06 August 2020
A EUROsociAL+ expert explains the vulnerability migrants face at borders
Bárbara Gómez, EUROsociAL+ project technician tells us about the dangers that migrants run at borders and how inequalities increase while they remain in this situation, particularly at the crossing between Mexico and the United States. She also speaks about how public policies are the key to guaranteeing a legal framework to protect the basic human rights of migrants.
Clearly, we have abandoned the usual idea of seeing a border as a mere line that can be easily erased, to look at it, like the philosopher Eugenio Trías, as an authentic territory in which not only conflicts or cultural clashes, but also multiple exchanges and trade-offs are evident. Above all, a different conception of the “experience of the limit”.
The flexibility of the mobility of people across these borders, added to the complexity of our current society, and the perennial problems of searching for opportunities due to poverty and social inequality in many countries, along with regional conflicts, has led to a migratory phenomenon that has itself increased to such an extent as to become a global situation. This reality has become more evident lately due to the latest events that occurred in the current context of the migration through Mexico where, in October 2018 a caravan began in which just over six thousand people came to Tijuana to seek asylum in the United States. The focus on this event was sharpened by the continued strengthening of the south-west border of the United States, where the current president insists on building a border wall with Mexico, despite the Democrats’ opposition and refusal to approve expenditure for the wall.
Over the last 12 years, migration in Mexico has started to change profoundly in terms of numbers, patterns and impacts, in other words, a significant transformation in the migration dynamics in this region of the country has occurred. This new dynamic has brought consequences of a social, economic and cultural nature to the different border cities and to the region in general.
EUROsociAL+, the European Union programme run by FIIAPP, is watching the migratory phenomenon in the Latin American region, and particularly in the Central American region, and with a multidimensional approach, is also observing how migration is being managed in border areas, improving cross-border governance systems. Within this framework, it has overseen the preparation of a diagnostic study that focuses on all phases and stages of this phenomenon in a context of economic, social and political crisis.
To this end, there were several questions to answer: What will happen to undocumented migrants arriving at the south-western border of the United States? How likely is it that they will decide to reside in the border region of Mexico as they are unable to cross the border or request asylum? Is the Mexican government prepared for this possible contingency?
It was vitally important to analyse the initial situation in the border territories, which in most cases were not only forced to receive migrants from Central America unable to cross the border, but at the same time to receive all those who had been deported and were affected by the extremely strict migratory policies of the United States. The analysis started from this approach and how all this would affect a new organisation of the region, the public policies put in place for multilevel governance, regional cohesion and, therefore, for social cohesion as a response to the sense of belonging felt by such a heterogeneous group of citizens living on the border.
The study, therefore, aims to understand the journeys experienced by the migrants, as well as their experiences during their temporary or forced stay in the border cities of this region. The analysis included both Mexicans who have been deported or returned from the United States, as well as men and women from Central America and the Caribbean.
Mexico’s northern border includes the group of municipalities adjacent to the US border, on the assumption that this is where most of these events occur. Included in this area are 38 adjoining municipalities that belong to six states: Baja California, Sonora, Chihuahua, Coahuila, Nuevo León and Tamaulipas. It has now become a region with close ties to the United States; there are permanent exchanges of goods and services in both directions, as well as a huge flow of people who cross over in both directions every day. To mention just some interesting details. The Baja California border region has the highest number of immigrants (168,000); 38.4% of the population was born in a non-border region or outside Mexico. This percentage increases to over 50% in municipalities such as Tijuana and Tecate (Baja California). Baja California and Sonora have received most of the migrants deported from the USA. Jointly, 67% of the cases recorded took place in these two states. Men make up the vast majority of Mexicans repatriated from the United States, totalling 91% versus 9% women. However, the qualitative experience of this repatriation will not be the same for men and women, with the latter being the most vulnerable as, in most cases, they take their dependent children with them. But it is also notable that the vast majority of repatriation events involve young migrants; almost half are between 20 and 29 years old. Between January and October 2018, 9,348 minors (MENAS) were handed over to the Mexican authorities by their American peers, which represents 6% of the total.
The journeys taken by migrants
Also, it would not be entirely fair to present this work, which is sponsored by EUROsociAL+, only with statistical data. It is also only right to take into account the human dimension of all these experiences of “transition” that are exponentially increased by inequality.
Devoid of rights, and even devoid of the right to possess rights, undocumented migrants are nowadays the clearest expression of the conscious deprivation of basic human rights for a whole human group. By excluding them from legality, the State places undocumented migrants outside the limits of the law, at the same time that it applies laws that systematically exclude them. In other words, the vulnerability of this group is largely caused by the denial of their right of access to justice, and EUROsociAL+ is working to change this situation. Access to justice is a key right, which acts as a kind of gateway for access to basic services such as health, education, housing, employment, and so on. But it also entails the defence of aliens detained or deprived of liberty, care for victims of gender violence and legal assistance for unaccompanied minors.
