memorandum by Mr Andrea Rigoni, rapporteur
1. Migrants are often exposed
to discrimination and racism in the host countries. In extreme cases,
these xenophobic sentiments of hostility may take the form of physical
or psychological violence. Regrettably, the phenomenon of violence
against migrants has significantly increased throughout Europe over
2. In some countries, migrants are perceived by a part of the
population as being responsible for the high rates of crime and
unemployment and their claims for equal access to the labour market,
housing and public services are opposed. Furthermore, migrants are
sometimes seen as undermining national cultures and values and constituting
a threat to public security.
3. These fears are often used by populist parties for their political
objectives, and reflected by the media. As a result, migrants are
often subject to bias-motivated aggression, either through verbal
exclusion and psychological distress or even bodily injuries and
4. In some host countries, there are insufficient legal safeguards
available to migrants to protect themselves from discriminatory
and xenophobic practices and racism, which tend to increase if migrants
are in an irregular situation. This means that they become one of
the main targets of hate crimes and are subject to degrading treatment
in detention centres and social exclusion, which amounts to a clear
violation of their fundamental rights and access to justice.
5. There is increasing concern regarding violence against migrants,
including women and children. The exposure of children to physical
violence and hate speech creates an alarming situation. In addition,
serious attention must be paid to reports on the alleged lack of
effective police investigation procedures.
6. In addition to violence committed against migrants, there
is a new phenomenon of violence between and within different migrant
communities. Such tensions are particularly present in areas of
mass concentration of migrants, such as migrant detention centres,
camps and temporary accommodation areas. Very often, the host communities
do not know how to react to such manifestations of violence. This
problem deserves particular attention but is not covered by the
The Parliamentary Assembly has dealt with some issues regarding
these manifestations of violence. The Committee on Culture, Science,
Education and Media has investigated the role and impact of the
media as an incitement to violent behaviour.Note
The Committee on Migration, Refugees
and Displaced Persons has, for its part, examined the prejudices
experienced by Roma migrants in EuropeNote
into the issue of the trafficking of migrant workers for forced
Concerns about the perpetration of
violent acts against women, including migrant women, such as sexual
harassment and sexual abuse has been addressed by the Committee
on Equality and Non-Discrimination from the perspective of the link
between gender and violence and legal protection.Note
8. This report aims to examine ways in which migrants can be
subjected to violence, the scope of the phenomenon and motives behind
it, on the one hand, and accountability of the perpetrators, preventive measures
and protection offered to victims by the authorities on the other.
Furthermore, it is aimed at raising awareness concerning violent
crimes as a form of exclusion and irreversible denial of fundamental
rights and protection.
2 Definition and different
types of violence against migrants
2.1 Definition of violence and
types of violence
9. Various types of violence are
experienced by migrants in host countries. This violence can be
direct or indirect. Direct violence includes physical violence,
labour exploitation, sexual abuse, extortion and trafficking. Direct
violence also includes destruction of personal property which may
put migrants’ lives in danger.
10. Indirect violence includes aggressive threats, verbal violence,
sexual harassment, discrimination and xenophobia which may be considered
as hate crimes. Hate crime involves the use of means of information
and communication to convey aggressive and discriminatory messages.
These messages are intended to cause psychological distress, marginalisation
and discourage access to services such as education, housing, health, etc.
2.1.1 Physical violence
11. Migrants experience physical
violence at all stages of their migration process. Many undocumented migrants
are subjected to ill-treatment by border police, including during
push-backs. Many report inhuman and degrading treatment in detention,
or being kept in inhuman conditions.
12. In recent years, there seem to be more and more cases of ill-treatment
of migrants and asylum seekers by law-enforcement officers. People
are slapped, kicked and beaten by local police and very often these
cases of inhuman treatment are never investigated. In some cases,
these violent acts lead to deaths of migrants. They are also vulnerable
to attacks and robbery by bandits on their way to the countries
2.1.2 Trafficking of migrants
13. Human trafficking represents
one of the most extreme forms of physical and verbal violence to
which migrants can be submitted. Migrants subject to trafficking
often experience coercion, cruelty in the form of beatings, assaults
and abuse of their condition. They are insulted and the target of
manifestations of hate while becoming objects to serve other financial
goals. Their identities are destroyed, as are their family ties
or any attachment to systems of protection and reception of migrants
in the host society.
Most trafficking occurs at national or regional level; but
there are also notable cases of long-distance trafficking. Europe
is the top destination for victims from the widest range of other
countries. It is difficult to secure accurate statistics on the
numbers of trafficked persons because many of them are never identified,
but according to the EUROSTAT Statistical Working Papers on Trafficking
on Human Beings,Note
the number of registered victims
coming into contact with the authorities of 34 European countries
for the 2010-2012 period was 30 868 (with the highest numbers registered
in Italy, the Netherlands, Romania and the United Kingdom).
15. This report will not deal with violence against migrants as
a result of trafficking as it is a subject of other reports under
preparation by the committee.
