PICUM Bulletin — 5 July 2016


  • EU / Mandate of European Union military operation in the Mediterranean extended, report finds it is failing to disrupt smuggling networks

    The Council of the European Union announced on 20 June 2016 that the mandate of the EUNAVFOR MED Operation Sophia will be extended until 27 July 2017. Moreover, the Council added two new tasks to the naval operation’s mandate: training of the Libyan coastguard and navy and contributing to the implementation of the UN arms embargo on the high seas off the coast of Libya. This means that the naval operation can search vessels at sea with the aim to stop arms getting to Islamic State. EUNAVFOR MED was launched in June 2015 by the EU to identify, capture and dispose of vessels and enabling assets used or suspected of being used by migrant smugglers or traffickers. Meanwhile, a report from the EU External Affairs Sub-Committee of the United Kingdom House of Lords states that the operation is failing to disrupt people smuggling. Key findings include that over 50 smugglers have been arrested by the operation, but these arrests have been of low-level targets, and not key figures within the smuggling networks; that 80 smuggling vessels have been destroyed to date, but this has resulted in the smugglers simply changing tactics and shifting from wooden boats to dinghies, which are more unsafe; and that, as the operation is currently unable to operate in Libyan Territorial Waters or onshore, significant gaps remain in understanding of the smugglers networks, in particular how they operate on Libyan territory. The report argues that the operation cannot deliver on its mandate, as there is little prospect of disrupting the business model until there is a stable, internationally recognised Libyan government to support the operation. Nonetheless, the report also commends the search and rescue activities of the operation, which have resulted in 9,000 people being rescued by March 2016. Earlier this year, Wikileaks released a report on the operation for the six-month period 22 June to 31 December 2015 providing information on the operation’s procedures and raising concerns about the legal basis, including an agreement with the Libyan authorities (see PICUM Bulletin, 15 April 2016).
    Sources: Council of the European Union, Press Release 20 June 2016; Reuters, 20 June 2016; Migrants’ Rights Network, 13 May 2016

  • EU-LIBYA / Amnesty International finds EU’s plans to increase cooperation with Libya on migration carry risks of increasing ill-treatment and detention

    The EU recently announced plans to train and share information with the Libyan coastguard in the framework of the anti-smuggling EUNAVFOR Med Operation, following a request by the new Libyan government. Testimonies gathered by Amnesty International in May during visits to Sicily and Puglia in Italy reveal abuses by the Libyan coastguard and in immigration detention centres in Libya. Amnesty spoke to 90 people who survived the crossing from Libya to Italy, including at least 20 who described shootings and beatings while being picked up by the Libyan coastguard or being tortured in Libyan detention centres for refugees and migrants. At least 3,500 people were intercepted at sea by the Libyan coastguard between 22 and 28 May and transferred to detention centres. Since 2011, Amnesty has collected scores of testimonies from former detainees detailing degrading conditions, violence and sexual abuse at the centres. The latest evidence shows that abuses continue. Former detainees – who include people intercepted at sea as well as foreign nationals arrested on the streets in Libya – said guards beat them on a daily basis using wooden sticks, hoses, electric cables and rifles, as well as subjecting them to electric shocks. Several reported seeing other detainees dying in detention, either shot dead or beaten to death by the guards. Former detainees also complained of a lack of food and drinking water, poor medical care and squalid conditions. Testimonies further suggest that people are detained for months without access to their families or lawyers, and are unable to challenge their detention or access protection. Their only hope of release is through escaping, buying their way out or being sold on to people smugglers. Many are exploited and forced into work without pay or face financial extortion. The centres are run by the Department to Combat Irregular Migration which nominally falls under the control of Libya’s Ministry of Interior. However, in practice many are run by armed groups as Libya’s internationally-backed Government of National Accord is yet to gain effective control of them. According to the UN Refugee Agency, there are currently 24 such centres across Libya. Libyan law criminalises entering, exiting and staying in Libya irregularly and allows for the indefinite detention of foreign nationals for the purpose of deportation. Deportations are carried out without any safeguards or assessment of individual claims.
    Source: Amnesty International, Press Release 14 June 2016

  • GREECE / Allegation of push-back operation

    According to WatchTheMed Alarm Phone, a boat carrying 53 migrants and refugees including 14 children travelling between Cesme in Turkey and the Greek island of Chios, were pushed back to Turkey on 11 June 2016. The migrants and refugees mostly from Syria, Iraq, and Eritrea, had notified Alarm Phone stating they escaped the Turkish coast guard and had reached Greek waters and that the Greek coast guard had detected them. They sent a photo showing they were taken on a Greek coastguard boat before being pushed back.  Later, the Alarm Phone received another message from the migrants and refugees stating that they had not been brought to the Greek island, but, instead, had been handed over to the Turkish coast guard. They reported that they were threatened with gun violence while being forced onto a Turkish coast guard vessel and brought back to Turkey. Frontex vessels were reported to be present during the operation. WatchTheMed Alarm Phone has denounced the pushback as “illegal” and “inhumane” noting that the migrants and refugees were misled into believing they were being rescued and offered safety in Europe. Push-backs back to Turkey were previously reported as in this video from late 2015.
    Source: WatchTheMed Alarm Phone, 15 June 2016

  • GREECE / Six Afghan children found in the back of refrigerated truck

    Six Afghan children aged 15 to 17 were found in the back of a refrigerated truck travelling between Greece and Italy. They were discovered when the Serbian truck driver heard banging and screaming from the back of the truck as the boys feared freezing to death. The boys had paid €1,800 to a smuggler 20 days earlier in Athens to be brought to Slovenia. They were hidden in a secret compartment in the truck. The Afghan boys and the truck driver were taken to the police department in Mesologi, Greece for further questioning and identification, and to apprehend the smugglers.
    Source: Tovima, 21 June 2016

  • MEDITERRANEAN / Thousands of migrants rescued within days

    Italy’s coastguard reported that thousands of migrants and refugees were rescued from boats coming from Libya in several operations within days. According to media reports, over 7,100 people were rescued between 23 and 24 June 2016 alone. Ships helping to rescue migrants and refugees were operated by Doctors without Borders, Migrant Offshore Aid Station, Italy’s navy, Frontex and the anti-people-smuggling operation EUNAVFOR MED. Over 3,000 migrants were rescued on 26 June 2016 off Libya in 26 different operations, the Italian coastguard stated. Migrants and refugees were brought to southern Italian ports. According to reports, the latest rescues increase the total number of migrant and refugee arrivals in Italy to more than 66,000 since the start of 2016.
    Sources: The Local, 27 June 2016; The Guardian, 24 June 2016

United Nations

  • UN / High Commissioner for Human Rights concerned regarding increased detentions in Greece and Italy

    The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein while addressing the opening of the UN’s Human Rights Council criticised the rise in anti-migrant sentiment in European countries. He also highlighted the “worrying rise” in the number of migrants being held in detention centres in Greece and Italy which increasingly includes unaccompanied children. He reiterated the child rights standard that detention is never in the best interests of the child, which must take primacy over immigration objectives. He urged authorities to collect data on the numbers of migrants being held in detention centres and urged the EU to find a way to address the current migration situation in a manner that respects the rights of the people concerned and to “remove hysteria and panic from the equation.” His full speech is available here.
    Source: Morocco World News, 13 June 2016

  • UN / UN deputy chief calls for greater integration efforts for refugees and undocumented migrants

    The United Nations Deputy Secretary-General, Jan Eliasson, stressed the importance of integration efforts to enable migrants and refugees to benefit from the opportunities cities offer so that they can lead a dignified life. Addressing a meeting on ‘Large Movements of Refugees and Migrants: Critical Challenges for Sustainable Urbanization’ held at UN Headquarters in New York on 18 May 2016, Mr Eliasson underlined that support for destination countries to integrate newcomers into their communities should be included among the issues that must be addressed. “There is much for us to do,” the Deputy Secretary-General said. “Every day, the dignity and well-being of millions of people is compromised due to lack of basic services and job opportunities.”
    Source: The International Organization for Migration News Desk, 19 May 2016.

