PICUM Bulletin — 31 May 2016


  • BALKAN ROUTE / Council of Europe calls for collective action in response to the humanitarian situation in Western Balkans

    The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) Migration Committee has called for collective action and equitable sharing of responsibilities with full respect for human rights and international law. The Committee adopted a draft resolution on 22 March 2016, based on a report by rapporteur Tineke Strik which details the increasingly restrictive measures taken by countries along the Western Balkan route: Greece, the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM), Serbia, Hungary, Croatia, Slovenia and Austria. The report describes the evolution of the situation over the past few months, leading to the current situation of closed borders and thousands of refugees and migrants trapped in Greece. The draft resolution calls on Western Balkans countries, Greece, and Austria to ensure compliance with the principle of non-refoulement, to refrain from implementing policies that deny access to protection on discriminatory grounds or administrative convenience, and to ensure that border forces do not use excessive force. It further urges them to take necessary measures to ensure that national asylum systems meet applicable legal standards and that national reception capacity is sufficient. It calls on the EU to ensure that human rights are given priority in its policies on the Western Balkans, to ensure the full implementation of previous decisions, and to reform the Dublin system with a view to more equitable sharing of responsibility.
    Source: ECRE Weekly Bulletin, 25 March 2016

  • EU-LIBYA / Potential extension of NATO operation to central Mediterranean

    Italy has asked that the NATO Operation ‘Active Endeavor’, which is currently operating in the Aegean Sea, also oversee the Libyan coast, according to Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi and Minister of Defence Roberta Pinotti. Preparations are reportedly advanced, with approval expected when NATO leaders meet in Warsaw on 7 July 2016. Following a meeting between leaders of the United States, the United Kingdom, France, and Germany on 25 April in Hanover, Germany, the media reported that the United States has offered its backing, while Germany has supported naval action but maintained that it would be more appropriate if the EU, rather than NATO, were in command through extension of the EUNAVFOR MED operation (see PICUM Bulletin 15 April 2016) currently operating in the Central Mediterranean.
    Sources: The Guardian, 25 April 2016; The Independent of Malta, 26 April 2016; Euractiv, 26 April 2016

  • EU-TURKEY / EU satisfied with implementation of EU-Turkey deal despite reports of rights violations in Greece and Turkey

    The European Commission published its first report on the implementation of the EU-Turkey deal on 20 April 2016, detailing the state of play and next steps for all components. The report states that 26,878 persons arrived irregularly to the Greek islands from Turkey in the three weeks preceding the application of the EU-Turkey agreement (see PICUM Bulletin 15 April 2016), while 5,847 people entered irregularly in the three subsequent weeks. It notes increased cooperation with Turkey, including through the NATO operation and EU funds to support the Turkish coastguard in preventing departures. The report also provides data regarding deportations and the deployment of experts requested by Frontex and the European Asylum Support Office (EASO), as well as information on the legal changes made and financial assistance provided. Key challenges and next steps – as stated by the Commission – include, among others, increasing the capacity of the asylum service; completing the deployment of member states’ experts (in particular interpreters); increasing detention capacity proportional to the increasing number of asylum applicants while ensuring proper conditions; and paying particular attention to children and vulnerable groups in the hotspots. In conclusion, the European Commission is satisfied with the progress made in the implementation of the agreement. As well as the provision of human resources to Greece, the Commission points to resettlement, for which numbers remain very low, and financial support from certain member states, as the areas most urgently needing action. European Council President Donald Tusk also visited Turkey on 23 April to discuss the implementation of the agreement, accompanied by European Commission First Vice President Frans Timmermans and German Federal Chancellor Angela Merkel. In his remarks during his visit, Mr. Tusk celebrated the reduction in arrivals to Greece from Turkey, the resettlement of Syrian refugees from Turkey to the EU, and the accommodation of refugees in Turkey, including through use of EU funds. He has faced criticism for stating that “Turkey is the best example for the whole world on how we should treat refugees”. There was no mention in either of the institutional evaluations of the numerous reports documenting rights violations, including the unlawful conditions in which people are being detained in Greece, deported, and treated in Turkey. These include reports of migrants and refugees being shot in Turkey (see also PICUM Bulletin 15 April 2016), and reports from Human Rights Watch that those deported from the Greek island of Chios to Turkey were not informed about their deportation, nor the place they were being deported to, and were not allowed to bring their belongings (clothes, medicines, food, phones). Mülteci-Der has reported that NGOs are being denied access to the detention centre where non-Syrians who have been deported are being held by the Turkish authorities, including to provide legal assistance. The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) adopted a resolution on 20 April issuing several recommendations.
    Sources: The Guardian, 20 April 2016; ECRE Weekly Bulletin, 22 April 2016; European Council Press Release, 23 April 2016; Ekathimerini, 23 April 2016; The Independent 24 April 2016

  • EU / Report argues EU accountable for deaths resulting from reduced search and rescue efforts

    A new report entitled Death by Rescue accuses EU policy makers and agencies of knowingly reducing Search and Rescue (SAR) efforts in the Mediterranean and of thus being responsible for the deaths in the first months of 2015. The report, released by Forensic Oceanography – a team that specialises in the use of forensic techniques and cartography to reconstruct cases of deaths at sea – focuses on how those shipwrecks occurred during, and partly because of the rescue operations. In the reconstruction of the events, the researchers discovered how the merchant vessels involved in SAR fully complied with their legal obligations and acted to the best of their abilities for the rescue operation. However, the fact that it was private vessels and not state-led SAR operations meant that those carrying out SAR were not properly equipped to deal with rescues. After the end of the Italian-led Mare Nostrum SAR operation, the EU border agency Frontex had foreseen the risks involved with Triton, a smaller operation with less assets and less capacity to reach into international waters, which is often where boats fall into distress. However, despite all the criticism raised by human rights activists and NGOs, as well as its own internal assessment, the operation went ahead. The report argues that by shifting the responsibility for SAR to merchant vessels, EU agencies and policy makers knowingly created the conditions that led to the death of 1,200 people in April 2015. Read the report here.
    Source: ECRE Weekly Bulletin, 22 April 2016

  • FRONTEX / Third Annual Report of the Frontex Consultative Forum on Fundamental Rights

    The third Annual Report of the Frontex Consultative Forum on Fundamental Rights provides an overview of the activities undertaken by the Consultative Forum in 2015. Among its various activities, the Consultative Forum has observed trainings, visited Joint Operation Triton, initiated a study on gender mainstreaming within Frontex and participated in Joint Operation VEGA Children. The report also presents the views and recommendations shared with Frontex and its Management Board on fundamental right matters connected to the agency’s activities, as well as an external evaluation of the Agency commissioned by Frontex and the Management Board. The report stresses the Consultative Forum’s support for the establishment of an individual complaints mechanism in order to ensure access to justice and effective remedy to those persons affected by Frontex-coordinated Joint Operations. The Consultative Forum agreed with the finding of the evaluator regarding the limited human resources allocated to the Fundamental Rights Officer and the Consultative Forum Secretariat,
    and stressed the need for the fundamental rights office to be adequately staffed, noting that this was increasingly important in view of the enhanced role of Frontex in the areas of registration, identification, search and rescue and returns. In addition, the report provides an assessment of the enhanced cooperation between Frontex and non-EU countries.
    For further information about the Consultative Forum and to download the report see here.