2.1.3 Violence in immigration
16. In the last ten years, the
number of immigration detention centres in Europe has increased:
in 2012, there were 473 certified detention centres in 44 countries
across Europe. Detention has become one of the main tools for “managing”
the migrant population and, at the same time, constitutes a continuous
violation of migrants’ rights. Every year in the member States of
the European Union, almost 600 000 migrants (asylum seekers whose
application for protection has been rejected; migrants whose right
to remain has expired or who have never enjoyed that right, including
those who have remained in the territory for many years) are deprived of
their liberty and, in some cases, also of legal assistance, health
care and family contact. Furthermore, people who have been denied
access to European countries at the border are often “contained”
in waiting zones such as international airports, ports and stations
before being sent back.
The detention of asylum seekers is a common and sometimes
systematic practice. In the Czech Republic, asylum seekers are detained
“with the obligation to stay in detention centres” usually set up
for migrants for a maximum duration of 120 days.Note
In Malta, asylum seekers who do not hold
valid papers – who represent the majority – are systematically detained.
The Slovak Republic also organises the detention of asylum seekers,
in particular in waiting zones located in airports and in detention
centres for migrants.Note
asylum seekers at the border are automatically detained while their
application is being examined.
When evaluating the implementation of the Returns Directive,Note
the European Commission has underlined
that it is necessary to react to “striking cases of inhuman detention
conditions”, thereby recognising that serious violations of human
rights are committed and remain unpunished at national level. These
violations consist of limited visits of family members and non-governmental
lack of information regarding their
administrative situation, protection of their rights and possible
remedies through the absence of interpretation, judicial control
and legal assistance.
19. The administrative detention of migrants is a system which
breaches the fundamental rights of migrants while at the same time
criminalising them. It also lacks effective legal safeguards, leaving
migrants hidden from the public eye and which, most of all, is a
source of unjustified violence against them.
2.1.4 Violence and exploitation
in the labour market
20. In the labour market context,
regular and irregular migrants are particularly vulnerable: they
are exploited or forced to work and, in order to remain in the country,
they prefer to work and stay under these conditions rather than
be reported to the authorities.
Amnesty International has confirmed the widespread exploitation
of foreign migrant workers in Italy, where on arrival the majority
is reported to receive less than 40% of the legal minimum wage.Note
22. Until now, member States have not addressed the exploitation
of and violence against migrants in labour contexts as a public
concern. There is a lack of legislation to criminalise the behaviour
of the employers and to supervise the conditions in which migrant
workers perform their work.
2.1.5 Hate crimes
23. During the economic crisis,
anti-migrant rhetoric became more popular among the local populations
of some countries who blamed migrants for the political and economic
problems in their countries. It provoked racist and xenophobic tension,
which often resulted in violence and can be considered as “hate
24. Migrants who face such violence fear identifying themselves,
fear moving freely and reporting such crimes to the police due to
their mistrust of the law-enforcement system. They are also afraid
of deportation and therefore prefer not to seek the help of local
communities or any specific organisation. This leads to the marginalisation
of migrants and creates barriers to their integration into the host
25. Unfortunately, very few European governments are taking active
steps to combat this form of violence and the root causes of hate
crimes. Hate crimes are rarely investigated and prosecuted by the
law-enforcement authorities, because often the national legislation
does not establish specific offences or penalties for such crimes.
The victims of the hate crimes also lack adequate legal protection.
The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees
(UNHCR) has taken important steps in addressing the issue of protecting
refugees and asylum seekers from hate crimes. In December 2009,
the UNHCR released a Guidance Note which outlines key strategic
elements to address this problem.Note
2.2 Migrant women and children
as vulnerable targets
Migrant women make up a significant
percentage of women who report intimate partner violence which leads
to them feeling intimidated and stigmatised, as highlighted by Assembly Resolution 1697 (2009)
“Migrant women: at particular risk from domestic violence”.
28. On arrival in the country of destination, violence and discrimination
continue to be part of migrant women’s lives as they experience
a dual vulnerability to violence reflecting gender inequalities
existing in both origin and destination societies, as well as relating
to their status as foreigners.
29. Women represent only 11% of people being smuggled across the
Mediterranean. Fleeing their homes in North and sub-Saharan Africa
and the Middle East to escape poverty or a violent family environment,
these women embark on a journey filled with terror. Many are raped,
beaten or tortured. Some of them are pregnant and suffer miscarriages
or die in transit; others become pregnant after being raped during
the trip. The fortunate ones who finally manage to reach European
soil may be locked behind fences for indeterminate periods of time or
subject to trafficking to pay back their “debt” to their smugglers.
30. In addition to the hardships faced during any journey as an
illegal migrant, these women are also both vulnerable and invisible,
at the mercy of men who control their words and visibility to the
outside world. The problems faced by migrant women are almost entirely
absent from any media coverage.
31. The 2011 Council of Europe Convention on Preventing and Combating
Violence against Women and Domestic Violence (CETS No. 210, “Istanbul
Convention”) especially addresses violence against women as a form
of gender-based violence which also applies to girls under the age
of 18. Article 3 of this convention states that violence against
women can be understood as a human rights violation and a form of
32. This is why I call for the general and faster ratification
of the Istanbul Convention in order to broaden the personal scope
of this convention to cover all migrant women.
Child migrants are caught between laws protecting children
and European (anti-)migration policies. International laws guarantee
children’s access to education and health care irrespective of their
immigration status and oblige public authorities to work in the
children’s best interest.Note
the restrictions imposed by immigration policies are pushing children
away from essential services, leaving them even more isolated and
vulnerable to organised crime networks.
