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EMN Educational Seminar “Irregular Migration – Borders and Human Rights”, Bratislava, 25 – 27 August 2015

30 September 2015

More than 60 employees of state and public administration and representatives of academia, non-profit sector, media and foreign embassies took part in the educational seminar entitled Irregular Migration – Borders and Human Rights organised by the International Organization for Migration (IOM) as the coordinator of the EMN in the Slovak Republic in Bratislava on 25 – 27 August 2015. The guest speakers shared their knowledge of irregular migration in the world, EU and Slovakia, smuggling and other forms of irregular migration, fight against irregular migration, ways to deal with a situation of irregular migrants and protection of their rights as well as intermingling of forced and irregular migration.

A migration or a protection crisis?

Lívia Styp-Rekowska, specialist from the IOM Regional Office for the South-Eastern, Eastern Europe and Central Asia, introduced the topic of irregular migration in the global and European context, summarized the main migration routes in the Mediterranean, emphasized the importance of using the correct terminology, explained the concept of mixed migration flows, described categories and causes of irregular migration and brought out the possibilities of political response to the current situation in the Mediterranean. Roger Zetter, Emeritus Professor of the Refugee Studies at the University of Oxford, consequently focused on the human rights and protection of migrants. He dealt with the causes of the crisis in providing protection for migrants at the European borders, dimensions and dynamics of the crisis and reasons for which this crisis is immune to political interventions. According to him, instead of “migration crisis” we should rather talk about “migrant protection crisis” and instead of “burden sharing” about “responsibility sharing”.

Nobody deserves to die out at sea

Elizabeth Collett, Director of the Migration Policy Institute Europe, analysed the increasing trend of unauthorised maritime migration which apart from the Mediterranean Sea occurs also in other regions of the world in the Atlantic and Pacific Ocean, Red Sea or Gulf of Aden. It represents a complex issue which requires coordinated solutions from various actors. Martin Xuereb, Director of the first privately-funded rescue maritime mission Migrant Offshore Aid Station (MOAS), stressed the seriousness of the situation in the Mediterranean Sea and explained the complexity of saving lives at sea. MOAS was founded in 2013 by Catrambones, an Italian-American couple, and since its first operation in August 2014 it saved more than 10 000 persons. The basic principle embodied in all MOAS activities is that nobody deserves to die out at sea.

Border control is not the only aspect of migration management

A representative of the EU agency Frontex, Pawel Suchanek, brought the participants forward Frontex recent developments and activities at the EU external borders. He highlighted the increased number of irregular migrants coming through the so-called Balkan route. Since the fight against smuggling forms a crucial part of the border management, part of his presentation dealt with the practices of smugglers who find this crime attractive due to its present high-profit-low-risk nature. However, external border control is not the only aspect of border management. Frontex also cooperates with countries of origin and transit countries and implements activities in the area of protection and respect of fundamental rights e.g. through monitoring possible fundamental rights incidents or through border guards trainings. Activities, procedures and statistics related to the border control in Slovakia was then summarised by Roman Hronec, specialist from the Bureau of Border and Alien Police of the Police Force Presidium. He described institutional and legislative framework of border control and cooperation at national and international level.

What do we know about migrant decision-making?

Jacob Townsend, director of the social enterprise Farsight, presented results of the research on migrant decision-making and their perception of irregular migration risks and opportunities. He explained why the increase in number of resettled persons can reduce the number of irregular migrants to Europe as the resettled persons do not have to resort to smuggling. On the other hand, he also pointed out the fact that if we do not understand who the potential clients of smugglers are then even the most conceivable resettlement scheme whose criteria might exclude hundreds of thousands of irregular migrants will not decrease demand for smuggler services. The research also demonstrated that irregular migrants who use smugglers are ahead of their journey well aware of its risks. A short-term risk associated with the journey, exploitation or injury as well as the probability of this risk is for them more acceptable than the long-term risk in the country of origin or transit.

