PICUM Bulletin — 7 December 2011


  • GREECE / DEATH AT BORDER / Death of irregular immigrants at the borders

    Two irregular immigrants died on their attempt to cross the Evros River in the northeast border of Greece with Turkey. The first victim was of unknown age and drowned while crossing the river and the second victim was a 25 year old Chinese citizen who died due to the adverse weather conditions in the area. The bodies of the two men were discovered by the police on 24 November 2011, in an advanced state of decomposition, one in Peplo area, on the bank of the Evros River and the other at Thymaria village, close to the town of Alexandroupolis.
    Source: Eleutherotypia, 24 November 2011

  • GREECE / Progress on the construction of the fence at Evros

    Deputy Minister of Citizen Protection, Manolis Othonas, visited some areas in the Prefecture of Evros on 26 November 2011 where many incidents of irregular migration were reported.  He stated that the construction of the fence in the Nea Vissa at Evros is a priority for the Ministry of Citizen Protection and it will be completed within the next five months. The fence is designed to deter the inflows of irregular migrants in Greece through Turkey.
    Source: Ministry of Citizen Protection Press Release, 26 November 2011; News247, 27 November 2011

  • ITALY / DEATH AT BORDER / Tragedy along the coasts of Apulia

    Originating from Turkey on board a sail boat, about 70 Afghani, Kurdish and Singhalese undocumented migrants approached the coasts of Apulia region, Italy, on the night of 26 November 2011. Three bodies have been found dead at sea. Among the survivors, 41 were sent to the local CARA (Centre for Asylum Seekers), whereas Save the Children took care of the 24 children now hosted in local communities. The Public Prosecutor’s Office continues its efforts to track down the three traffickers.
    Source: Fortress Europe, 26 November 2011; La Repubblica, 28 November 2011

  • ITALY / Yacht crashes on Apulia’s coast

    Traveling from Turkey on a yacht, 189 undocumented migrants were rescued at sea when the yacht crashed against Puglia’s coasts. The Red Cross and several volunteer organizations joined in rescue efforts successfully. On board were also 10 children and an 8-month pregnant woman who was hospitalized in Scorrano. Some migrants reported wounds from the crash. They were mainly coming from Iran, Iraq, and Pakistan.
    Source: La Repubblica, 29 November 2011

United Nations

  • UNHCR / Report on Statelessness in the UK

    The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) published a report on 22 November 2011 concerning the issue of stateless persons in the UK. The research outlines and maps figures and profiles of stateless persons are in the UK and “puts a human face on their situation”. The report suggest that despite wanting to leave, some individuals are stuck in a vicious circle entrenching them in a limbo situation which is hard to get out of because of the lack of “dedicated and accessible procedure  to identify people who are stateless”. The report concludes by making recommendations to the UK authorities in order to address the issue of identification, granting leave in appropriate circumstances and respecting their international obligations for those who cannot return whilst they are in the UK as well as amending detention policies for this group of people.
    Source: UNHCR, 22 November 2011

  • UNHCHR / Shift in Australian asylum policy welcomed

    United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay welcomed on 29 November 2011 Australia’s announced change in its asylum policy to allow some undocumented migrants arriving by boat to be placed in the community on bridging visas rather than sent to mandatory detention. Ms. Pillay welcomed such steps as the way towards a more human approach to asylum-seekers in Australia, hoping that tolerance and understanding will be strengthened. Further reductions in the numbers of asylum seekers in detention by the use of alternatives are hoped for.
    Source: UN News Centre, 29 November 2011

European Policy Developments

  • EU / Launch of the European Portal for Action on Health Inequalities

    The European Portal for Action on Health Inequalities was launched on 14 November 2011. The new website is an exhaustive source of information on health inequalities at EU, national and regional level, on social determinants of health and on Health in All Policies. It aims to provide visitors with practical and useful information and to give them opportunities to promote their own work.
    Source: ENAR Weekly Mail n° 294, 18 November 2011

  • EU-FRA / Momentous conference on the fundamental rights of undocumented migrants