The detention of children is also a form of violence and has
detrimental effects on the child’s psychological and physical well-being.Note
Children confined to this prison-like
environment, lack of freedom and constant surveillance risk suffering
from depression, high levels of anxiety and symptoms of post-traumatic stress
such as insomnia, nightmares and bed-wetting. Therefore, it is very
important that the governments of the Council of Europe member States
follow the recommendations of the Parliamentary Campaign to End Immigration
Detention of Children and introduce alternative solutions to detention.
35. Again, I urge all member States to ratify the Council of Europe
Convention on the Protection of Children against Sexual Exploitation
and Sexual Abuse (CETS No. 201, “Lanzarote Convention”) to ensure
better protection for child migrants.
36. Another issue regarding women and children is the perpetration
of sexual abuse and harassment in immigration detention centres.
There are cases where the guards or the immigration detention centre
workers use their respective positions of power to abuse vulnerable,
traumatised women and children. For instance, a 2006 Legal Action
for Women (LAW) investigation into Yarl’s Wood Removal Centre (Milton
Ernest, United Kingdom) found that 70% of migrant women had reported
rape, of whom 57% had no legal representation and 20% had lawyers
who demanded payment in advance.
2.3 Violence against LGBT migrants
37. Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and
Transgender (LGBT) migrants are fleeing violence, humiliation, inequality and
discrimination in their countries, but often face the same discrimination
in their host countries. In Germany, for example, in the period
from 1 August to 31 December 2015, the association of gays and lesbians
for the States of Berlin and Brandenburg reported 95 cases of physical
violence, including sexual attacks against migrants. What is the
most appalling is that the LGBT migrants arriving in Europe are
attacked by their companions in the migrant centres. The Dutch authorities
had to move the LGBT migrants in Amsterdam to a separate refuge
to ensure their safety.
A positive development occurred when Germany opened the first
shelter for LGBT refugees in Nuremberg. It was initiated by the
association “Fliederlich” at the request of a number of LGBT migrants
who felt threatened in the shelters where they had previously been
accommodated. There are also plans to open a bigger centre with
120 beds in Berlin later in 2016. Note
3 International and European
39. The United Nations 1990 International
Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and
Members of their Families (ICEMW) stresses in its Article 16 that
all migrant workers and their family members are entitled to protection
by the State. The substance of this protection can be found in Article
68, which highlights the need to prevent and eliminate illegal or
clandestine movements and to impose effective sanctions on persons
or entities that use violence against migrants and their families.
40. Regarding violence linked to discriminatory practices, the
United Nations International Convention on the Elimination of All
Forms of Racial Discrimination (ICERD) can be referred to in combination
with new political commitments to combat hate crime and online hate
speech based on racial grounds which account for psychological violence.
41. At European level, the European Court of Human Rights has
addressed the perpetration of violence against migrants under Article
3 of the European Convention of Human Rights (ETS No. 5) which states
that no one should be submitted to any form of inhuman treatment.
In the judgment Nachova and Others v.
Bulgaria of 2005, the Court ruled that States have an
obligation to prosecute bias-motivated violence.
42. Even though the rights of migrants are generally protected
through legal instruments, violence still remains a big issue and
is still being perpetrated both by institutions and civil society.
There is a need to strengthen protection, otherwise violence and
violations of these rights will continue to go unpunished.
4 Case studies on violence
43. To present a general picture
of the different forms of violence against migrants which are widespread across
Europe, I decided to use the examples of some of the Council of
Europe member States.
44. France is currently facing
a critical situation in the Calais area, where several thousand
asylum seekers and migrants who arrived from Sudan, Eritrea and
Ethiopia have been living in makeshift camps and on the streets
waiting for an opportunity to cross the Channel and reach the United
Kingdom. Most of them have neither accommodation nor access to sanitary
or hygienic conditions and depend on the food and assistance provided
by local organisations and volunteers.
According to the Human Rights Watch investigation of police
abuse in Calais, many asylum seekers and migrants reported violence
and abuse by the French police. Of 44 migrants interviewed by Human
Rights Watch, 19 of them, including two children, said that they
had experienced abuse and harassment.Note
The abuses described include beatings
and attacks with pepper spray, which are prohibited by French criminal
46. Migrants may wait for several months to register as asylum
seekers in Calais and during this period they are not eligible for
accommodation. The French Government has taken some positive steps
by setting-up a day centre that provides meals and water during
the day. Temporary accommodation facilities have been provided for
more than 1 500 migrants. However, after the enormous increase of
migrants arriving in October 2015, estimated between 3 500 and 6
000, these efforts are not sufficient.
47. The French Government has all the necessary means to improve
the situation in Calais by providing a system of quick registration
and processing of asylum claims, ordering an independent investigation
into reports of police abuse and harassment of migrants and ensuring
that these abuses are stopped.
Germany continues to be the
main European destination for asylum seekers from Syria, Kosovo*Note
and Albania, but also from Iraq, Afghanistan
and other countries, with more than 1 million asylum applications forecast
for 2015. At the same time, there has been an increase in violence
against migrants. In fact, as reported by the Antonio Amadeu Foundation,
198 cases of racially motivated attacks on asylum seekers or their
accommodation have been registered in Germany in 2015, including
15 arson attacks. In 2014, the police recorded 162 such attacks
These figures are three times greater
than in 2013, and attacks happen all over Germany and not necessarily
in the regions with a higher population of migrants. One such attack
took place on 18 July 2015, in Remchingen, Baden-Württemberg, where
a building which was ready to host asylum seekers was set on fire.
