20 January 2017, Donald Trump took his first actions targeting undocumented migrants. He signed an executive order to initiate the construction of a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border. He called for an expanded force to crack down on irregular migrants in the country and revived programmes that allow the government to work with local and state law enforcement agencies to arrest and detain irregular migrants with criminal records. With another executive order on 27 January 2017, Donald Trump suspended entry of all refugees to the United States for 120 days, blocked Syrian refugees indefinitely from entering the United States, and temporarily suspended migration from several predominantly Muslim countries namely Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen, including people with valid visas and permits, in transit and some dual nationals. The executive order led to refugees and migrants being apprehended and trapped at US airports and caused criticism and protests among citizens. Large crowds came to protest at U.S. airports. A federal judge in New York issued a temporary restraining order blocking part of the executive order to prevent the government from deporting arrivals. However, it does not force the Trump administration to let people enter the country who have not arrived yet. Judge Ann M. Donnelly held that authorities could not remove individuals from these seven countries who had arrived in US airports after the order had been issued. Another executive order foresees that sanctuary cities, cities which have adopted policies to protect undocumented migrants from enforcement of federal immigration laws locally, can be stripped of federal grant money. Leaders of big tech companies such as Google, Facebook, Netflix and Airbnb expressed their concern about the executive orders’ impact and their support for migrants.
    Sources: The New York Times, 25 January 2017; The Guardian, 25 January 2017; New York Times, 27 January 2017; New York Times 29 January 2017; CNN 29 January 2017; New York Times 28 January 2017


  • UK / Home Office increasingly requests confidential patient records for immigration law enforcement

    The Home Office in the UK has required the National Health Service (NHS) to share patient details such as last known addresses of patients for purposes of immigration law enforcement. Figures show that Home Office requests for patient details have risen threefold since 2014. Details of more than 8,100 people have been passed to Home Office immigration enforcement in the past year. The Health and Social Care Act includes exemptions which allows the Home Office to legally require NHS to share patient information. According to reports, the requests concerned people with whom the immigration authorities have no contact or have stayed in the UK despite the expiration of their visa. Various health and human rights organisations have criticised the sharing of personal data and have demanded to suspend the practice.
    Sources: The Guardian, 24 January 2017; The Guardian, 1 February 2017


  • GLOBAL / New estimates: more than half of all domestic workers in Northern, Southern and Western Europe migrant workers

    Recent estimates from the International Labour Organization (ILO) indicate that there are 150.3 million
    migrant workers in the world. Of these, 11.5 million (7.7 %) are migrant domestic workers. Estimates find 35.8 million migrant workers, including EU mobile citizen workers, in Northern, Southern and Western Europe, representing 16.4 % of the total workforce in the region. In Eastern Europe there are 13.8 million migrant workers representing 9.2 % of the total workforce in the region. The report ‘ILO global estimates on migrant workers: Results and methodology. Special focus on migrant domestic workers’ finds that migrant workers around the world are predominantly employed in the following sectors: services (71.1 % of migrant workers), industry, including manufacturing and construction (17.8 %) and agriculture (11.1 %). Focusing on domestic work, of a total of 4.1 million domestic workers in Northern, Southern and Western Europe, there are an estimated 2.21 million migrant domestic workers, representing 54.6 % of all domestic workers in the region. In Eastern Europe there are 300,000 domestic workers, of which 25 %, 80,000 are migrant domestic workers. The report relies on several data sources, and highlights with concern how irregular migrants may not be recorded in the official statistics such as censuses or labour force surveys, resulting in undercounting. Further, the degree of underestimation may be relatively more important in the case of migrant domestic workers, as their activity takes place inside private houses and is therefore more likely to be undocumented in many countries. The report is available here.


  • EU / European Parliament adopts resolution on EU accession to the Istanbul Convention

    The European Parliament (EP) wants the European Union to accede to the Council of Europe Convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence (‘Istanbul Convention’). A majority (516 in favour, 54 against, 52 abstentions) of Members of Parliament (MEPs) voted in favour of a resolution for accession on 24 November 2016. The Istanbul Convention, which entered into force on 1 August 2014, is the first comprehensive legal instrument on violence against women. It must be implemented without discrimination on any ground, including migrant or refugee status. It also states that women who experience violence and whose residence status depends on that of a spouse or partner should have access to an autonomous residence permit and suspension of deportation proceedings (Article 59). As of January 2017, 22 states have ratified the Istanbul Convention.  To view the European Parliament’s resolution, click here.


