PICUM Bulletin — 31 October 2013


  • EU / New border surveillance system will use drones

    Hybrid aerial surveillance drones are being considered by the European Agency for the Management at the External Borders, Frontex, for future operations with member states. Such drones can carry a pilot but can also be operated by remote control. For this reason, the EU has started a technological reinforcement programme, named Perseus, which includes the use of unarmed drones. This programme also aims to collect information that will then be shared amongst the different countries through a national coordination centre. According to current EU legislation, it is not authorised to use drones, but authorities have already started the formalities to modify this. Experts predict that drones will start being used around 2016. The first experimental phase will start on the Spanish and Portuguese coasts.
    Sources: El País, 24 September 2013; EUObserver, 14 October 2013

  • SOUTHERN BORDER / Premiers of Greece, Malta and Italy call to curb irregular migration

    Prime Minister Antonis Samaras had talks with his counterparts Joseph Muscat of Malta and Enrico Letta of Italy on 21 October 2013 about forming a Southern European alliance aimed at tackling the problem of irregular migration in the region. Samaras stressed that irregular migration and human trafficking are a humanitarian problems that need a European solution, and he called on other EU member states to share these responsibilities. Enrico Letta said that Italy wanted to stand firm on the issue of irregular migration at the EU Council meeting on 24 and 25 October in Brussels. Joseph Muscat, for his part, said that he wanted to see the political will behind the promise of solidarity which Europe spoke so much about following the recent tragedies at sea. Greece and Italy also announced to pursue the matter further when they assume the EU’s rotating Presidency in 2014.
    Source: Ekatherimini, 24 October 2013

  • EUROPE / Mapping Europe’s border securitisation

    The French newspaper Le Monde Diplomatique has published a series of maps to visually explain the development of increased border security in Europe. The project relies on the work of the Dutch NGO United. The maps show how Europe has started to use neighbouring countries as ‘buffer zones’, shows the distribution of  detention centres, and a chronological overview showcasing the fight against irregular migration, including deportation and readmission agreements. The article further argues that the physical borders are used as tools to create a new category of the criminal: the ‘illegal’ migrant who enters without authorisation.
    Source: Le Monde Diplomatique, 16 October 2013.

  • SPAIN / Undocumented migrants’ struggle to enter Melilla

    Around 1,700 undocumented migrants have entered Melilla this year. Most of the migrants who try to enter are from sub-Saharan Africa and the average age is below 25. In most cases, the journey of these migrants has been extremely tough, and when they reach the border of Melilla they then have to find a way to get over the fence. Crossing this last obstacle before getting into Spain poses challenges; they may face inhumane treatment if they are caught by the border security agents (Rabat has 950 troops dedicated to protecting the border and the Spanish policemen patrol in groups of 30). Migrants stated that when Moroccan policemen catch one of them, they beat them up and break their legs. If the Spanish police get them, they deport them.
    Source: El País, 21 September 2013

  • MEXICO / Mexican drug cartels carry out abductions and kidnappings of migrants

    Abductions of migrants on their way to the United States are common in North Eastern Mexico, an area controlled by the Zetas and the Gulf drug cartels. The criminal bands kidnap migrants in order to collect ransoms from their families, and reports state that migrants are often tortured and raped. In 2010, the Zetas were blamed for the mass slaying of 72 migrants. Recently, Mexican authorities arrested Serafin Medina-Angel in Tijuana, accused of being the leader of a cell responsible for kidnapping, raping and torturing migrants along the border.
    Source: CNN, 10 September 2013


  • UN / Report by the UN Secretary General on violence against female migrant workers

    The UN Secretary General submitted the report ‘Violence Against Women Migrant Workers’ on 23 July 2013. The report, submitted pursuant to General Assembly resolution 66/128, focuses on the issue of violence against women migrant workers, specifically with regards to their access to justice. It highlights the impact of legislation, policies and programmes implemented by member states on women migrant workers, and it concludes with recommendations for future action. The report states, as noted by the UN Committee on Migrant Workers that in some EU Member States, undocumented migrant women who have been victims of violence, risk forced removal when reporting to the police. The report also notes that the UN Committee on Migrant Workers urged all EU Member States to ratify the International Convention on the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families and the related ILO conventions; to remove administrative barriers preventing undocumented migrants from gaining access to basic services, to refrain from criminalising individuals or organisations assisting them; and to consider regularising irregular migrants. The full report is available here.

  • ILO / Call for the revision of migration policies after Lampedusa incident

    The Director General of the International Labour Organization (ILO), Guy Ryder, called for new ways to create more regular migration channels in collaboration with labour ministries, employers’ and workers’ organisations in response to the tragedy of the deaths at sea of more than 360 migrants near Lampedusa, Italy, on 3 October 2013. He highlighted the need for a much more refined balance between border policies and labour migration policies; more inclusive policymaking on migration, involving a broader range of ministries and stakeholders; and a huge effort on the part of governments, social partners and civil society, to change negative public perceptions. Source: UN News Centre, 5 October 2013.