  • UN / UN health expert urges reform to ensure non-discrimination in access to health services for adolescents

    The Special Rapporteur on the Right to Health, Dainius Pūras, published his report on the right of everyone to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health ahead of the 32nd session of the Human Rights Council. Focused on the right to health of adolescents (defined as those between 10 to 19 years of age), the report addresses mental health, substance use and drug control, and the rights to sexual and reproductive health. The Special Rapporteur underlines that services, goods and facilities must be accessible to all adolescents without discrimination on any grounds, and urges states to take special measures to diminish or eliminate conditions that cause discrimination by introducing comprehensive legislation and policies, as well as affirmative action measures, to reduce structural barriers and historic conditions that result in direct or indirect discrimination against any group of adolescents on any grounds. With reference to accountability, the Special Rapporteur recommends states ensure quality and timely collection of appropriately disaggregated data, that all relevant policies are devised and periodically  reviewed on the basis of a transparent process and with the participation of adolescents, and should include right to health indicators and benchmarks (disaggregated on suitable grounds, including those identified in the Sustainable Development Goals, namely age, income, gender, race, ethnicity, migratory status, disability and geographic location, in order to monitor the health status of marginalised groups and sectors of adolescents). Read the report here.
    Source: CRINmail 153, 29 April 2016

European Policy Developments

  • EU / Need for greater legal clarity and proper procedures for all in hotspots

    A recent report entitled ‘On the frontline: the hotspot approach to managing migration’ highlights the need for greater legal clarity on the “hotspots” approach and the roles of the agencies involved in their management (Frontex, EASO and Europol), as well as  accountability and liability for fundamental rights violations. The report, commissioned by the European Parliament’s Civil Liberties Committee (LIBE), examines the implementation of the “hotspots” approach in Greece and Italy. A number of policy recommendations are made to Members of the European Parliament, including:  consider the need to regulate hotspots through a stand-alone legal instrument, taking into account its interaction with other relevant instruments; call for a clearer role for individual agencies and clearer framework for their cooperation within hotspots; mainstream fundamental rights in the hotspots, including through a clearly designated role for the Fundamental Rights Agency, and clearer rules on the extent of liability and accountability; insist that proper procedures for all protection seekers are guaranteed in hotspots as enshrined in the EU Asylum Procedures Directive; insist that efforts to register and identify all migrants arriving in the hotspots continue in order to enhance both relocation and return procedures and to improve overall security; insist on a fundamental change to the Dublin Regulation and a binding distribution system; review plans to resume Dublin transfers to Greece given current reception conditions in the country; a stronger mandate for EASO; and call on the Commission to monitor carefully the implementation of the EU-Turkey statement. Read the report here.

  • EU-TURKEY / EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT / Analysis of legal nature of EU-Turkey statement, further evidence of violations of migrants’ and refugees’ rights in Turkey, no concessions on visa liberalisation

    The European Parliament´s legal service presented its opinion on the legal nature of the EU-Turkey deal on 9 May 2016, finding that it reflects a political commitment by the two parties that cannot be considered an international agreement since it is not legally binding. The legal service underlined that all legal changes stemming from the deal will have to follow the usual procedures, which in some cases will involve Parliament, such as visa liberalisation or disbursing funds for assisting refugees in Turkey. Since the agreement was concluded, Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) have voiced concerns about its compatibility with EU and international law and the lack of democratic scrutiny. A policy discussion paper from Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS) Europe , which gives an overview of the legal and policy considerations of the deal, explores the divergent opinions on the legal nature of the agreement and whether or not the European Parliament should have been consulted, alongside analysis which raises numerous questions about the deportations to Turkey, family unity, detention, resettlement, discrimination on the basis of nationality and the potential for a ‘safe zone’ in Syria. A delegation of GUE/NGL (European United Left–Nordic Green Left) MEPs  on a visit to Turkey found that the people deported from Greece to Turkey had had no opportunity to ask for asylum in either Greece or Turkey; that many, including children, are being detained in prison-style conditions, with no (or extremely limited) access to telephones or legal assistance; documented push-backs to Turkey by Bulgarian and Greek police forces; and heard testimonials from people who were shot at by police and/or living in war-zone conditions near the Turkish-Syrian border. The findings reaffirm reports from civil society (see PICUM Bulletins 31 May 2016 and 15 April 2016). A Civil Liberties (LIBE) Committee delegation also travelled to Greece from 18 to 20 May to observe the situation at the external borders of the EU and assess how the EU-Turkey deal is being implemented. Regarding visa liberalisation, the European Parliament Conference of Presidents (EP President and political group leaders) has made clear that the proposal to lift Schengen visa requirements for Turkish nationals will only be dealt with after all the outstanding benchmarks of the Visa Liberalisation Roadmap have been fulfilled, following a proposal from the Commission on 4 May , to proceed with the visa waiver despite certain requirements not yet having been met.
    Sources: ECRE Weekly Bulletin, 13 May 2016 ; European Parliament, Press Release 10 May 2016 ; EU Observer, 10 May 2016

  • EU–TURKEY / EUROPEAN COMMISSION / Second implementation report on EU-Turkey Deal

    The European Commission adopted on 15 June 2016 its second report on the EU-Turkey Statement While presenting a number of ‘successes’ and ‘good progress in its implementation’, the report admits that this progress is ‘fragile’ and implies a lack of political commitment. The Commission reported on 462 deportations in less than six months and a sharp decrease in arrivals to Greek islands. It also announced that a total of 511 Syrians have been resettled in the EU since the start of the agreement. Media reports, however, refer to increasing problems between the EU and Turkey and human rights abuses as a result of the agreement. Human Rights Watch (HRW) is investigating the case of up to 11 Syrians who were shot dead by Turkish border guards in June. Reports include footage supposedly taken in the aftermath of the shooting showing several injured and slain people. Doctors without Borders (MSF) announced on 17 June that it will no longer take funds from the European Union in protest at its migration policy with particular reference to the EU-Turkey agreement. The EU Envoy to Turkey, Hansjoerg Haber, has resigned following a breakdown of relations with the Turkish government and the EU Commissioner for Migration and Home Affairs, Dimitris Avramopoulos, announced that the June deadline for visa liberalisation for Turkish citizens will not be met due to Turkey’s lack of progress on the agreed benchmarks. One of these benchmarks is the revision of Turkey’s anti-terror laws including a call for “the right to a fair trial and freedom of expression.” Turkey is refusing to change this law. Civil society continues to condemn the deal, the treatment of migrants in Turkey and the assumption that Turkey is a safe place to which migrants and refugees can be returned , and question the legitimacy of the fast-track expulsions. Under pressure from the EU, Greece has also changed the composition of its Asylum Appeals Board – a body which has previously upheld the appeals of Syrians against deportation to Turkey – aiming to sideline officials who had objected on legal grounds to the basis for the expulsion decisions (inadmissibility of claims for protection) and to increase the number of state-appointed officials.
    Sources: European Commission Press Release, 15 June 2016 ; The Guardian, 17 June 2016 ; Politico, 15 June 2016; Politico, 14 June 2016 ; The Independent, 14 June 2016; BBC, 17 June 2016

