- United Nations
- European Policy Developments
- National Developments
- Health Care
- Labour and Fair Working Conditions
- Undocumented Children and Their Families
- Detention and Deportation
- PICUM in the News
AUSTRIA / GERMANY / ITALY / Call for EU-mission on Libya-Niger border and for closure of Mediterranean route
In a letter to the European Commission from 11 May 2017, the German and Italian Ministers of Interior, Thomas de Maizière and Marco Minniti, asked for the establishment of an EU Mission at the border between Libya and Niger. Technical and financial support should be given to Libyan authorities to reduce irregular migration, particularly at the border with Niger. Austria’s Minister of Interior, Wolfgang Sobotka, supported calls for an EU-mission at the southern border of Libya. He also demanded action to control migration at the southern borders of Europe including the closure of the Mediterranean route. Mr Sobotka stated that rescue at sea could be seen as a ticket to Europe as it gives organised smugglers grounds to convince people to migrate for economic reasons. He added that Austria is in close contact with Italy and is prepared to take immediate action if necessary.
Sources: Euractiv, 15 May 2917; FOCUS, 19 April 2017; RP, 19 April 2017; POLITICO, 19 April 2017
BALKAN ROUTE / REPORT / Mass abuse and push-backs of migrants along Western Balkan route
Oxfam released a report “A Dangerous Game” in cooperation with the Belgrade Centre for Human Rights (BCHR) and the Macedonian Young Lawyers Association (MYLA) in April 2017. Researchers interviewed 140 migrants and refugees of whom 75 had been expelled from Hungary to Serbia, 19 from Croatia to Serbia, 44 from Serbia to either Bulgaria or Macedonia, seven from Bulgaria to Turkey and one from Macedonia to Greece. Some were expelled more than once and from more than one location. A large majority came from Afghanistan, the others from Pakistan, Syria, Iraq, Iran, Egypt and Lebanon. All 140 migrants reported abuses and breaches of law by police officers, border control or other state security agents while travelling along the Western Balkan route, including against children. In Hungary, police officers made migrants and refugees sit in the snow naked while they poured cold water over them. In Bulgaria migrants were robbed of belongings by police officers before being sent back across the border. Bulgarian authorities administered electric shocks. Hungary and Croatia have used tactics, such as attack dogs and forcing people to strip naked in freezing temperatures. Besides the abuses, the report documents various cases of pushbacks and obstacles to accessing fair asylum procedures, lawyers and translators. The report calls on the governments of Serbia, Macedonia, Croatia, Hungary and Bulgaria to immediately stop violating rights of people seeking protection. Furthermore, that the European Union ensure compliance with international law and human rights standards throughout the EU. Read the full report here.
Sources: OXFAM, 6 April 2017; epo, 6 April 2017; EURACTIV, 6 April 2017
MACEDONIA / Irregular migrants more exposed due to restrictive policies and securitisation of borders
Due to securitization along the Balkan route, irregular migrants risk abuse from both the authorities and organised crime networks. The organisation Legis issued a report ‘Irregular Migration in Macedonia’, gathering its observations during outreach work with migrants in the Lipkovo Municipality over a six-month period from 25 August 2016 to 31 January 2017. Legis notes that the lack of regular pathways into the EU, restrictive admission policies and the securitisation of borders lead to higher risks of rights’ violations by the authorities: migrants are sometimes denied access to asylum procedures, and at least 1,390 deportations from Serbia did not follow regular procedures. The situation also facilitates smuggling, human trafficking and organised crime, putting irregular migrants at risk of abuse, extortion and kidnapping. Irregular migrants are often unaware of the possibilities for protection, and abuses go unreported as they risk detention and deportation when contacting the authorities. Read the full report here.
GERMANY / Increase in irregular migration through Switzerland to Germany
According to the German Ministry of Interior, the number of irregular entries through Switzerland to Germany is three times higher than the previous year. The federal police reported 1,350 irregular border crossings in January and February 2017. However, these numbers only reflect identified irregular entries and security authorities estimate the actual numbers to be significantly higher. In the first two months of 2016, only 402 irregular entries were recorded. Nevertheless, taking account of the entire German border, authorities estimate an overall decrease in irregular entries compared to the previous year. Since January 2017, 9,000 cases have been reported. Despite demands for reinforced controls at the border with Switzerland, the German government states it is not required considering the current numbers. In a nationwide major operation near the border between 27 March and 2 April 2017, German police conducted passport controls of nearly 87,300 bus passengers, registering 146 irregular entries.