A similar arson attack happened on 3 April 2015 in Tröglitz, a small
town of Saxony-Anhalt in Eastern Germany.Note
The perpetrators of this attack were
not found, but the issue of migrants’ safety in Germany was revived
in the media.
49. In May 2015, the public broadcaster NDR (Norddeutscher Rundfunk)
reported two incidents of police torture in Hannover, Lower-Saxony.
Young refugees had been arrested at the train stations and violently mistreated
by the police. After these cases became public, further assaults,
committed by private security staff in 2014, were denounced in Bad
Berleburg and in Essen, North Rhine-Westphalia.
50. During my fact-finding mission to Germany, I tried to figure
out the reasons for such a significant increase in anti-migrant
attacks. The German authorities, as well as the representatives
of non-governmental organisations, explained this surge of violence
by the rise of extremist parties, like the Alternative for Germany (Alternative
für Deutschland – AfD), the National Democratic Party (National
demokratische Partei Deutschlands – NPD) and the Pegida movement
(Patriotic Europeans against the Islamisation of the West – Patriotische
Europäer gegen die Islamisierung des Abendlandes). Extreme-right
groups organise anti-migrant demonstrations bringing their supporters
to the towns where migrants are to be accommodated.
At the same time, German legislation does not provide necessary
protections to migrants and, in some cases, significantly limits
their human rights. Both German asylum/refugee law and the immigration/residence Act
are governed at Federal level under
exclusive or concurrent legislation. The basic legislation in the
field is the Immigration Act.
52. First of all, Article 87 of the Residence law (AufenthG) limits
access for asylum seekers and undocumented migrants to health care
and obliges medical staff to denounce the latter. Based on the Asylum Procedure
Law, it is still a widely spread practice to limit asylum seekers
in their movements around the country and to oblige them to obtain
special permission to travel to another city (paragraphs 56 ff.
AsylVfG). Finally, until recently, there was no legal act to punish
hate crimes and violence committed with racist motivation. The victims
of such crimes are not protected.
53. As was explained to me, according to Germany’s national asylum-seeker
policy, refugees are to be housed across the entire German territory.
The region of Saxony-Anhalt is due to take between 750 and 1 000 such
refugees this year.
54. In Magdeburg, the main city of Saxony-Anhalt, where I met
the President of the Regional Parliament and the representatives
of different political parties, the foreign population represents
only 2.5% of inhabitants of this region. Nevertheless, as I was
informed, the fear of foreigners among the local population is significant
and based on the fear of economic degradation (“foreigners will
take our jobs”) and the fear of difference, which was inherited
from the old socialist system, where contact with foreigners had
been limited. There is also a certain differentiation between the
welcoming attitude towards foreign refugees and asylum seekers and
the very strong rejection of economic migrants from the Balkan countries.
55. To combat these fears, the local authorities have developed
a series of integration measures and awareness-raising activities,
but they recognise that State financial support for such activities
is not sufficient. Small municipalities have no budget for integration
activities and there are no special programmes developed for the
local population to prepare them for welcoming foreigners.
56. At a Federal level, the German authorities have launched a
number of measures in reaction to the recent increase of violence
against migrants. The Federal Anti-Discrimination Agency conducted
a study on migrants’ experience of discrimination. The results of
the study showed that 41.9% of respondents with a migrant background
had been the victim of discrimination in the previous twelve months.
Migrants of Muslim religion indicated a significantly higher number
of discrimination experiences (38.2% of them had experienced discrimination
in the labour market).
57. In the framework of its measures to combat violence against
women the Federal Ministry for Family Affairs, Senior Citizens,
Women and Youth focuses on the special situation of immigrant women.
Immigrant women are disproportionately likely to suffer violence
compared with German women; in addition, immigrant women are often
insufficiently informed about their rights and the system of protection
and assistance in Germany. The ministry supports a network of non-governmental
organisations providing assessment of needs and support for immigrant
women affected by violence.
58. However, at the level of the Interior Ministry there is a
lack of concrete measures to protect migrants from violence or attacks,
and, in the majority of cases, no arrests have been made in connection
with the attacks, and even fewer have resulted in convictions.
59. The German Government must find a way to deal with the increasing
anti-refugee sentiment and the new wave of immigration which is
the biggest since the 90s. In addition, local authorities will have
to deal with communities’ growing numbers of concerns regarding
sufficient housing and the feasibility of integrating different
cultural groups. That is why the main challenge will be greater
tolerance and acceptance of refugees. Eventually, the federal government
will have to find a way to protect refugees and their accommodation.
60. It is also important that protection against discrimination
be recognised as a responsibility at national and municipal level.
All municipalities where migrants are accommodated should have special
counselling services for migrants and community-based programmes
promoting migrants’ integration, intercultural knowledge, civic commitment
and volunteer initiatives. People should be told about the harm
caused by neo-Nazis activities as regards discrimination.
61. I am pleased to note a recent positive development in the
German Parliament, which on 23 July 2015 amended the legislation
introducing more penalties for offences committed with racist motivations
and granting more power to federal prosecutors in cases of “hate
crimes”. They will also be able to launch joint operations in cases
involving several German nationals.