  • EU / New migration management framework aims to increase deportations and deter irregular migration

    The European Commission published a Communication on 7 June 2016 establishing a new Partnership Framework with third countries   under the European Agenda on Migration. This proposal aims to leverage its external cooperation funds in exchange for countries of origin and transit taking measures to deter migration. The EU will use its development and trade policies to achieve “specific and measurable increases in the number and rate of return and readmissions”. The Communication states that in order to ensure third countries’ obligations to readmit their nationals, the priority is to achieve fast returns, and not necessarily formal readmission agreements. The aim is to increase deportations, ensure that migrants and refugees stay in countries of origin and, in the long term, enhance third countries’ development to address causes of irregular migration. Frans Timmermans, the Commission’s First Vice President, stated in a speech that the EU proposes to use a mix of positive and negative incentives to reward those third countries willing to cooperate effectively with the EU and would ensure that there are consequences for those who do not. Incentives are to be integrated into the EU development aid, neighbourhood, trade, energy and security policies. The “EU-Turkey Deal” is credited as an inspiration for this broader framework, which will serve as a basis for ongoing negotiations and new bilateral agreements or “compacts” with third countries. The proposal has been met with strong criticism from civil society organisations. A group of over 130 organisations published a statement ahead of the Council meeting on 28 and 29 June 2016 where the proposal was discussed, expressing concern about rights violations and criticising the proposal for ignoring all the evidence that deterrence strategies aimed at stopping migration are ineffective, among other issues. Moreover, organisations highlighted the lack of commitment to human rights standards and safeguards that will ensure that persons are not deported to countries where their fundamental rights are violated and for ignoring the fact that even very repressive policies will not deter people fleeing from conflict. The Council Conclusions from the meeting endorse the approach and commit to swift implementation of the Framework, starting with a limited number of priority countries.
    Sources: European Press Release, 7 June 2016; Politico, 7 June 2016

  • EUROPEAN COMMISSION / Launch of new action plan for the integration of third country nationals

    The EU Commission launched on 7 June 2016 a new agenda for the integration of migrants. The role of the EU in integration of third-country nationals vis-a-vis the member states is complementary and therefore focusing more on financial support and exchange of good practices. The Action Plan provides a common policy framework and supporting measures which should help member states as they further develop and strengthen their national integration policies for third-country nationals. The Action Plan focuses on actions in five key areas: pre-departure and pre-arrival integration measures, with a focus on migrants in need of international protection; education, employment and vocational training; access to basic services such as health and housing; and the active participation of migrants in society. The European Commission lists several actions that will be supported under these five key priorities, including projects that promote the upgrading of skills of third-country nationals, actions that support the removal of barriers for the participation of migrant children in early childhood education, pilot projects promoting migrant entrepreneurship, initiatives that support member states facing immediate housing accommodation shortages and projects that promote inter-cultural dialogue. The actions will be supported under programmes such as the Asylum, Migration and Integration Funds, the EaSI programme, and the New Skills Agenda for Europe.
    Source: European Commission Press Release, 7 June 2016

  • COURT OF JUSTICE OF THE EUROPEAN UNION / EU Return Directive: undocumented migrants may not be detained solely on the basis of irregular entry

    The Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) delivered its decision in case C-47/15 Affum v Préfet of Pas-de-Calais on 7 June 2016. The case concerned a Ghanaian national, Ms Affum, who was intercepted by French police at Coquelles, the entrance of the Channel tunnel while transiting by bus from Belgium to the UK through France. She failed to show proof of identity. In accordance with French law, Ms Affum was detained for irregular entry and according to a readmission agreement between France and the Benelux countries, the Prefect of Pas-de-Calais ordered her transfer to Belgium as well as administrative detention for five days pending her removal. This administrative detention was later extended by a judge in the French Court (Tribunal de Grande Instance of Lille) and confirmed by the Court of Appeal of Douai. During an appeal to the Court of cassation, judges stayed the procedure and submitted a reference for a preliminary ruling to the CJEU on the compliance of a national law, allowing imprisonment of a third-country national on the basis of irregular entry and stay, with the Return Directive. In line with previous case law, the Court held that the Return Directive was applicable to a third-country national who has entered the territory of a state irregularly and as a result is staying in the country irregularly. A third country national is not excluded from the scope of the Return Directive when transiting on the territory of a member state – that is, the Directive applies irrespective of the length of the “stay”. The Luxembourg judges further considered that the Return Directive precluded legislation permitting the imprisonment of a third-country national to whom a return procedure has not been applied, merely for irregularly staying on the territory. The Return Directive does not preclude, however, administrative detention of migrants pending an evaluation of whether their stay is irregular, although authorities must act with diligence and take a decision without delay. The Court rejected France’s position that it could exclude Ms Affum from the Return Directive’s scope on the basis of under Article 2(2)(a), which applies to migrants crossing external borders, because Ms Affum entered France from another country within the Schengen area. The fact that she sought to transit through France to the UK, and thus to leave the Schengen area, did not trigger application of Article 2(2)(a). The full ruling is available here; you can read a summary here.
    Source: Court of Justice Press Release, 7 June 2016

  • EUROPEAN COURT OF HUMAN RIGHTS / Extended detention due to lack of “due diligence” in pursuing migrant’s deportation leads to rights violation