    Around 300 policy makers, practitioners and civil society representatives gathered in Warsaw, Poland for the European Union Fundamental Rights Agency’s (FRA) 4th annual Fundamental Rights Conference (FRC) which took place on the 21-22 November 2011. The conference was momentous as the FRA is a major European agency and it focused specifically on the rights of undocumented migrants and was titled “Dignity and Rights of Irregular Migrants”. In addition to panel debates and thematic working groups, the FRC also served as the launch for the FRA’s comprehensive report which looks at the fundamental rights of undocumented migrants in the EU-27. PICUM was active in the event with PICUM Director Michele LeVoy providing comments on the FRA’s recent reports on undocumented migrants, at the PICUM stand two chapters from PICUM’s upcoming “Undocumentary” were shown, and PICUM provided a background paper on undocumented children for one of the thematic working groups.
    Source: FRA Conference websiteFRA comprehensive report, November 2011

  • COUNCIL OF EUROPE / PACE / Investigations into death in the Mediterranean

    The PACE Committee on Migration, Refugees and Population which is conducting a report on the deaths in the Mediterranean Sea held a hearing on 29 November 2011 in Paris to discuss the deaths of 1,971 migrants since January 2011. At the hearing, PACE rapporteur Tineke Strik said that “the year 2011 sets a sad record as the deadliest year for boat people”. The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) promised during the hearing that it would support the work of PACE and would provide further information which they hold regarding these deaths in the Mediterranean Sea. Click here to read the PACE Press Release.
    Source: Migrants at Sea, 25 November 2011 and 1 December 2011

National Developments

  • BELGIUM / Parties agree on migration policy

    In the negotiations for a new Belgian government the parties reached an agreement on establishing the post of a Minister for Migration. The Minister will be responsible for the care and treatment of applications, as well as the return policy. A new immigration code will be drafted to enhance the readability of the immigration laws. In concrete terms the parties want asylum seekers to receive a definitive answer within a period of six months. The previous government already drafted a list of ‘safe’ countries and applications from these countries will receive a response within two weeks. The plans also include a forced policy of spreading asylum seekers over the entire country. The focus of the new government will be an effective return policy, as it claims that currently the chance of regularisation is six times larger than repatriation. Finally the parties agreed to combat marriages of convenience.
    Source: De Standaard, 29 November 2011

  • GREECE / Data on irregular immigration

    Deputy Director of Frontex, Gil Arias Fernandez, presented data on 16 November 2011 in Athens on North African migrants trying to enter the European Union. From 1 January to 30 October 2011, 1,700 Algerians, 1,000 Moroccans and 300 Tunisians were registered in Greece. The deterioration of the situation at the Greek-Turkish borders was also stressed. For the month of October 2011, an estimated number of 9,700 irregular immigrants entered Greece from Turkey and daily detentions were approximately above 300 per day. Mr Fernandez reported the reduction in visa requirements in Turkey as the main reason for this situation. In addition, he highlighted other factors such as the insufficient number reception centres in  Greece and Turkey, the lack of readmission agreements with some countries of origin, the proximity of the capital of Turkey to the border, the low cost of air flights and the large number of trafficking networks operating in Turkey with Greek staff.
    Source: Tvxs.gr, 16 November 2011; Euractiv, 17 November 2011

  • IRELAND / New profile report released on undocumented migrants in Ireland

    Migrant Rights Centre Ireland (MRCI) just released a profile report on undocumented migrants in Ireland based on data collected from 1,250 undocumented migrants seeking assistance from MRCI over a two year period (2009-2011) together with a recent survey conducted with over 100 undocumented migrants. MRCI’s research shows that the population of undocumented migrants tends to be older, with a significant number of women and many families. Many undocumented migrants are engaged in some form of employment, paying income taxes and other contributions through their employment.
    Source: Migrant Rights Center Ireland, 25 November 2011

  • NORWAY / Local demands for undocumented migrants’ right to employment and public manifestation

    The city council of Sandnes in Norway followed the decision by several other city councils and voted through an appeal to the government to make life easier for undocumented migrants living in Norway. This is especially linked to the decision of the government to confiscate the tax cards of undocumented migrants in January 2011 that has fuelled opposition from local politicians from all parties, including the Progress Party. A public manifestation for the same cause was organised in Stavanger, and was discussed that the decision has harmed people who have lived and worked for years without documents in Norway, either while waiting for a decision in a lengthy asylum procedure or those who have been rejected from their asylum request but cannot be returned. Several local politicians and representatives from the church and Christian organisations participated in the manifestation, demanding human dignity to be reintroduced into the reality of the asylum policies.
    Source: Aftenbladet, 22 November 2011; NRK, 20 November 2011