  • GREECE / Migrants and refugees evicted from Idomeni camp

    Thousands of migrants and refugees staying in a makeshift camp in Idomeni on the border between Greece and the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM), were moved by Greek authorities to official processing facilities in Greece between 24 and 26 May 2016. Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) denounced the authorities for failing to provide information to those evicted about their destinations and criticised restrictions imposed on humanitarian assistance. The UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) expressed concern about people being taken to “derelict warehouses and factories” with “insufficient” supplies of food, water, toilets, showers and electricity and that families might be separated. European Commission spokesperson, Margaritis Schinas, said on 30 May 2016 that the new facilities would be better than the ‘shame of Idomeni’ and that they are financed by the EU.
    Sources: Al Jazeera, 25 May 2016; Greek reporter, 27 May 2016; Associated Press, 27 May 2016.

  • MEDITERRANEAN / Over 700 migrants estimated to have died within a week, nearly 195,000 migrants and refugees enter Europe by sea in 2016

    At least 700 people are believed to have died in the Mediterranean in three different shipwrecks between 25 and 27 May 2016. More than 13,000 people are believed to have left Libya for Italy within eight days. According to information Save the Children received from survivors of the shipwreck from 26 May, around 1,100 people had set out from Libya on 25 May in two fishing boats and a dinghy. The first boat allegedly carried some 500 people and was reportedly towing the second, which was carrying another 500. According to survivors, when the second boat began to sink, the Sudanese captain of the first boat cut the rope attaching the two boats which snapped back and decapitated a woman. Rescue teams also described scenes as shocking and gruesome, with dead bodies floating in the sea and many survivors unresponsive but still breathing. According to the International Organization for Migration (IOM), 194,611 migrants and refugees are estimated to have entered Europe by sea from 1 January – 25 May 2016, arriving in Italy, Greece, Cyprus and Spain. They estimate that since the start of the year until 31 May 2016, a total of 1,828 people died in the Mediterranean. An infographic from IOM about migration flows and deaths in the Mediterranean region is available here.
    Sources: International Organization for Migration, Press Release, 27 May 2016; The Guardian, 29 May 2016; AFP, 30 May 2016; Deutsche Welle, 6 May 2016; Reuters, 7 May 2016

  • SPAIN / Guardia Civil officers accused of abusing migrant are decorated as collective expulsions continue

    The Spanish Minister for the Interior, Jorge Fernando Diaz, announced a decision to officially decorate eight Guardia Civil officers who are accused of abusing an African migrant in the North African enclave of Melilla in October 2014, when a group of about 200 migrants attempted to cross the border fence (see PICUM Bulletin, 30 October 2014). Showing video footage of the abuse, a group of Spanish organisations including Andalucía Acoge, SOS Racismo, APDH-A and Prodein demanded the case to be further investigated. The eight guards were awarded the Cross of Merit, following the decision of the Regional Court of Malaga (Audiencia Provincial de Málaga) that there was no excessive force used by staff of the Guardia Civil and that there are no reasons to continue to investigate the case. A group of over 100 organisations addressed Jorge Fernando Diaz in a joint letter accusing him of awarding inhumane and illegal actions by the guards. Meanwhile, the Spanish government collectively expelled a group of 300 sub-Saharan migrants who attempted to cross the border to Melilla on 21 March 2016, despite recently stating its opposition to immediate and collective expulsions (“devoluciones en caliente”) of migrants in relation to the EU-Turkey agreement. The people who descended the fence and arrived on Spanish territory were sent back to Morocco by the Spanish Guardia Civil without due process. A year ago, on 1 April 2015, Spain’s new Law on Public Security (Ley de Seguridad Ciudadana) entered into force which explicitly allows for the immediate and collective expulsion of migrants without due process at the Spanish southern borders in Ceuta and Melilla (see PICUM Bulletin 20 April 2015). Attempts to cross the fence have decreased in recent months. According to the Guardia Civil, migrants now frequently hide in the trunk of cars.
    Sources: EuroWeekly, 12 May 2016; El Diario, 21 March 2016; El Periódico de Melilla, 11 April 2016; Agencia EFE, 2 May 2016.

United Nations

  • ANGOLA / UN Special Rapporteur on the human rights of migrants calls on Angola to develop strategy to protect all migrants’ rights

    The United Nations Special Rapporteur on the human rights of migrants, Francois Crépeau, called on the government of Angola on 10 May 2016 to develop a comprehensive strategy to protect and promote the human rights of all migrants in Angola. The Special Rapporteur noted that this should include strong political commitment, a comprehensive migration and mobility strategy, and bilateral and multilateral mobility agreements with neighbouring countries, as well as effective human rights safeguards. He also expressed particular concern about the situation of irregular migrants who are often affected by violence, threats and intimidation by police. Among other things, he urged that all children born in Angola should be issued with a birth certificate, regardless of their or their parents’ migration status. The statement follows the Special Rapporteur’s visit to Angola from 3 to 10 May 2016. During this visit, he met with government representatives, civil society organisations, international organisations, as well as migrants, including in detention. To read the full statement, click here.

  • UNITED NATIONS / Civil society participation in UN high level meetings on refugees and migrants

    Representatives of civil society organisations, non-governmental organisations or academic institutions working on movements of refugees and migrants have the opportunity to apply to attend or speak at a high-level meeting at the UN Headquarters in New York on 19 September 2016 and/or take part in informal hearings between stakeholders and UN member states on 18 July 2016. The deadline to apply for participation in the informal hearings is 11 June 2016 and 31 July 2016 for applications to participate in the high-level meeting in September.  On 19 September 2016, the UN General Assembly will host the high-level meeting at its headquarters in New York to address large movements of refugees and migrants, with the aim of bringing countries together behind a more humane and coordinated approach. Travel funding will be available for several of the speakers selected through this process, for both the 18 July and 19 September events. For more details on the selection procedure and requirements to apply, please click here.

European Policy Developments

  • COUNCIL OF EUROPE / GRETA issues report providing guidance on identifying asylum-seekers, refugees and migrants who have been trafficked

    The Group of Experts on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings (GRETA) released its 5th general report in March 2016 on its activities, covering the period from 10 October 2014 to 31 December 2015. GRETA is the body tasked with monitoring application of the Council of Europe Convention on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings. In addition to reporting on its activities, which include the creation of links with the newly established Group of Experts on Action against Violence against Women and Domestic Violence (GREVIO), the report provides guidance on the identification of victims of trafficking in human beings among asylum seekers, refugees and migrants. The report identifies several actors with an important role in combating trafficking, including non-governmental organisations, judicial authorities, legal professionals as well as labour inspectors, medical staff, media, the business sector, and national coordinators, and sets out a number of recommendations and good practices. The report is available here.