    On 19 May 2016 the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) held that the United Kingdom (UK) violated Article 5 § 1 (right to liberty and security) of the European Convention on Human Rights by failing to exercise “due diligence” in pursuing the deportation of an applicant detained a total of three years. The case, J.N. v. the United Kingdom (Application no. 37289/12), was brought on 25 May 2012 by an Iranian national who had arrived in the UK nine years earlier and made an unsuccessful claim for asylum and, following a criminal conviction, was detained pending his deportation. Before the Court, the applicant challenged the UK’s system of domestic law governing immigration detention, alleging that it violates Article 5 § 1(f) guaranteeing the right to liberty and security of the person, given the absence of fixed time limits and automatic judicial review. The UK is not bound by the EU Directive 2008/115/EC, “Return Directive”, which imposes a maximum period of 18 months immigration-related detention, and is the only EU member state imposing no time limit. The applicant, who did not have the necessary documentation to travel, repeatedly refused to sign a “disclaimer” consenting to his return, a condition imposed by the Iranian Embassy for issuing him a travel document. The Court rejected his position that Article 5 § 1 requires states to establish a maximum period of immigration detention, and that automatic judicial review of immigration detention is an essential requirement. Rather, the reasonableness of the period of detention is determined based on the circumstances of each case so that even where domestic law provides for time-limits, compliance with those time-limits does not itself mean compliance with Article 5 § 1(f). What constitutes an effective remedy will not be uniform in every case, but does require that the remedy be available during one’s detention; that the review have a judicial character; that it be capable of leading to release; and that it be sufficiently certain. The Court noted that in the UK, a person in immigration detention may at any time bring an application for judicial review to challenge the lawfulness of his detention and that, in such a review, principles ensuring the reasonableness of the period of detention, among others, are required. However, given the authorities’ “woeful lack of energy and impetus” the Court found that his deportation was not pursued with due diligence, and therefore held there had been a violation of Article 5 § 1(f). To view the judgment, click here.

  • EUROPEAN COURT OF HUMAN RIGHTS / Migrant’s right to family life violated by permanent ban from returning to Greece

    On 19 May 2016 the European Court of Human Rights held, in Kolonja v. Greece (Application no. 4944/12), that Greece had violated Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights (right to family life) in a case involving an Albanian national on whom authorities had imposed a lifetime ban from re-entering Greece. The applicant, born to Albanian parents of Greek origin, had lived in Greece since 1989. His three brothers lived in Greece, and his wife is a Greek woman with whom he has two children (Greek nationals). Less than two months after his criminal conviction for drug-related offences in 1999, the applicant was released on parole because of his apparent remorse, good conduct and hard work, and because of the risk that prolonged separation from his wife and daughter would cause severe economic and psychological harm. In 2004, years after his release, Mr Kolonja was deported to Albania. His request to the Minister of Justice for readmission was rejected, and in 2007 he re-entered Greece irregularly and worked for four years before he was detained pending deportation. Despite a series of legal challenges to his expulsion, the permanent re-entry ban and his detention, he was again expelled from Greece. The Court concluded that the lifetime re-entry ban was issued pursuant to national law and in the interest of legitimate goals related to ensuring security and preventing criminal conduct, but held that it nonetheless violated Article 8 because it was neither proportionate nor necessary to ensure those goals. The Court noted that, in the 16 years since he committed the infraction in question, as various national bodies had themselves acknowledged, the applicant had showed no signs of posing any threat to public order or security. It emphasised the strength of his ties to Greece, where he had spent more than half his life, and noted that neither of his children spoke Albanian or had ever been to Albania. A permanent ban on re-entering Greece would result in the destruction of familial bonds – a consideration particularly pertinent when giving due account to the best interests of the applicant’s son, who was just six at the time of the ruling. To view the judgment (in French), click here.

National Developments

  • FRANCE / French Defender of Rights reminds of human rights of undocumented migrants

    The French Defender of Rights, an independent authority enshrined in the French Constitution, responsible for ensuring respect for rights and liberties through advocacy and legal support, published a report on 9 May 2016 on the respect of fundamental rights for third-country nationals in France. Noting that this issue is essential for the degree of protections and effectiveness of rights and freedoms in a country, the report sheds light on the situation of migrants who are entering and/or living on French territory. Lack of protection for vulnerable people at the borders, difference of treatment on the basis of nationality or difficulties in accessing public services such as schools or health care are amongst the numerous issues raised in the report. The Defender of Rights summed up the current situation by stating that the French laws for the past 50 years have “led to a regression of the situation of migrants”. The report also provides recommendations to put an end to the violations of fundamental rights. The many recommendations include establishing a “firewall” to protect undocumented migrants from arrest or deportation when claiming their rights, and trainings of labour authorities on existing labour rights of undocumented migrants to address the abuse and exploitation that they face.To read the report, click here (French). To read an interview of La Cimade President, Geneviève Jacques, about the report, please click here (French).

  • GERMANY / Federal migration authority sued by people seeking protection for delayed applications procedures, increase in church asylum and hate crimes

    An increasing number of people seeking to apply for asylum in Germany are suing the Federal Authority for Migration and Refugees (Bundesamt für Migration und Flüchtlinge, BAMF) for delayed application procedures and inactivity in their cases. According to media reports, administrative courts in Germany received 3,271 actions for failure to act by the end of March 2016 which is an increase of 40% compared to the end of 2015. The authority has been increasingly criticised for not following up on individual cases, for employing insufficiently trained staff and for being overwhelmed with the increase in asylum applications. The German Ecumenical Consortium for Asylum in the Church (Ökumenische BAG Asyl in der Kirche) meanwhile reported that a total of 1,015 people including over 240 children and adolescents were given shelter in parishes across Germany in 2015 which is more than ever before. In late 2015, the German Federal Police reported that hundreds of thousands of migrants were disengaging from formal processes and irregularly staying in Germany (see PICUM Bulletin 17 December 2015). Amnesty International noted an increase in hate crime in Germany in their report “Living in insecurity: How Germany is failing victims of racist violence” released in June 2016. The report details the increase in racist violence showing that 16 times as many crimes were reported against asylum shelters in 2015 (1,031) as opposed to 2013 (63). More generally, violent hate crimes against racial, ethnic and religious minorities increased by 87% from 693 crimes in 2013 to 1,295 crimes in 2015. German Chancellor, Angela Merkel, called migration from Africa a major challenge during a meeting of the Christian Democratic Party (CDU) in Berlin in June 2016, also due to an increase in population growth in many African countries which at the same time have insufficient economic growth.
    Sources: Die Welt, 11 June 2016; Deutsche Welle, 21 June 2016 ; Bag Asyl in der Kirche, Press Release, 3 June 2016

  • IRELAND / Survey findings: Migrant Rights Centre Ireland (MRCI) proposes regularisation scheme

    The Migrant Rights Centre Ireland (MRCI) has published findings from a survey of undocumented migrants in Ireland. The organisation found in the survey of 1,008 undocumented in Ireland that 84% had lived in the country for over five years and 21% for over 10 years. Furthermore, in highlighting the contribution of the undocumented to the economy, it found that 31% of the participants worked in the same job for over five years. MRCI states that the failure to regularise them costs the state €41 million annually in lost direct tax alone and that a regularisation scheme would generate 12 times what it would cost to implement. The findings were also discussed at a MRCI conference in Dublin on 3 May 2016 whose participants included national and international representatives of the London School of Economics, the Irish Small and Medium Enterprises Association (ISME), PICUM and the Children’s Rights Alliance. A poll last year showed that 69% support the idea of a regularisation. To view the full findings of the survey, click here.
    Source: Migrant Rights Centre Ireland (MRCI) Press Centre, 3 May 2016

  • ITALY / Migrants excluded from applying for protection, organisations denounce procedures at police stations