  • USA / The District of Columbia says no to Secure Communities

    The mayor of Washington D.C. issued an executive order, which was soon followed by the Immigration Detainer Compliance Amendment Act of 2011 and was unanimously endorsed by every member of the D.C. Council, against the implementing of the Department of Homeland Security’s Secure Communities Program (see PICUM Bulletin 9 November, 2011). It has been a long-standing policy for years in the District of Columbia that there is a bright line between immigration enforcement and the local police. However, the D.C. Department of Corrections can hold those convicted of violent crimes for up to 24 hours for ICE, so long as there is a written agreement that ICE will pay for these holds.
    Source: American Civil Liberties Union, 28 November 2011

  • USA / Alabama anti-immigrant law continues to cost the state business

    Not only are farmers in Alabama taking on financial burdens because they have lost a large amount of labour but as well, the state may potentially lose its business-friendly reputation from foreign manufacturers. For example, a German executive with Mercedes-Benz who was in town visiting one of its plants was arrested under the new immigration as he did not have proper identification while driving his rental car. A city mayor in the state which just recruited a Chinese company to build a 100 million US plant there has admitted that the immigration issue is being used against the city by other states in terms of recruiting businesses.  A paper in the state of Missouri wrote an open letter to Mercedes-Benz in an attempt to recruit them out of Alabama and into the state of Missouri, which is known as the “Show-Me State” and not the “Show me your papers” state.
    Source: The New York Times, 27 November 2011; Fox News Latino, 21 November 2011

  • USA / Further litigation in Alabama and more amicus briefs filed against anti-immigrant law

    A coalition of civil rights organizations filed a lawsuit in federal court challenging a provision under Alabama’s harsh anti-immigrant law (HB 56) that threatens to push people out of their homes. As applied, Section 30 of the law requires persons to prove their lawful status before they can renew their mobile home tags, thereby prohibiting business transactions between the state and persons who cannot produce paperwork proving their citizenship or immigration status. If a person does not have the correct decal for their mobile home, they can be charged with a misdemeanour and as well be forced from their home, in addition to being arrested for being undocumented. Other organizations are continuing to file amicus briefs against HB 56, for example the New York City Bar Association along with 38 members of the US House of Representatives filed in support of the Department of Justice lawsuit. Source: National Immigration Law Center (NILC), 18 November 2011; Representative Luis Gutierrez website, 22 November 2011; New York City Bar, 22 November 2011

  • USA / Secretary of State Hillary Clinton says that undocumented migrants should be given a chance to stay in the US

    USA/While in the Philippines, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton spoke in front of an audience and fielded questions from both participants and those watching the conference remotely. She was asked a question via Skype by Filipino journalist Jose Antonio Vargas (see PICUM Bulletin 4 July 2011) regarding undocumented children who were brought to the US as children and whether they should be given the opportunity to stay in the country. She replied that it was important for undocumented migrants to be treated with a humane approach and especially if they were young.  She said if a child is brought to the US as a child, then it is not a decision that they made and if there are now students that want to remain in the US, they should be given the opportunity to do so.
    Source: GMA News Online, 16 November 2011

Health Care

  • BELGIUM / Stricter law on medical regularization

    The Belgian Parliamentary Commission for Internal Affairs has approved a stricter law on the medical regularisation of undocumented migrants. Those people that are unable to receive proper health care in their home country can obtain a residence permit through the law in question, but because of alleged fraud doctors of the Immigration Service will be able on the seriousness of the request. Requests of those that don’t show up for a medical test will become void and the applicant has to provide a medical certificate of no older than three months.
    Source: Het Belang van, 23 November 2011

  • FINLAND / The Nordic Youth Council demands health care for undocumented migrants

    In a recent resolution, the Nordic Youth Council (NYC) calls for right to health care for undocumented migrants. The NYC is a forum for the political youth organizations in the Nordic countries. The resolution will be put forward to the committee of the Nordic Council which in turn can decide to promote it in the national parliaments of the Nordic countries.  In the resolution the NYC appeals to the human right commitments of the Nordic Council according to which every person has right to health and care regardless of their legal status.
    Source: Kansanuutiset, 1 November 2011

  • ITALY / Health risks are higher for migrants

    The Italian Association for Medical Oncology (AIOM) revealed in a study that migrants are more exposed to cancer diseases as the diagnosis is made at a very late stage, up to 12 months, thus hampering timely intervention. AIOM has consequently decided to set up the first multi-ethnic national project aiming at tackling the emergency and the management of migrants’ oncologic issues. The project gives special attention to children, prevention and language communication difficulties. It is also committed to include undocumented migrants in its efforts towards disease prevention.
    Source: La Repubblica, 4 November 2011