Social networks have become an important tool for smugglers

Based on her own experience from Europe, Africa and Asia, Lívia Styp-Rekowska from IOM provided up-to-date information about migrant smuggling and other forms of irregular migration. She stressed that smuggling, which is associated both with countries of destination as well as countries of origin and transit, is often mistaken with human trafficking and explained the difference. She presented several measures to fight against smuggling such as promotion of legal migration from the countries of origin (e.g. through labour migration, resettlement or humanitarian transfer), promotion of stability, creation of job and education opportunities in the countries of origin and dissemination of information on risks related to smuggling. EU measures against migrant smuggling and goals of the European Agenda on Migration were introduced by Marcin Antoni Pruss, Policy Officer from the European Commission's DG Migration and Home Affairs. He noted that one of the goals of the European Agenda on Migration is prevention of migrant exploitation through criminal networks. The Agenda would try this by an immediate response aimed at saving lives at sea and in the long run through four pillars: reducing the incentives for irregular migration, border management, common European asylum policy and a new policy on legal migration. In its new EU Action Plan against migrant smuggling, the European Commission aims at strengthening political and judicial reaction (e.g. by creating a list of suspicious vessels and their monitoring, enhancing cooperation with financial institutions), improvement of gathering and sharing information, assistance to vulnerable groups of migrants and cooperation with third countries. Fight against migrant smuggling and its forms in the Slovak context was subsequently dealt with by Kamil Pinček, Deputy Director of the National Unit to Combat Irregular Migration of the Bureau of Border and Alien Police of the Police Force Presidium. He summarised the main tasks of the National Unit at the operational level, in the area of investigation and coordination, the legislative framework criminalising migrant smuggling and human trafficking, and related statistics.

No human being is illegal

When sanctioning irregular migrants and persons facilitating irregular migration including smugglers, it is necessary to prevent sanctioning those who provide irregular migrants with humanitarian assistance. In relation to this, Adriano Silvestri, Section Head from the EU Agency for Fundamental Rights (FRA), pointed out that criminalisation of irregular migrants and persons engaging with them can negatively influence perception of these migrants as well as perception of migration as a problem. The term “illegal migrant” was marked by the United Nations as inappropriate already in 1975 due to the fact that no human being can be illegal which was later taken over by other international organisations and in 2009 by the European Parliament. Kadri Soova, Advocacy Officer from the Platform for International Cooperation on Undocumented Migrants (PICUM) elaborated more on the human rights of irregular migrants in Europe. She focused on several areas in which irregular migrants face discrimination such as access to health care, education and labour market, in case of housing or detention. PICUM further addresses this issues in detail at the web portal Undocumentary.

States can legalise the stay of irregular migrants

One way of dealing with the situation of irregular migrants is the regularisation of their stay. Albert Kraler, Programme Manager from International Centre for Migration Policy Development (ICMPD), laid out the concept of regularisation and its implications based on research carried out in this area. One of the frequently-mentioned consequences is the possible increase in number of irregular migrants in a country. However, this statement has been researched only to a limited extent. Regularisation can considerably effect employment, it can for example contribute to the creation of economic opportunities, reduce vulnerability of migrants to exploitation etc.

Detention in Libya is often unlawful and arbitrary

Asmita Naik, an independent consultant cooperating with several international organisations, presented detention of migrants, international standards of detention and ongoings in Libya which, before the fall of Gaddafi regime, used to be a regional economic hub and a destination country for African migrants. She introduced results of a recent study on minor and young migrants aged to 25 and their situation before, during and after their detention in Libya where their rights are violated and they become victims of attacks and violence. Their detention is often unlawful and arbitrary.

Further measures of the European Commission will focus on return

Marcin Antoni Pruss from the European Commission focused on the EU return policy while highlighting the need for full implementation of the Return Directive by the Member States. Furthermore, he spoke about the Commission’s planned activities and measures to address the high share of irregular migrants who stay in the EU territory after issued return decision (decision on administrative expulsion in the Slovak context). Salvatore Petronella from ICF International (EMN service provider) then brought forward the main EMN outputs on irregular migration, detention, return and reintegration through which he provided an overview of current policies and the most important statistics in EU Member States and Norway. He brought attention to the new measures and policies which are being implemented at the national and European level in order to provide for an effective return. Pascal Reyntjens, Chief of the IOM Country Office in Belgium and Luxembourg, introduced the Programme of Assisted Voluntary Return and Reintegration (AVRR) also in relation to the current political and media discourse. AVRR is implemented by IOM worldwide and taking into account current increase of number of migrants coming to Europe the organisation records a higher number of clients within the program. The AVRR in Slovakia, its institutional and legislative framework, and statistics were described by Zuzana Vatráľová, Head of the IOM Office in the Slovak Republic. She characterised individual services provided to migrants from third countries before, during and after their return to the countries of origin. Through personal stories of clients she presented nature of reintegration assistance available to migrants upon their return.