    People from countries with asylum recognition rates of below 75% are likely to be defined by Italian police as irregular or ‘economic migrants’, without having the opportunity to seek legal and humanitarian advice, according to Federica Toso, a researcher with the Italian NGO Asilo in Europa. This, for example, is the case for individuals from the Gambia. Gambians are the second most frequent arrivals by sea in Italy, behind Nigerians, according to the International Organization for Migration (IOM). Often these migrants end up remaining in the country undocumented with little or no protection for their rights. In a letter sent to the Questura (the Italian police headquarters) on 29 April 2016, the Italian organisations ASGI and NAGA condemned inadequate protection assessment procedures taking place in different police stations in Milan. When asylum seekers request international protection, they are handed a pre-printed form to fill out with some questions aimed at assessing whether they could effectively be entitled to this protection or not. In the latter case, applicants are immediately handed an expulsion order, without any assessment of their protection claims. In addition to this, lawyers and social workers are not allowed to accompany the applicants which makes them more vulnerable as they are frequently not informed about their rights. The statement is available here.
    Sources: The Guardian, 6 May 2016 ; ASGI, 2 May 2016

  • UK / Proposal to increase fees for immigration appeals

    On 3 June 2016 the UK government closed a consultation on proposals to increase and expand charging for immigration appeals, including a fivefold increase in the fee to apply for immigration appeals. Fees are set “at full cost recovery levels” designed to make the court and tribunal services entirely funded by applicants’ fees. The proposed fee increases are justified in the consultation document as a means of ensuring that courts and tribunals are “properly funded,” despite simultaneous recognition that tribunals are “vital” to providing access to justice and upholding the principle of the rule of law. The accompanying impact assessment assumes a 20% reduction in appeals as a result of the new fees, and the equality statement notes that “there is likely to be over representation of people from Black, Asian and minority ethnic backgrounds” affected who “could potentially be put at a particular financial disadvantage when applying to the Immigration and Asylum Chambers since they will now have to pay more fees for services than previously,” but finds this impact justifiable. Proposed exemptions would apply to those in receipt of asylum support or legal aid, applicants whose appeal is against a decision to deprive them of their citizenship, and some groups bringing an appeal to the tribunal who are supported by a local authority. Further extensions to the exemption scheme are possible, following the consultation. The Home Office will continue to repay the appeal fee, if the appeal is successful.
    Source: Free Movement UK, 21 April 2016

  • USA / Shooting at Orlando nightclub: consequences for undocumented victims

    49 people were killed and 53 were injured during an attack at Pulse Nightclub in Orlando, Florida on 12 June 2016. Among those killed was at least one undocumented man while two others were seriously injured. The injured are ineligible for state programs beyond emergency care, and family members of the deceased, unlikely to obtain a visa to enter the US, face costs of up to $6000 (€5440) to repatriate his body to Mexico. The Mexican consulate in the US has agreed to pay some of the repatriation costs, but it is not enough to cover the total costs involved. Recognising the challenges confronting victims from migrant communities and their families, rights activists have launched the website SomosOrlando.info to help migrants find resources in their own language. Zoe Colón, state director for the Hispanic Federation, said Spanish-speaking volunteer attorneys and mental health professionals have come forward to offer their services. Equality Florida, an LGBT advocacy organisation, has raised close to $3 million (€2,7million) of the $5 million (€4,5 million) it aims to raise to help all victims, regardless of their migration status. These volunteers will be an integral part of recovery for undocumented survivors in Orlando. The National Center for Victims of Crime has committed to ensuring that all victims of the incident received the support they need, noting that “victimization knows no status”.
    Source: Fusion, 14 June 2016, WSJ, 12 June 2016

Health Care

  • EUROPEAN COMMISSION / REPORT / Commission’s Expert Panel on Effective Ways of Investing in Health (EXPH) recommends safe access to health services for undocumented migrants

    On 3 May 2016 the European Commission Expert Panel on Effective Ways of Investing in Health (EXPH) adopted an opinion on “Access to health services in the European Union” (see PICUM Bulletin 21 October 2015) underscoring member states’ obligations to ensure equal access to high-quality health services for everyone living within their territory, and recognising that the concept of “access” has multiple dimensions. The report calls for improved data collection to ensure accessible, resilient and accountable health systems, better monitoring to measure the situation over time and across groups, and more research targeting populations facing multiple vulnerabilities. This includes undocumented migrants, who are featured in a chapter also looking at the situation of Roma and people with mental health challenges. Recognising undocumented migrants’ myriad challenges in accessing health services, the expert panel recommends guaranteeing their entitlement and safe access to health services in a manner that protects privacy. The report is intended to guide the design and evaluation of health care reforms in EU member states to ensure that they maximise desired health system goals – including universality, access to high-quality services, equity and solidarity. The report demonstrates how the European Semester process and the Country Specific Recommendations create opportunities to shape health care reforms. The report notes that all member states have committed to certain values and principles, including universality, access to high-quality services, equity and solidarity, which have not been met, as a result of various factors including austerity measures. The EXPH report on Typology is available here. The EXPH report on Access is available here.

  • EUROPEAN COMMISSION / Health Commissioner announces new initiative to support health policies among member states

    On 17 June 2016 Vytenis Andriukaitis, European Commissioner for Health and Food Safety, announced a new initiative for 2016-17 at a gathering of EU Health Ministers participating in the Employment, Social Policy, Health and Consumer Affairs (EPSCO) Council in Luxembourg. The initiative – a collaboration between the European Commission, the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), the European Observatory on Health Systems and Policies, and EU member states – is called “State of Health in the EU” and aims to support member states in improving the effectiveness, accessibility and resilience of their health systems by providing an evidence base for policymaking. Under the initiative, a publication entitled “Health at a Glance: Europe 2016” will be published by the OECD in cooperation with the Commission in November 2016 based on the framework of the Commission’s 2014 communication on effectiveness, accessibility and resilience of health systems. In November 2017, 28 individual country health profiles will be prepared by the OECD and the Observatory, in cooperation with the Commission, including analysis, data, and indicators, alongside a Commission analysis linking the country analyses to the wider EU agenda. In December 2017, the Commission plans to engage in exchanges with individual EU member states, as well as the OECD and the Observatory, regarding the outcome of their findings for member states. The “State of Health in the EU” Factsheet is available here.
    Source: European Commission News, 17 June 2016

  • GERMANY / STUDY / Access to health care for undocumented children

    A study authored by Wiebke Bornschlegl, entitled “Der Zugang von Kindern ohne Papiere zu medizinischer Versorgung in Deutschland” (Access of children without papers to health care in Germany) was published in May 2016 and shows significant shortcomings in ensuring health care provision to children and adolescents. As a result of an online survey among health care facilities, key findings include that financial coverage of treatments is a major barrier as well as the fact that undocumented families fear being reported to authorities when going to clinics and therefore only go to see a doctor if the illness is acute. More than half of respondents also stated that having no birth certificate of irregular children is a key barrier to providing services as these children do not officially exist in any registry. The study notes that, from a quantitative perspective, results cannot be considered representative and that further studies are needed. However, the results show clearly that there is no access to an adequate, non-discriminatory and continuous health care provision for undocumented children and adolescents in Germany. To read the study (in German), click here.
    Sources: Deutsches Ärzteblatt, 12 May 2016 ; Süddeutsche Zeitung, 12 May 2016