  • SWEDEN / Call for undocumented migrants’ right to health care

    42 organisations in Sweden among them the Red Cross, Amnesty International, Médecins Sans Frontières, The Swedish Medical Association and the Swedish Trade Union Confederation, have launched a petition (the Right to Health Care-Initiative) requesting asylum seekers and undocumented migrants the same rights to health services as Swedish citizens. The organisations have presented the same demand regularly since 2008, which earlier has resulted in a request from the government to the National Board of Forensic Medicine to investigate the consequences of expanding the rights of asylum seekers and undocumented migrants beyond their existing right to emergency aid. The report was presented in May 2011 and proposed that these groups should be granted the same rights as everybody else. However due to internal disagreements within the government no further action has been taken. The Minister for Migration and Asylum Policy has expressed fears that the costs would be too high, and that it is therefore necessary to apply different rules for citizens and others. The 42 organisations now want to bring the discussion back on the agenda and push the government to send out the report by the National Board of Forensic Medicine for comments, with a view of making progress on the way to a revised legislation in this area. The petition was launched on 14 November 2011 and will continue until February 2012, and is then to be sent to the government. The Swedish Society of Nursing states that as the current law stands, it runs directly against the code of ethics for health care professionals. To learn more about the initiative and sign the petition, visit the link below for the Right to Health Initiative.
    Sources: Sveriges Radio, 17 November 2011; Right to Health Initiative

  • USA / US city’s universal health care plan is finalist for the Harvard Prize

    The city of San Francisco in California is one of the finalists in the Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government for its Innovations in American Government Award. The city initiated a Healthy San Francisco program which expanded health coverage to thousands of residents who would otherwise have little access to medical care. The initiative is based on preventive medicine and provides treatment regardless of factors like pre-existing conditions and immigration status.
    Source: Huffington Post, 29 November 2011

  • USA / Alabama’s new immigration law is bad for public health

    In the state of Alabama, the new immigration law (see PICUM Bulletin 9 November 2011 and 24 October 2011) will not only negatively affect undocumented migrants but as well the 4.8 million people that are living in the state will suffer unnecessary and increased public health risks. The Center for American Progress has outlined ten public health consequences as a result of the law, from children not receiving required immunizations to restaurants unable to obtain health permits. The organization also compiled a list of statistics relating to the law such as estimates that one farmer says he lost due to labor shortages (around 300,000 USD) and the amount Alabama’s undocumented paid in taxes in 2010 (around 130 million USD), all for a legislation which targets an estimated 120,000 undocumented migrants in the state.
    Source: The Center for American Progress, 14 November 2011 and 14 November 2011

Labour and Fair Working Conditions

  • CYPRUS / Antiracism Organisation KISA condemns government for the deportation of a female domestic worker

    A Vietnamese immigrant worker was deported on 13 November 2011 for alleged theft when she fled her allegedly sexually abusive employer. Her employer withheld her salary and travel documents as a way to oblige her to have sex with him. Moreover, the female worker stated that under the threat to be deported she was forced to undertake other tasks than the ones agreed. The Vietnamese worker was finally deported because her testimonies were not enough in order to create a case of indecent assault against her employer. Meanwhile, Antiracism Organisation KISA announced that it will take legal action against the Cypriot government because of the committed violations of the rights of the domestic worker.
    Source: Kathimerini, 15 November 2011; Cyprus Mail, 15 November 2011

Undocumented Women

  • ITALY / Undocumented woman detained when reporting rape

    Adama Kebe, a Senegalese woman living in Italy for the past four years, was physically abused, threatened and then raped by her partner. When denouncing the rape to the police she was detained for having an irregular status at the Bologna Centre for Identification and Expulsion (CIE) for three months. Doctors found her distress and psychological conditions to be incompatible with detention conditions and her request for exceptional humanitarian residence permit was finally formalized on 28 November 2011. Like many EU countries, Italian immigration law hampers undocumented women to exercise their rights and access justice while perpetrators remain unpunished. In response to public outcry surrounding this case, Italian Minister of Home Affairs, Anna Maria Cancellieri, commented on the need for new laws concerning violence against migrant women.Source: La Repubblica, 25 November 2011; 27 November 2011 and 28 November 2011

  • PICUM NEWS / Survivors of Violence, Victims in Silence?