Sources: Zeit, 9 April 2017; Tagesschau, 22 March 2017; SZ, 10 April 2017; Berliner Zeitung, 5 April 2017
MEDITERRANEAN / Migrant arrivals reach over 59,000 and 1,340 die
According to the International Organization for Migration’s (IOM) Missing Migrants Project, from 1 January 2017 until 21 May 2017, 1,340 people died at sea and 59,135 migrants and refugees entered Europe by sea. On 23 May alone, Doctors Without Borders (MSF) and Save the Children reported saving 1,550 migrants in the Mediterranean and almost 90 migrants were saved from three boats near the Spanish coast in Cádiz. In April, various aid organisations and rescue workers such as the Migrant Offshore Aid Station (MOAS), the Italian NGO Sea Eye, the German group Jugend Rettet, and MSF were involved in large rescue operations. According to reports, more than 2,000 people were rescued on 14 April and about 3,000 on 15 April alone. On 13 April, a boat sank from which 23 people were rescued and nearly 100 migrants died. Meanwhile, the Director of the European border agency FRONTEX, Fabrice Leggeri, stated that the more rescuers are sent to the Libyan coast by the international community, the more smuggling would be facilitated. In a report, Amnesty International expressed concern that Italian authorities may be attempting to circumvent their obligation to protect people by facilitating the interception of refugees and migrant boats by Libyan authorities in the central Mediterranean.
Sources: BBC, 16 April 2017; SZ, 19 April 2017; Heraldo, 23 May 2017; International Organization for Migration, Missing Migrants, 23 May 2017
Sweden ended the practice of ID-controls of people arriving via trains, ferries and buses from Denmark on 4 May 2017. According to police in the south of Sweden, they detected 24 migrants and asylum seekers arriving from Denmark within four days with a usual average of about five people a week. Figures of the Swedish Migration Agency (Migrationsverket), however, show now overall increase of asylum requests for the period in Sweden. The number of rejections on the border also increased, mainly due to insufficient reasons to claim asylum or because the individual had already applied for asylum in another EU country. The controls had been in place since January 2016 as a result of the high number of asylum seekers arriving at the border. About 330 people seek asylum in Sweden each week and the country is predicting that between 22,000 and 45,000 people will seek asylum in 2017.
Sources: Sverige Radio, 8 May 2017; The Local, 8 May 2017; Sydsvenskan, 9 May 2017
UN / Detention, abuse and harrassment can exacerbate effects of torture for victims who migrate
Victims of torture who migrate face particular vulnerabilities and require special responses. The UN Voluntary Fund for Victims of Torture revealed that two-thirds of the 50,000 victims it assists are migrants or refugees. UN experts state that victims of torture who migrate towards places they assume to be safe, often encounter legal and political barriers to safety, and the effects of torture are exacerbated by detention, xenophobia, or harassment by law enforcement officials. These statements preceded a UN event on torture and migration on 28 April 2017 which discussed how to meet the needs of torture victims in the context of migration.
Source: Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), Press Release, 26 April 2017
UN / UN experts urge states to make migrants and refugees with disabilities a priority in the global compact on migration
The Committee on Migrant Workers (CMW) and the Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) issued a joint statement on 12 April 2017, calling on states to integrate considerations related to migrants with disabilities into the development of the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration which will set out a principles and commitments to enhance coordination on international migration. They expressed concern that many countries lack processes to identify migrants with disabilities, and thus fail to provide them with adequate prevention and services. The Chair of the CRPD noted that the “Global Compact is a unique opportunity to address the shortcomings of a migration and refugee system built on policies that lack consideration for persons with disabilities.” They urge states, in developing the Global Compact, to include persons with disability and organisations in the design, implementation and monitoring of the new framework. The statement is available here.
EUROPEAN POLICY DEVELOPMENTS
COURT OF JUSTICE OF THE EU / Ruling: parents of children with EU citizenship should be granted EU residence status
The Court of Justice of the EU (CJEU) ruled on 10 May 2017 that parents of children with EU citizenship should receive EU residence if they are the main carers. The case concerned a Venezuelan woman living in the Netherlands whose visa had expired, and who claimed benefits for her child, a Dutch national. They were denied to her, due to her status. The decision states that the welfare of the child should be a priority. Children should fully enjoy their rights as EU citizens. National courts should consider the impact of separation from a parent on a child’s well-being, taking into consideration the child’s age, and emotional ties with their parents. The judgement follows the Zambrano ruling of 8 March 2011, which has been interpreted narrowly by member states, and clarifies that the ability and willingness of the other parent to assume responsibility for the child is not a sufficient ground for denying the main carer a right to stay. To view the judgment, click here.
Source: EU Observer, 11 May 2017
EUROPEAN COURT OF HUMAN RIGHTS / Ruling in favour of undocumented workers’ rights
The European Court of Human Rights ruled on 30 March 2017 that Greece failed in its duty to protect migrant workers from labour exploitation, and to properly investigate their abuse and punish those responsible. Greece must now pay each applicant participating in the Court proceedings up to €16,000 in compensation for the damage they suffered. The case arose from an incident in April 2013 where 150 people were shot at, and 30 severely injured, after they demanded their wages as agricultural workers in the strawberry fields in Manolada, Greece (see PICUM Bulletin 25 August 2014). Working twelve-hour days under the watch of armed guards, the workers were not paid even the promised salary of €22 per day, for seven hours’ work, plus overtime. Several of the workers took their case to a national court, which acquitted the employers and armed guards of human trafficking charges in 2014. The employers were found guilty of grievous bodily harm and unlawful use of firearms, but their only punishment was to pay the victims that took the case forward €43 each. The case was then brought to the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg. The full judgement in the case Chowdury and others v. Greece is available here. A joint statement by PICUM and the AIRE centre is available here.
EU / Child rights organisations welcome new EU Commission policy to protect migrant and refugee children
The European Commission published a communication on the protection of children in migration on 12 April 2017. The guidelines, which provide concrete actions to protect all migrant and refugee children in Europe, have been broadly welcomed by child rights organisations. The communication aims to provide a series of coordinated and effective actions to the pressing protection gaps and needs that children face at all stages of migration processes, ranging from their identification, reception, implementation of procedural safeguards, as well as establishment of durable solutions. Actions which are particularly important for undocumented children include ensuring access to inclusive, formal education, including early childhood education and care, and ensuring timely access to health care (including preventative care) as well as to other essential public services. The communication also underlines how appropriate procedural safeguards must be applied to all children present on the territory of the European Union, including at all stages of the asylum and return procedure, and how a number of key protection measures, notably as regards access to information, legal representation and guardianship, the right to be heard, the right to an effective remedy and multidisciplinary and rights-compliant age assessments, needs to be stepped up. It calls for durable solutions to be found for children, following a best interests determination, and for governments to seek to ensure availability of status determination procedures and resolution of residence status for children who will not be returned, in particular for those who have resided in the country for a certain period of time. While the communication restates the standard in the EU law that allows detention of migrant children only as a last resort, when strictly necessary, for the shortest time possible, it emphasises how this must be exclusively in exceptional circumstances and how everything possible must be done to ensure that a viable range of alternatives to the administrative detention of children in migration is available and accessible, including through support provided by the EU funds. The communication is available here. A joint statement of several children’s and migrants’ rights organisations is available here. A Commission Staff Working Document: Implementing the Action Plan on Unaccompanied Minors (2010-2014) was published alongside the communication and is available here.
EU / HUNGARY / European Commission launches infringement procedure against Hungary regarding asylum law
The European Commission sent a letter of formal notice to Hungary on 17 May 2017 raising concerns about amendments to Hungarian asylum law adopted in March 2017. The infringement procedure is a mechanism that enables the European Commission to take action when a member state violates EU law. The following recent developments in Hungarian asylum law are possibly incompatible with EU law: Hungary considerably restricts access to asylum procedures and does not respect border procedures, guarantees for vulnerable individuals and the right to an effective remedy for asylum seekers; Hungary is not following EU rules and procedures concerning the return of irregular migrants; the systematic detention of asylum seekers, including children, in closed facilities without a right of appeal breaches EU law as well as fundamental rights. Hungary has two months to respond. In 2015, Hungary was already the subject of an infringement procedure on asylum law, and the Commission also notes that some issues highlighted then remain to be addressed. In addition to this procedure, as a reaction to the deterioration of the rule of law and democracy in Hungary, the European Parliament also voted to trigger Article 7 of the Treaty on the European Union, which could restrict the voting rights of Hungary in the European Council.
Source: European Commission, Press Release, 17 May 2017
BELGIUM / Brussels public transport company conducts ticket-checks in cooperation with police
The Brussels public transport company STIB, has collaborated with the police in order to perform joint ticket controls and identity checks during morning rush hours, when many undocumented families take their children to school. Belgian media reported on identity checks and arrests including the arrest of a family. Selma Benkhelifa, lawyer of the Progress Lawyers Network, who witnessed one such control, noted that according to Belgian law, children who are undocumented are allowed to go to school and that this sort of operation does not benefit public security but only harms families.
Source: Le Vif, 4 May 2017
FRANCE / Fire destroys migrant camp
A fire burned the migrant camp of Grande Synthe near Calais to the ground and injured 10 migrants on 10 April 2017. The camp was accommodating 1,500 migrants, who were supposed to receive emergency shelter. The authorities have declared that the fire was the result of a fight between Afghan and Kurdish residents. Many Afghans moved to this camp last October when the nearby camp at Calais was dismantled. This situation created tensions, as the Afghans were not offered the same living conditions as the Kurdish community who had been living in Grande Synthe for a longer time.
Sources: Al Jazeera, 12 April 2017; Le Monde, 11 April 2017
GERMANY / CONFERENCE / Pressure on church asylum
Due to increasingly restrictive policies, more migrants and refugees are seeking shelter provided through church asylum in Germany. At the same time, policymakers and authorities increasingly criticise church asylum. This will be the topic of a conference in Frankfurt on 1 July 2017, entitled “Parishes under pressure. Church asylum between restriction and solidarity” (“Kirchengemeinden unter Druck. Kirchenasyl zwischen Restriktion und Solidarität”). The national church asylum conference will gather representatives of parishes, organisations and supporters. As of 15 May 2017, there were 312 spaces in churches providing shelter and asylum to approximately 530 people including around 140 children. More information on the conference is available here.
Sources: BAG Asyl in der Kirche Newsletter 5, 2017; BAG Asyl in der Kirche Press release, 12 April 2017
GERMANY / Police conducts major search operation in northern Germany
A group of 160 police officers were involved in a major search operation called “Spürhund” (“tracking dog”) in northern Germany involving 2,600 inspections, which included searching 600 cars and trucks, 38 buses, 49 trains as well as 21 ships. The operation covered the federal states Schleswig-Holstein and Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania. The operation aimed to apprehend irregular migrants and find out more about movements, routes and tactics of smugglers.
Source: N24, 8 April 2017
GREECE / REPORT / Shortcomings in accessing protection in Greece
Asylum applications are lodged with significant delays in Greece. There are delays of up to eight months to lodge asylum applications on the Greek islands. Certain nationalities are arbitrarily given prioritisation. This also results in delayed entry into family reunification procedures. These are findings of a new report of the organisation Aitima which is the result of a six-month project on monitoring the asylum system. The report includes recommendations to different stakeholders such as the Ministry of Migration Policy, the Asylum Services, the Hellenic Police and the European Asylum Support Office, mainly asking for unimpeded access to asylum procedures, information, and legal aid, and an overall fairer and more efficient asylum procedure. A summary as well as the full report are available here.
LIBYA / Migrants sold on markets and held for ransoms
According to reports of the International Organization for Migration (IOM), there are ‘slave markets’ in Libya. Migrants reported to be sold and bought on squares or parking lots. Some were recruited for jobs and instead of being paid, sold to other buyers. Others are reportedly held hostage and beaten to make their family pay ransoms for their release. Some migrants were forced to work as guards. Most of the victims who were kidnapped are from countries such as Nigeria, Ghana and Gambia. Some migrants for whom no ransom is paid were also killed. IOM collected their testimonies. This also included the cases of women who were sexually abused.
Sources: International Organization for Migration (IOM), 11 April 2017; The Guardian, 10 April 2017
SWEDEN / Fierce debate about refused asylum seekers staying irregularly, following Stockholm attack
Following the terrorist attack in Stockholm on 7 April 2017 which left five people dead, a debate has emerged about refused asylum seekers who irregularly stay in the country. A 39-year old Uzbek national was apprehended in relation to the attack, his application for protection had been rejected in June 2016 but he remained in the country. The Swedish Minster for Home Affairs, Anders Ygeman, stated that preparatory legislative work is already ongoing which would include, among other things, an increase in funding to agencies involved in deportations, as well as increased work place controls to check for undocumented workers. Currently, 55% of refused asylum seekers leave the territory within the given time limit and it is estimated that 12,500 refused asylum applicants are still residing in Sweden. Meanwhile, the Swedish Migration Agency (Migrationsverket) has come under pressure for their position that Afghanistan should be deemed a safe country to which refused asylum seekers can be returned. Afghan asylum seekers are thus now more likely to have their asylum application refused compared to Iraqi and Syrian nationals. Following reports about the unstable security situation in Afghanistan, politicians from different parties voiced their concerns about the need to revise the current position on Afghanistan.
Sources: Aftonbladet, 27 April 2017; Svenska Dagbladet, 27 April 2017; GB, 10 April 2017; DN, 5 March 2017
USA / Undocumented migrants wary of reporting crimes or testifying due to risk of deportation
Due to a widely reported case in Texas in February, where an undocumented woman was arrested at the courthouse right after she sought a protective order against her abusive ex-partner, and President Donald Trump signing an executive order prioritising most undocumented migrants for deportation, evidence is increasing that undocumented migrants are wary of reporting crimes or testifying in court, for risk of arrest and deportation, according to law enforcement officials and advocates. They warn that crimes will go unreported and witnesses will refuse to testify over fears that any interaction with law enforcement could be a prelude to removal from the country. According to Cecelia Friedman Levin of Asista, an immigrant justice group, “Abusers commonly threaten victims that reaching out for help will result in their removal or separation from their children”. The Los Angeles police department states that sexual assault reports as well as reports of domestic violence from Hispanic people have dropped this year compared to the previous year. Meanwhile, sanctuary cities, where city authorities limit cooperation with immigration law enforcement, have come under attack as part of the Trump administration’s claim that undocumented migrants increase crime to justify increased deportations and to question sanctuary cities.
Sources: The Guardian, 23 March 2017; Motherjones, 20 March 2017, kgun9, 18 April 2017; MSNBC and Magnum Photos, April, 2017
UK / Homelessness care providers cooperate with immigration enforcement in order to deport migrants
Homelessness charities in the UK are reported to have cooperated with ‘Immigration Compliance and Enforcement’ teams (ICE) through joint patrols and information sharing, which lead to the detention and deportation of foreign rough sleepers. A report of Corporate Watch ‘The Round-Up: rough sleeper immigration raids and charity Collaboration’ reveals this new relationship between care providers and ICE, undermining the duty of homelessness organisations to care for destitute people. This is a result of the ‘hostile environment’ policy of the government. Read the full report here.
Source: Migrants’ Rights Network, 6 March 2017
EU / REPORT / WHO Magazine addresses undocumented women’s access to sexual and reproductive health care
In its final issue, The World Health Organization’s (WHO) European magazine on sexual and reproductive health Entre Nous published an article on undocumented women’s access to health services in Europe. Authored by PICUM and the European Board and College of Obstetrics and Gynaecology (EBCOG), the article describes the obstacles faced by women with irregular status in getting health care, and the impact on their health, families and communities. It also outlines health professionals’ ethical duty to provide care on a non-discriminatory basis, noting position statements bodies by professional associations, such as by World Medical Association (WMA) and the European Board and College of Obstetrics and Gynaecology (EBCOG) that take such a stance. The authors recommend that the European Commission, in collaboration with WHO and other relevant partners, establish a working group to develop a European-wide human rights and evidence-based policy for ensuring health care for all migrant women and their families, regardless of migration status. The full issue available is here.
UK / Pregnant migrant women delay maternity care due to risk of deportation and high bills
Doctors of the World UK, a non-governmental organisation that runs clinics for disadvantaged populations, is reporting increasing numbers of pregnant women who are seeking medical attention for the first time in the late stages of their pregnancy. Doctors of the World reports that women say they are delaying care because they fear the prospect of high medical bills or of being reported to the Home Office and facing deportation. The National Health System (NHS) has also reportedly been issuing letters that instruct patients deemed potentially ineligible for free care to attend a meeting to determine their eligibility, and to bring a means of paying for their care if they are deemed ineligible. (A sample letter can be viewed here.) Under NHS rules, hospitals can ask for payment from those who are not eligible for free care, but emergency treatment, which includes maternity care, cannot be withheld. Critics of the letters argue that it is futile to send them to women who cannot afford food and housing, and unacceptable to threaten pregnant women that services will be withheld if they are unable to pay.
Sources: The Guardian, 20 March 2017; Standard, 20 March 2017; Rewire, 14 April 2017
GERMANY / UN / UN Committee calls on Germany to repeal or amend law requiring denunciation of undocumented migrants seeking health care
The expert committee charged with overseeing states’ progress in implementing the UN Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) published its concluding observation on Germany in March 2017. Article 12 of CEDAW requires states that are party to the convention (189 states are currently party to the Convention, including all EU member states) to take all appropriate measures to eliminate discrimination against women in the field of health care. In this context, the Committee expressed its concern at the difficulty that undocumented migrants face in accessing non-emergency health care, because of the obligation on the body that determines coverage to report undocumented individuals to immigration authorities. The Committee therefore expressly recommended that Germany repeal or amend paragraph 87 of the Residence Act (Aufenthaltsgesetz) to ensure that people who are undocumented can obtain the coverage they are entitled to under the Asylum Seekers Assistance Law (Asylbewerberleistungsgesetz) without the risk of being denounced and deported. General observation available in multiple languages here. A joint submission to CEDAW Committee by Mediburo Kiel, Maisha e.V.-African Women in Germany, and PICUM is available here.
USA / REPORT / Barriers to health care for migrants and refugees in Kansas
The REACH Healthcare Foundation recently released a report on the multiple access barriers to health care that migrants and refugees face specifically in the Kansas City area. Based on various surveys and discussions the report concludes that migrants and refugees must overcome multiple cultural, financial and administrative obstacles to access health care services, even in clinics established to serve the uninsured. Undocumented migrants face particular challenges because they are not eligible for subsidised coverage of medical care. The most challenging barriers identified by the report are fear and mistrust and a lack of interpreters at the relevant institutions, health care workers with limited understanding of migration processes and related traumas as well as limited access to specialists and behavioral health services. To read the full report click here.
Source: KCUR, 14 April 2017
USA / STUDY / Reduced levels of depression in undocumented migrants who are eligible for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) programme
The Lancet Public Health published a new study on the physical and mental health effects of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) programme, on 14 March 2017. The researchers found that the programme appears to have reduced levels of depression in undocumented Hispanic migrants who are eligible for DACA. The study examined data of the U.S. National Health Interview Survey for the period from January 2008 to December 2015 including non-citizen Hispanic adults aged 19–50 years. The study was based on approximately 14 500 survey responses, and looked at the health outcomes of individuals eligible for DACA before and after the implementation of the programme. These were compared with the outcomes for people who did not meet the DACA criteria, with a specific focus on self-reported overall health and psychological distress. Overall the study concluded that eligible persons were 50% less likely to report symptoms consistent with major depression. DACA was implemented to suspend deportation for certain undocumented individuals who entered the US as children, and made them eligible for a work permit (see PICUM Bulletin 18 September 2012). The study was conducted by a team of researchers from Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health and Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH). To read the full study click here.
LABOUR AND FAIR WORKING CONDITIONS
VIDEO / Animation shows how work can turn into labour exploitation
A video animation from the UK based organisation Focus on Labour Exploitation (FLEX) provides information about the differences between decent work and modern slavery. The video explains how exploitative conditions start when promised payments are not made, working hours increased and how workers can get trapped in exploitative situations through threats and abuse. The video animation is available here.
UNDOCUMENTED CHILDREN AND THEIR FAMILIES
SURVEY / Children at high risk of abuse and death, particularly on central Mediterranean migration route
Better policies on child protection and prevention of abuse, transnational cooperation, and the establishment of safe and regular pathways need to be developed in order to protect children and women against violence and abuse along the central Mediterranean migration route. A survey by UNICEF and the International Organisation for Cooperation and Emergency Aid (IOCEA) of February 2017, ‘A Deadly Journey for Children – The Central Mediterranean Migration Route’, reveals that 25,846 children attempted to cross the Mediterranean towards Italy in 2016, and over 700 died at sea. Along the route, children and women are highly vulnerable to (sexual) abuse, trafficking, violence and extortion. They also risk detention in deplorable conditions and torture in Libya. Yet, the number of people attempting to cross the Mediterranean is increasing. Read the full survey here.
REPORT / Call for action to protect children
UNICEF also published a report ‘A Child is a Child: Protecting children on the move from violence, abuse and exploitation’. The report calls for urgent action, finding that alarming numbers of children are moving alone; without safe and regular pathways, children’s journeys are rife with risk and exploitation; as States struggle to manage migration, children fall through the cracks; and harsh border enforcement policies leave children in limbo and exacerbate their risk of exploitation. UNICEF’s six-point plan to keep refugee and migrant children safe is (1) protect children from exploitation and violence, (2) end detention by creating practical alternatives, (3) keep families together and give children residence status, (4) help children to stay in school and healthy, (5) press for action on the causes that uproot children (6) combat xenophobia and discrimination. The full report is available here.
SOUTH AFRICA / Undocumented children barred from school
Undocumented children are being refused access to education in South Africa. Migrant workers, for example from Mozambique and Swaziland, are also not able to get birth certificates for their children born in South Africa. Schools require a birth certificate, a study visa and a residence permit for children to register. Although these requirements have been ignored in the past, and although the law guarantees access to education without discrimination, schools have recently started refusing children on the basis that they should comply with immigration rules. Meanwhile, xenophobic sentiments and violence are growing in South Africa, as migrants are blamed for unemployment and crime. In March, migrants’ homes and businesses in Johannesburg and Pretoria were destroyed, and the police had to intervene to prevent violence during an anti-migrant protest. Anti-migrant rhetoric is also increasing in the discourse of politicians and community leaders.
Source: Al Jazeera, 16 April 2017; Al Jazeera, 27 February 2017
UK / Parents told not to share children’s nationality and birthplace in school census
The National Union of Teachers (NUT) suspects that information about children’s nationality and country of birth collected for the National Pupil Database could be used to enforce immigration law, and asks parents not to reveal these details. There are fears that this information could be passed on from the Department for Education to police and the Home Office, in charge of immigration law enforcement. The Department for Education, however, assured that nationality and country of birth information is solely for use by the Department for Education and would not be shared. Parents are not legally required to provide this information but schools are required to ask for it (See also ‘Campaign against discriminatory data collection in schools continues’, PICUM Bulletin, 3 February 2017).
Source: The Guardian, 17 April 2017
DETENTION AND DEPORTATION
GERMANY / NETHERLANDS / Children’s and human rights organisations call for immediate stop to deportation of vulnerable people to Afghanistan
Eight Dutch NGOs, Amnesty International, Defence for Children, Stichting Inlia, Kerk in actie, LOS, Save the Children, UNICEF and Vluchtelingenwerk Nederland joined forces to release a statement calling for an end to deportation of vulnerable people to Afghanistan. The statement highlights the unstable security situation in Afghanistan and the sharp increase in the number of children amongst the casualties. Various studies confirm the risk of violent incidents, explosions and suicide attacks in all parts of the country at any moment as well as the lack of supplies and facilities. 91% of 520 interviewed children below the age of 15 suffered from a form of violence, according to research conducted by Save the Children. The NGOs express their concern regarding the October 2016 deal between the European Union and the Afghan government, “Joint Way Forward”, which foresees increased deportations of Afghan nationals. According to German media reports, less than half of asylum seekers from Afghanistan are now granted asylum in Germany. In 2016, 77.6 % of the applications for asylum were granted, in 2016, it was only 60.5% and in the first two months of 2017 only 47.9%. Organisations such as Pro Asyl have called to end collective deportation flights to Afghanistan.
Sources: Amnesty International, 24 April 2017; Tagesschau, 24 April 2017; Spiegel ONLINE, 24 April 2017; Passauer Neue Presse, 24 April 2017
GERMANY / Plan to accommodate deported children in children homes in Morocco
According to a leaked document, the German Federal Agency for Migration and Refugees (BAMF) is planning to build two centres in Morocco to accommodate deported unaccompanied migrant children. Each centre is supposed to provide 100 places at a total cost of €960,000 per year. Besides accommodation and medical services, education and language training will be provided. A pilot project is supposed to start this year and run until 2020. According to reports, “appropriate NGOs” will build and run the facilities with funding from “appropriate EU states”. Following an official Green party question, the government said that the centres are supposed to create prospects for the children to stay in Morocco and prevent future irregular migration to Europe. According to the BAMF, 35,939 persons under the age of 18 applied for asylum in Germany in 2016, only 124 of which were from Morocco. Stephan Dünnwald, of the Bavarian Refugee Council, criticised the plan saying that usually children can only be returned to their country of origin if they are put into the immediate care of a legal guardian and that the plan is legally and morally questionable. The Commission Communication on the protection of children in migration reiterates that decisions on return must respect the principles of non-refoulement and the best interests of the child, should be based on a case- by-case assessment, and following a fair and effective procedure guaranteeing their right to protection and non – discrimination.
Sources: RT, 8 May 2017; DW, 5 May 2017, taz, 4 May 2017
GERMANY / Dublin returns to Hungary suspended if adequate accommodation will not be provided
Following a new decree of the German government, Germany will only return asylum seekers to Hungary in accordance with the Dublin regulation if the Hungarian government can ensure compliance with EU standards regarding accommodation in every individual case. According to the Dublin regulation, people have to seek asylum in the first EU country where they were registered. In 2016, nearly 300 people were returned from Germany to Hungary out of nearly 12,000 deportation requests from Germany, partly because Hungary agreed to only 3,756 returns. Previously in 2011, the Dublin regulation returns of migrants from Germany to Greece were suspended because of deficiencies in accommodation and the asylum procedures in Greece. In March 2017, return procedures between Germany and Greece were reinstated. (See PICUM Bulletin 4 April 2017)
Sources: Tagesschau, 11 April 2017; FR, 11 April 2017
PROJECT / Legal analysis of the EU Return Directive
The EU Return Directive Dialogue (REDIAL) Project was launched in mid-2015 to facilitate judicial dialogue among national judges involved in return procedures. The project aims to enhance effective implementation of the Return Directive (2008/115/EC) through judicial cooperation among courts from all EU member states. The REDIAL project has, to date, given rise to a number of resources, including a national database of landmark national judgments on the interpretation and application of the EU Return Directive in all member states; and a European database of judgments by the Court of Justice of the EU (CJEU) on the interpretation and application of the EU Return Directive. The project has also produced national reports that give an overview of the relevant national legislation, administrative practice and case law for each of the main chapters of the EU Return Directive, drafted by the academics in collaboration with the national judges; European synthesis reports for each of Chapters II-IV of the Return Directive analysing the legal provisions of the Return Directive, relevant CJEU judgments and case law of member states implementing EU law; an annotated Directive with references to the relevant case law of the CJEU and the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) for each provision; a blog where academics and judges publish comments on recent domestic and European jurisprudence and/or legislative amendments; and three editions of a freely accessible Electronic Journal. The final issue of the Electronic Journal (focusing on Articles 15 to 18 of the Directive) was published online in early 2017 and is available here. The REDIAL project is co-funded by the European Commission and coordinated by the Migration Policy Centre, in cooperation with the Centre for Judicial Cooperation and the Odysseus Academic Network.