Events accompanying the seminar:

The seminar offered to the public two accompanying events. The first one was the Slovak premiere of the Hollywood film The Good Lie about Sudanese refugees resettled to the United States of America. On 25 August, 150 people came to watch the film inspired by true stories.

The following day at KC Dunaj in Bratislava, EMN Discussion Evening entitled Europe or Die? about irregular migration and current situation in the Mediterranean took place. The moderated discussion and questions from the audience were preceded by screening of an episode from the documentary series Europe or Die from VICE News.

Seminar in the media:

What is EMN educational seminar?

The EMN educational seminar’s overall objective is to provide professionals working in the state institutions, non-governmental sector, research bodies, academia, media and other relevant organisations with comprehensive and up-to-date information on migration issues and thus contribute to policymaking process in Slovakia. The seminar creates a unique learning platform about migration in Slovakia and fosters networking, experience sharing and discussions among (inter)national experts and participants. The seminar has been organised by IOM as the coordinator of the EMN activities in Slovakia since 2012, each year on specific topic in the field of migration and international protection:

2014 – Forced Migration – Causes and Possible Solutions

2013 – Labour Migration Opportunities and Challenges

2012 – Migration Globally and Locally

The EMN educational seminar reaches out also to the public through EMN discussion evenings which as an accompanying programme of the seminar combine a documentary screening and moderated discussion with experts in the particular field:

2014 – People Forced to Flee

2013 – Tree Workers Case

2012 Are We at Home Here?

Photo gallery from the seminar

Photo gallery from the EMN educational seminar Irregular Migration – Borders and Human Rights

Photo gallery from the EMN discussion evening Europe or Die?

Photo gallery from the screening of The Good Lie film

Materials and presentations from the seminar for download

Download all (28,87 MB)

Materials to the EMN Educational Seminar Irregular Migration - Borders and Human Rights (5,3 MB)

Hronec, Roman: Kontrola vonkajších hraníc v Slovenskej republike (2,21 MB)

Kraler, Albert: Regularisation of irregular migrants in Europe and its impacts (903 kB)

Naik, Asmita: Detained youth: Fate of young migrants, asylum-seekers and refugees in Libya today (572 kB)

Petronella, Salvatore: European Migration Network outputs on irregular migration, detention, return and reintegration (398 kB)

Pinček, Kamil: Prevádzačstvo a jeho formy v kontexte Slovenskej republiky (2,78 MB)

Pruss, Marcin Antoni: European Agenda on Migration and migrant smuggling policy (1 MB)

Pruss, Marcin Antoni: European return policy (174 kB)

Reyntjens, Pascal: Migration trends and current global and EU policies: Focus on assisted voluntary return and reintegration (AVRR) (9,4 MB)

Silvestri, Adriano: Criminalisation of migrants in an irregular situation and of persons engaging with them (886 kB)

Styp-Rekowska, Lívia: Irregular migration in the global context and current challenges (500 kB)

Styp-Rekowska, Lívia: Migrant smuggling as one of the forms of irregular migration (801 kB)

Suchanek, Pawel: Latest phenomena and Frontex activities at the EU external borders (5,3 MB)

Townsend, Jacob: What do we know about migrant decision-making in relation to irregular migration opportunities and risks? (566 kB)

Vatráľová, Zuzana: Program asistovaných dobrovoľných návratov a reintegrácií (AVRR) na Slovensku (3,33 MB)

Zetter, Roger: Human rights and protection of migrants in the context of the current Mediterranean crisis (739 kB)

Zetter, Roger: Human rights and protection of migrants in the context of the current Mediterranean crisis - paper (687 kB)

Xuereb, Martin: Nobody deserves to die out at sea - Saving lives in the Mediterranean (1,23 MB)

Other documents for download

Download all (1,2 MB)

EMN Educational Seminar on Irregular Migration – Borders and Human Rishts: Programme (517 kB)

EMN Educational Seminar on Irregular Migration – Borders and Human Rights: Poster (245 kB)

Film Screening – The Good Lie: Poster (296 kB)

EMN Discussion Evening – Europe or Die?: Poster (171 kB)

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