    PICUM seized the occasion of the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women 2011 to call on EU member states renew their efforts to fight all forms and expressions of gender-based violence and to protect all victims without discrimination. PICUM expressed concern as to the worrying culture of impunity existing in the European Union which is preventing one of Europe’s most marginalised groups, namely undocumented women, from accessing their basic social rights as well as the possibility to access justice and support for those who experience violence in their homes but also in their workplace. Working towards a Europe free from gender-violence, exploitation and impunity, PICUM will hold an international conference; “Undocumented Women in Europe: Strategies for Support and Empowerment” on 12-13 December 2011 in Brussels, Belgium seeking to foster real policy change for undocumented women across the region. For more information and to register please visit the PICUM Website.
    Source: PICUM, 25 November 2011

  • USA / Time to build on protections for migrant women experiencing violence

    Organisations across the US have been working to raise social awareness about violence perpetuated against women and girls during national domestic violence awareness month. Writing for the online website “Truthout”, Elahe Amani provides an interesting reflection on how the situation of migrant women with an insecure or dependent migration status was mainstreamed within the national violence against women debate. Delineating the various protection measures that have been developed in law and practice, the article also flags some essential ‘next steps’ for advocates, educators, civil society and policy makers.
    Source: ‘Ending Violence Against Women is Defending Human Rights and Dignity’, Elahe Amani.

Undocumented Children and Their Families

  • IRELAND / FILM / Young migrants launch film about their experiences

    One hundred and fifty people attended the premiere of Making Ireland Home, a film exploring the experiences of young immigrants, on 10 November 2011 in the Film Base, Temple Bar. The film, produced by eleven migrants between the ages of 18 and 25 from MRCI’s mPower Youth Project, reveals experiences of isolation, racism, barriers in education and in accessing residency and citizenship whilst exploring identity and sharing hopes for the future.
    Source: ENAR Weekly Mail n° 294, 18 November 2011

  • UK / REPORT / Family settlement report aims to cut down family migration to the UK

    The UK Migration Advisory Committee (MAC) presented new proposals, under which people on housing benefits could be stopped from bringing a member of their family to the UK from overseas, unless they prove higher earnings. The government asked the MAC to identify a salary that would prevent people from becoming “a burden on the state”. The MAC researchers found that the minimum salary should lie between £18,600 and £25,700 before tax to cut the number of people arriving in the UK on a family visa. Around 50% of settlement would be cut if these possible new requirements would come into force. Don Flynn, Director of the Migrants Rights Network, pointed out that a large proportion of family visas – 57% – go to just 10 nationalities. A tougher regime governing family reunion could therefore be presumed to have a differential impact across the nationalities settled in the UK. He also commented that the MAC report seems to be “only concerned with economic calculations and leaves wider social, legal and moral considerations almost entirely outside the frame of its advice”. Click here to view the full report of the UK MAC.
    Source: Migrants’ Rights Network, 19 November 2011

  • UK / Plans to return Afghan children next year

    The UK Home Office announced plans to return Afghan children whose asylum claims were refused back to Kabul in 2012. The proposed programme is targeted at 16 and 17 year olds only. These plans were criticised by Refugee Action Chief Executive Dave Garratt. He said, “Acting in children’s best interests is a value which should never be compromised by immigration status. As required by the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, we urge the Border Agency to simply recognise that these are children first and asylum seekers second.” Furthermore he underlined that the concept of being a child applies until the age of 18. “This programme would be wrong for five year olds, so it is equally wrong for 17 year olds.” Syd Bolton, co-director of the Refugee Children’s Rights Project at Coram Children’s Legal Centre also highlighted, “There is a statutory duty on the UK Border Agency to safeguard and promote the welfare of children. We cannot see how sending children back to a zone, which by all objective evidence is still a conflict zone, is in their best interests.” At present, unaccompanied asylum-seeking children from Afghanistan are not removed from the UK before their 18th birthday. Even if their asylum applications are refused, most of them are given discretionary leave to remain. Those under 16 usually go into foster or other local authority care.
    Source: BBC, 24 November 2011

