Working groups

Four thematic working groups will cover key areas addressed at the conference:


Working groups will have an interactive format aimed at pooling and sharing experience between participants on challenges and solutions. Introductory presentations by practitioners in the field will highlight promising practice examples and share their lessons learned.

Each working group will address a number of specific problem areas as well as the following cross-cutting issues:


Working group I: Rights of accompanied children in an irregular situation

Problems that children in an irregular situation face have been often kept outside the policy debate. Still, they are exposed to a triple vulnerability - as children, as migrants, and as undocumented migrants, and should be entitled to special rights and protection. European countries have generally legislated over the right to education, health and housing of irregular children. However, the level of entitlement differs from country to country as well as within the country. Restrictive migration policies have sometimes prevailed over child protection policies. Furthermore, practical difficulties and discretion at the local level have often prevented children from accessing those rights.

The working group will examine how the lack of legal status of these children interferes with their access to education, health and housing. Other issues for discussion will be: use of discretion at local level, challenges faced by service providers, birth registration, the determination of best interests in return procedures, protection from violence and exploitation, etc. The group will first concentrate on identifying challenges and sharing good practices. Then a number of actions to address the most crucial issues will be formulated. It is expected that the working group will provide recommendations for actions at local, national and European levels.

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Working group II: Labour exploitation

Migrants in an irregular situation are at risk of exploitation and abuse. Typical forms of exploitation include low pay, often having to work excessive working hours, and usually not being able to obtain compensation for work-related accidents. Domestic workers are even more vulnerable to exploitation, including cases of physical abuse. Due to their irregular status and more general challenges in regulating domestic work, they are often invisible to labour inspectors who are often barred to inspect private homes and face difficulties in proving cases of abuse or exploitation.

As any other worker, migrants in an irregular situation are entitled to core labour rights, such as safe and decent working conditions, including fair pay, compensation for work accidents and rest periods. However, access to justice to claim those rights is effectively hindered due to difficulties in proving a work relationship and a fear of being reported to the immigration authorities if seeking legal redress. There is a high risk of impunity, including for grave violations of rights.

The working group will examine how to improve access to justice for migrant workers in an irregular situation who have been exploited at work. Discussions will focus around several questions. How can one ensure safe and decent working conditions for migrants, including those employed in domestic work, who are in an irregular situation? How can we increase rights awareness among irregular migrants? Civil society organisations, trade unions and other actors will be invited to share their experience helping irregular migrants to access justice. The working group will also discuss how to avoid that migrants refrain from seeking justice for fear of being reported to the immigration authorities.

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Working group III: Detention of irregular migrants

Detention is a major interference with personal liberty. The fact of being in an irregular situation should never be considered sufficient grounds for detention.

While pre-removal detention is not in itself a violation of human rights law, it can become so. Any deprivation of liberty must therefore respect the safeguards which have been established to prevent unlawful and arbitrary detention. The grounds justifying detention have to be laid down in national legislation in a clear and exhaustive manner. Then detention must be carried out in compliance with the procedural or substantive rules as stipulated by law. Detention should only be resorted to after examining if it is necessary and proportionate in the individual case. Where national law provides for the possibility of detention for more than six months, it should also establish safeguards to ensure that prolonged detention is used only in extreme cases.

The working group will examine conditions that have to be in place for detention to be considered legitimate. It will also examine how the right to judicial review of the detention order should be made possible in practice. As removal can be achieved through less coercive measures, the working group will also discuss alternatives to detention, in particular considering the specific needs of children.

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Working group IV: Solutions for protracted irregularity

Protracted irregularity affects a considerable number of migrants across Europe, who end up destitute. Their removal is impossible, often due to technical obstacles or humanitarian considerations. Authorities acknowledge their presence, de facto or formally, while no explicit right to stay is provided. This leads to situations of protracted legal limbo, extending sometimes for several years.

Access to basic rights largely depends on the administrative migration status and degree of formal recognition of residence. Cases of protracted non-removal and legal limbo therefore present particular challenges in terms of access to fundamental rights and sustainability. Only a few rights are guaranteed for non-removed persons at the European level. There is also limited guidance concerning ways of putting an end to situations of protracted legal limbo. This could be addressed after the Return directive is evaluated in 2014 to ensure that basic rights of persons who are not removed are respected.

The working group will examine the challenges that arise in terms of ensuring access to basic rights for persons who are not removed and for ending situations of legal limbo.

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Conference Organisation

Programme

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Programme