  • GLOBAL / Six million stateless children, particular risks of statelessness for children of undocumented migrants highlighted

    A child is being born without nationality somewhere in the world every 10 minutes. A new report “The World’s Stateless” and its sister website (www.worldsstateless.org) by the Institute on Statelessness and Inclusion lays bare the fact that there are over six million stateless children in the world today, a problem that is present in most countries and all regions in the world. The report calls for immediate action to address childhood statelessness through mobilisation, advocacy, litigation and other means. Denied nationality, stateless children often miss out on healthcare, education and other basic rights. Statelessness brings immense hardship and anguish to children and their parents alike. The report includes a chapter highlighting particular risks of statelessness facing children of undocumented migrants in Europe. Read the report here.

  • EU / Insufficient attention paid to separated migrant children

    The latest summary report of the EU Agency for Fundamental Rights (FRA) on migration-related fundamental rights in selected EU member states finds clear deficiencies in the treatment and protection of separated children, those that arrive separated from their parents but accompanied by other adults. Main findings include, among others that: 1. member states do not collect data on separated children; they are generally registered as unaccompanied children without their specific needs being catered to. 2. Guidance on how to handle separated children is lacking, resulting in different approaches in different regions, cities or even reception centres. 3. Separated children tend not to be informed about asylum procedures, the possibility of applying for asylum independently from the accompanying adult, and the consequences of different choices. 4. There are difficulties establishing the relationship between the child and accompanying adult, who sometimes becomes responsible for the child without assessment whether the person is capable and willing to take care of the child. They are also often housed together before their relationship is assessed. Read the summary report here.
    Source: Fundamental Rights Agency, 22 December 2016

  • UK / Campaign against discriminatory data collection in schools continues

    The campaign ‘Against Borders for Children’ (ABC) and renowned civil liberties group Liberty sent a letter to every headteacher in England, requesting parents to be informed of their right to opt out of the new nationality questions in the census and retract any data already given without full knowledge of those rights. The coalition, which started in August 2016, was launched for a national boycott of the Department of Education census collecting the country of birth and nationality data of 8 million children. As a result of public scrutiny brought to bear by ABC, in November 2016, the government agreed to remove children under five years old from the ‘foreign children database’. The campaign is also calling on the government to commit to safeguarding children “from the stigma of anti-immigrant rhetoric and the violence that accompanies it.” More information about the campaign is available here(See also PICUM Bulletin, 14 December 2016).
    Source: Right to Remain news, 19 January 2017


  • BELGIUM / REPORT / Civil society calls for Belgium to identify vulnerable groups before detention

    In a report published in December 2016, a group of human rights and migrant rights organisations has made an analysis of the situation in migrant detention centres in Belgium. In 2015, a total of 6.229 people were in immigration detention. While this is an increase of 11% compared to the previous year, the number of people in immigration detention has generally declined over the past ten years. The report comments that this is not due to a political will to limit immigration detention but rather due to a limited budget and a focus on deporting irregular migrants. The report also addresses similarities with the penitentiary system, even though administrative detention is used in order to carry out deportations and not as a means of punishment. Among its 12 recommendations the report asks for the implementation of an evaluation mechanism in order to identify vulnerable groups who should never be subjected to detention, the ratification and implementation of the Optional Protocol to the Convention Against Torture, a prohibition on detention of asylum seekers, children and families with children and access to both information and legal aid for all detainees. To download full report click here.

  • BULGARIA / Parents detained and separated from children who are left without alternative care

    A group of 25 Iraqi adults and 11 children (ages 1-14) was detained on 10 December 2016 while trying to cross the border into Romania. Four of the adults had tried to cross the border into Romania irregularly once before, and criminal cases were opened against them. The men were sent to the Varna prison, and the women were sent to a police detention facility in Dobrich. None of the children had documents but it is believed that the group had left the migrant reception centre in Harmanli because some of the adults had been registered there. While the parents were detained, the children were left in the police precinct for three days surviving on fast food. The children could not be admitted to an orphanage as the Bulgarian Code of Criminal Procedure requires because they did not have medical records which Bulgarian law requires for admission into daycare and educational institutions. Plamen Nikolov, District Attorney for Dobrich, said that the contradiction between the Code of Criminal Procedure and the Law for Pre-school and School Education needs to be resolved. Eventually some of the children were sent to a children’s residential care centre in Dobrich. One of the women was allowed to leave the police detention facility a few times a day to breastfeed her child in the residential care centre.
    Sources: Darik News, 13 December 2016

  • EUROPE / Providing mental health care in detention, arriving migrants suffer high levels of mental illness

    The harmful psychological effects of immigration detention create challenges for providing mental health care. The Global Detention Project published a working paper in December 2016, entitled “Challenges to Providing Mental Health Care in Immigration Detention” which argues that responses to a person’s emotional experiences are often inappropriate or inconsistent. In such settings signs of emotional distress are often ignored or responded to negatively with increasingly harsh responses that fail to address the cause of the distress. The working paper includes a table with factors which care providers need to consider for mental health care provision in immigration detention. Reports have shown that many newly arrived migrants and refugees in Europe suffer from mental health issues including post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and anxiety which are often not sufficiently addressed. To read the working paper, click here.

