aditus foundation at PICUM General Assembly 2017 in Brussels

From 12 to 13 May 2017 members of the Platform of International Cooperation on Undocumented Migrants (PICUM) met in Brussels for the Annual Assembly:  New Challenges and Opportunities for undocumented Migrants’ Rights.

The General Assembly is a crucial event for PICUM members as it is unique opportunity to come together and talk about the situation of undocumented migrants across Europe and to mobilise around main problems. The Assembly is an essential part of PICUM’s calendar as it enables members to talk about key issues, discuss the events from last year and work on strategies for the next year.

From aditus foundation, I participated in the interactive two-day event which consisted of expert panel discussions on recent migrant policy developments, thematic break-out sessions and ‘floor is yours’ sessions hosted by the members. This year PICUM’s key issues included access to healthcare, fair working conditions, access to justice for undocumented women, children and families.

The Assembly started with a discussion about the current EU policies concerning migration, and main events from last year which have the biggest influence on the issue. During the opening panel, speakers such as Franck Duvell from the University of Oxford, Judith Sargentini (Member of European Parliament),  Stephanos Stavros from the Council of Europe and Kadri Soova from PICUM, spoke about the migration crisis in Europe.

Discussions during the conference were mainly focused on the EU’s attempts to regularise the inflow of migrants by negotiating agreements with states through which migrants and refugees are passing to reach the EU. Treaties and agreements with various countries aiming to send refugees back were strongly criticised.

Another important recurring topic was the Dublin Regulation and the negative role it plays in the current situation. All participants agreed that there is an urgent need to change the EU norms concerning the return of refugees to the Member State where they applied for international protection, or through which they originally entered the European Union. It was stressed that all the Member States should share the relocation responsibility of refugees.

Taking into account all the topics raised during the conference, one issue seemed especially crucial as it was common for all the EU. In speeches and during the panel sessions all participants kept mentioning the importance of the fight against hate speech in the context of migration and refugees. Everyone criticised the growth of populism among EU Member States and the negative role played by some governments using this issue in their political  activities.

Together with participating in panels and thematic sessions, we had a chance to get to know each other and share experiences. In our discussions we talked about the situation in our home countries and about the biggest challenges everyone is facing in everyday work.

Taking part in PICUM’s General Assembly was an amazing opportunity to meet inspiring people who are very committed in their fight for a better life for migrants.


Our work at EU level supported by Government

Today we joined a long list of other NGOs to receive financial support from Minister Helena Dalli, Minister for Social Dialouge, Consumer Affairs and Civil Liberties (MSDC), for our work at the EU level.

Through the Civil Society Fund the Ministry enables civil society organisations to be active players in our respective sectors, thereby bridging the gap between EU-level policy-making and Maltese grassroots realities.

“The objectives of the Civil Society Fund (CSF) are the following:

  • to assist CSOs to keep abreast with the developments occurring at an EU level;
  • to enable CSOs to better educate their members on EU matters related to their respective fields of competence; and
  • to enable CSOs to participate effectively in the decision-making process at a European level.”

We’ve been benefitting from the CSF for a number of years, particularly since we are keen to bring Malta’s migration/asylum realities on the EU agenda, and because we rely heavily on our networks to support our national advocacy, public awareness and litigation activities.

Specifically, the CSF contributes to our annual memberships with the Platform for International Cooperation on Undocumented Migrants (PICUM) and the European Council on Refugees and Exiles (ECRE). Through these memberships we receive regular news updates on EU legal and policy initiatives, and attend several training seminars and workshops that are aimed at influencing national and regional laws and policies.

The CSF contribution also enables our Director’s participation at ECRE’s Annual General Conferences, offering excellent networking and learning opportunities.

Importantly, the CSF also supports Neil’s participation in the meetings of the ECRE Board, where he represents ECRE’s member organisations based in the Mediterranean region.

“We’re extremely fortunate that the Ministry supports these kind of civil society activities.

This assistance makes the sector stronger and more effective, without impinging on our independence.”

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Minister Helena Dalli


Victims’ Rights in Malta: working with PICUM to secure proper transposition

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The deadline for the transposition of the EU Victims’ Rights Directive being set to 16 November, the joint meeting of PICUM’s Working Group on Access to Justice for Undocumented Women was a key opportunity for us to discuss mechanisms for effectively monitoring and gathering information on the implementation of the Directive, to consider opportunities for building effective national advocacy coalitions, and to share experiences.

Claire (Legal Officer) represented aditus for this meeting, as part of our on-going engagement with PICUM and with the Directive itself (see our input on Malta’s transposing legislation here).

Participants

PICUM’s staff and representatives of very diverse NGOs from Spain, Belgium, UK, Germany, the Netherlands and Malta.

Summary

PICUM’s introduction focused on the transposition of the Directive. The enforcement of the Directive is among the EU Commission’s priorities. In the days following the meeting, the Commission was expected to present an enforcement plan/strategy. On 16 November 2016, the Commission should publish a report on MS compliance with the Directive.

The first part of the workshop consisted of a presentation of the CoE Istanbul Convention on violence against women and domestic violence, delivered by Kairin Heisecke from World Future Council. She introduced the main provisions of the Convention and the body in charge of monitoring its implementation: Group of Experts on Action against Violence against Women and Domestic Women  (GREVIO).

PICUM presented an overview of its work in developing tools to support national-level advocacy and monitoring. The team presented the extremely useful ‘Guide on the Victims’ Directive’, to be used and disseminated as a tool to raise awareness about undocumented victims’ rights.

The second part of the workshop consisted of case studies and discussion of national initiatives. Representatives of La Cimade (France) and of the Immigrant Council of Ireland delivered presentations about their experiences in lobbying for undocumented victims.

Finally, PICUM described its plan to support members in their advocacy work by creating a database of key partners on victims’ rights, as well as a fact-sheet on the Istanbul Convention and on the GREVIO process.

At aditus, we’ve been monitoring the national transposition of the Directive for quite some time now. Following our technical submissions on the Government’s legal proposals, we are now considering what further action to take in view of the law’s violation of key parts of the Directive.


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.


Our Legal Intern attends PICUM’s Working Group on Migration Policies

On 5th December Claire, one of our Legal Interns, attended the first meeting of  PICUM’s new Working Group on Migration Policies. The meeting was a key opportunity for PICUM members to coordinate and promote actions to support PICUM’s migration policy work and to provide substantial evidence and recommendations to policy makers.

Participants

PICUM’s staff and representatives of very diverse NGOs from Spain, Belgium, Cyprus, Greece, Italy, France, Netherlands, Portugal, Spain, UK and Malta.

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Summary

2 topics were discussed:

A short Directive overview was provided: its positive aspects (voluntary departure, monitoring of forced returns, reduction of maximum detention periods across the EU, etc.), its shortcomings (detention conditions, no systematic use of alternative to detention, not independent forced return monitoring system, effectiveness of the return policy..).

After this presentation participants engaged in a short discussion about FRONTEX and the Charter of Fundamental Rights, with an agreement to try to obtain national information on forced return operations with a focus on monitoring, treatment of vulnerable persons, and implementation of FRONTEX Code of Conduct.

  • Criminalisation of migration and its impact on migrants’ fundamental rights

A presentation of the Spanish campaign ‘Save the Hospitality’ was delivered as a good practice of a campaign against such criminalization. This was followed by a discussion on the Mos Maiorum operation.

Our participation at this Working Group is an important part of our own capacity-building efforts, as well as our commitment to contribute towards the improvement of human rights legal and policy standards.


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