In the course of last year,
Greece experienced a dramatic increase in the flow of asylum seekers desperate
to get to Europe by sea coming from Asia, Africa and the Middle
East. As reported by the UNHCR, the number of arrivals of migrants
by sea in 2015 had reached 520 957 by the end of September 2015.Note
more than twice as many as in 2014. The majority of them are coming
from Syria, Afghanistan and Iraq.
Such a large number of migrants arriving on islands such as
Lesbos, Kos, Chios, Samos, Leros and Rhodes has put a big strain
on Greek reception capabilities. It has resulted in some isolated
incidents of violence, such as on Kos Island, where police officers
used batons and sprayed fire extinguishers as they tried to impose
order on a crowd of migrants.Note
In the absence of formal reception
facilities, the refugees often stay in inhuman conditions, sleeping
outdoors and lacking water and food.Note
I have received several complaints from organisations which
defend migrants’ rights about the cases of violence against migrants
in detention centres, the inhuman conditions of detention and prolonged
detention periods. The majority of these cases are not registered
and police officers are not punished. Several judgments of the European
Court of Human Rights had found a violation of Article 3 of the
Convention due to inadequate conditions of detention and systematic
deficiencies in the asylum procedure.Note
65. In order to monitor this situation, I conducted a fact-finding
visit to Greece, during which I visited Lesbos Island, one of the
main arrival points of migrants coming by sea from Turkey. There
are two migrant registration centres in Lesbos with a maximum capacity
of registration of up to 2 000 people per day. However, the director of
one of the centres reported the arrival of more than 4 000 people
per day, which highly exceeds the capacity of the centres. Nevertheless,
I witnessed good organisation of the registration process, even
though the number of people waiting was massive, and among them
were many families with small children. In the reception centre,
there were around 10 unaccompanied minors kept separately from adults
and waiting to be placed in specialised institutions for children.
The authorities of the reception centre, as well as the UNHCR protection
officers, insisted on the strong necessity to reinforce the capacity
of the centre by providing more sophisticated registration equipment,
as well by increasing the number of qualified staff.
66. The Greek Asylum Service is doing its best to facilitate access
to the asylum procedure and to support the relocation of people
in clear need of international protection. Since the second part
of 2014, in response to an increase of 315% of Syrian nationals
irregularly entering Greece, the Asylum Service has put in place
a fast-track procedure for registration and examination of asylum
claims within one working day. However, as there are no legal routes
for the arrival of migrants from Turkey and the majority of them
are trafficked by sea, it is difficult to estimate how many of them
will arrive in one day. To prevent any violations of migrants’ rights
and to combat the traffickers, it is very important to reinforce
the Hellenic Coast Guard service with at least 1 000 more officers.
As regards the present situation of violence against migrants
in Greece, it has significantly improved during the last two years.
During the rise of the neo-Nazi party Golden Dawn in 2009-2013,
physical violence such as assaults and attacks on migrants were
often perpetrated by members of this party. Human Rights Watch has
classified the attacks perpetrated against migrants as “semi-official
actions” in the sense that the police did not investigate the attacks.NoteNote
In 2012, Operation Xenios Zeus was
characterised as a massive social riot in which around 4 500 police
officers conducted raids on the streets in order to take immigrants
to a detention centre in Athens and subject them to humiliating
treatment. It is estimated that most of the 40 000 immigrants were
caught during this operation and 6 000 of them were detained. In
the detention centre they were forced to spend hours kneeling on
68. The Greek authorities took a number of measures to tackle
this problem, such as the creation of departments and offices within
the Hellenic Police specialised in the prevention and prosecution
of crimes committed on racial, ethnic or religious grounds, the
creation of a hotline to report incidents of racist violence, the
appointment of a public prosecutor for the prosecution of violent
racist acts, a change in the rules for the public financing of political
parties, as well as the establishment of a new anti-racist law in
September 2014 to strengthen the current anti-racism legislation.
Since 2015, detention is only applied as a last resort and for a period
not exceeding six months. Notwithstanding these improvements, some
issues remain to be addressed. They were highlighted in the firth
report on Greece published by the European Commission against Racism and
Intolerance (ECRI) on 24 February 2015.
69. The main problem highlighted by all human rights protection
actors, including the Greek Ombudsman, is the absence of an effective
mechanism which is independent from the police for recording and
monitoring racist incidents and hate crimes, as well as for the
protection of the victims. There is also no reliable State agency
collecting information on violent attacks against migrants.
70. On the initiative of the national Commission for Human Rights
and the UNHCR, a Racist Violence Recording Network (RVRN) was created
to co-ordinate the activities of the NGOs on gathering information
on acts of violence against migrants and ensuring the timely reaction
of the Greek authorities. In 2014, this network registered 46 incidents
of attacks against refugees and migrants. Many victims of these
reported crimes did not want to take any further actions or lodge
any complaint, either because they were afraid of persecution by
the perpetrators or because they were worried about the implications
on their status. Some of the victims expressed a lack of confidence
in the justice system, while in two cases, the victims reported
that they had been discouraged by the police. Despite several recent
investigations into racially motivated crimes, attacks against refugees
and migrants constituted the majority of the cases recorded by the
network. Even though the number of these attacks has decreased,
the pattern of organised attacks by groups of people and physical
Until recently, racial motivation was not taken into account
during the sentencing. The establishment of the general aggravating
circumstance for crimes with a hate motive in Article 81 of the
Criminal Code imposed prosecution of hate crimes on the basis of
the specific punishable act. However, this provision cannot be effective
if police officers do not pay special attention to a possible racial
motivation from the earliest stage of the investigation procedure.