  • EU PARLIAMENT / Surveillance system EUROSUR approved

    The European Parliament adopted the Commission’s proposal for establishing the European Border Surveillance System (EUROSUR) on 9 October 2013. EUROSUR is a pan-European border surveillance system which was publicised to have the following three main objectives: to reduce the number of irregular migrants entering the EU undetected, to reduce the number of deaths of irregular migrants by saving more lives at sea, and to increase the internal security of the EU as a whole by contributing to the prevention of cross-border crime. Operations will be carried out by member states in cooperation with the European Agency for the Management at the External Borders of the European Union (Frontex). The EU Commission and several media sources highlighted that EUROSUR could prevent tragedies such as the death of over 360 migrants at sea on 3 October 2013, near Lampedusa, Italy. However, EUROSUR has been in planning since 2008 and critics argue that the aim is not to improve rescue operations but to secure the EU’s external borders, making them even more impenetrable and dangerous.
    Sources: European Commission, Press Release, 09 October 2013; Deutsche Welle, 11 October 2013

  • EUROPEAN COUNCIL / Irregular migration and deaths at sea on the agenda for heads of state

    Following the tragedy of the deaths at sea of more than 360 migrants near Lampedusa, Italy, on 3 October 2013, heads of states were urged to address the issue at the European Council meeting in Brussels on 24 and 25 October. European Commission President Herman Van Rompuy said on Friday that the EU would take “concrete, operational proposals for a more efficient use” of EU resources to tackle migration policy, and this could include more funding for the border agency Frontex. Speaking in Brussels at the summit of EU leaders, Van Rompuy said that the EU would also intensify its fight against human traffickers and implement a new EU border surveillance system. However, Germany and other Northern member states showed less sympathy for the issue, German Chancellor Angela Merkel stating that there is no question of changing the Dublin regulation. Moreover, allegations around the US government spying on her phone calls overshadowed the debate on migration.
    Sources: Ekathimerini, 25 October 2013; BBC, 24 October 2013; EUObserver, 25 October 2013

  • EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT / MEPs set out points for action to avoid deaths at sea

    Ahead of the European Council meeting in Brussels on 24 and 25 October, the Members of the European Parliament reiterated that EU member states have a legal duty to assist migrants in distress at sea, noting that legal entry into the EU is preferable to more dangerous, irregular entry. In their statement, the MEPs noted that rescuers should not face punishment, legal entry into the EU is preferable to the more dangerous irregular entry, stronger criminal penalties against anyone who facilitates human trafficking should be implemented and more funds allocated to rescue operations.
    Source: EU Parliament Press Release, 23 October 2013


  • BELGIUM / Repeated protests of Afghan migrants in Brussels against deportation and inhumane treatment

    The Flemish NGO Recht op Migratie (Right to Migration) and other civil society groups have criticised the Belgian Secretary of State for Asylum and Migration, Maggie De Block, for inadequate and inhumane handling of a large group of undocumented Afghan migrants in Belgium. Many of these civil society organisations have been supporting repeated protests of the Afghans against their deportation. Protests against Belgian migration policies were organised in front of different institutions, including the Ministry of Interior’s office. The Afghan demonstrators feel that they should be given political refugee status given that their country is still at war and they could face persecution if they returned. These Afghans have also been evicted twice from the building which they were temporarily occupying in Brussels.
    Source : RTBF, 14 September 2013; Le Soir, 22 September 2013

  • DENMARK / Increase in voluntary return

    As part of a number of initiatives by the Danish government, unsuccessful asylum seekers are to be offered economic incentives to return to their countries of origin. 2013 has surpassed any previous years with regards to the number of voluntary returns. Between January and July this year 1,030 unsuccessful asylum seekers left Denmark. In 2012 and 2011 it was respectively 565 and 618. This year the unsuccessful cases have mostly been made by applicants from Serbia, as well as a considerable number from Afghanistan. 160 unsuccessful asylum seekers have applied for and been granted economic support. The Danish Refugee Council’s Head of Asylum stated that voluntary return is preferred and that economic compensation could be complemented by integration programmes in the countries of origin, involving help with housing, work and re-entry into schools.
    Source: Dagbladet Information, 3 September 2013

  • DENMARK / Lack of shelter and housing for undocumented migrants

    Homeless shelters in Denmark are by law required to reject persons with no personal identification number. The Danish party The Red-Green Alliance has proposed a change in this legislation to make sure migrants do not die on the streets. They also want to give those who want to return to their country of origin financial assistance and a dignified return. According to both the authorities and organisations, the number of homeless migrants is growing. Their idea is to open a shelter specifically for migrants, but other Danish parties have expressed their concern that this would attract more migrants, and they have argued that there is a need for more awareness-raising outside of Denmark about the limited work opportunities that there are for migrants. It is the second time in two years that The Red-Green Alliance has presented an initiative to improve living conditions for homeless migrants.
    Source: Dagbladet Politikken, 21 September 2013

  • FRANCE / Undocumented Tunisian set himself on fire in Lyon

    A young undocumented migrant from Tunisia attempted to set himself on fire as he was about to stand before a judge that was to decide whether he had to remain detained before a possible deportation. After having been taken to hospital he is now back at the detention centre. The young Tunisian had already refused to be sent back to his country earlier this year and was kept in detention. After this latest incident, he has been accused of “endangering the lives of others” and for “attempting evasion of deportation”. This procedure was criticised by Françoise Martres, the president of the Syndicat de la Magistrature (France’s second largest magistrates’ trade union), for being incoherent.
    Source: Rue89Lyon, 04 October 2013

  • GREECE / Former Golden Dawn members speak out about ‘assault militias’ that attack migrants

    Testimonies from two former members of the Greek far right extremist party, Golden Dawn, along with a recent report, have revealed a series of criminal acts, including homicides. According to the testimonies, the party regularly organised ‘assault militias’ in which dozens of members would ride the streets on motorbikes, hitting migrants with a stick with a Greek flag on it. The neo-Nazi party started its attacks in 1987, the report said, initially targeting migrants before it eventually also turned against Greek people.
    Source: News 24, 30 September 2013; Agence France Presse, 30 September 2013