  • USA / Immigration policy breaks up families, Obama administration admits

    A new report from the Applied Research Center entitled “Shattered Families” reveals that nearly 5,100 children are currently in care because their parents have been deported or detained. “ARC’s research has uncovered a troubling collateral effect of these deportations: Thousands of children enter the child welfare system and are often stuck there,” said Wessler, the report’s author. Once separated, the report says, the children face enormous obstacles to rejoining their parents, because most child welfare authorities lack formal policies for dealing with deported parents, and often move to terminate their parental rights. The ARC investigation also found that undocumented parents face bias in the child welfare system even when parents are not detained or deported. There is currently a case in Georgia in which a couple are fighting to regain custody of their children and advocates claim the decision is based on a system which is acting against undocumented and non-English speaking families. A Change.org petition has been opened, click here to view it. In a journalist briefing, US President Barack Obama directly acknowledged that his administration’s immigration enforcement practices break up families. Obama also accredited that parents are usually excluded from decisions about the custody of their children. As a consequence he has directed the Department of Homeland Security to examine its family unification practices. The National Domestic Workers Alliance is running a campaign, under the slogan “We Belong Together”, which aims to send the president letters from youngsters directly affected by the government’s deportation policy. The campaign runs from 15 November 2011 – 8 December and has collected more than 4,820 letters. Download the “Shattered Families” report (ES).
    Source: The Huffington Post, 3 November 2011; Colorlines, 2 November 2011 and 14 November 2011 and 30 November 2011

Detention and Deportation

  • DENMARK / REPORT / Detention of unsuccessful asylum seekers

    Michala Clante Bendixen, from Refugees Welcome, has published a report on the obstacles that exist to deportation in Denmark. The report focuses on asylum seekers whose application has been unsuccessful and for varied reasons cannot return home thus falling into limbo which sometimes means they are detained for extended periods of time sometimes up to 15 years. The author investigates the human and economic consequences of long-term detention. A case study focuses specifically on the impact of long-term detention on children.
    Source: Migreurop, 10 November 2011

  • GREECE / Fire in detention centre resulted in the injury of 7 minors

    Amygdaleza detention centre burst into flames on 6 November 2011 and as a consequence seven irregular minor immigrants, Palestinians, Algerians and Libyans, were transferred to Attikon Hospital in Athens. Five of them had respiratory problems and two were burnt but all of them were finally out of danger. Police speculated that immigrants set fire on their beds and mattresses as a sign of protest about their detention and the fact that they were about to be deported.
    Source: To Vima, 6 November 2011; Eleutherotypia, 6 November 2011

  • ITALY / MEP Wikstrom visits Trapani’s CARA and CIE

    Following her visit to the ‘Salinagrande’ CARA (Centre for Asylum Seekers) and the CIE (Centre for Identification and Expulsion) in Trapani, and Emergency’s venue in Palermo, Swedish MEP Cecilia Wikstrom reported on the situation of the detention centers. MEP Wikstrom condemned the miserable conditions in which asylum seekers are kept at the CARA, a crowded centre where hygienic facilities were severely lacking and where 233 asylum seekers wait to be granted political refugee status.  The CIE in Trapani received more positive the comments. Emergency’s model in Palermo was highly regarded and proposed as an example to be exported in the rest of Europe for the care of refugees and displaced persons.
    Source: La Repubblica, 26 November 2011

  • MALTA / Compensation to 2 Somalis Forcibly Repatriated to Libya in 2004

    In 2004, two Somali men, Mr Abdulle and Mr Nur, feeling Libya whose boat had been intercepted and taken to Malta were placed into police custody, denied the opportunity to apply for asylum and access to interpreters. After twenty days in detention, the two men with others were forcibly deported back to Libya. Upon their return to Libya there were imprisoned, beaten and tortured for week before being transferred to another prison whilst waiting for their trail three months later during which no interpretation was given. They were sentenced to 1 year in prison during which torture was practiced, in 2005 there abandoned in the desert for 14 days without food or water and were eventually rescued by Bedouins. In 2006 they found their way back to Libya and attempted to get back to Malta. Upon their arrival, they filed a complaint against the Minister for Justice and Home Affairs and the Principal Immigration Officer.  The Constitutional Court of Malta decided on 29 November 2011 that fundamental human rights of Mr Abdulle and Mr Nur had been violated and they were awarded €10,000 each in compensation. Read the Court decision here (Maltese)
    Source: Times of Malta, 30 November 2011; Migrants at Sea, 1 December 2011

  • NETHERLANDS / BOOK / Return for unsuccessful asylum seekers

    According to Dutch legislation, if an asylum application is unsuccessful asylum seekers should leave the Netherlands within four weeks. When preparing their return, it is important that people are informed so they can make choices. The book written by Diana Geraci titled ‘Bewogen Terugkeer’ (Moved Return) is aimed at supervisors of (unsuccessful) asylum seekers and undocumented migrants. Through an analysis of practical examples, the book provides an investigation into the complexity of this decision-making process and the need to address the psychosocial aspects during the preparation.
    Source: Pharos

