Access denied: Irregular migrants excluded from basic rights and services in Europe

21/11/2011
Exploitation in the workplace, lack of access to basic services and barriers to accessing justice are some of the challenges facing irregular migrants highlighted by a new report of the European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights (FRA).

Entitled 'Fundamental rights of migrants in an irregular situation in the European Union', the report will be launched today at the 2011 Fundamental Rights Conference, which deals with the theme ‘Dignity and rights of irregular migrants'.

The 2011 Fundamental Rights Conference is organised by the FRA with the support of the Polish Presidency of the Council of the European Union and is taking place in Warsaw on 21-22 November 2011. The event brings together about 300 policy makers, practitioners and experts from across the EU and provides a forum to support the development of policies to improve fundamental rights for irregular migrants.

FRA Director Morten Kjaerum: "We employ irregular migrants as cheap domestic workers to clean our homes. We eat the fruits and vegetables that they pick. But despite their contribution to our societies, when irregular migrants try to access healthcare or education services, or try to seek justice in case of abuse, they often face a closed door or, worse, deportation. Human rights belong to all human beings. And we remain human beings even if we do not have a passport, or a visa or a residence permit."

The FRA's main findings highlight the following challenges:

  • Irregular migrants are often prevented from accessing education and healthcare for a number of reasons: (1) Access to necessary healthcare for children and pregnant women, and emergency medical treatment is often not available to irregular migrants on the same cost-free basis as for nationals. (2) Requirements to produce official documents, such as residence permits or medical certificates, often prevent irregular migrant children from accessing public schools. (3) Detection measures and reporting practices. These include law enforcement operations near schools or hospitals, and reporting duties or practices of education and healthcare providers, and courts, which may inform immigration authorities of irregular migrants using their services.
  • Irregular migrants, who are vulnerable to exploitation in the workplace, are often prevented from getting access to justice because they may have no right to remain in the country to take legal action.
  • Some irregular migrants find themselves in a situation of ‘legal limbo' where legal or practical obstacles prevent authorities from enforcing a decision to return them. In such cases, they are often given no official status and, consequently, cannot access basic rights.

The report suggests several measures which could help to improve the situation:

  • Access to necessary healthcare should be made available to irregular migrants on the same basis as nationals, including rules relating to payment of and exemption from fees. Pregnant women should have cost-free access to ante and post natal care and care during delivery, and children should have the same access to healthcare as nationals.
  • Irregular migrant children should be entitled to enrol for free primary education.
  • Healthcare and education providers and the courts should not be placed under a duty to report irregular migrants to immigration authorities. Where such practices exist, they should be discontinued.
  • Law enforcement authorities should not conduct operations that directly discourage migrants' access to fundamental rights such as patrolling at education and healthcare facilities.
  • Building on the Employers Sanctions Directive, effective mechanisms should be put in place to allow access to justice in practice for irregular migrants.
  • The role of non-governmental organisations and trade unions which help irregular migrants to overcome practical barriers to access healthcare, education and access to justice, should be recognised and supported by national authorities.

 

The Fundamental Rights Agency publishes: 'Fundamental rights of migrants in an irregular situation in the European Union' (November 2011)

See also on irregular migrants:

Notes to the editors:

  • This report relates specifically to migrants in an irregular situation. This refers to individuals who are not nationals of an EU Member State and are present in an EU Member State without a visa or a residence permit.
  • The European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights (FRA) is mandated to provide evidence-based advice to EU and national decision makers, thereby contributing to more informed, solidly framed and contextualised debates and policies on fundamental rights.

For further information please contact the FRA Media Team
E-mail: media@fra.europa.eu
Tel.: +43 1 580 30 642

Downloads: 

(Media invitation) Fundamental Rights Conference (FRC) 2011: Dignity and rights of irregular migrants

[pdf]de en fr pl (70.54 KB)

(Media invitation) Fundamental Rights Conference (FRC) 2011: Dignity and rights of irregular migrants

[pdf]de en fr pl (70.54 KB)

(Media invitation) Fundamental Rights Conference (FRC) 2011: Dignity and rights of irregular migrants

[pdf]de en fr pl (70.54 KB)