On 20 November 2020, it was revealed that exploitation of foreign workers has taken place in well-known pastry manufacturing enterprise, Adugs. 10 citizens of India were underpaid, overworked, physically abused and their passports seized. While both the administration of this company and local workers have denied the accusations, this case has shed light on issues of human trafficking and exploitation of workers in Latvia.
The State Labour Inspectorate has seen an increase in complaints from foreign workers in the past three years, the most common types of mistreatment being the withholding of salaries and overworking. Employers also threaten foreign workers with the annulment of their work visa if they complain to the administration or the State Labour Inspectorate.
In the last four years most migrant workers in Latvia have come from Georgia, Russia, Belarus and Ukraine, most commonly working in the industries of construction, transport and logistics, and the ICT sector. Despite the increase in unemployment during the COVID-19 pandemic, the demand for foreign workers still remains high.
Read more about this issue here.
Denmark: How has COVID-19 affected migrants?
When coronavirus began to spread in the spring of 2020, Denmark was one of the first countries to introduce radical national measures at very short notice. By 13 March, most of the country had been shut down, including schools, educational institutions and daycare centres for children. Bars and hotels were closed; restaurants could only sell take-away food. Most people were urged to work from home, and public transport services were reduced. All this seemed effective, and Denmark has never been seriously affected by the virus. Even during the current second wave of transmission, the numbers of dead and infected are under control, and the country has not been shut down as it was during spring.
Impact on migrants and ethnic minorities
Nine months after the pandemic entered the country, it is clear that migrants and ethnic minorities have been more affected by it than the average population. This was documented in the annual 'Integrationstræf' of 1 October. According to professor Marie Nørredam from Copenhagen University, these are the main causal factors of the difference:
- Ethnic minorities are more likely to be employed in sectors where there is a high risk of virus contraction, e.g. health, transport services and hospitality;
- People in minority communities are more likely to live in smaller homes, particularly in flats rather than houses, and more often with their extended families;
- Such individuals in Denmark have been shown to suffer more often from chronic diseases such as diabetes, heart problems and obesity.
Migrant and refugee children have also been more affected than Danish children during the months when schools and daycare centres where shut down. All schools offered online teaching, but that requires a stable internet connection, decent IT-knowledge and equipment, and parents must know how to engage in Danish on the communication portal, Aula. Not always able to meet these requirements and with smaller social networks, many migrant children faced a difficult time.
According to Jan Rose Skaksen from Rockwool Foundation, an disproportionate number of people with a minority background are working in sectors severely affected by the pandemic such as transport, hotels, restaurants and retail. Furthermore, any economic crisis usually leads to companies firing those employees with the lowest level of training or education, and the last ones to be employed. On average, migrants are less educated and have fewer years of employment than ethnic Danes. This means that migrants have more often lost their job or income due to COVID-19 than native citizens.
Access to information
Denmark has a population of 325 000 adults with a non-European background, and on top of that a large population of people from other European countries. A considerable number of these people are not fluent enough in the Danish language to understand detailed written information documents or a news programme in Danish. An obvious problem during the initial shutdown and introduction of new restrictions, therefore, was the lack of translation.
Daily press conferences with the prime minister and health authorities were broadcasted live on national television with live deaf interpretation, but without subtitles or live translation into other languages. The official state website with information on new COVID-19 rules was only available in Danish, as was the popular information on the websites of national TV stations. The official COVID-19 web page has now introduced a link to translated texts, but it has come too late for many.
During the first weeks of the pandemic, NGO Mino Danmark and a hospital clinic for minority health took it upon themselves to translate the most important information into the most common migrant languages. After one month, the NGO Danish Refugee Council found private fund money to launch a website with relevant, translated information and a hotline service in 25 languages, but this is no longer working.
The Ministry of Integration launched a campaign at the end of March, focusing on delivering information to residents with minority backgrounds in social housing projects. It produced translations of official information and guidelines in 9 languages, and distributed printed versions in relevant areas. In October, the Danish Health Institute also produced videos in Somali, Urdu, Farsi, Arabic and Tigrigna detailing how to use face mask correctly.
Some of the municipalities hosting a large number of citizens with minority backgrounds have been more affected than other areas during the second wave. As a consequence the Brøndby municipality has produced videos in Turkish and Urdu, and one aimed specifically at young people.