  • SWEDEN / Public debate and protests against asylum policies continue

    The UN Committee against Torture has criticised the Swedish Migration Board and Migration Court on several occasions for making misjudgements in risk assessments before deportations. A representative from the Migration Board responded that follow-up activities after executed deportations are not within the remits of its responsibilities, a statement that was criticised by Amnesty International among others. According to an Associate Professor in paediatrics who was a speaker in the Swedish Forum for Human Rights in Stockholm, recent high-profile deportations are a consequence of the reformulation in the asylum law four years ago, when the term “humanitarian grounds” was replaced by “particularly distressing circumstances” as ground for asylum in Sweden. The speaker stressed that when implementation of policies are forwarded from politicians to authorities who pass them on to courts, human rights are easily violated. The Director of Legal Affairs at the Migration Board confirmed that legal interpretations often contradicts a general sense of justice, which is why many deportations have led to lengthy public debates. He also emphasized that the authorities need to apply the law. Asylum refusals and deportations have been given regular attention and often caused public protests. 40 protesters tried to stop a deportation of Iraqis in Gothenburg, and described a public manifestation outside the Migration Board in Helsingborg in the south of Sweden, motivated by the fatal consequences caused by misjudgements by the Board previously.
    Source: Nyheter24, 22 November 2011; Fria Tidningen, 18 November 2011; Göteborgsposten, 23 November 2011; Helsingborgs Dagblad, 23 November 2011

  • UK / High Court rules on the detention of a man suffering from mental illness

    The High Court ruled on 26 October 2011 that the UK Border Agency had unlawfully detained a man with severe mental illness between 21 June and 7 October 2011. As well, it noted that the circumstances of his detention at Harmmondswoth immigration removal centre between 4 July and 6 August 2011 amounted to inhuman or degrading treatment and in breach of article 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR).
    Source: Bhatt Murphy Solicitors, 31 October 2011

  • UK / Larne Policing Board set to make money off of the detention center in Northern Ireland

    Before the Larne detention center in Northern Ireland opened in July 2011 (see PICUM News Bulletin 29 August 2011- link) it had been hoped that revenue generated by the lease of a portion of the station by the Policing Board to the UK Border Agency would be invested back into policing in the city of Larne. At this point it is uncertain how much will be paid to the Policing Board however with annual operating costs for the center reported to be around GBP 1,479 million, it is expected that any amount raised through the rental would make a difference in the local policing budget. Now, four months after the first detainees arrived in town, apparently the matter of how much will be paid to the Policing Board is still not known.
    Source: Larne Times, 29 November 2011

  • UK / REPORT / Organization states that refused asylum seekers face torture upon return to the DRC

    In a report by Justice First, a human rights organization which looked at the cases of 17 adults and nine children removed from the UK between 2007-2011, a number of the returnees faced persecution upon their return to the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). The report notes allegations of beating, arrest and imprisonment, rape and sexual abuse. The report states that the UK Border Agency uses information that is out of date for the DRC, for example, the operational guidance note is from 2008. As well the report highlights the UK’s failure to monitor the fate of people forcibly returned to conflict zones such as the DRC where cases of torture are well documented.
    Source: The Guardian, 25 November 2011

  • USA / US to review cases seeking deportations

    The Department of Homeland Security will begin a review of all deportation cases before the immigration courts and start a nationwide training program for enforcement agents and prosecuting lawyers, with the goal of speeding deportations of convicted criminals and halting those of many undocumented immigrants with no criminal record. Department of Homeland Security officials say that the accelerated procedure will involve around 300,000 cases and is intended to allow severely overburdened immigration judges to focus on deporting foreigners who committed serious crimes or pose national security risks.  Taken together, the review and the training, which will instruct immigration agents on closing deportations that fall outside the department’s priorities, are designed to bring sweeping changes to the immigration courts and to enforcement strategies of field agents nationwide. Six-week pilot projects will begin in Baltimore and Denver in which teams of immigration agency lawyers will go through the current dockets of those courts and immigrants who are deemed to qualify for prosecutorial discretion will have their cases closed, but not dismissed. This means they will be allowed to remain in the United States, but they will be in legal limbo, without any positive immigration status. When the pilot project ends on 13 January 2011, officials will decide how to expand the program to all immigration courts nationwide early next year.
    Source: The New York Times, 17 November 2011