  • ITALY / Doctors to be trained to help migrants

    On 4 May 2016 the International Health Observatory (OIS), an Italian medical non-governmental organisation, launched the project “Border Health Care” to train Italy’s medical personnel on immigration-related health issues. The aim is to improve care for newly arrived migrants from Africa and the Middle East. OIS also seeks to coordinate medical services in migration reception centres, prioritising the needs of women and children, in cooperation with relevant ministries.
    Source: ANSA, 4 May 2016

  • SLOVENIA / Health system review – WHO observatory

    The European Observatory on Health Systems and Policies published in June 2016 “Slovenia – Health System Review” in the journal Health Systems in Transition, Vol. 18 No. 3 2016. As part of the series Health Systems in Transition (HiT), the article describes major elements of Slovenia’s agenda to reform its health system, based on a comprehensive health system review and a newly adopted National Health Plan. The reviews are conducted in a standardised manner to allow for comparisons across countries. The paper notes that, while life expectancy and other health indicators show that the health of the Slovenian population has improved in recent decades, increased mortality and morbidity remain concerns for marginalised populations, including undocumented migrants and Roma, without health insurance. Undocumented migrants and others without health insurance rely on voluntary medical staff for health services, through three free clinics operating in Ljubljana, Maribor and Koper. The article is available here.

  • UK / REPORT / Undocumented migrants turned away from general practitioners

    Doctors of the World UK released a report in April 2016 based on efforts to register patients with general practitioners (GPs) in England between 4 March 2015 and 21 October 2015. The report finds that two out of five undocumented migrants who tried to register with a GP were improperly turned away, often based on their inability to show documentation providing their identity or address. This was the case in spite of the universal entitlement in the UK to free primary care and to GPs, affirmed in guidelines issued in November 2015 by the National Health Service (NHS) clarifying the absence of any legal requirement that patients prove their identify, address or immigration status to register with a GP (see PICUM Bulletin, 3 February 2016). Those turned away include pregnant women, women with children and people who have suffered trauma or human trafficking. The report recommends that GP and clinic staff be trained on entitlements to NHS care and on how to work with patients with different vulnerabilities. The Royal College of General Practitioners issued a response to the report, noting its strong opposition to government proposals to charge migrants for GP access, and urging training of reception staff in the requirements of the law “so that vulnerable people don’t fall through the gaps as a result of technicalities.”  The report of Doctors of the World UK is available here.

  • UN / Human Rights Committee issues decision condemning Ireland’s abortion laws

    On 1 June 2016 the United Nations Human Rights Committee (HRC) adopted a decision holding that a woman had been subjected to discrimination and cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment as a result of Ireland’s laws prohibiting abortion. The decision is relevant for all women in Ireland, including those who do not have travel documents or residence permits, whose documents or permits have expired, or who are asylum seekers, or whose migration status means that travel outside of Ireland to obtain an abortion is particularly difficult, if not impossible. The HRC is a body of independent experts that monitors states’ implementation of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. Its decision represents the first time that an international human rights court or committee, in response to an individual complaint, has recognised that the criminalisation of abortion violates a woman’s human rights. The complainant, Amanda Jane Mellet, had been denied access to an abortion in Ireland in 2011 after learning that the fetus she carried had a fatal impairment that made the prospect of continuing her pregnancy unbearable. Ms Mellet, like many thousands of women unable to access legal abortion in Ireland, travelled to the UK to terminate her pregnancy. In November 2013, the Centre for Reproductive Rights filed a complaint on her behalf before the HRC, arguing that Ireland’s abortion laws subjected her to severe mental suffering and anguish and constituted a violation of her rights under the ICCPR. The HRC concluded that the Irish law violated her right to be free from cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment (Article 7), as well as her right to privacy (Article 17) and freedom of information (Article 19), and constituted discrimination (Article and 26). The HRC determined that the Irish government has a duty to provide Ms Mellet with a remedy, including compensation and support for mental anguish, to reform its laws to ensure other women do not continue to face similar violations and to guarantee effective, timely and accessible procedures for abortion in Ireland.  The decision is available here in English, French, Spanish, Arabic, Russian and Chinese.
    Sources: The Guardian 9 June 2016 ; Irish Times, 17 June 2016

  • USA / Governor of California signs bill allowing undocumented migrants to purchase health insurance

    On 10 June 2016 Jerry Brown, Governor of California, signed a bill – Senate Bill 10 –  into law that will permit undocumented migrants to purchase health insurance on California exchanges, created as part of the U.S. Affordable Care Act (ACA). California is now the first state in the U.S. to permit undocumented migrants to obtain health care coverage in this manner. Under the ACA, states can request a waiver from the federal government to permit undocumented migrants to purchase unsubsidised health insurance through Covered California, the state’s health care exchange. The author of the bill is California Senator Ricardo Lara. The request for a waiver awaits approval by the federal government. Should it be approved, the waiver would permit an estimated 390,000 undocumented migrants in California to purchase health insurance through the state’s exchange (i.e., those who earn an income too high to qualify for a low-income plan). The bill passed the state senate 28-10 and includes an urgency clause, which means it will take effect immediately upon enactment. California also permits its undocumented residents to apply for a driver’s licence and to obtain a licence to practice law.
    Sources: New York Times, 11 June 2016, PBS, 11 June 2016

Labour and Fair Working Conditions

  • CANADA / Injured seasonal agricultural workers denied health benefits and sent home

    Canada’s Seasonal Agricultural Workers Program has come under increasing scrutiny following revelations that workers who suffer injury while at work are being sent home in a process known as “medical repatriation.” The case of Sheldon McKenzie has focused the spotlight on the workings of the 50-year old system. McKenzie, a participant under the programme, travelling annually between Jamaica and Canada for 12 years, suffered severe head injuries following a fall in a glasshouse at work, rendering him unable to work.  Due to this, his work visa was revoked and he was subsequently stripped of his health benefits and so was unable to access Ontario´s provincial health care. He died of the injuries he sustained. A study published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal Open reports that between 2001 and 2011, 787 migrant farm workers in Ontario were let go and sent back to their countries of origin for medical reasons. Advocates from organisations such as Justicia for Migrant Workers have compared this to an apartheid system and have called upon the Canadian government to address the discrepancy in seasonal workers securing health benefits extending from their employment. Minister of Employment, Workforce Development and Labour, MaryAnn Mihychuk, has promised to make the Seasonal Agricultural Worker Program part of the review of the Temporary Foreign Workers Program.
    Source: CBC News, 16 May 2016.