Consequences for legal status
Some countries have extended or made access to legal status easier during the pandemic, but Denmark has indirectly made it harder.
Dublin transfers of asylum seekers were suspended between March and July 2020, and even now in November very few transfers are being carried out. A historically low number of asylum seekers have arrived in Denmark as the borders have de facto been closed. Asylum interviews have been carried out via video or postponed.
Language schools were closed for months, access to counselling very limited and job training programmes cancelled. Family reunification was in effect put on hold, as it was not possible to travel from most countries into Denmark.
Permanent residence permits and citizenship depend on passing language tests and holding a full-time job for over three years, including at the time of application. The pandemic has made it harder for many people to meet this criteria, as Harun Demirtas argues in this article. A member of parliament asked if it could be ensured that applications from these people would not be turned down because of the COVID-19 situation, but their request was denied by the Ministry of Integration.
By bringing together therapists with black heritage, Black Therapists Ireland facilitates access to mental health services that support diversity and uphold cultural values. Ejiro Ogbevoen set up the network to break the stigma around mental health that exists in some African communities, and to provide culturally appropriate services for victims of racism. Her main aim is to provide a choice for people who seek mental health support.
There is, however, a very low number of black therapists in Ireland. The Irish Council for Psychotherapy has approximately 4 000 therapists, fewer than 10 of whom are members of the Black Therapists network.
There are significant institutional barriers to diversifying the pool of therapists in the country: the labour market remains generally hostile to black people, and the immigration and work permit systems pose several particular obstacles.
Caidre - a migrant led organisation working towards tackling health inequalities for migrants and ethnic minorities - has published a comprehensive report on the barriers to mental health services for the Afro-Irish community and a guide for members of migrant communities.
The findings of the ALL-YOUTH project, which assesses the situation of young refugee men and women in Finland, have been published in an online portal.
Through the portal, users can access eight research articles (text and podcast versions), ten videos and 42 photos. The research, carried out in co-operation with young adults who have come to Finland as refugees and the professionals who guide them, focuses on two main issues: 1) the experiences of young people with refugee backgrounds in education and employment, and 2) possible solutions to the problems faced by these young people.
The overarching goals of the research were as follows:
- To listen to and raise the voices of young people with a refugee background and to gain a better understanding of their lives;
- To support young to identify their own abilities and to inspire them to move forward on their own, positive life paths;
- To promote the wellbeing and social functioning of young people with a refugee background through the arts (e.g. photography and theatre initiatives).
The project adopted a "co-research" approach, involving young people in the research as equal partners from the very beginning. It took as its starting point the themes that these young people had identified as being important to them.
Access the web portal here. Findings have been published in Finnish, English, Somali, Arabic and Dari.
In its response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Portuguese government published updated information on measures, guidelines and recommendations from relevant authorities. There was particular focus on provision of information to those within the High Commission for Migration, as well as its services and its customers.
One of the publications is a leaflet on measures aimed at preventing the spread of the virus, released in 11 languages: Arabic, Bangla, English, Farsi, French, Hindi, Mandarin, Nepalese, Portuguese, Romanian and Russian. It includes a concise summary of symptoms, prevention tactics, useful National Health Service contacts, and self-isolation advice.
The information released is relevant to Portuguese residents only, as guidelines vary by country.
In the High Commission for Migration’s online portal foreign citizens can find guidance and recommendations in English, including the latest measures adopted by Portuguese municipalities concerning public road circulation, opening and closing times for shops and coronavirus testing.
The Minderheden Forum - one of Belgium's major ethnic and cultural organisations - will no longer advise the Flemish government on integration matters. As a result, it will lose significant funding. The Flemish Minister of Social Affairs, Bart Somers, argued that the organisation does not match the new government's norms.
The Flemish government will from now on be working hand in hand with a new organisation: Join.Vlaanderen. "Instead of maintaining existing structures, I want to work with new people to get things moving", the Minister explained. He said the decision is meant to allow more people of foreign descent to feel effectively represented. According to the statutes, Join.Vlaanderen was only established as an association on 28 September 2020, shortly before the application deadline.
