On 10 May 2016, the European Commission against Racism and Intolerance (ECRI) issued its General Policy Recommendations no. 16 on Safeguarding Irregularly Present Migrants from Discrimination. With these recommendations, ECRI seeks to support states in addressing a pressing issue of discrimination against individuals - women, men and children - who do not, or no longer, fulfil the conditions under national law for entry or stay in a member State of the Council of Europe.
To prevent state and private sector actors from effectively denying migrants’ human rights, social services providers must be prohibited from sharing the personal data of irregularly present migrants with immigration authorities, says the Council of Europe’s anti-discrimination body in the new set of policy recommendations to European governments issued today.
“All migrants, including those who are irregularly present, have fundamental human rights which must be guaranteed in law and practice, without discrimination, while these people are within the jurisdiction of member States,” said the Secretary General of the Council of Europe Thorbjørn Jagland. “People should be treated as human beings regardless of their legal status.”
The recommendations outline ways to ensure that these rights are respected in the areas of education, health care, housing, social security and assistance, labour protection and justice. “States must create clear ‘firewalls’ to separate the work of social services providers from immigration control and enforcement activities”, the Secretary General added. “Situations where, for instance, medical doctors are obliged to report on suspected irregular migrants should not result in a denial of the migrants’ right to healthcare,” Jagland stressed.
Christian Ahlund, ECRI’s Chair, warned against encouraging intolerance and racism through criminalising social and humanitarian assistance to irregular migrants. “It is highly counterproductive to the delivery of human rights to establish an ‘offence of solidarity’ and it discourages irregular migrants from seeking out services, including urgent medical care.”
ECRI calls on States to comply with their specific obligations in relation to irregularly present migrant children and guarantee them access to education, immunisation, paediatric care and adequate shelter.
Council of Europe is partner with Equinet, the EU Agency for Fundamental Rights (FRA) and the European Network of National Human Rights Institutions (ENNHRI) in the Collaborative Platform on Rights on Migrants and Asylum Seekers.
The aim of the Platform members - national bodies and European institutions and networks - is to devise ways in which to work together more closely to attain concrete results for migrants in need.
The general aim of the thematic platform cooperation is to enhance coordination, cooperation and exchange of information between national level institutions and European level institutions and structures, as well as to facilitate the cooperation between national level institutions.
The focus areas for the Platform activities are: monitoring of forced returns, conditions of detention and alternatives to detention, unaccompanied and separated migrant children, and discrimination of migrants.
The Collaborative Platform on Rights on Migrants and Asylum Seekers held its first meeting in Vienna in Sempterber 2014, followed by a second meeting in February 2016.