  • ITALY / High Court of Justice rules that unauthorised entry into the Italian territory is not a crime if the purpose of entry is to marry an Italian citizen

    The Italian High Court of Justice (‘Corte di Cassazione’) stated that an undocumented migrant cannot be expelled, nor sanctioned, for entering and staying irregularly on Italian territory if the purpose of entry is to marry an Italian citizen (decision n. 32859/13). The court overturned a verdict that had sentenced an undocumented migrant to pay 5,000 euro for his irregular entry and stay in Italy, after the man successfully demonstrated that he came to Italy to finalise his marriage procedures with an Italian woman. The judges highlighted that it is neither irregular, nor a crime if an undocumented migrant enters Italy in order to exercise one of his or her rights recognised by the Italian legal system, such as the right to get married with an Italian citizen.
    Source: La Stampa, 11 September 2013

  • ITALY / Debate about reforming the immigration law and repealing the criminalisation of irregular migration

    As a consequence of the tragedy of Lampedusa on 3 October 2013, in which more than 360 migrants died at sea, the Italian government has reopened the political debate around the ‘Bossi-Fini’ law. The Italian law criminalises irregular migration and therefore led Italian authorities to start a criminal trial against the survivors of the tragedy. Following a proposal of two members of the  ‘Five Star Movement’- the political party led by Beppe Grillo- the Justice Commission of the Senate  approved an amendment that would repeal the crime of irregular migration, with no comprehensive reform of the Italian immigration law system. The proposed amendment still needs to be approved by the Senate and the Chamber of Deputies, as a political agreement still needs to be found. The Italian Minister for Integration, Ms Cécile Kyenge, urged the Parliament to promote the decriminalisation of irregular migration, and stated that the government is currently working on amending the ‘Bossi-Fini’ law, to include ‘a drastic reduction’ of the maximum time for administrative detention of migrants.  Meanwhile, the Italian newspaper La Repubblica has carried out a campaign asking for the repeal of the ‘Bossi-Fini’ law and, within four days, gathered more than 100,000 signatures which were handed over to Italian Prime Minister, Enrico Letta.
    Sources: Corriere della Sera, 10 October 2013; Ansa, 21 October 2013; La Repubblica, 13 October 2013

  • MOROCCO / King Mohammed VI to regularise all undocumented migrants in Morocco

    Mohammed VI, king of Morocco, has decided to regularise undocumented migrants in Morocco. His decision was taken after a report entitled ‘Etrangers et droits de l’Homme au Maroc: pour une politique d’asile et d’immigration radicalement nouvelle’ (Foreigners and human rights in Morocco: For a completely new asylum and immigration policy) was published by the National Council for Human Rights (CNDH). The report shows the situation of migrants in Morocco and indicates the four big axes that should be considered in current politics: 1) the situation of refugees and asylum seekers; 2) undocumented migrants; 3) the battle against human trafficking; and 4) the situation of documented migrants. Mohammed VI acknowledged that Morocco has become an important host country for migrants coming mostly from sub-Saharan Africa and Europe and said that there was a need to improve their conditions.
    Sources: Yabiladi, 09 September 2013; Toutsurlemaroc, 10 September 2013

  • NORWAY / Anti-immigration party likely to enter government after electoral success

    The extreme right ‘Progress’ party, one of whose main goals is curbing immigration, came third in Norway’s elections on 9 September, thus gaining a kingmaker role in coalition building after the Conservatives, led by Erna Solberg, won most seats but with no chance of creating a solid government without coalitions. Following a backlash against the party after the massacre of 69 people on Utøya island and eight in Oslo in 2011, committed by Anders Breivik, a member of ‘Progress’, the party has softened its image. There is still however concern that this electoral result will lead to a rise in social hostility, as Vegard Grøslie Wennesland, a survivor of the Utøya killings explains: “Some of their prominent figures still use very strongly anti-immigrant rhetoric. And that sort of rhetoric will create a more hostile environment”. However, in immigration, Norway’s hands are tied by international treaties, and its economy needs new workers as unemployment is less than three percent and a steady influx of migrants keeps the labour market from overheating.
    Source: Reuters, 10 September 2013;The Guardian, 08 September 2013

  • RUSSIA / Police raiding migrants’ apartments on a weekly basis

    The city of Moscow’s police chief, Anatoly Yakunin, announced that police will raid apartments which are allegedly occupied by irregular migrants every Friday until the end of the year. He stated that police will hold a massive ‘crime-prevention operation’, code-named ‘Signal on Fridays’. The measure was proposed after thousands of residents protested the stabbing to death of 25 year old Russian citizen Yegor Shcherbakov on 10 October 2013. A migrant was blamed for the killing. Meanwhile, observers have accused the authorities of encouraging anti-migrant sentiment in an attempt to redirect popular discontent with government policies.
    Source: The Moscow Times, 21 October 2013

  • SWEDEN / Project Sanctuary Gothenburg

    The No One is Illegal network (Ingen människa är illegal), together with Gothenburg’s Rights Centre Against Discrimination, launched their new project Sanctuary Gothenburg in early October 2013. The project’s aim is to both attract organisations’ support in terms of offering goods and services which are usually not available to undocumented migrants, and to provide them with access to these. Examples of goods and services include free/reduced fee membership at a local sports club or gym, which otherwise is expensive and requires identification, or free entry to theatres and museums. Any private or state organisation is welcome to take part in the network. The idea behind the project is that all people in Gothenburg city should be able to enjoy what the city offers, regardless of status, seeing to undocumented migrants’ needs and rights to a social and cultural life. For more information in Swedish, click here and here.
    Source: Göteborgs Fria, 3 October 2013