Join.Vlaanderen brings together young people with migrant roots to think about how they can reach more young people (with COVID-19 guidelines, for example). They rely on various partners, such as universities, research centers and local associations.
Newspapers as well as opposition parties are claiming the decision results from the nationalist party N-VA's influence. In October 2019, the new Flemish government announced some changes regarding cultural funding: cultural initiatives would have to be in line with the Flemish cultural identity, and communicating in Flemish would be compulsory for receiving funds.
Opposition party PVDA stated that 20 years of experience is "now being replaced by an organisation that, for the time being, only exists on paper and which focuses on everyone's own responsibility instead of on eradicating racism and discrimination from our society."
The European Commission has published two new e-books which can be downloaded for free from its website. They present some of the projects supported by the Asylum, Migration and Integration Fund (AMIF) and the Internal Security Fund (ISF) in EU Member States and Schengen area countries.
AMIF and ISF provide European Union Member States with financial support to tackle common issues and challenges. The selected projects in these e-books demonstrate just how this financial support can facilitate the growth, development and success of initiatives in migration, security and protection.
These two books follow the publication of Snapshots from the EU Asylum, Migration and Integration Fund and the EU Internal Security Fund in 2018, which is accessible here.
More Snapshots from the EU Asylum, Migration and Integration Fund
The first e-book presents projects from 26 EU Member States that tackle such issues as gender-based violence, asylum, refugee integration, disease prevention and promotion of the health of migrant women and their families. Read it here.
More Snapshots from the EU Internal Security Fund for police / borders and visas
The second book comprises a wide selection of activities from 31 countries. These involve everything from the setting up and running of IT systems and the procurement of operational equipment, to the provision of training schemes and support to strengthen the operational capacity for preventing and combating crime. Read it here.
France: Restriction de l’accès aux soins des personnes étrangères en pleine période de crise sanitaire (COVID-19)16/11/2020
La crise sanitaire avait contraint le gouvernement à le mettre en suspens. Le décret relatif à l'aide médicale de l'Etat et aux conditions permettant de bénéficier du droit à la prise en charge des frais de santé pour les assurés qui cessent d'avoir une résidence régulière en France, datant du 30 octobre 2020, est paru au Journal officiel début novembre, alors que la France affronte une deuxième vague de la pandémie de COVID-19.
Ce décret, entérine la réduction du mécanisme légal de prolongation des droits à la prise en charge des frais de santé par l’assurance maladie. En pratique, ce sont 800 000 personnes étrangères, détentrices de titres de séjour renouvelés chaque année, qui vont être impactées. Ces personnes disposaient auparavant d’un délai pour produire leur nouveau titre de séjour à la caisse d’assurance maladie. Le délai de prolongation des droits permettait avant tout de pallier les carences des préfectures qui ne délivrent pas à temps les documents pourtant prévus par la réglementation et permettant de justifier de la régularité du séjour des étrangers-ères. Pour les milliers de personnes visées par cette mesure, cela signifie des démarches répétées et épuisantes et, in fine, représente un surcroit de travail de gestion pour les caisses.
Ce décret restreint également les conditions d’accès à l’Aide Médicale d’Etat (AME) dans le prolongement des modifications législatives précédentes. Dans le fil des discours selon lesquels des étrangers viendraient en France pour bénéficier du prétendu système avantageux que représenterait l’AME, le décret exclu certains soins ne revêtant pas un caractère d’urgence durant les neuf mois de la première admission à l’AME, sauf à obtenir un accord préalable de la caisse de sécurité sociale. Cette mesure accentue un traitement inégal qui pourrait préfigurer des exclusions futures y compris pour les assurés sociaux.
De plus, alors que l’accès aux mécanismes de protection sociale se dématérialise, le décret oblige désormais les personnes à venir déposer physiquement leur première demande d’AME, y compris quand ils habitent à l’autre bout du département, dans un unique objectif de lutte contre les prétendus abus et fraudes qui ne sont pas démontrés. Cette mesure intervient alors que la France entre dans une deuxième période de confinement national et que les déplacements doivent être limités, ce qui est un non-sens en termes de santé publique.
