Launch of the campaign of parliamentary visits in migrant detention centers
Over the last decade or so, European asylum and immigration policies have led to a rise of the number of migrant detention centers. In the EU and at its southern and eastern borders, their number has gone up from 324 in 1999 to 473 in 2011 , without taking into account the invisible detention facilities such as police stations or ship cabins used temporarily but on a regularly basis.
Although the EU Directive on Return  states that the “Relevant and competent national, international and nongovernmental organizations and bodies shall have the possibility to visit detention facilities” and that the European Parliament , and in particular, within it, the Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs  expressed being in favor to an access to immigration detention facilities for civil society, difficulties remain. Most of the time, Member States’ authorities refuse access to these centers to journalists; as to the organizations, they are submitted to very strict rules, and even the access to elected representatives can sometimes be limited by the authorities.
It is not uncommon for children - sometimes without a legal representative - to be detained as well as people seeking protection - which is the case of numerous Syrian citizens today. Some people are detained for unlimited duration, although the Directive on Return sets the maximal detention duration to eighteen months. These few examples demonstrate of the inhuman and degrading treatments carried out by politics and practices to people, on the sole ground that they do not possess the necessary travel documents and/or residence permits in good standing.
These detention center visits are one of the main tools of the campaign « Open Access Now » launched by Migreurop and European Alternatives in October 2011.
While requests are introduced on a regular basis by organizations and journalists involved in this field in order to test the access possibilities, from April to June 2013, members of the European Parliament (for whom the access to these centers is guaranteed by the law) will undertake visits of different detention places, in order to continue to draw up a review of the current state of living conditions inside these detention centers, which remain most of the time opaque.
Under the patronage of the European Parliament deputies Hélène Flautre (Verts/ALE) and Marie-Christine Vergiat (GUE/NGL), a round table will be organized on Wednesday the 24th of April 2013 from 1pm to 2.30pm at the European Parliament of Brussels (room PHS 1 C 51). Journalists, MPs and representatives of organizations will testify about their experiences during their visits in detention centers. Will then be presented to all the MPs, the stakes involved in accessing these detention centers, through the statements of the European committee for the prevention of torture and of the Association for the prevention of torture.
The objective of this meeting and of these parliamentary visits is to reinforce the watchfulness, to underline the necessary transparency of these measures and to give a greater visibility to the problems linked to migrant detention in order to encourage the evolution of national and European legislations toward higher standards in terms of respect of human rights.
The round table will be followed by a press conference from 2:30pm to 3pm (room ASP 5 G 2).
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