The law-enforcement personnel and prosecuting and judicial authorities
should be trained on how to deal with hate crimes and how to assist
the victims. They should ensure the efficient investigation of any
racist motive during each stage of the judicial procedure and in
particular during the stage of preliminary inquiry, in accordance
with Police Circular No. 7100/4/3 of 24 May 2006.Note
72. As regards the integration of migrants, the Greek authorities
have adopted a national Social Integration Policy for 2014-2020,
which includes pre-departure measures for potential legal migrants,
Greek language courses and the establishment of Migrant Support
Centres and Migrant Integration Councils at municipality level.
In April 2014, the Greek Parliament adopted the Migration and Integration
Code, which promoted long-term resident status, adopted special
terms and conditions of stay for the “second generation” and included beneficiaries
of international protection in integration policies for third-country
73. Visiting Lesbos, I was impressed with how the Greek population
shows its compassion to arriving migrants, supporting them and providing
them with food and goods of first necessity. This general tendency
of support to refugees was stressed both by officials and representatives
of civil society. Following the public condemnation of racist attacks
and the denouncing of racist rhetoric of some politicians, the number
of cases of such crimes has reduced and support for the neo-Nazi
party Golden Down has significantly diminished.
74. However, the positive steps undertaken by the Greek Government
in combating violence against migrants should be strengthened by
implementation strategies. First of all, the victims of racist violence, including
undocumented migrants, should have direct access to the judicial
system. The arrest and detention of victims and witnesses who press
charges, during the period between pressing charges and the issue
of the special prosecutor’s act should be forbidden. It is also
important to prosecute hate crimes on the basis of specific criminal
offences laid down in the Penal Code, in conjunction with the general
aggravating circumstances. If the victims of violence are unaccompanied
minors, they should be provided with free access to health care,
housing in special accommodation centres and access to education
and language learning. As regards incidents of violence in the detention
centres, the authorities should ensure that the migrants have access
to legal aid and can lodge their complaints. Finally, I think that
international organisations, including the Council of Europe and
the UNHCR, could assist the Greek government in the elaboration
of an action plan to prevent and tackle hate crimes and violence
against migrants, including the implementation of a special educational
Italy faces the mass arrival
of migrants who are fleeing from wars in Syria, Iraq and Somalia;
fleeing poverty in Senegal, Niger, Sierra Leone and Cameroon; and
escaping oppression in Eritrea and Ethiopia. In 2014, 63 000 migrants
crossed the Mediterranean to reach Italy.Note
On the outskirts of Rome, in the neighbourhood of Tor Sapienza,
riot police have been mobilised against refugees living in a holding
centre in incidents which the UNHCR has classified as “unacceptable
acts of violence and intolerance”.Note
It is estimated that there are 70
Nigerian refugees living in the centre including minors under 18
years old from Egypt and Bangladesh.Note
Those migrants were also subjected
to anti-immigrant rhetoric through xenophobic and racist messages
in banners unfurled during the riots stating “Muslims go home” and
“Long live Il Duce”.Note
In other cities such as Rossano in Calabria (southern Italy),
African seasonal migrant workers were attacked in January 2010 followed
by another attack on a Bengali bar in Rome in March 2010. Human
Rights Watch has also documented cases of law-enforcement abuse
against Roma migrants during camp evictions.Note
The Italian anti-racism organisation
registered 398 media reports of hate crimes with 186 physical assaults
in that same year. Mohamed Alwash, on behalf of the UNHCR in Tripoli
reported “pushing back” episodes by Italian patrols when intercepting
a boat with 89 people on board, including 75 Eritreans, with nine
women and three children. That episode occurred in 2011. The refusal
of the Eritreans to return led to physical confrontations between
migrants and the Italian crew, ending with some of the Africans
being beaten by the Italians with plastic and metal bars.Note
In Lampedusa and Pozzallo, there have been riots between the
police and refugees with stone throwing and violent police charges,
which, in the opinion of the UNHCR, reveal the inability of Italy
to deal with a continuing flood of refugees.Note
79. I should also mention a recent “Mafia Capital” network crisis
in Rome, involving local politicians, business people and criminals
linked to violent neo-fascist groups active in the 1970s and 1980s,
who were accused of corruption over the public contracts to manage
migrant reception centres. This network of traffickers was making
money from the migration crisis by turning the accommodation of
migrants into a profitable business.
Turkey is considered to be
a destination country for refugees escaping from the violence by
Daesh in Iraq and Syria. According to the UNHCR data for November
2015, Turkey is hosting around 2 715 789 asylum seekers and refugees.Note
Between December 2013 and August 2014, the organisation reported
that Syrian refugees who were denied access to Turkish territory
were being subjected to abusive violence perpetrated by the Turkish
border guards. There were 10 separate incidents in which a total
of 31 civilians were beaten and attacked with live ammunition by
Turkish border guards when seeking entry into the country irregularly.Note
They were hit, kicked, and beaten
with sticks. Refugees also told Amnesty that they had been humiliated
by being stripped, urinated upon or being made to crawl like animals.Note
In October 2014, in the report “Turkey: Further information:
Detention of refugees must be investigated”, Amnesty International
reported that almost 300 refugees from the Syrian city of Kobani
fleeing from Daesh were held in a sports hall for up to 15 days
in Suruç, in Turkey’s Şanlıurfa province close to the border. The group
was composed of women, men and up to 30 children who lived in poor
conditions being beaten, threatened with knifes and ill-treated
by the Jandarma military force.Note
says that it conducted interviews in which refugees claimed that
they were put on the floor and forced to crawl by gendarmerie officers. Some
were threatened with knives put to their throats and told “We will
cut off your heads and throw them into Syria”.