  • GLOBAL / UNHCR: Children should not be detained and detention is never in their best interest

    The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) has published UNHCR’s position regarding the detention of refugee and migrant children in migration in January 2017. UNHCR states that children should not be detained for immigration related purposes, irrespective of their migratory status or that of their parents, and detention is never in a child’s best interests. Appropriate care arrangements and community-based programmes need to be in place to ensure adequate reception of children and their families. UNHCR also states that it will continue to advocate for the ending of child detention and support governments in developing care arrangements and alternatives to detention for children and families in the asylum and migration context. The UNHCR position echoes growing international and regional consensus, including the guidance of the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child. To read the full position, click here. A brochure from the Inter-Agency Working Group to End Child Immigration Detention and compilation of standards regarding non-detention of children is available here.

  • UK / REPORT / Mental health assessment across migration detention centres

    The Centre for Mental Health was commissioned by the National Health Service (NHS) to assess mental health needs of both detainees and staff members in Immigration Removal Centres by conducting research in ten of them. The report finds that levels of distress, problems with living conditions and lack of both certainty and liberty, all had a significant impact on the mental wellbeing of those detained. The most commonly reported problems were depression, anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder, and the most severe reported problems were hallucinations or delusions. The report also highlights promising practices with the partnership between the NHS and the Home Office and services such as psychological therapy and group support although there are great disparities between centres in services provided. It also finds that most detainees felt that they were not listened to, not taken seriously, or treated as if they were lying. In addition, mental health care staff face significant challenges working where people may be removed at short notice and face high levels of uncertainty about their future. The report highlights the multifaceted wellbeing needs of people in immigration detention, and makes recommendations to address this. The Centre for Mental Health calls for greater efforts to ensure that those with a marked vulnerability are not to be subjected to detention and if the vulnerability is identified after detention to ensure the detainees are provided with appropriate care and support away from the detention centre without delay; mental health awareness training for all IRC staff; 24/7 access to crisis care; and greater provision of alternative support such as peer support and relaxation groups.
    To read the full report click here.


  • REPORT / Undocumented migrants face multiple obstacles to access housing and health services

    The report “Nobody left behind: ensuring access for all to affordable, quality housing and public health services” shows that undocumented migrants are among the groups which face discrimination and difficulties in finding affordable housing. Published by the European Anti-Poverty Network (EAPN) in December 2016, the report aims to map the reality of access to housing and health services and analyse the impact on people experiencing poverty and social exclusion. Other groups who face particular difficulties in accessing adequate housing and health services are people experiencing homelessness, Roma and Travellers, people with disabilities as well as asylum seekers. The report recommends, among others, to develop a more sustainable, inclusive housing market at national level and that the EU should pursue a housing rights agenda which should allow the right to housing to be enforced, regardless of residence status of individuals. The report also recommends the establishment of agencies dealing with specific housing issues for key vulnerable groups, including undocumented people, at government level. Concerning health care, equal access for all groups and in all areas must be ensured. The report also states that the European Pillar of Social Rights should provide an operational roadmap for implementing these rights at EU and national level.
    To read the full report click here.


  • EU / EU policymakers criticse Donald Trump’s political action while also denying migrants to come to Europe

    The op-ed discusses how EU policymakers have criticised U.S. President, Donald Trump’s actions banning migrants and refugees from entering the United States while some EU policymakers also promote restrictive measures in Europe. It mentions PICUM’s statement on how increased deportations are no solution to irregular migration.
    Source:  EurActiv, 31 January 2017

  • EU / Access to services for undocumented survivors of violence

    The opinion raises the issue of limited or no access to services for undocumented women who experienced violence and abuse and mentions PICUM’s joint campaign with Women Against Violence Europe (WAVE) as well as PICUM’s promotion of accurate terminology in reference to undocumented migrants.
    Source: Open Democracy, 30 January 2017


    With contributions from Marta Llonch (PICUM Trainee), Sofia Al Bidir (PICUM Intern) and Ira Bliatka, Ralitsa Donkova (PICUM volunteers).

Related Posts