  • EU / European Commission launches communication on proposed revisions to the Blue Card Directive

    The European Commission (EC) on the 7 June 2016 introduced a proposed revision of the Blue Card Directive which aims to improve the EU’s ability to attract and retain highly skilled migrant workers to increase Europe’s competitiveness and deal with its demographic challenges. Some of the revisions include more inclusive and flexible admission procedures—such as lowering the general salary threshold and an extension of the Blue Card to highly skilled migrants who are beneficiaries of international protection, faster and more flexible application procedures including shorter processing times, the possibility of self-employment in parallel with the Blue Card job, improved intra-EU mobility, and access to long-term residency after three years. According to the Migration Policy Institute (MPI), it remains to be seen whether these newly introduced measures will be sufficient to convince member states to make changes to their own labour migration schemes, which in some cases have proven more successful at attracting skilled migrants. In Sweden for example, there is a more demand-driven labour migration programme that has succeeded in attracting both, high and low wage migrants, without requiring them to apply for a different work permit according to their skill level. According to the MPI study, forcing countries like Sweden to start issuing separate national permits for highly skilled migrant workers under the Blue Card scheme would be a bureaucratic step backwards in a system which currently functions in a fairly straightforward way. For more information on the proposed revisions of the Blue Card Directive click here.
    Sources: European Commission, 07 June 2016 ; Migration Policy Institute, June 2016

  • EU / Thousands of North Koreans exploited for forced labour in the EU to support Kim Jong-un regime

    According to research of the Leiden Asia Centre and Vice News, thousands of North Korean workers are deployed in European Union member states by North Korea and exploited for forced labour. The Leiden Asia Centre notes that these North Korean workers are employed in EU member states including the Czech Republic, Poland, the Netherlands and Malta. This issue was raised in 2014 after a North Korean welder died at a major shipyard in Poland suffering burns due to inadequate working equipment. The investigation led by the Polish authorities shed light on poor working conditions, including excessive overtime, deprivation of holidays, limited freedom during and outside working hours (no contact with their family and no cell phones or cash allowed) and a lack of workplace safety. In addition, the Leiden Asia Centre states that 70% to 100% of these workers’ earnings are sent directly to the North Korean regime. According to Marzuki Darusman, the UN special rapporteur on the situation of human rights in North Korea, the Kim regime has thus earned $1.2 billion to $2.3 billion per year from these workers. While these working conditions violate EU law, cases of valid working permits and visas have been reported in Poland. In response to a request by Member of the European Parliament (MEP) Kati Piri (Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats, S&D) in 2015, the European Commission affirmed that they have no record of North Korean workers hired by member states’ companies. According to the research, two Polish companies which hired North Korean workers have received more than €70 million in subsidies from the European Regional Development Fund, some of which has been investigated by the European Commission for being given unlawfully. To find out more about Leiden Asia Centre’s research on this issue, click here.
    Source: Vice News, 23 May 2016

Undocumented Children and Their Families

  • STATEMENT / EU Alliance on Investing in Children welcomes EPSCO Council Conclusions and encourages more action to invest in all children

    The EU Alliance on Investing in Children issued a statement welcoming the Conclusions adopted by the Employment, Social Policy, Health and Consumers Affairs Council on Combatting Poverty and Social Exclusion: An integrated approach on 16 June 2016 as a welcome step in addressing child poverty and promoting children’s well-being. The Alliance for Investing in Children urged EU institutions and member states, and in particular the upcoming Slovak Presidency, to maintain child poverty and social exclusion high on their political agenda and to take forward the following actions: promote a more comprehensive implementation of the Recommendation Investing in children: breaking the cycle of disadvantage by developing a roadmap and adopting child well-being indicators, as called for in the Written Declaration on investing in children; re-balance the economic and social priorities throughout the European Semester process and put a stronger emphasis on policies addressing child and family poverty and social exclusion in the Country Specific Recommendations; and continue to promote the positive exchange of knowledge to tackle child poverty encouraged by the European Commission through the organisation of Peer Reviews and by the Dutch Presidency through the collection of good practices. This collection of good practices has been published as an addendum to the Council Conclusions. Read the statement here.

  • UK / British government to accept unaccompanied children already in Europe

    The British Prime Minister, David Cameron, has u-turned on his stance and announced in May 2016 that the government would start accepting children with direct family links in the UK and would provide homes for others who arrived in Europe before the deal between the EU and Turkey. This would include migrant and refugee children currently staying in countries such as Greece, Italy and France. Local authorities have been asked to provide shelter for up to 3,000 children although this figure has been denied by Downing Street with the Home Office stating that no specified number has been agreed. David Cameron has also said that the unaccompanied children with direct family member connections in the UK could avail of a fast tracked process. The UK government had previously committed to take child refugees from Syria and neighbouring countries but declined to take migrant and refugee children already in Europe arguing that this would encourage more to come.
    Sources: The Guardian, 4 May 2016. ; BBC 4 May 2016

  • EU / REPORT / UNICEF briefing on refugee and migrant children

    UNICEF has released a new Child Alert briefing “Danger every step of the way. A harrowing journey to Europe for refugee and migrant children”, which describes the journey that tens of thousands of children are making in the hope of finding safety or a better life in Europe. A total of 2,427 deaths were recorded in the Mediterranean between 1 January and 5 June 2016, as compared with 1,786 for the first half of 2015. The vast majority occurred on the Central Mediterranean route including many children. Gathering testimony from children themselves the report reveals the trauma children suffer getting to Europe, the risks they are forced to take along the route and challenges they face on arrival. The briefing also includes data, principles and recommendations for action. These include ensuring that every child has a full hearing to determine their status and best interests, and equitable access to essential services and support including protection, health care and education. Processes of family reunification need to be accelerated and family definitions broadened so that children can reunite with their extended families when in the best interests of the child. All children, accompanied and unaccompanied, need to be shielded from punitive measures designed to prevent secondary movements. Guardianship systems need to be strengthened and child protection needs to become an integral part of the EU Migration Agenda. UNICEF is also concerned about immigration detention of children. Community alternatives to detention or detention-like closed facilities must be sought urgently. Read the briefing here.

  • USA / Class action lawsuit seeks to secure legal representation for children facing deportation, sharp increase in border apprehensions

    A federal judge in Seattle, United States (U.S.), has allowed a class-action lawsuit seeking to secure legal representation for children facing deportation brought by a coalition of migrants’ rights groups. The defendant federal government tried to get the case dismissed, arguing that certain due process rights afforded by the Fifth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution do not apply to people who have not been formally “admitted” into the country. District Judge Thomas Zilly rejected this claim, finding the case law indicates the contrary. A bench trial is scheduled for 12 September 2016. The case will impact deportation cases of thousands of migrant children. In January 2016 the Department of Homeland Security launched immigration raids targeting families, resulting in at least 121 people being taken into custody, primarily in Georgia, North Carolina and Texas. The raids have been challenged by Congress and migrants’ rights advocates. Apprehensions of children have also greatly increased at the United States-Mexico border – both of children with their families and unaccompanied – according to a Pew Research Center analysis of U.S. Customs and Border Protection data. There were 32,117 apprehensions of families – defined as children traveling with at least one parent or guardian – during the six-month period from October 2015 to March 2016. Apprehensions of unaccompanied children totalled 27,754 over the same period. The number of family apprehensions is more than double that of the previous year. The number of apprehensions of unaccompanied children increased by 78%.
    Sources: CRINmail 60, 20 May 2016 ; Pew Research Centre, 4 May 2016

  • TESTIMONIES / New series of testimonies and stories of undocumented children and youth

    PICUM has launched a series of testimonies and stories of undocumented children and youth in April 2016 which aims to give a voice to children and young people as well as to their parents, caregivers and supporting organisations to show the realities undocumented children and youth face across Europe. PICUM will regularly publish stories and quotes in English, French and Spanish in written form or through multimedia in the run-up to Universal Children’s day in November and will also publish a booklet with a selection of testimonies later in 2016. Testimonies are shared on social media with the hash tag #ShareYourStory. If you wish to submit a story or testimony of an undocumented child or young person, contact: elisabeth(at)picum.org. The latest testimony is available on video here (in English). All testimonies are available online in English, French and Spanish.