In the sports hall, refugees were kept for around 24 hours
a day. Amnesty found that it had inadequate ventilation and only
one filthy toilet and shower. Some refugees who were found there
said that they now have medical problems such as respiratory problems,
heart conditions, skin diseases and anaemia that had worsened during
their detention and due to the fact they were not given access to
medical treatment or medication during their detention.Note
In addition, the International Rescue Committee delegation
travelling to Turkey found out that children were traumatised by
violent experiences and abuses, neglect and even exploitation.Note
A recent 2015 report also claimed
that a Syrian child had been attacked by the restaurant manager
at a branch of Burger King for eating a customer’s leftover food.Note
In the city of Gaziantep in south-eastern Turkey, the extreme-right
political groups monitor the city in order to track refugees down
and beat them in public. Refugees have also been expelled from some neighbourhoods
and attacked and injured on the streets and in the parks.Note
4.6 Russian Federation
Russia is the main country
of destination for migrants who come from the ex-Soviet republics
of Central Asia from the Caucasus region, but also receives migrants
from Africa. Due to this flow of migrants into Russia, Human Rights
Watch says that the country faces ethnic tensions and labour tensions
amongst migrant workers.Note
Racist and ethnically motivated murders and other violent
attacks by neo-Nazis in Russia are largely reported by human rights
organisations. Migrants and refugees from Asian and African countries
are the primary victims of these attacks.Note
As reported by the SOVA Centre
for Information and Analysis, in 2015, at least 11 people been killed
and approximately 82 injured in racist attacks in Russia. The same
year, 12 convictions by the courts for hate motives were considered
as racist violence.
In 2014, 12 migrants from Central Asia were killed and 23
injured (compared to 14 killed and 61 injured in 2013). Migrant
victims of such attacks are afraid to report these crimes and rarely
contact the police, community organisations or the media. The xenophobic
discourse in the Russian mass-media and anti-migrant speeches by
some politicians simply encourage the scapegoating of migrants.
The Russian State Radio Vesti FM published on its website a map
called “Illegal Aliens”, showing all places where undocumented migrants live
in Moscow and asking local citizens to update this map in order
to expose “the migrant underground”.Note
There were also several attacks against other “ethnic aliens”
under xenophobic slogans – against Palestinians in Voronezh (six
injured), Gypsies in the Ryazan Region (four injured), a national
of Bangladesh and a national of China in Moscow, two Japanese nationals
in the Moscow Region, and nationals of Kyrgyzstan in Moscow and
Human Rights Watch also documented large-scale police raids
against migrants during which thousands of migrants all over Russia
were detained simply because of their non-Slavic appearance. They experienced
prolonged detention in police stations in temporary holding cells
without access to a lawyer, and with courts ordering their deportation
based on perfunctory, rubber-stamped hearings.Note
In 2014, the launching of Operation
Migrant was characterised by mass arrests and detention of migrants
in Moscow and St Petersburg.Note
A similar operation, named “Operation
Illegal 2014”, was conducted in St Petersburg from 22 September
to 10 October 2014. The operation resulted in 437 migrants facing
Police officers conducted raids on
the streets where immigrants were exposed to riots, beatings, destruction
of property and hooliganism; actions which continue to go unpunished.
During those raids, more than 7 000 people were arrested across
Moscow – and more than 800 have already been served with deportation orders.Note
91. The Russian authorities and law-enforcement officials do not
provide adequate responses to hate crimes against migrants. The
human rights non-governmental organisations working with migrants
reported a number of cases of ill-treatment of migrants by police.
The Civic Assistance Committee registered the case of a migrant beaten
by police and left unconscious outside the city.
92. In addition to physical violence, migrants and their families
in Russia are particularly discriminated against when it comes to
access to education and health care. They also face exploitation
in the labour market with delays in payment of wages, non-payment
or forced labour.
93. The Russian authorities should take urgent measures to address
violence against migrants in their country and comply with their
human rights obligations.
5 Measures to combat violence
5.1 Addressing the root causes
94. In order to reduce violence,
we must first of all understand its origin and causes. High rates
of violence towards migrants are caused by intolerance (racism and
xenophobia), in particular when the host country is itself unstable
politically. Racism and hate speech is due to a lack of education
and information of local communities, where migrants have been stigmatised
for a long time, in particular because of the media. In addition,
because of their status, irregular migrant workers are not protected
and become more vulnerable to violence.
Moreover, in these cases, violence is also perpetuated by
the silence of the migrant victims. Since they fear being denounced
or deported they do not report crimes. Consequently, perpetrators
of violence remain unpunished and unknown (they can be employers,
other migrants, organised criminal groups or even corrupt State
96. To address the root causes of violence it is therefore necessary
to facilitate access to justice for migrants: we must ensure that
they receive legal assistance, regardless of their migration status,
and that migrant victims of violence can testify freely before the
court without fear of reprisals from the host country.
