BRUSSELS, 16 November 2015 – On the occasion of the deadline for EU member states to transpose the EU Victims’ Directive*, the Platform for International Cooperation on Undocumented Migrants (PICUM) urges national governments, authorities and law enforcement officials to effectively implement the Directive to ensure protection and justice for all victims of crime, both in law and in practice.
The EU Victims’ Directive (2012/29/EU) is a legally binding instrument, adopted in 2012, granting equal rights and protection to all victims of crime. Article I of the Directive stipulates that the Directive applies to all victims of crime, regardless of their residence status. The Directive is therefore a crucial framework to support undocumented victims in obtaining protection, access to services and justice.
Věra Jourová, European Commissioner for Justice, Consumers and Gender Equality highlighted at a recent European Parliament event**: “These days we see many vulnerable people arriving in Europe; some of them are victims of crime, others may fall victim to crime in the future. The new EU rules apply if the crime was committed in the European Union or if the proceedings take place in the European Union. Victims’ rights apply without discrimination and independently of people’s origin and residence status. This means that all victims of crime, including undocumented migrants, should have access to justice – and should get the support and protection they need.”
Undocumented migrants are particularly vulnerable to becoming victims of crimes – in the workplace, at home, at school, on the street, in detention — and face significant barriers to justice. However, most undocumented migrants do not report crimes committed against them to the authorities because of fear that doing so will lead to arrest or deportation. The result is repeat victimisation, and a climate of impunity for perpetrators.
PICUM’s new Guide to the EU Victims’ Directive*** aims to provide organisations that support undocumented victims with practical tools and information for advancing their rights in the framework of the Directive. It also informs policymakers, law enforcement and other official actors of how the Victims’ Directive relates to undocumented migrants as a specific category of victims. The guide highlights particular challenges confronted by undocumented migrants based on their status and circumstances in getting the protection and support to which they have a right.
Levent Altan, Executive Director of Victim Support Europe highlighted: “We must as individuals, civil society organisations, government authorities and as member states, act decisively to ensure that undocumented migrants are properly protected and can gain access to support where they have been victimised, that they can trust authorities and come forward to report crimes and that they are assisted through any proceedings – rather than being further victimised.”
The Victims’ Directive requires effective implementation. National governments need to make sure that protecting the needs and rights of victims of crime is clearly separated from immigration enforcement to ensure access to justice, redress and protection, and should implement a victim-centred approach that prioritises the needs and perspectives of victims. They should also take steps to ensure that victims whose status is tied a spouse or employer are not deterred from seeking help and protection for fear of losing their status.
The Directive grants all victims of crime a baseline of support services. EU member states should make sure that the resources and infrastructure are in place to make access to these services a reality for all victims.
There should be mandatory training for all officials who come in regular contact with migrants in an irregular situation such as police to ensure respectful treatment and to sensitize them to migrants’ particular needs and circumstances.
As recognised by the Directive, civil society organisations can be vital partners in this process, in the provision of needed services, as well as by working with law enforcement entities to create bridges with migrant communities and increase confidence in reporting crimes. They can also monitor the reality of implementation on the ground and report violations of the Directive to national authorities or to the European Commission.
The EU Victims’ Directive is an opportunity to recognise the dignity and rights of undocumented victims of crime, and to empower them to come out of the shadows to obtain the support, protection and justice all victims should be able to enjoy. For this to be achieved, national authorities, law enforcement and civil society must work closely together, in the interests of undocumented victims, as well as their shared interest in addressing impunity of perpetrators and contributing to the overall safety of their communities.
*See: Directive 2012/29/EU of the European Parliament and of the Council of 25 October 2012 establishing minimum standards on the rights, support and protection of victims of crime
**Conference: Putting victims’ rights into practice: where are we? organised by Victims’ Support Europe, European Parliament, 9 November 2015
***The Guide to the EU Victims’ Directive. Advancing Access to Protection, Services and Justice for Undocumented Migrants is also available in French and Spanish.
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