I participated in a working group meeting at Brussels organised by the Platform for International Cooperation on Undocumented Migrants (PICUM). PICUM had embarked upon hosting such working groups meetings on key thematic issues relating to irregular migrants: namely, access to health care, fair working conditions, the situation of families and children and specific problems of women. This group’s objective is to improve Europe wide co-operation of relevant NGOs on important policy issues affecting undocumented families and children at both national and European level. Representatives from countries such as Netherland, Greece, Cyprus, France, Belgium, Romania, Northern Ireland, Republic of Ireland and UK participated.
Michele LeVoy, the PICUM Director, eloquently briefed delegates on the new developments at the Council of Europe, European Union and UN level in addressing the fundamental rights of undocumented migrants. It was encouraging to know that the forces of progress in these international organisations are working to improve the situation of undocumented migrants worldwide. Michele also spoke on the emerging issues concerning undocumented children and highlighted that PICUM wish to build on their initial report published in 2009 which looked at the legal and practical barriers of undocumented children in Europe.
Delegates later discussed and highlighted problematic issues that are encountered by undocumented children and families in their respective countries in certain countries . This session was enlightening as we were able share our differing and in some cases common experiences. Delegates elucidated examples of problems that are faced by undocumented children and families in accessing health care, education, housing, in regularisation of their immigration status and, interestingly in registration of births and marriages.
I advised that it was my hope that JCWI could add more detail to these discussions through the development of our information bank on irregular migrants. This will be the first of its kind in the UK. The information will be gleaned from the users of our soon to be established advice service for irregular migrants (February 2012).
Strategy & tactics
The third session looked at strategies and tactics that were adopted on the national levels that worked well and also that did not work so well and why. The delegates considered ways to address the gaps and there were some very effective strategies evolved from this discussion, for example, collaboration with independent professional bodies such the British Medical Association (BMA) in accessing health care and collaborating independent housing charities and associations in combating homelessness of irregular families and children brought some positive results in the UK. Similarly delegates provided a number of positive strategies that they adopted in their respective countries in terms of campaigning and achieving positive results. On the basis of this discussion the working group agreed a set of strategies that were likely to achieve positive outcomes for undocumented migrants.
The final session was devoted to discussing priorities for the PICUM and its member organisations and how to bolster cooperation in pan European campaigns on this issue. The group agreed to exert collective pressure on policy makers including the EU agencies including the Fundamental Rights Agency to fully adopt and implement existing instruments such as the Migrant Workers Convention, with a view to securing basic rights of undocumented children and families.
The working group meeting was packed with ideas that were a source of great inspiration to me and I am sure to others.