Detention and Deportation

  • CANADA / Health care providers urge Ontario to end immigration detention

    A group of 130 health care professionals, including doctors, nurses and social workers, have asked Yasir Naqvi, Minister of Community Safety and Correctional Services for the province of Ontario, Canada to end the detention of migrants, particularly those with mental or physical health concerns. Their petition comes after three migrants reportedly died while in detention in the span of three months. On 14 May 2016 a 24-year died in administrative detention in Edmonton, Alberta; an investigation is underway according to a press release by the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA). Also in May, Melkioro Gahungu, a 64-year-old Burundian, died in Toronto Eastern Detention Centre, Ontario; and in March, Francisco Javier Romero Astorgo, a 39-year-old Chilean, died in Mapplehurst Correctional Complex in Milton, Ontario. The petition calls, among other things, for the creation of an ombudsman and for greater oversight of detention conditions, and an end to the transfer of detainees from immigration facilities to provincial jails. According to the End Immigration Detention Network, at least 15 migrants have died while in the care of the CBSA since 2000, eight of those in Ontario. Each death was subject to a mandatory review, the results of which are not made public absent an inquest. CBSA transfers detainees from its holding centres to provincial jails if they are deemed to pose a danger to others, when they have physical or mental health needs, or are unlikely to qualify for early release. Health professionals note, however, that incarceration itself can worsen pre-existing mental health conditions, from depression and anxiety, to schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. Health care providers are also among advocates launching a campaign – OHIP For All –to extend health care coverage to all residents of Ontario.
    Source: Toronto Star, 18 May 2016 ; Toronto Star, 10 March 2016 ; University of Toronto News, 10 June 2016

  • UK / New law imposes limits on detention of pregnant women in immigration centres

    On 12 May 2016 the Immigration Act 2016 became law in the UK, introducing a swath of measures penalising and limiting undocumented migrants’ access to employment, housing and a range of services. However, in reaction to political pressure, the law also introduces measures to protect a narrow category of migrants, namely pregnant women. Specifically, section 60 outlaws the detention of pregnant women, unless “the woman will shortly be removed from the United Kingdom,” or “there are exceptional circumstances which justify detention.” The law requires that a woman’s welfare be given due regard in determining whether she will be detained while pregnant and that her detention not exceed 72 hours – although this timeframe can be extended to seven days, if authorised personally by a government minister. These changes were initially announced on 18 April 2016 by Theresa May, UK Home Secretary, following expressions by politicians that the UK government’s practice of detaining pregnant women in immigration detention centres was “deeply worrying”. Despite a vote by the House of Lords on 15 April 2016 to ban the practice, the Home Secretary opted to retain the power to hold pregnant women for a limited period “in order to quickly remove them if they have no right to stay in the UK, or if they present a risk to the public,” according to a spokesperson. In 2015, a report of the UK Inspectorate of Prisons found 99 pregnant women detained in Yarl’s Wood detention centre (see PICUM Bulletin 17 September 2015). The provision relating to detention of pregnant women is available here.
    Source: The National, 10 May 2016

  • UK / Increase in number of people being detained

    According to the UK’s latest official figures, the number of people detained in the 12 months up to March 2016 rose by 4% to 32,163 from 30,902 in the previous year. 42 people were detained for more than two years and a child was incarcerated for over three months. There was an 8% rise in people leaving detention (from 30,326 to 32,610), with Pakistanis accounting for the highest number. Detainees also include nationals of the European Union. The proportion of EU nationals being deported or voluntarily departing the UK on leaving detention in the year ending March 2016 was 89%, compared with 39% for non-EU nationals.
    Source: Migrants Rights Network, Weekly Update, 13 June 2016

  • SWITZERLAND / REPORT / Detention of migrant children widely practiced

    The organisation Terre des Hommes, together with the Global Detention Project, published a report on the detention of migrant children in Switzerland on 22 June 2016. The publication, entitled “Illegal detention of migrant children in Switzerland: a status report” finds that Switzerland exhibits a distinct lack of publicly available information regarding its immigration detention practices and in particular, immigration detention of children. It states that across the Swiss Confederation, 142 children were reported to be in immigration detention in 2015. The study covered every canton in Switzerland and found that the detention of children is a widespread practice. Moreover, the application of law is inconsistent across the country. The report also highlights the lack of comprehensive statistics and information regarding detention. The full report is available in English, German and French here.
    Source: Global Detention Project, 22 June 2016

Publications and other Resources

  • ARTICLE / Irregular migrants’ rights in the EU

    Researcher Alan Desmond published an article in the Human Rights Law Review in May 2016 on the issue of irregular migrants’ rights in the EU. The author notes that in the context of irregular migration, the common EU migration policy which has developed since 1999 has emphasised migration control and prevention of irregular migration while neglecting protection of irregular migrants’ rights. In spite of this, the article shows that EU migration law and policy contain the raw materials for the creation of a robust human rights protection framework for irregular migrants. The article argues that the growth in the irregular migrant population which will be likely to occur in the coming years as a result of the “refugee crisis” makes the implementation of a rights-respecting EU migration policy all the more urgent. The full article can be accessed here.

  • REPORT / Policy brief situates current migration in context of global inequality, trade, war and climate change

    The policy brief ‘Migrant crisis or poverty crisis: Why free movement is vital in the battle for global justice’ from UK-based Global Justice Now explains how the current situation should be seen as a crisis of inequality, war and climate change rather than migration, and points to the benefits of – and inequalities in – freedom of movement. The briefing argues that fighting global inequality, climate change and unfair trade regimes is essential in dealing with the causes of forced migration, while recognising migration as a driver for development and equality. It puts forward a number of specific measures that should be taken, including ending the arms trade, immigration detention and the culture of disbelief over asylum, expanding the Schengen area (also including the UK), giving all workers labour rights without risk of deportation, and regularising undocumented migrants. Read the policy brief here.

Other News

  • VACANCY / PICUM is looking for a trainee

    PICUM is looking for a trainee for the period from 5 September 2016 to 28 February 2017. The candidate will play an important role in PICUM’s daily work, mainly assisting with administrative tasks, event organisation and membership related activities. The candidate will also support PICUM’s communications and advocacy work. Candidates should have a university degree, knowledge of and an interest in learning more about issues concerning undocumented migrants and human rights and be native speakers of either French or Spanish with and an excellent level of English. The deadline for applications is Wednesday, 13 July 2016 at midnight (CET).


    With contributions from Aidan O´Connell (PICUM Intern) and Tara Ohl (PICUM Trainee).

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