  • EUROPEAN COURT OF HUMAN RIGHTS / Greece violated undocumented migrants’ right to effective remedy

    On 24 March 2016, the European Court of Human Rights issued its decision in Sakir v. Greece (No. 48475/09), ruling that Greek authorities had violated Article 13 (right to an effective remedy) of the European Convention on Human Rights by failing to properly investigate a violent attack against an irregular migrant. The applicant, an Afghan national, was beaten severely in Athens by a group of masked individuals armed with knives and iron bars, in August 2009. He was taken to hospital and the police were notified of the incident by his friend, who identified two of the attackers at the scene, but later retracted his statement. A criminal procedure was opened against the friend for irregular entry and stay in Greece, and for having made a false statement and committing perjury, although he was acquitted of the latter. Following his discharge from hospital, the victim of the attack was detained at the police station for irregular stay, and issued an order of expulsion. In September 2009, he applied for asylum, requested his deportation be stopped and to be released from detention. A few days later, he was released and ordered to leave the territory within 30 days. In his complaint, the applicant claimed that Greek authorities had failed to conduct a proper investigation following his attack, in violation of Article 2 (right to life); and had detained him in inhuman and degrading conditions, where he had no access to a shower or to any follow-up treatment after his discharge from hospital, in violation of Article 3 (prohibition of torture). He also alleged a violation of Article 13 on the basis of not having been provided an effective remedy to challenge his detention conditions. The Court agreed that Articles 3 and 13 were violated. With regard to the police’s investigation of the attack, the Court held that Article 2 was not applicable because the applicant’s injuries were not life-threatening, but found a violation of Article 13, noting several serious shortcomings in the investigation and pointing to reports from international NGOs and national bodies denouncing racist violence in Athens. View the decision here (in French).

  • COURT OF JUSTICE OF THE EUROPEAN UNION / Family reunification can be refused if sponsor has insufficient resources

    On 21 April 2016, the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) clarified in a preliminary ruling that EU member states may refuse an application for family reunification based on the likelihood in the year following the application’s submission that the sponsor will not have stable and regular resources to maintain their family once reunited, without recourse to social assistance. This likelihood can be assessed by looking at the sponsor’s income pattern in the six months prior to the application. The judgment is in response to a request from the High Court of Justice of the Basque Country, Spain, on whether Spanish law is compliant with Article 7 of Directive 2003/86/EC on the right to family reunification. The case concerned a man who regularly resided in Spain and who, in 2012, applied to bring his wife to Spain. Spanish authorities denied his application arguing that, under Spanish law, he lacked sufficient resources to support his wife were she reunited with him in Spain and doubted that his financial position would improve enough within a year to grant his application. The man appealed the decision. His appeal was denied with the court noting that, while he had a contract with a firm at the time his application, his work under that contract had not be steady and, days after submitting his application, he had left that position and was, at the time the appellate court ruled, still without employment. The case eventually made its way to the High Court of Justice for the Basque County, which made the request for a preliminary ruling in the matter to the CJEU. The CJEU found that the Spanish legislation is compatible with the Directive on Family Reunification (Council Directive 2003/86/EC of 22 September 2003) noting that while the sponsor must provide evidence that he has sufficient resources at the time when his application for family reunification is being examined, those resources must also be stable and regular. This implies a prospective assessment of those resources by the competent national authority. To view the full judgement, click here. Court of Justice of the EU Press Release.
    Source: Courthouse News Service, 21 April 2016.

  • EUROPEAN COURT OF HUMAN RIGHTS / Right to family life not violated by UK’s refusal to allow family reunification

    The European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) in March 2016 declared inadmissible the application of five siblings against the UK for violation of the right to family life (Article 8 ECHR). The applicants claimed that the national authorities had infringed their right to family life by refusing, in 2009, to issue entry clearance to permit them to join their mother who had been residing in the UK since 2004. Their mother, who was born in Somalia, had left Somalia to join her second husband (a refugee) in the UK, leaving her children in the care of her sister. The children later moved to Ethiopia, where they lived irregularly. Their aunt subsequently returned to Somalia, leaving them in the care of their oldest sister, who, in 2012, also left the family and whose whereabouts are unknown. Tribunals in the UK had ruled that the applicants did not meet the requirements of the Immigration Rules HC395 (as amended), because they were not dependent on their mother’s support and were not the biological children of a recognised refugee, and considered that any interference with the right to family life under Article 8 was justified and proportionate. In determining whether a fair balance had respected between the interest of the applicants in developing a family life in the UK and the state’s own interest in controlling immigration, the ECtHR considered, among other factors, the best interests of the child, which the Court characterised as a “paramount consideration” that “cannot be a ‘trump card’ which requires the admission of all children who would be better off living in a Contracting State”. The Court also noted its prior case law, in which it had held that (i) the extent of a state’s obligation to admit relatives of settled migrants varies based on individuals’ circumstances and the general interest; (ii) states have the right to control the entry of non-nationals into their territory, as a well-established matter of international law; and, (iii) in the context of immigration, Article 8 does not compel states, as a general matter, to respect a married couple’s choice about where they live and to authorise family reunification on its territory accordingly. The Court recalled that the applicants had never been the UK, had lived without their mother for 11 years, and had reached an age where they did not require as much care as young children. As such, and considering the time the mother waited before attempting to bring her children to the UK, as well as the absence of “major impediments” to her reuniting with her children in Somalia, the Court held that the domestic authorities had not failed to strike a fair balance between the interests of the applicants and that of the state, and thus rejected the application as manifestly ill-founded. The decision in the case ‘I.A.A. and others against The United Kingdom, no. 25960/13’ is available here.

National Developments

  • AUSTRIA / Vote in favour of law allowing rejection of asylum claims at the border

    The Austrian parliament’s lower house voted on 27 April 2016 in favour of a more restrictive asylum seeker law. According to the law, the government can call a state of emergency in response to large numbers of migrants and refugees arrive at its borders, giving authorities the right to deny people entry to the country to seek asylum. A state of emergency would be set for six months, but can be extended for up to two years. Migrants and refugees who have close relatives in Austria, as well as unaccompanied children and migrant and refugee women with young children, are exempted from this measure. Appeals against returns will only be possible after the return has taken place. The law also further restricts possibilities for family reunification. Those with subsidiary protection can bring their families to Austria after three years and have to prove a certain level of economic stability. Several politicians, organisations and institutions criticized the law including Human Rights Watch (HRW) and Nils Muiznieks, the Council of Europe commissioner for human rights. The day after the vote, the UN Secretary General, Ban Ki-moon, expressed his concern about increasingly restrictive migration and refugee policies in a speech to the Austrian Parliament. Although he did not mention Austria in particular, his comments were understood to allude in part to these developments. The vote follows the first round victory of right-wing Freedom party (FPÖ) candidate, Norbert Hofer, in Austrian Presidential elections on 24 April. However, in the final round of voting on 23 May, Hofer was beaten by rival Alexander van der Bellen, former spokesman of the Austrian Green Party. The son of a refugee, Van der Bellen won 50.3% of the 4.64 million votes cost, compared to 49.7% for Hofer. Van der Bellen led the vote in nine out of ten major cities while Hofer fared better in rural areas. Meanwhile, Austria also announced plans to build a fence at the Brenner Pass, the border between Austria and Italy, and to establish additional controls at the border. Angelino Alfano, Italian Minister for the Interior, criticized the proposed move by Austria for being politically and economically damaging.
    Sources: Die Welt, 29 April 2016; Die Welt, 27 April 2016; APA, 21 April 2016; The Guardian, 28 April 2016.

  • GREECE / REPORTS / Over 46,000 people stranded in appalling conditions due to border closures

    According to a new report from Amnesty International, ‘Trapped in Greece: An avoidable refugee crisis’, at least 46,000 people are stranded in mainland Greece in appalling conditions since the closure of the Balkan route. The report, published on 18 April, notes that while systems and resources have been put in place in the last few months to ensure that arriving refugees and migrants are finger-printed and screened by the police to determine their nationality, not enough has been done to prepare Greece for the longer-term reception of large numbers of asylum seekers – despite the increase of this number being a foreseeable consequence of the closure of the Balkan route. While Greece has opened 31 temporary accommodation sites on the mainland, with capacity for some 33,000 asylum seekers and migrants, the conditions in many of these overcrowded, under-resourced facilities are inadequate for all but a few days. As well as material reception conditions, major concerns outlined include limitations regarding: the provision of information to people on their rights and the processes available to them; access to the asylum system; and the identification of particular vulnerabilities, as well as detention, particularly of unaccompanied children. Amnesty also notes that, according to the European Commission data of 12 April 2016, only 615 of the 66,400 asylum-seekers pledged to be relocated from Greece in September 2015 had been transferred to another EU member state. The report concludes with recommendations to the Greek authorities to improve reception conditions for all, increase the capacity of the asylum service, ensure systematic provision of information, prohibit and end the detention of children, and distribute funds from the EU Asylum, Migration and Integration Fund to non-governmental organisations providing essential services; as well as recommendations to other EU member states to use all available means to accept asylum seekers currently in Greece (relocation, family relocation, visas). The border closures, in particular in the absence of relocation, is seen to place responsibility on the EU and its member states for the situation of migrants and refugees in Greece. Read the report here. A report published by Human Rights Watch (HRW) in March 2016, similarly denounces the current humanitarian crisis in Greece and particularly in the Athens port of Piraeus. HRW interviewed over 45 migrants who arrived between 8 and 22 March 2016. According to the report, the living conditions in Piraeus are unsafe, unsanitary and insecure. The daily management of the camp is conducted by volunteers and medical aid is provided by aid groups. Accessing basic necessities is particularly difficult for persons with disabilities. Insecurity and fear has led to a very tense situation with increasing risk of sexual harassment and violence. To read the report, click here.

  • NETHERLANDS / Netherlands rolls out nationwide guidelines on how to handle the reporting of a crime by undocumented persons

    Police in the Netherlands received working instructions (Dutch only) regarding the reporting of crimes by undocumented migrants. Issued in Feburary 2016, the instructions provide for a uniform procedure to be adopted by the police at all levels for the recording of a statement or eye-witness account from a victim without a valid residency status. The source of these instructions is rooted in Article 1 of the European Directive 2012/29 on establishing minimum standards on the rights, support and protection of victims of crime (Victims’ Directive), which requires Member States to take necessary measures to ensure that rights established by the directive are not dependent on the residency status or nationality of the victim. This recognises the barriers that undocumented persons who are victims of crimes may face in approaching the authorities to report a crime. Under the Victims’ Directive, all victims, including those without a valid residency status, are entitled to make a statement and receive relevant information regarding the procedure on first contact with the authorities. They are entitled to the assistance of an interpreter or third party in the recording of the statement as well as access to victim support organisations. The new instructions for Dutch law enforcement include informing the individual making the statement not only of the procedure involved in making such a statement, but also of the method for determining and registering of identity and other relevant information, with special attention paid to the deployment of protective measures such as the omission of contact details from the statement. Furthermore, following the making of a statement or eye-witness account or at any point during, such individuals should be released from the police station. The identity of the victim may be established on the basis of information provided by the party concerned and should not be unnecessarily requested. However, no rights are created in respect of their residency status in the making of a statement or giving of an eye-witness account and any decision with regard to their residency status is not set aside.
    Source: Stichting LOS Newsletter Volume 6 No. 8, 11 April 2016. To access the newsletter click here.

  • UK / COUNCIL OF EUROPE / Commissioner for Human Rights publishes Memorandum on UK

    Following a visit to the UK in January 2016, the Council of Europe’s Commissioner for Human Rights, Nils Muižnieks, published a Memorandum addressed to the UK Immigration minister. The memorandum acknowledges the UK’s efforts in providing resettlement to Syrian refugees. However, it also expresses concerns regarding the impact of restrictive immigration law and policy upon human rights of migrants. The memorandum expresses further concerns regarding the dominant political discourse in the UK, which aims at reducing migration.  The Commissioner for Human Rights specifically asks the UK to reflect on the language used by foreign nationals and to avoid the term “illegal migrant”. Additionally, the report calls for a radical improvement of the current migrant detention regime, to end the “right to rent” scheme depriving migrants of their right to housing and to refrain from any actions that would split families.
    Source: Council of Europe, 22 March 2016.

Health Care

  • BELGIUM / Report provides concrete recommendations to improve irregular migrants access to health care

    In December 2015, the Belgium Health Care Knowledge Centre / Federaal Kenniscentrum voor de Gezondheidszord / Centre Federal d’Expertise des Soins de Sante (KCV) published a report, “What Health Care for Undocumented Migrants in Belgium?”. The study follows up on a 2014 white book published by the National Institute for Health and Disability Insurance (INAMI-RIZIV) and Doctors of the World (MdM), based on the input of more than 300 stakeholders in the Belgian health and welfare sectors. In Belgium, undocumented migrants are not eligible for coverage through the national system, but can access health care through their municipality through a program called Urgent Medical Aid (AMU/DMH), if they can demonstrate that they meet the financial eligibility requirements during a social enquiry. AMU/DMH covers preventive and curative care. In 2013, 17602 people benefited from AMU/DMH – consistent with figures since 2011 – approximately 10-20 percent of the estimated number of irregular migrants in Belgium, at an average annual cost per beneficiary of €2539. The report argues that the complexity of the existing system is problematic for all stakeholders, leads to unpredictable access for irregular migrants, cumbersome and costly administrative procedures for municipalities, difficulties for caregiver, and challenges for monitoring care and costs for public authorities. The report recommends several reforms to the AMU, that focus on simplifying and harmonising administrative procedures, and streamlining access to health care and information. These include doing away with the requirement for obtaining a medical certificate to qualify for the AMU/DMH, and simplifying the name of program. Also, that the applicant be provided with a medical card, initially valid for one month, once the application for medical aid is made, so that primary health care can be accessed during the period of social enquiry. The medical card should also give the same level of care to every beneficiary. There was a need to harmonise criteria among the municipal bodies responsible for defining financial eligibility requirements (CPAS/OCMW). Furthermore, not having adequate resources should only result in a refusal of co-payment but not a refusal of urgent medical assistance. The report and report synthesis are available here.

  • EU / Physician denounces policies denying migrants their right to health care

    The British Medical Journal published an article on 12 April 2016, by a medical doctor criticising fear-based policy-making. The author notes frequent media reports promoting the unfounded view that broadly accessible health systems draw migrants who compete with nationals for limited health resources, and national level initiatives across the EU that attempt to dissuade migrants by restricting their access to state support. The author calls on EU member states to create policies that honour their humanitarian obligations to provide care to those with the greatest need, rather than crafting policies fuelled by fear.
    Source: BMJ, 12 April 2016.

  • REPORT / A comparative 10-country legal survey by European HIV Legal Forum

    The European HIV Legal Forum is a project coordinated by AIDS Action Europe and was launched in 2012. Its purpose is to give an updated picture of how migrants with irregular status access testing, treatment, care, and support in 10 European countries; France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Italy, the Netherlands, Poland, Serbia, Spain and United Kingdom. The report reviews each country’s relevant laws and policies, to evaluate the availability and effectiveness of treatment and care for people with HIV, regardless of their residence status. Its main finding is that access to healthcare for migrants with irregular status is not completely guaranteed in any of the examined countries, and that the conditions of access to health services varies significantly. When it comes to accessing HIV/AIDS prevention and treatment, migrants with irregular status continue to face many barriers. According to the report, among the countries reviewed, those whose health systems are primarily financed through individuals´ insurance contributions (France, Germany, Hungary, Netherlands, Poland, Serbia) seem to offer less access to free HIV treatment than those financed primarily through direct taxation (Italy, Spain before the Royal Decree Law 16/2012, and UK). In the report the main obstacles in accessing HIV prevention are identified as current repression and xenophobic pressures, costs, and fears of attracting migrants. The main recommendations of the report are ensuring compliance with international obligations and a human rights based approach to healthcare, informing undocumented migrants about available treatment and abolishing healthcare providers’ duty to denounce undocumented migrants. To read the report, click here.

  • NORWAY / Undocumented migrants in Norway turned away by community mental health centres

    Under the current framework in Norway, undocumented persons suffering from often severe mental illnesses are being denied access to treatment through the community health centres. One in five undocumented migrants in Norway suffers from a mental health condition such as depression, anxiety or post-traumatic stress syndrome. Organisations such as the Health Centre for Undocumented Migrants (Helsesenteret for papirløse migranter) provide a limited number of services and seek to connect undocumented migrants in need of more acute specialised treatment with the local health centres. The Health Centre for Undocumented Migrants reports that, in 2015, 12 undocumented migrants applied for treatment of a mental health condition at community health centres, and nearly all were rejected. The most common justification provided is that the patient has no right to health care beyond emergency care. Regulations provide that persons without permanent residence status in Norway are only entitled to emergency care and this includes those suffering from a mental illness, unless such individuals pose a serious risk to their own life or health or that of another. Furthermore, appeals of decisions to deny care are rarely successful. Frode Eick, CEO of the Health Centre for undocumented migrants in Oslo remarks that the centre often loses touch with patients with mental illness following limited treatment and the government does not have a cause of death registry for foreigners.
    Source: Psykisk Helse, Issue 2, May 2016

  • USA / Study shows that immigration raids are damaging to migrants’ mental health

    On 4 April 2016, the Journal of Immigrant and Minority Health published an article describing the results of a study examining the health implications on Latin American migrants of an immigration raid. Researchers at the University of Michigan School of Public Health, set out to better understand the health of the Latino population in Washtenaw Country, in collaboration with Casa Latina, a community-based organisation. Together they designed a survey addressing various themes, including health-related knowledge, attitudes, belies and behaviours; access to health care; sources of health information; family and child health; and social and neighbourhood conditions. The survey was conducted between September 2013 and January 2014. Three months after data collection was started, a joint task forced composed of US Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents and the officials from the County Sherriff’s department conducted an immigration raid of a warehouse being used as living quarters by migrants, which led to multiple arrests and deportations in the community. Of those who participated, 325 were surveyed before the raid, and 151 afterwards. Participants who completed this study after the raid felt more constrained socially, less free to use government services, and more fearful of the effects of deportation. Higher levels of stress were also reported by those living with children, particularly children born outside the US. The study’s result show that those who completed the survey after the raid reported higher levels of stress related to immigration enforcement than those surveyed before, providing evidence of the negative effect of immigration raids on the lives and health of Latinos in the communities where they take place. The study also cites existing research demonstrating that fear of deportation is linked to psychological and emotional distress and lower levels of self-reported health. The researchers note the need for “community health advocates … to work diligently to ensure separation between immigration enforcement and social service provisioning.”
    Link to the study. Source: The Latin Post, 8 April 2016.

Labour and Fair Working Conditions

  • EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT / Resolution recognises rights of domestic workers and carers in the EU

    A cross party majority in the European Parliament has recognised the rights of domestic workers and carers in the EU. On 28 April 2016, MEP’s supported a resolution that calls on the European Commission to establish easy-to-manage models —such as the “service vouchers” scheme in Belgium and the “universal service employment cheque (CESU)” in France— for regular employer-worker relationships to end precariousness and undeclared domestic work. As MEP Kostadinka Kuneva (GUE/NGL), the rapporteur on the report on women domestic workers and carers in the EU stated: “Domestic workers and carers enable us to follow our careers, and enjoy our social lives. We entrust them with our homes, our children, our parents. But, they are invisible, undeclared, victims of insecurity and social exclusion. Also, most are women, working long hours with no days off, without medical cover or pension plans.” Ms Kuneva also argued that Europe’s ageing population and the fact that women are entering the labour market means that there is a greater need for domestic workers, but despite this demand, in many EU member states they continue to work in the informal economy. In the resolution, MEPs call for a “professionalisation” of the domestic sector to turn this precarious form of work into recognised work which would provide domestic workers and carers with social protection rights. The resolution was approved by 279 votes to 105, with 204 abstentions. Click here to view Kuneva’s report.
    Sources: European Parliament News, 28 April 2016;
    The Group of the Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats (the S&D Group) Newsroom, 28 April 2016.