  • SWEDEN / Decision about offering library cards to undocumented migrants in Malmö contested

    A citizen of Malmö has taken the Cultural Council’s decision of offering undocumented migrants library cards to the administrative court of Malmö. The citizen claims that the decision violates the principle of equality since undocumented migrants do not need to provide proof of identity when applying for a library card, while a regular citizen is required to do so. The claimant further argues that this constitutes preferential treatment without legal support. Malmö’s Cultural Council defends their decision, saying that the principle of equality only concerns citizens and therefore not undocumented migrants. The decision was taken by the Cultural Council in June, with respect to undocumented migrants’ equal status as citizens in terms of accessing information and culture. Read the decision in Swedish here.
    Source: Sydsvenskan, 27 August 2013

  • UK / More than 40,000 text messages sent to alleged irregular migrants asking them to leave the country

    The UK Home Office has sent over 40,000 text messages to alleged irregular migrants demanding that they leave the country. Messages saying “You are required to leave the UK as you no longer have the right to remain” or “Message from the Home Office. Our records show that you may not have leave to remain in the UK. Please contact us to discuss your case,” were sent through the private contractor Capita on behalf of the Home Office between September 2012 and June 2013. The campaign was made public after there were multiple complaints by UK citizens who had mistakenly received the message. Prime Minister Cameron’s spokesman stated that the Prime Minister agreed with the principle of the texts. The Home Office said that it was “right to enforce the rules” and believes that 4,160 people have left the UK since December 2012 as a result of being contacted.
    Sources: BBC, 18 October 2013; Al Jazeera, 19 October 2013

  • USA / California passes bills that allow undocumented migrants to apply for driver’s licenses and to be admitted to the State Bar

    California, the US State with the largest population of undocumented migrants, passed two bills with a bipartisan vote that would grant undocumented migrants the ability to apply for driver’s licenses (Assembly Bill 60) and the ability to be admitted to the State Bar and therefore practise as lawyers (Assembly Bill 1024). As undocumented migrants felt that they were targeted in police checkpoints and driving unlicensed made them a target for law enforcement, AB 60 helps protect migrants against the terror caused by deportations, and at the same time ensures that all drivers in California are properly trained, licensed and insured. AB 1024 instead authorises the State Supreme Court to admit an applicant as an attorney in all courts upon certification by the State Bar, even if the applicant is not regularly present in the United States, assuming he or she meets the qualifications required. Both bills represent a historic departure from the anti-immigrant era and signal a trend toward incorporating the State’s immigrant population into the wider society. While Washington dithers on comprehensive immigration reform, California is quietly moving forward and indeed Californian Governor Brown has indicated that he would sign the driver’s license bill, saying in a statement, “it will send a message to Washington that immigration reform is long past due”.
    Source: NBC Latino, 14 September 2013; San Francisco Chronicle, 15 September 2013


  • DENMARK / Access to medication necessary before forced returns

    Upon the deportation of a 15 year old mentally-ill boy to Kosovo, the Danish party The Red-Green Alliance has insisted that the Danish Ministry of Justice explains how it is ensured that ill, unsuccessful asylum seekers will have access to medication in their home country. Remzi Baftijari was discovered not to be able to obtain the necessary medicine in Kosovo after the TV programme 21Søndag investigated his case. In fact the health authorities in Kosovo do not approve the specific type of medication he needs. The Red-Green Alliance has called for a thorough investigation of the procedure. Minister of Justice, Morten Bødskov, has responded by confirming a halt in similar return cases, calling the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to verify the information on access to medication in Kosovo.
    Source: Danish Broadcasting Corperation, 30 September 2013

  • NETHERLANDS / National ombudsman publishes report on health care conditions

    The national ombudsman, Alex Brenninkmeijer, has published a research report on the access and continuity of health care for asylum seekers and refused asylum seekers. The report was commissioned after doctors expressed their concern to Mr Brenninkmeijer regarding the poor health conditions of the people in the encampment near the reception centre in Ter Apel. The report gives recommendations based on an evaluation of the daily problems (refused) asylum seekers face regarding their access to, and continuation of, health care. In the report ‘Medical care for foreigners’ (Medische Zorg Vreemdelingen) a large difference is found between the care that is received in asylum accommodation, detention centres, and on the street. Irregular migrants living on the street are identified as having the most difficulties in accessing health care. This is due to a lack of information, an insufficient knowledge of the language, lack of information about their rights, and the unwillingness of medical staff to assist them. Mr Brenninkmeijer makes several recommendations, such as the development of a ‘health care card’ which would state the right of a migrant to access health care.
    Sources: NRC, 3 October 2013; Rapport Medische Zorg Vreemdelingen, 3 October 2013; Republiek Allochtonië, 8 October 2013

  • SPAIN / Launch of campaign ‘Nadie desechado’ against the health care system reform in Spain

    It has been a year since the current government in Spain approved the Royal Decree-Act (Decreto Ley 16/2012), a health care system reform which excludes undocumented migrants and increases the fees of  pharmaceuticals for citizens. Since then, the NGO Doctors of the World has documented 1,192 cases of violations to the right to health (especially concerning undocumented migrants) and has launched the campaign ‘Nadie Desechado’ (no one discarded)  with the aim to raise public awareness about the serious impacts of the health system reform in Spain. For more information on the campaign, click here.
    Source: El País, 24 September 2013