Nonetheless, the key to combating violence remains integration.
Integration should be based on the education of local communities
as well as that of migrants, with a particular emphasis on youth.
For instance, in the Netherlands, migrants must attend linguistic
assistance programmes, social/vocational orientation, and general
We also need to facilitate the acquisition
of nationality of migrants and ensure that there is no segregation
by putting in place neighbourhood development programmes.
5.2 Strengthening legislation
98. Legislation is essential in
order to combat violence against migrants. Nonetheless, some legislation
such as that which criminalises irregular immigration can worsen
this violence and make migrants more vulnerable to racism and xenophobia.
Therefore, States must review and amend legislation to ensure that
irregular immigration is not considered a criminal offence, and
ratify all international human rights instruments (particularly
the International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of
all Migrant Workers and Members of their Families).
99. In this context, States should also strengthen legislation
against racist hate speech, discrimination and xenophobia. All forms
of incitement to racial discrimination must be criminalised in domestic
law and all member States’ provisions that allow for or excuse violence
against migrants must be removed.
100. Legislation to fight against violence within migrant communities
also needs to be strengthened. Given the vulnerability of migrant
women and children, criminal and civil laws must be amended to ensure
that harmful traditional practices in all of their forms (female
genital mutilation, honour crimes or forced virginity testing) are prohibited
5.3 Protecting and assisting
victims and witnesses
101. States must ensure that migrants
are aware of their right to be protected from violence and to seek redress.
Too often, migrants do not seek redress because they fear reprisals
or deportation orders. That is why prosecution of violence must
take priority over immigration control and the status of victims.
Article 16.2 of the International Convention on the Rights
of All Migrants Workers and Members of their Families already provides
criminal justice to migrant victims of physical or sexual violence.Note
However, States should put in place
further measures to ensure the safety of migrants during criminal
justice procedures as well as ensuring that victims will not face
secondary victimisation by justice officials. In addition, States
must ensure the protection of migrant witnesses from reprisals.
103. Regarding assistance, governments should provide the necessary
care for victims (medical material, psychological and social assistance)
regardless of the migration status of victims. Migrants need to
be informed of their rights (by helpdesks or brochures) so that
they can receive assistance. Moreover, special care should be provided
to vulnerable migrant victims such as women or children, according
to the type and nature of the violence experienced.
5.4 Punishing perpetrators of
Sentences for violence against
migrants must be proportional to the gravity of the offence but
they must also allow perpetrators of violence to reintegrate into
society, while avoiding the risk of repeat offence. That is why
alternatives to incarceration such as economic sanctions, community
services orders or house arrest are preferred.Note
should amend legislation to include as aggravating circumstances
perpetration of violence against migrants.
When the authors of violent crimes are migrants, we must ensure
their non-discriminatory incarceration.Note
During their detention, migrants must
enjoy the same rights as non-migrants.
5.5 Raising awareness of the
Awareness campaigns must first
and foremost be foreseen in the countries of origin. It is fundamental to
inform migrants of risks of violence during the migration process
as well as their vulnerability to criminals. They should also be
informed of safe migration options and of where they can seek help.Note
107. Awareness campaigns must also be undertaken in host countries.
States must raise awareness of the violence endured by migrants
along migratory routes, in countries of origin, transit and destination.
Moreover, cultural awareness between migrant and local communities
must be enhanced. It is essential that local communities understand
the benefits of migration so that discrimination and xenophobia
are reduced. The promotion of respect for diversity is the key for
the social inclusion of migrants and non-violence.
6 Conclusions and recommendations
108. Up to now, the response from
member States has been insufficient to protect migrants from violence. Even
if the rights of migrants are generally protected through legal
instruments, violence still remains a big issue in the context of
smuggling migrants, detention centres and forced labour. Protection
must therefore be strengthened, with a particular emphasis on women
and children, who are more vulnerable.
Law enforcement is essential but is not sufficient to prevent
violence against migrants. Measures should be integrated in a wider,
more comprehensive approach: from a policy
level with a clear immigration policy to further preventative measures
such as awareness-raising campaignsNote
destination countries which would promote tolerance and the social
inclusion of migrants.
110. In light of the growing numbers of acts of violence against
migrants, the Parliamentary Assembly should call on governments
to amend legislation to ensure that irregular immigration is not
considered a criminal offence. States also need to fight security
force abuses: perpetrators must be brought to justice and punished. Regarding
violence experienced in the context of forced labour, it is necessary
to inform migrants of the working conditions to which they are entitled
and to sanction employers responsible for violence. In addition, local
governments should work and co-operate with the media so that they
do not convey erroneous or caricatured information concerning migrants,
which may contribute to creating xenophobic or racist sentiments towards
migrants. Measures to disconnect the prosecution of violence from
immigration processes are also essential so that migrants are protected
against violence regardless of their immigration status.
111. Lastly, I would like to reiterate my appeal to the member
States of the Council of Europe to help to generalise the ratification
of the Istanbul Convention. Member States not having already done
so should also ratify the Council of Europe Convention on the Protection
of Children against Sexual Exploitation and Sexual Abuse in order
to provide protection for migrant children.