  • EU / European Migration Forum focuses on labour migration

    The European Migration Forum took place in Brussels from 6 to 7 of April and was attended by 120 civil society organisations from across Europe as well as EU representatives and national, regional and local authorities. The forum provided an opportunity for participants to discuss a long-term approach to sustainable labour migration and integration in a participatory format. On the first day, workshops were held to address low and medium-skilled migration, undeclared work and exploitation, migrant and refugee integration into the labour market, and the role of cities and communities in integration. On the second day, participants had the opportunity to self-organise into groups to discuss related topics. Two new civil society representatives were elected to the migration forum’s bureau: Annica Ryngbeck, Policy and Advocacy Adviser at Social Platform, as a European level representative and Saïd Elouizi of the House of Migrants (Maison de Migrants) in Belgium, as a national level representative. They will join PICUM and the Greek Forum of Refugees as civil society representatives for next year’s migration forum. A report about the meeting is available here.
    Sources: European Economic and Social Committee (EESC), April 2016; Fundamental Rights Agency, April 2016.

  • REPORT / Report recommends FIFA to consider stripping Qatar of World Cup if human rights abuses continue

    John Ruggie, Berthold Beitz Professor in Human Rights and International Affairs at the Harvard Kennedy School, has written an independent report on the human rights responsibilities of FIFA, the world football’s governing body. The report, which was commissioned by FIFA, recommends that they consider stripping Qatar of the 2022 World Cup if its record on the treatment of migrant workers does not improve within 12 months. FIFA has been in the news recently over its consistent failure to consider human rights issues in host countries including Brazil, Russia, and Qatar, and its unwillingness to use its influence to improve the situation. According to the report, FIFA needs to address the human rights risks in tournaments that have been scheduled and include “explicit human rights requirements of Local Organizing Committees in bidding documents for tournaments and provide guidance on them”. The supreme committee, who is responsible for the World Cup, introduced minimum standards for its contractors, but human rights groups like Amnesty International have said that little progress has been made. They have criticised FIFA for not putting pressure on the Qatari government to implement the promised reforms, leaving in place the Kafala system which binds migrant workers to their employers, something many human rights groups have equated with “modern slavery”. The report also highlighted human rights concerns surrounding the 2018 Russia World Cup, including concerns surrounding the treatment of migrant workers. The General Secretary of ITUC praised the report and mentioned that the low wages, denial of freedom of association and collective bargaining rights encountered by those migrant workers working on the 2022 World Cup infrastructure project is out of line with the 25 recommendations highlighted in the report by Professor Ruggie. Amnesty International UK also called on the president of FIFA to take immediate steps to improve the situation and working conditions for migrant workers in Qatar.
    Sources: The Irish Times, 22 April 2016; The Guardian, 14 April 2016;The Huffington Post, 14 April 2016

  • REPORT / The International Committee on the Rights of Sex Workers in Europe launches Community Report on Exploitation in the Sex Industry

    To commemorate Labour Day on 1 May 2016, the International Committee on the Rights of Sex Workers in Europe (ICRSE) launched its Community Report entitled “Exploitation: Unfair labour arrangements and precarious working conditions in the sex industry.” The report was developed in consultation with sex workers and sex workers’ organisations and aims to engage readers in the discussion over exploitation in the sex industry while challenging the definition of sex work as ‘sexual exploitation’. Representatives of the sex worker collectives in Europe and Central Asia who participated in the consultation reported that one of the main challenges faced by sex workers is the informal character of their labour arrangements; the majority reported being employed in irregular and flexible labour arrangements which do not grant them security of employment or income stability. For migrant, and particularly undocumented sex workers, the lack of access to justice and protective employment and labour laws, means they command little power to demand and negotiate favourable earnings, shares and commissions which severely curtails their income.   The criminalisation of sex work, anti-trafficking provisions, and repressive migration laws hampers their ability to counter labour exploitation, with raids and enforcement measures forcing them to work in secret making them particularly vulnerable to exploitation and abuse. It has also been reported that heightened restrictions on migration and greater border control significantly increase sex workers’ dependency on third parties who arrange their migration and facilitate their employment upon arrival in the country of destination. Because of their irregular migration status, they can be threatened with arrest and deportation if they refuse to identify themselves as victims of trafficking – or fail to meet the respective trafficking victim criteria – when challenging or reporting exploitative workplace practices.
    Source: International Committee on the Rights of Sex Workers in Europe (ICRSE), 1 May 2016.

Undocumented Women

  • EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT / European Parliament adopts resolution on the situation of migrant women in the EU

    The European Parliament adopted a resolution on the situation of women refugees and asylum seekers in the EU (2015/2325(INI) on 8 March 2016. The resolution addresses the gender dimension of the recent migration situation, which comprises a growing proportion of women and children. It also recognises forms of gender-based violence faced by women and lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) people, which are often unrecognised in asylum procedures. The resolution calls for member states and the EU itself to ratify the Council of Europe Convention on preventing and combating violence against women (Istanbul Convention), and for the EU to integrate gender-sensitive perspectives when establishing complaints mechanisms within the office of the Frontex Fundamental Rights Officer. The resolution addresses the gender dimensions of determining refugee status and the needs of women in asylum procedures, as well as gender-related concerns in the context of reception and detention, social inclusion and integration. In particular, it calls for an end to the detention of children, and “stresses that undocumented migrant women and girls should have full access to their basic fundamental rights and that channels for legal migration should be developed.” The resolution is available here.

  • REPORT / Women’s Refugee Commission releases report on vulnerability assessment of women and girl asylum seekers

    Women’s Refugee Commission recently published a report denouncing the short-term solutions which fail to address risks of violence, especially against women and girls. The report highlights that restrictions to family reunification, and the absence of a coordinated EU response encourage dangerous journeys across the Aegean and through Europe. The short-term nature of current responses do not address, and in some cases perpetuate, the risks of violence women and girls experience along the route. While recognising that Germany and Sweden have welcomed unprecedented numbers of refugees – in the face of ambivalence or outright objections from other European countries – accommodation centres where women and girls stay, lack separate living spaces and shower facilities for women and families, thus increasing vulnerability to rape, assault and other types of violence. Furthermore, while Germany and Sweden recognise persecution as grounds for asylum, women and girls still have to go through complex legal and bureaucratic procedures and there are no standard processes to identify support for gender-based violence survivors. The report recommends European countries protect women and girls, recognise the need for an equitable regional response by implementing fair, humane, gender-sensitive access to asylum, and fair access to legal protection and family reunification processes, and increase timely and safe resettlement from countries of first asylum, or other immigration pathways for vulnerable refugee women and girls. To view the report, click here.

  • STORYTELLING / Women in migration

    Women’s Refugee Commission recently published a report denouncing the short-term solutions which fail to address risks of violence, especially against women and girls. The report highlights that restrictions to family reunification, and the absence of a coordinated EU response encourage dangerous journeys across the Aegean and through Europe. The short-term nature of current responses do not address, and in some cases perpetuate, the risks of violence women anAt the 60th United Nations Commission on the Status of Women, the Women and Global Migration Working Group (WGMWG) hosted a participatory workshop to highlight the realities of women in migration in the context of global inequalities, looking at different ways that survival migration affects women. During the session, 15 stories of women in migration were explored. To read all the stories, please click here. You can also submit stories to: WomenAndMigration(at)gmail.com.

  • UNITED STATES / New rules make it harder for undocumented women to get safe abortion in Texas

    A new Texas law, HB 3994, requiring those seeking to obtain an abortion to show US or Canadian identification documents, a birth certificate or passport as proof of name and age, is likely to create obstacles for undocumented women, as well as non-Canadian foreign women. Some advocates anticipate this will have the greatest impact on Latin American migrants. A study from 2015 by the Texas Policy Evaluation Project, a University of Texas-based effort aimed at determining the impact of the state’s reproductive policies indicates that between 100,000 and 240,000 women in Texas, including non-migrant women, tried to induce their own abortion, because of difficulty accessing abortion providers.
    Source: 31 March 2016, Latina; The Atlantic, November 17, 2015.

Undocumented Children and Their Families

  • FRANCE / Children’s Commissioner for England calls on French Government to take action in Calais

    The Children’s Commissioner for England, Anne Longfield, has urged the French authorities to help unaccompanied children in Calais. The Children’s Commissioner asked authorities to speed up the asylum claims of 150 children who are currently in Calais and who may be enabled to reach their relatives in the UK. The Commissioner also expressed specific concern about the lack of protection for unaccompanied children in Calais. Major concerns related to reports that 129 children have disengaged from French child protection authorities, and lack of action taken regarding health care and identifying trafficking. A spokesman for the French embassy in London confirmed that ‘several dozens of lone minors in Calais (…) would have the right to enter Britain’. He assured however that the welfare of children in Calais is ensured by the French authority, who relocated them to emergency accommodation when part of the “jungle”, as the camp in Calais is often referred to, was dismantled.
    Sources: Children’s Commissioner, 9 April 2016; BBC, 9 April 2016.

  • MEXICO / REPORT / Migrant Children returned to Central America face gang violence

    A report by Human Rights Watch published on 31 March 2016, entitled “Closed doors: Mexico’s failure to protect Central American Refugee and Migrant children” discusses the issue of tens of thousands of children migrating from Central America to Mexico each year. Based on 61 interviews with refugees, asylum seekers and migrants between the ages of 11 and 17, the report documents discrepancies between Mexican legislation and practice. According to its legislation, Mexico offers protection to those who face risks to their lives or safety if they return to their countries of origin. However, according to Mexican government data, less than 1% of children who are apprehended by Mexican immigration authorities are recognised as refugees. Most of the children interviewed are fleeing violence of street gangs. Children are regularly detained and deported regardless of the dangers they may face, even though Mexican law states that unaccompanied children should be handed over to child protection services. Increased border security following a rise in the number of child migrants since July 2014 has led the numerous child rights violations.
    Sources: Human Rights Watch, 31 March 2016; Insight Crimes, 4 April 2016; The Guardian, 31 March 2016.

Detention and Deportation

  • COUNCIL OF EUROPE / Committee on the Prevention of Torture highlights poor detention conditions of irregular migrants in Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia

    The European Committee on the Prevention of Torture (CPT) has published its findings on the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM). Released on 17 March 2016, the report details the CPT’s 5th periodic visit to the country in October 2014 during which they examined, amongst other things, the treatment and conditions of persons in detention. This included a visit, for the first time, to the Reception Centre for Foreigners in Skopje. The CPT reports that no major progress had been made by national authorities since prior visits in 2010 and 2011, and indeed in some respects the situation had worsened. In particular, the CPT notes that the reception centre, which in October 2014 held men, women and children (including 13 unaccompanied minors) was severely overcrowded and that its conditions could be characterised as amounting to inhuman and degrading treatment. Numerous credible allegations by detainees of mistreatment by staff were received by the CPT. The report recommends improvement of the centre’s conditions; that authorities ensure that irregular migrant families are not separated and are instead accommodated together in appropriate facilities which can provide the necessary care and support, and that children be held in child-friendly spaces. The CPT also recommends the training of staff, improved health services for detainees and access to legal advice and information about their situation. The report is available here.

  • EU / Updated overview of monitoring of deportation

    The EU Fundamental Rights Agency has updated its overview of the current state of affairs on effective return monitoring in the EU. The overview provides the following information for each member state: the legal source providing for monitoring forced return; the organisation responsible for monitoring forced return and whether or not it is operational; the number of monitoring operations in 2015; whether or not monitors are on board of flights (2014 and 2015); the number of flights with monitors on board; number of staff who worked as monitors; and whether or not a public report was issued in 2015. The EU Return Directive (2008/115/EC) requires member states to provide for an effective forced-return monitoring system. Among the 26 member states bound by the directive (Ireland and the United Kingdom are not bound by it), in 2015 four states had no operational systems yet, either because the monitoring body has yet to be appointed or has not monitored a concrete forced return operation, or because the monitoring system is ad hoc and does not cover the whole country. In two member states, the monitoring mechanism is implemented by an agency belonging to the branch of government responsible for deportation and thus not sufficiently independent to qualify as effective. The overview is available here

  • EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT / Parliamentary brief on arbitrary detention of women and children for immigration-related purposes

    The European Parliamentary Research Service (EPRS) published a briefing note, on “Arbitrary detention of women and children for immigration-related purposes” in March 2016. The paper notes that immigration-related detention has become an established mechanism, with dedicated facilities and institutional bureaucracy, and detention has become routine in many countries, despite international law stating that it should be used only exceptionally. This is generally the case for asylum-seekers whose applications have been denied, and migrants in an irregular situation. The paper notes that human rights are guaranteed for all persons, including migrants, whatever their administrative status, and calls for gender-sensitive policies and more specialised care in detention facilities.  The paper refers to the UNHCR’s 2014 Global Strategy – Beyond Detention 2014-2019 to support governments in making detention an exceptional practice. In July 2015, the EU adopted a revised action plan on human rights and democracy, which, under Article 24(e), includes supporting improving access to justice and health for migrants in countries of origin and transit, and promoting better conditions of detention for detained migrants as well as alternatives to detention. The paper describes the basis in international human rights law for finding that detention is unlawful, due process guarantees, as well as particular challenges such as the absence of any right to free legal aid. The paper also refers to a European Parliament study noting the “pathogenic nature of confinement in detention centres” and its harmful consequences on the psychological state of foreign nationals, and the particular challenges confronting migrant women and children. A number of these issues are addressed in an own-initiative report of the European Parliament’s Rights and Gender Equality Committee (FEMM) prepared by MEP Mary Honeyball (S&D, UK) adopted on 8 March 2016.
    Source: European Parliamentary Research Service, March 2016.