Ces durcissements successifs sont pris alors même que toutes les études montrent que les personnes étrangères font d’ores et déjà face à des obstacles importants pour accéder aux droits et aux soins et sont plus exposés aux risques de santé. Dans un communiqué rendu public le 16 novembre 2020, l’Observatoire du droit à la santé des étrangers (ODSE), la Fédération des acteurs de la solidarité et France Assos Santé (entre autres) y voient un « non-sens en termes de santé publique », à l’heure où la France traverse une crise sanitaire sans précédent. Ces organisations demandent :
- la sécurisation du parcours de soins des personnes étrangères ;
- le retour au mécanisme du maintien de droits de douze mois à l’Assurance Maladie ;
- la suppression des obstacles à la demande d’AME telle que l’obligation du dépôt en personne.
Pour en savoir plus, consultez l'analyse réalisée par l’Observatoire du droit à la santé des étrangers (ODSE) : "Que prévoit le décret du 30 octobre 2020 relatif à l’aide médicale de l’Etat ?"
In celebration of the International Day for Tolerance, Lithuanian NGO Diversity Development Group held an event during which the country's MIPEX 2020 results were shared with the public for the first time.
MIPEX (Migrant Integration Policy Index) is an interactive tool designed to assess, compare and improve migrant integration policy in 52 countries (including all European Union Member States) across five continents. From October to December of this year, MIPEX national research teams have been presenting the conclusions of research and analyses in 8 different policy areas.
Lithuania scored poorly in the MIPEX 2020 national overview, with 37 points out of a possible 100 (internationally, the average country score was 52). Research shows that in relocating to Lithuania, migrant newcomers face more obstacles than opportunities. This said, in comparison with the results of MIPEX 2015, Lithuania's score saw an increase of +4 points, while other participating countries improved by +2 points on average.
Giedre Blazyte, researcher for Diversity Development Group, notes that migrant integration policy in Lithuania remains distinctly selective: supported arrival procedures, for example, are generally only available to foreign nationals of particular countries or from particular professional backgrounds. An absence of strategic, state-level thinking towards long-term policy solutions is another important problem these MIPEX results emphasise.
In addition the MIPEX overview highlights that foreign nationals in Lithuania face limited opportunities in political participation (including access to citizenship), meaning that as a social group migrants in Lithuania remain rather marginalized and invisible. Blazyte concludes that '...This situation has a negative impact on both developing and spreading society's views towards migrants'.
During the launch event, researchers also discussed the results of a recent study on Lithuanian society's perception of migrants, which found that the public leans towards more negative than positive views of migrants. According to the study, over half of the country's residents believe that refugees increase crime rates (69 percent), cause social disturbances (62 percent) and exploit their right to asylum for economic gain (66 percent). Vita Kontvaine, researcher at the Lithuanian Social Research Center, emphasises that Lithuanians worry about competition in the labour market which, they believe, is affected by large numbers of refugees. This aside, though, almost 70 percent of Lithuanians agreed with hosting Belarusian citizens arriving to the country on the grounds of humanitarian protection. Additionally, almost half (48 percent) of respondents held the opinion that the state should better facilitate the integration of refugees.
A full recording of the event can be viewed here.
On 9 December national MIPEX findings will be summarised and compared during the MIPEX 2020 international launch event. The MIPEX coordination team currently comprises experts from Migration Policy Group (MPG) and the Barcelona Centre for International Affairs (CIDOB).
Les résultats du Luxembourg dans l’étude MIPEX 2020, qui compare les politiques d’intégration dans plus de 50 pays du monde, sont meilleurs pour le Luxembourg que ceux de 2015, passant de « à moitié favorable » (54/100) à « légèrement favorable » (64/100).
MIPEX (Migrant integration policy index) établit une étude comparative des dispositions légales en matière d’intégration, au sens large. En aucun cas il est question d’évaluer l’application concrète des lois, objet d’autres études actuellement en cours, par exemple, de la part de l’OCDE, commandité par le Gouvernement luxembourgeois et dont les résultats seront publiés début 2021.
- La web conférence de présentation le 16 novembre 2020 à Luxembourg avec la participation de Thomas Huddelston de MPG et de la Ministre de la Famille Madame Corinne Cahen peut être regardée ici;
- Le communiqué de presse de l'ASTI est ici;
- Le 'country profile' (in English) est ici;
- Les recommandations de MIPEX et ASTI sont ici.
Les échos de presse: