Strengthening access to justice for migrant children

One of the main obstacles in access to justice for migrant children is the lack of lawyers specialized in international human rights and EU law on children’s rights and on the use of international human rights mechanisms, who can act as an effective point of entry to the justice system for migrant children.

To enhance access to justice for migrant children across the EU, the project aims to create pools of national lawyers in Bulgaria, Germany, Greece, Italy, Ireland, Malta and Spain who are able to defend migrant children’s rights effectively through the courts and to assert the right of the child to be heard and to have her or his views taken into consideration in judicial proceedings.

The project will establish a European group of lawyers with expertise in strategic litigation for migrant children’s rights, who can act as agents of change both in their own countries and at European level.

In order to support migrant children as they seek to enjoy their fundamental human rights, we’re teaming up with colleagues from International Commission of Jurists – European Institutions (Lead Partner), Greek Council for Refugees (GCR) (EL), Fundacion Raices (ES), Bundesfachverband Unbegleitete Minderjährige Flüchtlinge e.V. (B-UMF) (DE), Legal Clinic for Immigrant and Refugees (LCIR) (BG), Immigrant Council of Ireland (ICI) (IR), and Scuola Superiore Sant’Anna (SSSA).

FAIR will gives us the opportunity to focus on extremely vulnerable persons. We will be able to strengthen the structures intended to support children as they make their way through various procedures and institutions.

It’s a great opportunity to alert the legal community to childrens’ rights, as well as to work with expert colleagues and friends! (Neil Falzon, aditus foundation Director).

Fostering Access for Immigrant children’s Rights (FAIR) will be implemented from 1 March 2016 through to 1 March 2018. We’ll be organising various activities gears towards improving access to rights for migrant children.

The project is co-funded by the Rights, Equality and Citizenship Programme of the EU and the Open Society Institute Budapest Foundation, and implemented in cooperation with the AIRE Center, Child Rights Connect, and the Associazione per gli Studi Giuridici sull’Immigrazione (ASGI) (Italy).

You can see full project details here.

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Co-funded by the Rights, Equality and Citizenship (REC) Programme of the European Union.

This publication has been produced with the financial support of the Rights, Equality and Citizenship (REC) Programme of the European Union. The contents of this publication are the sole responsibility of the project partners and can in no way be taken to reflect the views of the European Commission.


NGO press release on the occasion of the ‪Valletta Summit‬

#HumanRightsFirst

Time to act

Now is the time to act. We, the undersigned NGOs, urge states participating in the Valletta Summit on Migration to act decisively and urgently so that people will no longer die in their desperate search for protection in Europe.

Since October 2013, at least 6,892 men, women and children have perished in the Mediterranean attempting to reach Europe.

The summit, convened by the European Council in response to the rising numbers of refugees and migrants arriving in Europe irregularly, is an opportunity to go beyond words to concrete action.

The vast majority of the migrants entering Europe through the sea routes across the Mediterranean are Syrians, Eritreans, Afghans and Somalis – people with a strong prima facie claim to protection. Others are seeking the opportunity to live with dignity, which they absolutely cannot do in their home country. All resort to travelling irregularly because it is impossible for them to gain legal admission into Europe, whether to seek protection, find employment or access education.

Faced with this unprecedented challenge, so far EU Member States’ response has been more of the same: the emphasis remains largely focused on strengthening border control, improving existing mechanisms for returning migrants who do not qualify for protection, and increasing support for countries hosting large numbers of refugees outside Europe.

So far no real steps have been taken to increase the avenues for legal migration or to create safe and legal ways for people to reach a place where they can obtain protection – so refugees are forced to entrust themselves into the hands of smugglers and risk their lives. Resettlement pledges remain, at best, a token compared to the number of refugees being hosted in countries outside the EU.

Possibly most worrying, the needs of refugees and migrants are hardly taken into account and their voices are completely unheard. Refugees are looking for protection, which is about more than mere survival – it is about the possibility to belong to a community once more and to build life anew. Unless and until we take this into account, people will effectively be denied the protection to which they are entitled and, worse, they will continue to lose their lives in their attempt to find life.

So we urge participating states to put people first and to use the Summit to put in place concrete steps to:

→     Allow asylum seekers to access protection safely and legally, through measures such as: broadening existing rules so they can be reunited with their families; granting humanitarian visas and introducing mandatory and realistic quotas of resettlement.

→     Ensure that asylum seekers are received in conditions of dignity and that refugees are able to truly enjoy their rights.

→     Guarantee that those who do not qualify for asylum are treated with respect and that any returns are carried out in full respect for the principle of non-refoulement, in conditions of safety and dignity.

Statement issued by:

aditus foundation, Foundation for Shelter and Support of Migrants, Integra Foundation, Jesuit Refugee Service (Malta), KOPIN, Malta Emigrants’ Commission, Migrant’s Network for Equality, Organisation for Friendship in Diversity, Peace Lab, People for Change Foundation, SOS Malta

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Criminalisation of undocumented migrants, and the Victims of Crime Directive – PICUM

In June Erika, our Human Rights Officer, participated in the workshop ‘Ending the criminalisation of undocumented migrants’ organised by the Platform for International Cooperation of Undocumented Migrants (PICUM), an independent human rights platform dedicated to the advancement of protection of rights of undocumented migrants worldwide.

The theme was selected due to the tendency to view undocumented migrants as criminals, as seen in the terms and discourse used and also the 2015 EU proposal of ‘bombing boats’. The workshop included two plenary sessions, during which Erika gave examples of criminalisation of migrants in Malta using our photo ‘Red carpet to detention!’.

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These sessions were followed by thematic working groups. In view of our own priorities, Erika attended the ‘Borders and Detention’ group where she discussed key issues with NGO representatives from Italy, Spain and the United Kingdom.

The second day was dedicated to PICUM’s Annual General Assembly. The agenda and financial management documents were presented along with the list of new PICUM Members and its new Membership Structure. Following the Assembly, Members were given the opportunity to exchange information and ideas in relation to their work and two short working groups were held on the transposition of the Victims of Crime Directive and related Member legal strategies (see here for our own work on this important Directive).

The final plenary session was dedicated to an exchange of good practices, where some Members shared successful campaigns and the process of reaching their objectives.

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PICUM brings together NGOs working with undocumented migrants. As a platform it encourages organisations to build their capacity, network and exchange good practices.

aditus foundation has been an active PICUM member since 2011.


Integration Café – Malta Integration Network II

Erika, Carla and Neil at the Integration Cafe

On the 26th of June, 2015 aditus foundation put together an NGO space that showcased our findings of the MIN II Project contained in our new publication Malta Integration Network II: Policy Indicators for Migrant Integration.

Together with our project findings, the Integration Café exhibited other materials on integration that have been developed by us and other civil society organisations. Materials published by the Jesuit Refugee Service Malta, PHROM and SOS Malta, as well as the Joint NGO Submissions to the Public Consultation on National Migrant Integration Strategy 2015 – 2020, were made available to the public. 

Integration Posters  Integration Posters

In a conference room adjacent to the Cafe, the Ministry for Social Dialogue, Consumer Affairs and Civil Liberties (MSDC)’s National Conference on The Integration of Third Country Nationals in Malta took place

Neil, our Director, represented civil society working with migrants in a panel discussion focusing on Where are we now? Current Challenges and Considerations, whilst our guest Thomas Huddleston, Policy Analyst, Migration Policy Group, was a keynote speaker focusing on Malta and the Migrant Integration Policy Index (MIPEX) 2015 in practice.

Neil Falzon

Neil presenting our recommendations

For more information on the project and its recommendations email: [email protected]

With the co-financing support of the Ministry for Social Dialogue, Consumer Affairs and Civil Liberties (MSDC).

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Thomas Huddleston, MIPEX


Improving our strategic litigation work: Estonia workshop

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On 28 May Claire, our Legal Officer, participated in a workshop on Strategic Litigation organised by the Estonian Human Rights Centre (EHRC), an independent human rights advocacy NGO dedicated to the advancement of protection of human rights in Estonia and abroad. The centre was founded in December 2009 and is based in Tallinn.

The workshop was the final step of a project on strategic litigation that also included trainings and study trips over the past 1.5 years. It consisted of discussions on the different means and opportunities of strategic litigation, exchanges of experiences and learning new methods form each other.

Participants

Staff from EHRC and representatives of NGOs from Norway and Malta.

Summary
  • Strategic litigation as a tool for change: experiences from Norway and Malta

The Director of OMOD Norway (The Institution against official discrimination) introduced the activities undertaken by the organisation in the area of non-discrimination. He explained that the situation in Norway with regard to immigration is quite poor, and that discrimination is rampant across all sectors (e.g. labour market, housing, etc.). OMOD’s tools include advocacy, dialogue with the authorities and also strategic litigation.

Claire introduced our work on the Suso Musa case: the context, the case, and the decision. She also discussed our main challenges and achievements and concluded on the follow-up activities to this decision and our policy regarding strategic litigation.

  • Lessons learnt from the study visit to the Polish Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights

The Director of the EHRC reported on this study visit, held earlier this year.

  • Discussions on strategic cases so far in Estonia: obstacles and solutions

The EHRC Director introduced the situation in Estonia regarding asylum and equal treatment. He reported that the situation is very worrying, particularly since within society there is quite a low understanding of relevant issues resulting in public discourse that is very hostile to migrants, especially since the Mediterranean crisis. Estonia receives very few asylum-seekers per year, but recent proposals by the EU Commission could result in a few hundreds of persons being transferred to Estonia in the coming years. Furthermore, Estonia has also refused to participate in the resettlement scheme.

EHCR have concerns about the way asylum-seekers are treated and is aware of push backs at the borders. The detention of asylum-seekers is also an issue of concern. Regarding equal treatment, Estonia transposed EU legislation on equal treatment but only to the minimum required level. It seems that for the moment the law is not effectively enforced.

Conclusion

Although small, this workshop gave us the opportunity to explore strategic litigation policies and activities with like-minded partners. It will feed into the work of our Pro Bono Unit, strengthening our ability to engage in those cases that result in broader institutional or legal changes.