REPORT / Migrant children in detention at risk of torture
The report ‘Protecting Children against Torture in Detention: Global Solutions for a Global Problem‘ consists of a compilation of over 30 articles written by different experts on deprivation of liberty of children and the protection of children in detention from torture. Published by the Centre for Human Rights and Humanitarian Law Anti-Torture Initiative and the American University Washington College of Law, the report aims to expand on the former United Nations Special Rapporteur on Torture, Juan E. Méndez’s report from 2015 on torture of children deprived of liberty. The different articles deal with child detention in different contexts: the criminal justice system, armed conflict, institutionalisation and migration. Concerning migrant children, the publication notes that while states increasingly detain children for immigration control purposes, this is never in the best interest of the child and puts them at risk of torture, cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment. It stresses that detention of children based on their or their parents’ migration status is against international standards, and deprives them of other rights, for example, the right to education. The publication urges states to stop using child detention and instead set up alternatives that respect the well-being of children. To read the publication, click here.
REPORT / Protecting stateless people from arbitrary detention
The European Network on Statelessness (ENS) released a new report, entitled ‘Protecting Stateless Persons from Arbitrary Detention: An Agenda for Change’, in 2017. The report is the final publication of a three-year project aimed at better understanding the extent and consequences of the detention of stateless persons in Europe, and creating tools and advocating for the protection of stateless persons from arbitrary detention through the application of regional and international standards. The report highlights the particular risk of stateless people to unlawful, prolonged and arbitrary detention due to living in limbo. The report recommends, among others, to implement community based alternatives to detention; people who claim to be stateless should be provided with information and legal aid and procedures to determine statelessness need to be in place; authorities should grant compensation to individuals whose detention has been deemed unlawful and detention needs to be independently monitored. The report is available here. The European Network on Statelessness (ENS) has also published a statement including its key demands which can be signed by individuals and is available here.
REPORT / Post-deportation monitoring can help develop better migration policies
The latest issue of Forced Migration Review contains a mini-feature consisting of four short articles on post-deportation risks and monitoring, which look at the situation of asylum seekers whose application was rejected and who were deported back to their country of origin. After deportation, they face risks such as depression, extortion, detention, or inhumane and degrading treatment, which means that deportation could, in many cases, constitute refoulement. Refoulement – which means deporting migrants to a country where they face a risk of persecution – is not allowed under international law. The report argues that post-deportation monitoring of what happens to failed asylum seekers upon return could lead to improving migration policy, by providing adequate support to those who were deported, by helping to identify whether the fears of asylum seekers who flee a country are well-founded, and to provide information for reports on the situation in countries of origin and whether it is safe to return migrants. To read the full issue, click here.
Source: Forced Migration Review, February 2017
SPAIN / NGOs raise concerns about the detention of migrant children and age-determination tests
In Spain, migrant children are sometimes detained and age-determination criteria and processes do not always meet international standards. The Global Detention Project and Pueblos Unidos made a joint submission on the detention of migrant children in Spain to the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child (CRC) containing information and questions to be considered during the review of Spain. The submission highlights that Spanish law indirectly authorises the detention of children and their families, and unaccompanied children may also be detained during the age-determination test. The organisations express concern about the age-determination process and criteria and ask for further details on why documents such as birth certificates and passports are not accepted as proof of age, and clarification on where children are accommodated during the test. They also ask about the respect of procedural safeguards such as access to legal counsel and information about the procedure and its consequences, consent for the age-determination test, and the possibility of appealing the decision. Read the joint submission on the detention of migrant children in Spain here.
PICUM IN THE NEWS
GLOBAL / Undocumented women do not report violence due to risk of arrest and of deportation
The Thomson Reuters Foundation reported that undocumented women often do not report domestic violence due to risk of arrest and deportation. They also do not benefit from state-funded shelters and other sources of help. Since 2013, a pilot project by Amsterdam police has worked to increase the possibility for undocumented persons to report crimes to the police without risk of arrest. The article, which was picked up by the Daily Mail, also cites Eve Geddie from PICUM, saying that organisations lack funds and support to advocate for the rights of undocumented migrants.
Sources: Thomson Reuters Foundation, 20 April 2017; Daily Mail, 20 April 2017
EU / New EU guidelines on migrant children
Several news media reported on the European Commission Communication on Children in Migration highlighting responses of different organisations working on migrant children’s rights, including PICUM. Some media quoted Michele LeVoy, PICUM Director, saying that migrant children should be treated as children and never be detained.
Sources: Ansa, Askanews, Agenzia Nova, Reggio Emilia, AFP-Belga, Belga, La Libre Belgique; POLITICO Brussels Playbook 12 April 2017
With contributions from Salomé Guibreteau (PICUM Trainee), Laura Przybyla (PICUM Intern) and Emil Berlin (PICUM volunteer).