In his keynote address, the Council of Europe Commissioner on Human Rights, Nils Muižnieks, pointed to the difficulties in having a rational human rights debate on the rights of irregular migrants. This, he said, was due to the criminalisation of irregular stay in legislation and the widespread use of the term ‘illegal immigrant’ instead of ‘irregular migrant’.
FRA drew on its research to provide details on the extent of criminalisation of irregular stays in EU Member States. The Agency talked about how this affects access to basic social rights, as the risk of detection deters irregular migrants from approaching basic services, such as healthcare or education. FRA has also found that some Member States punish renting of housing to irregular migrants.
The Agency referred to its work supporting a fundamental rights-compliant implementation of the Return and Facilitation Directives, including the practical guidance it developed for Member States on the apprehension of irregular migrants. Fundamental rights compliance would also increase if Member States used the Facilitation Directive’s provision for humanitarian assistance more – this should include renting of accommodation to irregular migrants.
FRA also mentioned that criminalisation may be used to legitimise discriminatory ethnic profiling and referred to the results of its survey on police stops. This survey revealed that members of minority populations had been stopped in public transport or on the street much more frequently than members of the majority populations.