  • GREECE / REPORT / Detention in violation of legal standards

    The Greek NGO AITIMA has released its quarterly report of its monitoring of immigration detention in Greece for the period December 2015-March 2016. Based on nine visits to eight different places of administrative detention (police stations and detention facilities, and pre-removal detention centres), with varying degrees of access, AITIMA reports that the overall number of detainees has increased and that there is an increase in the number of detainees being readmitted to Turkey. AITIMA has found that the first reception and administrative detention procedures lack an individualised approach, and do not ensure identification of people in need of protection or special care, resulting in the detention of, for example, people whose deportation would violate the principle of non-refoulement, people with serious health problems, and a significant number of people that identify themselves as children (being detained as adults); as well as the potential deportation to Turkey of people in need of protection and special care. Additional procedural and material conditions where serious problems were identified included: lack of application of alternatives to detention; detention on public order grounds; prolonged detention beyond the six-month limit; detention in areas, in particular police stations, deemed inappropriate by the Council of Europe Committee for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman and Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CPT) for detention of more than a few days; inadequate provision of essential services, including health care, psycho-social support, information, legal aid, and interpretation; and inadequate provision of basic necessities, including heating, food, clothes, shoes, personal hygiene items, and recreational and educational activities. Read the report here.

  • UK / Unlawful detention costing £4 million a year

    A BBC Freedom of Information request has revealed that the UK government is paying more than £4 million (over €5.1 million) each year in compensation to people unlawfully detained in immigration detention centres. The government paid £4m in 2014-15, and between £4-5 million in each of the previous three years, totalling £18 million (€22.8 million). About 30,000 people pass through the UK’s detention centres every year, costing approximately £35,000 (€44,500) a year per detainee. According to Conservative MP Tim Loughton, a member of the Home Affairs Committee, 60% of the 32,000 people who went through the centres in 2015 went back into the community following their detention.
    Source: Migrants Rights Network, 20 April 2016; BBC, 20 April 2016.

  • USA / Transgendered undocumented migrants go on hunger strike to protest detention of transgender migrants in the city’s prison

    Several transgendered undocumented migrants have been on hunger strike since early May 2016 in the Southern Californian city of Santa Ana. They are demanding an end to the detention of transgender migrants both locally at the Santa Ana City Jail and nationally at the facilities of the Department of Homeland Security’s Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). The city, which has a significant Latino and migrant community, contracts with ICE to detain immigrants at a rate of $105 per person per day. Activists say the facility maintains specific pods (or holding areas) for transgender detainees. The issue came to national attention when it was featured in a Human Rights Watch report highlighting the conditions faced by transgender women in the detention system. Some of the demands issued by the strikers include: that the Santa Ana City Council schedule a vote to cancel the city’s jail contract with ICE, which allows the city to profit from the detention of undocumented migrants, including transgender women; that the Santa Ana City Council advocate for the release of transgender migrant women from detention centres across the country; and that the Department of Homeland Security and ICE end the use of detention for transgender immigrant women, who face disproportionate abuse and rights violations inside both private and public detention centres. On 23 May 2016, US immigration authorities announced plans to build a separate unit for transgender detainees in a new facility under construction in Alvarado, Texas. The facility will have 36 beds set aside in a separate unit for transgender detainees. According to a Human Rights Watch report from 23 March 2016, ICE officials estimate that out of the approximately 30,000 migrants detained by authorities on any given day about 65 are transgender women.
    Source: People’s World, 19 May 2016

  • USA / Testimony of three undocumented women heard by Supreme Court in case challenging plans to extend deportation relief for undocumented migrants

    The case of United States v. Texas concerns a challenge by the State of Texas as well as 25 other states to President Obama’s plan to extend deportation relief to include a broader range of undocumented persons under the Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents program, or DAPA. These proposals would allow certain undocumented parents of children born in the US to remain in the U.S. and receive permission to work for three years, as well as expanding the existing Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, or DACA, to allow more undocumented migrants who came to the U.S. as children to stay temporarily and gain work authorisation. Combined, these two groups are estimated by the Migration Policy Institute to comprise as many as 3.7 million people.  For ten minutes, during oral argument on 18 April 2016, the U.S Supreme Court heard the view of three undocumented women who are potential beneficiaries under Obama’s planned expansion of deportation relief. They are what the law calls “interveners” in the case whereby a non-party is allowed to participate in the case at the discretion of the court. An appeals court ruled that the three women had legitimate standing to qualify as interveners. The plaintiffs in the case succeeded in getting an injunction in a lower court, blocking the application of DAPA. The Supreme Court is expected to issue a ruling in the case in June 2016.
    Source: Huffington Post, 14 April 2016.

Publications and other Resources

  • COUNTRY BRIEFS / Inclusion of undocumented migrants in targets of EU 2020 Strategy

    On the occasion of International Labour Day, PICUM launched two country briefs, entitled ‘Undocumented Migrants and the Europe 2020 Strategy: Making Social Inclusion a Reality for all Migrants in Germany’ and ‘Undocumented Migrants and the Europe 2020 Strategy: Making Social Inclusion a Reality for all Migrants in Spain’ which discuss including undocumented migrants into the targets of the Europe 2020 Strategy in Germany and Spain respectively. The brief on Germany is available in English and German and the brief on Spain in English and Spanish.

Other News

  • BELGIUM / Campaign against prejudice

    The Belgian NGO CIRÉ launched an anti-prejudice campaign in April 2016 in response to the negative discourse about migrants and refugees in Belgium. The campaign’s key message is to fear prejudice, not migrants and refugees. The aim is to inform people and lead them to reflect on and question their positions. Inspired by an event in February 2016, when the Governor of West Flanders, Carl Decaluwé, stated “do not feed refugees, otherwise more will come”, the short video of the campaign draws a parallel by staging two elderly women chatting on a beach about feeding birds and the hashtag of the campaign translated from French is “do not feed prejudice” (#DéfenseDeNourrirLesPréjugés). CIRÉ is a network of organisations which reflects and coordinates advocacy on questions relating to migrants, asylum seekers and refugees.
    Source: CIRE, May 2014

  • SPAIN / Campaign against racial discrimination

    On the occasion of the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination on 21 March 2016, the Spanish organisation Red Acoge launched a new campaign called ‘Tolerancia 100%’ (‘100% Tolerance’). The campaign aims to raise awareness about common discrimination and prejudice based on origin or religion in everyday situations in Spanish society. The organisation noted that although Spanish society is increasingly aware of its diversity, prejudices against migrants persist, for example in situations of renting a house or looking for a job. A video and a series of real stories of discrimination suffered by migrants and Spanish residents in various parts of the country serve as a tool for the campaign. It is also possible to support the campaign and commit to full tolerance by downloading a poster and sharing it on social media. For more information about the campaign, please click here.


  • Brazil / Rights violations and vulnerabilities of children in migration

    The Brazilian newspaper Folha de Sao Paulo covered the issue of unaccompanied children who arrive in Europe and the issue of migrant and refugee children who have disengaged from authorities. The article quotes PICUM Advocacy Officer, Lilana Keith highlighting that children who migrate with their parents equally face risks and rights violations in the process of migration and being with their parents does not grant access to services such as health care.
    Source: Folha de Sao Paulo, 14 May 2016.

  • EU / Smuggling of migrants

    PICUM Advocacy Officer, Lilana Keith, was interviewed about the impacts of smuggling of migrants in the EU. The interview discusses the differences between trafficking and smuggling, efforts by the EU to address smuggling and the need to provide more regular channels and protect individuals’ rights.
    Source: Radio Sputnik, 18 May 2016.

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