  • SPAIN / Spanish Social Party leader demands reintroduction of access to health care for undocumented migrants

    Alfredo Pérez Rubalcaba, leader of the Spanish Socialist Party (PSOE), spoke against the policy of the government, under Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy, of removing the health card from undocumented migrants at the Spanish Parliament session on 9 October 2013. The Royal Decree-Act (Decreto Ley 16/2012) approved by the Spanish government in May 2012 (See PICUM Bulletin, 29 May 2012) restricts access to health care for undocumented migrants. Similarly, Irene Lozano, deputy of the UPyD (Union, Progress and Democracy) demanded the government to cancel the proposal to criminalise assistance of undocumented migrants (See PICUM Bulletin, 12 July 2013).
    Source: El País, 9 October 2013

  • SPAIN / Undocumented migrants face barriers to access health care services in Galicia

    According to the Galician Health Care Service, barely 1,200 undocumented migrants – of the 3,000 that usually use public health services – have registered themselves on the main Spanish health protection programme this year (Programa Galego de Protección Social da Saúde Pública). This programme was put into place by the President of the Xunta of Galicia, Alberto Nunez Feijoo, who opposed the Royal decree Act 16/2012 prohibiting access to health care to undocumented migrants. The programme provides free and full health coverage to undocumented migrants in Galicia. However, some migrants have not had access to the information and have been asked to pay a bill after they have been to the doctor. This has led to an increasing fear in using health services as many undocumented migrants may not have the means to pay for the service, thus putting their lives at risk.
    Source: El País, 21 September 2013


  • DENMARK / Trafficked women arrested, perpetrators go free

    Victims of labour trafficking within the sex industry often end up in prison instead of women shelters for protection, and if they encounter the Danish police they have only three days to state that they have been trafficked. The trafficking organisation Hope Now has seen an increase in cases in which women are being criminalised because they are too afraid to admit having been trafficked for fear of the consequences. Whereas other countries such as Norway and Italy place victims in witness protection programmes and give them resident permits, presenting yourself as trafficked in Denmark is followed by a choice to consent to voluntary return, in which case a limited stay of 100 days is granted. According to EU legislation, persons who are trafficked against their will cannot be sentenced upon charges of irregular work. However, the organisation Hope Now has had to go to court to challenge several such cases. Moreover, Denmark has been criticised for criminalising women subjected to labour trafficking in the European Council’s GRETA report of December 2011.
    Source: Danish United Nations Association, 16 October 2013

  • IRELAND / Proposal for employment conditions for staff of foreign diplomats

    Following recent cases of exploitation of domestic workers in diplomat households in Ireland, the Irish Foreign Affairs Department has proposed a list of conditions for diplomats to abide by. Under the proposals, a diplomat’s visa could be cancelled if they failed to abide by the conditions. Foreign diplomats are only informed that they must respect Irish law. There is no special charter addressing regulation for the employment of their staff. The department is expected to make a decision on the proposed conditions for diplomats shortly. Irish authorities are currently investigating at least seven cases of foreign diplomats for alleged human trafficking and forced labour offences.
    Source: Independent, 21 October 2013

  • ITALY / Highest number of victims of human trafficking in Europe

    According to a report entitled ‘The Small Invisible Slaves’ (Piccoli Schiavi Invisibili) released by Save the Children on the occasion of the UN International Day for the Abolition of Slavery on 23 August 2013, in 2010 Italy had the highest number of victims of human trafficking and exploitation in Europe. Of a total of 9,500 cases of human trafficking reported in Europe, some 2,400 occurred in Italy. Children from Eastern Europe, Nigeria and Egypt ranked highest among groups exploited as sex workers, beggars, or for other types of work. The report is available in Italian here.
    Source: La Repubblica, 22 August 2013

  • REPORT / First Global Slavery Index estimates that nearly 30,000 people are living as slaves

    The Walk Free Foundation has published the first ‘Global Slavery Index’ which estimates that almost 30 million people are living as slaves, many of whom migrants who are victims of trafficking for forced labour or sexual exploitation. The report aims to show the global size and nature of the problem and its persistence. It provides a ranking of the world’s countries in respect to modern slavery and a more in-depth analysis of the national situation of modern slavery in the ten worst and ten best-performing countries. The analysis includes government responses and a section with recommendations on what needs to happen to improve the situation. Western Europe has the lowest overall risk of enslavement by region and nine out of the ten best-performing countries are located in Europe. The forms of modern slavery that manifest in these countries mostly involve undocumented migrants, whether exploited as domestic workers, or in the sex industry. For example, all identified victims of modern slavery in Norway were non-nationals. The report can be accessed here.
    Source: Al Jazeera, 18 October 2013

  • USA / California’s new laws protecting undocumented workers from employers’ retaliation

    An Assembly Bill (AB 263) designed to stop employers’ retaliation against undocumented workers who stand up for their rights at work, was signed into law by California Governor Jerry Brown. This law enforces basic labour laws by prohibiting employers from using immigration-related threats when workers speak out about unfair working conditions. Another Assembly Bill (AB 524), which states that making immigration threats in order to get away with wage theft may constitute criminal extortion, was previously signed by Governor Jerry Brown, thus providing California with the strongest anti-retaliation protections for migrant workers in the US. The National Employment Law Project (NELP) who co-sponsored AB 263 documented the extent of the retaliation against migrant workers by unscrupulous employers in California in a recent report which is available here.
    Source: California Labor Federation, 11 October 2013


  • IRELAND / US woman drops rape charges against her husband to stay in Ireland with her children

    After her husband’s arrest for rape and assault, the alleged victim, a US citizen living in Ireland,  was forced to drop her claims because of her irregular immigration status. The woman indeed was not able to renew her residence permit in Ireland without her now ex-husband’s support. The American stated that she could not even return to the US with her children without the risk of being accused of international kidnapping. The woman had to drop the rape charges against her ex-husband to stay in Ireland. She had separated from her husband and moved to a women’s refuge with her children after her husband beat her and sexually assaulted her. She reported that due to her irregular status, social welfare workers were “hostile” towards her when she applied for emergency funding, threatening that they would call the police. After receiving free legal advice, she was eventually granted to stay in the country, independent of her husband. The Irish Immigration Council is seeking to have domestic violence formally recognised in immigration law, facilitating the provision of emergency accommodation and welfare benefits for victims.
    Source: The Journal, 25 August 2013

  • USA / Immigration bill draft addresses some needs of undocumented women

    According to estimates, migrant women are three to six times more likely to experience domestic violence than US-born women, and an estimated 77 per cent experience domestic violence if they depend upon their spouses for legal immigration status. The Senate-backed immigration bill currently being considered by US Congress includes provisions that address the protection of migrant women. Moreover, the women are less inclined to turn to authorities for help out of fear of being deported. The bill, for instance, foresees the doubling in the number of U visas granted to those who are willing to cooperate with law enforcement and have been victims of crimes in the US. However, the proposed major cuts to family reunification visas would be an additional obstacle for women who wish to be reunited with children or other family members.
    Sources: In These Times, 12 October 2013; Colorlines, 14 October 2013


  • BELGIUM / Campaign to facilitate access to early education for undocumented migrants

    The Flemish Ministry of Education is conducting an information campaign with the slogan “Look what I can do”. The aim of this campaign is to improve participation in early-age education, especially amongst new migrants and children who speak foreign languages as a mother tongue. Parents with an insecure residence status, including undocumented migrants, are a particular target group for the campaign. The campaign provides information and materials to encourage parents to send their children, between the ages of three and six years, to the kleuterschool (not an obligatory level of education, but encouraged by the government). They are keen to get migrant children to attend this level to integrate them at an early age.
    Source: Kleuterparticipatie, September 2013

  • COUNCIL OF EUROPE / Decisions concerning migrant children must always be based on their best interests

    The Council of Europe’s Commissioner for Human Rights, Nils Muižnieks, has commented on the rights of migrant children. He recounted the harsh treatments this group face, from the traumatising experience of being deported to having to return sometimes to a country that they don’t even know. He concluded by saying that there is a need to review the policies regarding migrant children and that “children are first of all children and state authorities in Europe should always act with their best interests at heart”.
    Source: Human Rights Comment, 19 September 2013

  • FRANCE / Roma girl apprehended during school field trip

    A 15 year old girl was apprehended during a field trip with her school in France, and then deported with her family to Kosovo on 9 October 2013. When the apprehension from a school bus, in front of fellow classmates, became public through the Network for Education without Borders (RESF), thousands of students protested in Paris and blockaded entrances to their schools. The girl’s teacher and classmates reported feeling distressed when authorities apprehended the girl, who later stated that she was asked if she had committed a crime. Critics accused President Hollande’s administration of following the same hard line on Roma people that his conservative predecessor, Nicolas Sarkozy, had led. French President Francois Hollande offered Leonarda the opportunity to return to France, but without her parents. The girl refused. Media following the case of the deportation of the family reported that the girl’s parents were beaten by unknown assailants in the city of Mitrovica, in Kosovo, a few weeks after the deportation. According to Amnesty International, more than 10,000 Roma had been evicted from temporary camps in France in the first half of this year.
    Sources: BBC, 20 October 2013; Al Jazeera, 18 October 2013

  • UK / New factsheets by CLC: Paths to regularisation

    Undocumented children, young people and families are facing many barriers to regularising their status following changes to the Immigration Rules and cuts to legal aid in the UK. For this reason, the Migrant Children’s Project has recently put together factsheets providing individuals with some general advice about representing themselves in an immigration case. The aim of these factsheets is to help individuals make an application, or pursue an appeal, even if it is not possible for them to obtain advice and/or representation.
    Source: Coram CLC, September 2013

  • UK / Government shifts costs to local authorities

    The UK government has made further changes to its legal aid proposals, like denying children access to justice, and shifting costs to local authorities. A briefing by the Children’s Legal Centre on these proposals, including the residence test proposal,  describes potential impacts that these could have on children and young people, such as cutting children off from community care, judicial review and special educational needs.
    Source: Migrant Children’s Project Newsletter, October 2013

  • UK / Demands grow for child guardians to end shame of modern slavery

    According to a recent report by the UK Human Trafficking Centre, the number of children in the UK identified as potential victims of trafficking rose by twelve per cent last year. Despite a growing understanding of the need to protect trafficking victims from prosecution, experts say that there are still major flaws in how victims are treated within the criminal justice system. A recent parliamentary bill was criticised by various civil society organisations for failing to include proposals that would see professional guardians caring for suspected victims. Advocates of guardianship say protection is necessary to ensure secure housing, education and legal support, in order to stop trafficked children going back to the traffickers. They also claim that safe accommodation would stop suspected victims from being found by their exploiters.
    Source: The Guardian, 07 September 2013

  • USA / Young undocumented migrants to create immigration reform tools

    Undocumented youth will gather at the online network LinkedIn’s headquarters in California from 20 to 21 November 2013 to develop technology tools which can help solve problems within the US immigration system. The hackathon is spearheaded by FWD.us, an advocacy organisation headed by CEOs of major technology companies with the aim of supporting young ‘dreamers’ in their efforts for immigration reform. Young technology savvy dreamers will get guidance from leading tech figures including LinkedIn co-founder Reid Hoffman, Dropbox founder and CEO Drew Houston, Groupon founder Andrew Mason and Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg. The event aims to spur action to move immigration reform forward and to encourage the use of undocumented youth’s talent.
    Sources: Huffington Post, 21 October 2013; BuzzFeed, 18 October 2013

  • USA / More American universities expressly welcome undocumented students

    A number of American universities, including Dartmouth, Columbia, the University of Pennsylvania, Yale, Harvard, Princeton, Stanford, Duke, the University of Chicago and the University of Notre Dame have explicitly stated that they welcome applications from undocumented students, specifying also that they could be eligible for financial support. However, some undocumented students may hesitate to apply to schools without clear public statements about their policy for fear of revealing their status.
    Source: CNN Money, 1 October 2013


  • DENMARK / Private security company accompanied rejected asylum seekers

    For six years the Danish National Police have handed over the cases of rejected Afghan asylum seekers to a private, Afghan security company in Frankfurt, Germany. The Ombudsman was informed of this in 2011 and began to investigate under which conditions and responsibility these migrants were assisted in their return. Shortly afterwards, the Danish National Police suspended the procedure due to the closure of the flight route. However, the Danish National Police’s National Aliens Centre has expressed the convenience of the practice in terms of reduced resources and that it might well be an option to consider in the future. The case has resurfaced as the Danish party The Red-Green Alliance has demanded that the Minister of Immigration account for the protection of rejected asylum seekers during this process. The party leader insisted that the responsibility lies with the Danish National Police to ensure return all the way back to Afghanistan, to Afghan authorities, as opposed to private security firms.
    Source: Danish Broadcasting Corperation, 16 September 2013

  • ISRAEL / Supreme Court declared unconstitutional a law allowing undocumented African migrants to be held without trial for up to three years

    According to Israel’s Supreme Court, the amendment to the so-called “Anti-Infiltration Law” initiated by Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, which permitted migrants to be detained for as long as three years without charge, harms the constitutional right to freedom set forth in Basic Law, Human Dignity and Liberty. The Court thus declared it to be unconstitutional on 16 September 2013. The judges said that the State must review the situation on a case-by-case basis in accordance with the Entry into Israel Law, which allows individuals who entered the country irregularly to be detained for as long as 60 days, unless deportation procedures are under way. The Court added that if there is no justification for detaining migrants, they must be released. The verdict gave the State 90 days to examine the cases of some 1,750 undocumented African migrants currently detained in a facility in Southern Israel. It will also affect the tens of thousands of irregular African migrants settled in Tel Aviv.
    Source: United Press International, 17 September 2013

  • NETHERLANDS / State Secretary for Security and Justice presents new proposal for immigration detention

    Fred Teeven, State Secretary of Security and Justice and Minister for Migration, presented his new plans for migration detention to the Lower House on 13 September. The new plans follow widespread criticism for the current detention policy after the suicide of a Russian activist in detention earlier this year. Even though Fred Teeven presents his plans as fostering a more “humane” asylum regime, there are critics. The NGO ‘het Humanistisch Verbond’ (the Humanistic Alliance) argues that with the current cuts, a humane policy in the view of the government can only be achieved when it also facilitates a more effective returns policy. One of the main proposed changes is reducing the number of detention cells to less than half of the current number. Detainees will be given more liberty to move within the detention facilities; in some places they are currently kept for 23 hours in a one-person cell. The overall criticism is that detention facilities are still too similar to prisons hosting irregular migrants who are not criminals. The new plan still allows the detention of children and families who enter the country through the airport Schiphol, but Fred Teeven has promised to prohibit the detention of families who enter the country over land. The organisation Defence for Children argues that this dual policy breaches article 2 on non-discrimination of the UN Convention of the Rights of the Child.
    Sources: NOS, 13 September 2013; Defence for Children, 14 September 2013; NU.nl, 13 September; Humanistisch Verbond, 17 September 2013

  • NETHERLANDS / Irregular migrants in Amsterdam can report crimes without fear of deportation

    Despite the pending proposed legislation to criminalise irregularity, the State Secretary for Security and Justice has agreed to a pilot project in Amsterdam which would mean that irregular migrants would be able to report crimes without facing imprisonment. The project was agreed upon by the city council of Amsterdam in December 2011 but it has taken over one and a half years to see its implementation. Currently, many irregular migrants will not report when they have become a victim of human trafficking, abuse or violence, because they fear being imprisoned and/or deported. The project will hopefully change this, and also influence the national policy framework that will be created by the Ministry for Security and Justice.
    Source: Republiek Allochtonië, 22 August 2013; De Volkskrant, 22 December 2011

  • SPAIN / Spain to cooperate with Morocco returning undocumented migrants

    The Interior Minister of Spain, Jorge Fernández Díaz, announced at the II Hispano-Moroccan Parliamentary Forum on 23 September that Spain will cover the costs of return of those irregular migrants that are in Morocco and want to cross the border into Europe. This programme, which he said is aimed at combating irregular migration, will be carried out in collaboration with the International Organisation for Migration (IOM), which will work to help migrants return to their countries of origin. Fernández Díaz also stressed that the influx of immigrants entering Spanish coasts has gone down by 31 per cent in the first half of 2013. However, he said that 3,000 undocumented migrants have entered Ceuta and Melilla in 2013, which is twice the amount compared to the same period in 2012. 77 per cent of the migrants intercepted by Spanish authorities were sent back to Morocco. For this reason, Spanish authorities are talking about reinforcing their borders.
    Sources: Libertad Digital, 23 September 2013; Medias 24, 24 September 2013

  • SPAIN / Justice yet to be seen for the cases of sexual abuse committed in Malaga detention centre

    Five policemen may have to face a total of 27 years in prison for committing sexual abuses in a detention centre in Malaga. The detention centre was shut down in June 2012 and the trial for the case was due to take place at the beginning of October 2013, but has been postponed until the end of the month. The case shows that public authorities have been failing to fulfil their duty to ensure migrants are getting the right protection in these centres. Indeed some regulations worsen migrants’ situation. The association Malaga Accoge created a Facebook page dedicated to the issue in the centre in Malaga, collecting all the occurrences of abuse that have taken place in the centre, since its opening up until its recent closure.
    Source: Diagonal Periodico, 08 October 2013

  • MONITORING / Post-deportation monitoring: why, how and by whom?

    An article by Leana Podeszfa and Friederike Vetter in the Forced Migration Review refer to figures from the study by the European Commission in 2011 which show that only 13 per cent of EU member states follow the post-departure phase of a deportation, whilst the majority pay much more attention to the pre-departure. They argue that post-deportation monitoring should be more widely used as it is central to protecting individuals and revealing flaws in national asylum systems. There is a need for more research in this area, which could then be used, for example, by organisations in receiving countries that monitor the arrival of refused asylum seekers, enabling them to offer better assistance, and possibly save lives. In 2012 the Fahamu Refugee Programme established a Post-Deportation Monitoring Network (PDMN) that links-up organisations working on this matter in deporting and receiving countries. At this point, monitoring is still dependent on committed individuals and small civil society organisations.
    Source: Forced Migration Review, Issue 44, September 2013, (page 68)


  • FRANCE / Migration Policy of the European Union

    The new French publication ‘La politique migratoire de l’Union Européenne’ (Migration Policy of the European Union) argues that European migration policy remains dominated by the powers of member states who decide who can enter and stay within their borders. This publication looks firstly into the main phases of European migration policy that deal with the control of external borders and the fight against irregular migration in the EU. It then moves on to evaluate the efficiency of these EU rules, if they show solidarity at EU level, and if they respect fundamental human rights.
    Source: La documentation française 2013

  • GUIDE / Practical guide for local authorities to assist integration

    Dublin’s local authorities, in collaboration with New Communities Partnership, an independent national network of 165 immigrant led groups, launched ‘A Practical Guide to Assisting Integration for Local Authorities’, which promotes the integration of migrant communities and their involvement with the Irish County Councils. The guide outlines four objectives: increase civic engagement by encouraging migrants to vote in local and national elections and learn about Irish history, politics, and culture; recruit Intercultural Liaison Volunteers who serve as the link between communities and the local authorities; create work placements for migrants within local authorities to provide migrants with work experience at credible Irish organisations; and create local forums that act as a platform for leaders from various migrant groups to discuss issues with the council as one voice.
    Source: The Irish Times, 19 August 2013

  • REPORT / World Migration Report 2013: Migrant Well-being and Development

    The International Organisation of Migration (IOM) published the ‘World Migration Report 2013: Migrant Well-being and Development’ on 13 September 2013. The report aims to determine whether migration leads to improved personal circumstances for migrants, looking into the positive and negative effects of migration on the individual’s well-being, as well as the impact of migration on the development of economies. Moreover, the report explores different geographic migratory pathways and provides demographic data on gender and age of migrants. The full report is available here.
    Source: IOM, 13 September 2013


  • EVENT / A child is a child – How can the EU ensure the rights of undocumented migrant children and families?

    PICUM together with Nathalie Griesbeck MEP, Group of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe (ALDE), will hold a discussion on how the European Union can ensure the rights of undocumented migrant children and their families at the European Parliament on 14 November 2013. Further to the adoption of the European Parliament report on the situation of unaccompanied minors in the EU, the event aims to facilitate dialogue about the challenges faced by children in an irregular migration situation and strategies to improve their situation. Ensuring access to services, protection and justice for children in an irregular migration situation and ending the immigration detention of children will be key issues of the debate. Conference languages are English and French. Registration is open until 6 November 2013.

  • SEMINAR / Inclusion or Exclusion? What role for social services for migrants in the EU?

    Eurodiaconia together with the PICUM will hold a seminar entitled Inclusion or Exclusion? What role for social services for migrants in the EU? at the European Parliament in Brussels on 27 November 2013 from 14.00-17.30. The afternoon seminar is hosted by MEP EP Nadja Hirsch and will examine the role of social services for the inclusion and integration of migrants in Europe. The event aims to address some of the barriers migrants face in accessing services showcasing two best practice examples as well as recommendations from the ground from Eurodiaconia and PICUM members. Moreover, the event will launch Eurodiaconia’s forthcoming publication on the role of social services and the inclusion of migrants. After the seminar, participants are invited to attend the cocktail reception where the Eurodiaconia 2013 Award will be presented.

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