  • USA / Groups protest Wells Fargo branch in California for investing in immigrant detention system

    The group 67 Suenos organized a protest action at Wells Fargo in Oakland, California to protest the bank’s investment in the nation’s privatized immigration detention system. Wells Fargo invests in two large corporations that run immigration detention centers for a profit, which come at the cost of the health and well-being of individuals caught in the detention and deportation system. The bank was not able to conduct business during the day and the group was able to draw public attention and raise awareness on the abuses that take place in the detention system. The links below provide short clips which show actions and speeches from the protest.
    Source: The Curious Ostrich, 5 November 2011,

  • CAMPAIGN / End detention of refugee and asylum-seeking children gets increasing support

    Around 50 NGOs in 14 countries have now joined the campaign to urge states to pledge to end the detention of refugee and asylum-seeking children at the upcoming Ministerial meeting of UN Member States on 7-8 December 2011. Children should never be detained solely for immigration purposes given that immigration detention cannot be said to be in their best interests. Also in a regional meeting in Malaysia on 24-25 November 2011, over 50 NGOs from 18 countries addressed the growing problem of immigration detention in the Asia Pacific region. International Detention Coalition (IDC) Director, Grant Mitchell, said, ‘The detention environment has consistently been found to negatively impact on physical and mental health and increase the likelihood of ill-treatment, human rights abuses and refoulement. Particular concerns exist for refugees, asylum seekers and vulnerable groups, such as children.’
    Source: International Detention Coalition, 25 November 2011


  • UK / London event to celebrate Human Rights Day

    Migrants Rights Network, Praxis (both PICUM Members) and London Borough Tower Hamlets will hold an event to mark Human Rights Day on Thursday, 8 December 2011 in London. The event will be a space to reflect on the intersection of human rights and migration through film, music and discussion. In a Praxis blog, the CEO Vaughan Jones, highlighted the event by reflecting on the importance of human rights to protect migrants’ humanity and dignity. He stressed the dangerous climate in regards to immigration and how the focus was continually on the economic framework while other instances such as families being separated by immigration controls remained unknown.
    Source: Praxis, 29 November 2011, Praxis, 25 November 2011

Other News

  • CANADA / Call for submissions for “The Cities of Migration Project”, looking for good practices of inclusion

    The Cities of Migration project, sponsored by Maytree- a foundation in Canada, is launching a first call for submissions for good practices on the theme “Good Ideas from Successful Cities: Municipal Leadership on Immigrant Integration”. The idea of the project is to highlight local governments that have taken positive steps to recognize and manage responsibly the complex realities of immigration and migrants in their communities. The activities should be city-led and can range from: planning, zoning, services, housing and employment to human resources and procurement. There are potentially some good ideas out there which involve inclusion of undocumented migrants, access to services and how such policies benefit the community as a whole; these sorts of examples are certainly something to highlight! The deadline for submitting is 30 January 2012 and for more information you can visit the website.
    Source: Cities of Migration,

  • GREECE / FILM / ”Man at Sea” presented at film festival

    The film by Konstantinos Giannaris, «Man at Sea» was presented on the 10th of November in the International Film Festival of Thessaloniki, Greece. The film premiered at Berlin but the director decided to cut the film again, in a different and better version. The film is shot entirely on a tanker where the captain of the boat tries to save 30 irregular migrants whose boat sank at sea. After the movie, the director debated with the audience and said that his film reflects the reality, that around 80% of the people entering irregularly in countries like Greece are adolescents and children. He also said that even if we consider ourselves to live through a crisis, our society and the western world in general do not have any wars, are not hungry and have running water, so are in a much better position than many other countries in the world. He added that Greeks and Europeans are xenophobic and this is reflected not only in the immigrants/native population divide but also in the north/south divide within Europe.
    Source: In.gr, 11 November 2011

  • USA / The Associated Press updates its stylebook but still uses the phrase “illegal immigrant”

    Although the Associated Press has updated its style guide last week, it still continues to use the phrase “illegal immigrant” while discourages the use of the shortened term “an illegal”, “illegals”, “illegal alien” and “undocumented worker”. The organization defends the term by saying that it is accurate and neutral for news stories while the other listed terms lack precision and do not go far enough in pointing out other potential alleged violations. Despite this, there are a number of organizations which are against the usage of the term and are pushing to change it, such as the Society of Professional Journalists, ColorLines and PICUM, both organizations which have created a terminology page for journalists.
    Source: Colorlines, 10 November 2011; Drop the I-Word

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