Perhaps this ambiguous situation of being “outside the law” has led to certain situations of violence that migrants themselves suffer in their journey across borders. Without a legal framework that protects them, in no-man’s land, their lack of protection is greater and, therefore, their rights are weakened. One of the clearest examples of this form of violence is suffered by women. Women are in a very vulnerable situation when crossing borders. And EUROsociAL+ is addressing precisely the differentiated effects of corruption on women, pursuing two phenomena that do not always intersect: corruption and trafficking. Added to this equation is a more variable one, migration, since most women who are trafficked are also migrants.
At the border, migrants are at a crossroads between here and there, with their belongings in a backpack or in a plastic bag, and their dreams and hopes running high. In this border space, these people prefer information which is informal, which comes from family and friends, over any other source, to compensate for the extreme vulnerability of their border experience. Aware of this situation, EUROsociAL+ is also working so that this vulnerable group can fully exercise their right to access information; improving passive transparency with institutions that have the competence to manage this migratory phenomenon, but also a transparency that is active, promoting the exercise of these peoples’ rights to request basic information that can improve their lives in a country they do not know.
The border is a point of transition, of transience, a temporary place that increases their vulnerability, the difficulties they face. Sharing such vulnerability allows them to create deep ties during their short stay at the border, while deciding whether to move on or establish their new residence in the transit territories. Either decision will push them towards the most disadvantaged aspect of inequality. Governments must not forget about borders and must use all the instruments at their disposal so that the effects of their public policies also reach the inhospitable territories that are often forgotten.
Bárbara Gómez, Project Technician for the EUROsociAL+ Democratic Governance area at FIIAPP
 The Colegio de la Frontera, Northern Mexico (COLEF), 2018.
21 July 2020
In this post, Chilean National Defender, Andrés Mahnke, talks about the progress made in Chile's criminal defence with the EUROsociAL+ project
The so-called “social outcry” started in Chile on 18 October 2019 and transformed the country’s agenda, not only because its citizens demanded it, and because it exposed the activities of public institutions which now, more than ever, were struggling to cope with hitherto unseen scenarios stemming from the demonstrations.
The Chilean social outcry attracted international interest, since it included loss of life and hundreds of people with ocular mutilation, numerous complaints of serious human rights violations, and destruction of public and private infrastructures, among other consequences. As a result, the country received visits from representatives of several international human rights organisations, such as the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch.
In all these areas, Chilean justice and its actors had to take action, monitored by the justice system and the close scrutiny of an empowered citizenry and the international community. In this context, a series of adjustments and learnings took place, which started to become visible during the first quarter of 2020, and which had their acid test during March of this year.
However, this story had an unexpected twist, which dominated all scenarios and modified all agendas: the SARS-CoV2 Coronavirus, which causes the disease known as Covid19 . A few weeks after the disease reared its head in Chile, it forced a change to the electoral calendar for the beginning of the constitutional process and caused something which was unthinkable just weeks earlier: the end of mass social protest in public spaces. People went home and the streets were empty, in the same way as happened almost all over the world.
But reflection on the changes to the justice system and the lessons learned from the ‘outbreak’ must not stop. In fact, they have become even more essential to resume the fluidity of public activity when the health emergency ends. Nor does the outcry seem to have disappeared, rather it has been put on hold with a few resurgences due to the lack of food during the quarantine. Everything suggests the social and economic impact of the pandemic will exacerbate existing inequalities. Therefore, this period has been an opportunity to integrate our learning and anticipate future scenarios.
In the social protest scenario, one indirect effect was connected to the work of the different actors in the criminal system facing an unprecedented challenge in terms of coverage and operational capacity, because of the notable increase in the number of people detained and processed.
Between 18 October and 13 November 2019, the Chilean Public Criminal Defender’s Office – a public institution that guarantees the right to defence and which is made up of 722 officials and 524 external providers – attended to 20,645 people under arrest, an increase of 25.4% compared to the same period of the previous year.
These increases, however, were even greater during the initial days of the crisis. Between 20 and 28 October, a period during which much of Chile was under a “state of constitutional exception”, the institution registered 10,712 defendants undergoing detention reviews, representing an increase of 70% compared to the same period in 2018. Furthermore, whereas on average there are between 600 and 650 daily detention reviews in the country, at that time they increased to 1,100 daily hearings, reaching a peak of 2,508 detention reviews on 21 October.
Beyond this work, an initial conclusion showed that an indeterminate number of detainees were not assisted by public defenders, either because the Public Ministry had decided not to transfer them to detention review, or because the police did not report that they had been arrested. This meant that there was no jurisdictional control of these activities and there were no records.
This triggered a contingency plan in Public Defence to attend to people detained in the police units, because by institutional design, defenders are in contact with the detainee just before the detention review hearing before the supervisory judge. Although public defenders set up informal service centres in police stations and other police detention facilities, this gave direct coverage to only 105 of the 900 police stations in the country.
This gap need to be filled urgently, since numerous people’s rights have been violated, as described in reports from the human rights organisations who visited the country.
Institutionally, the Chilean Public Criminal Defender’s Office activated different measures, such as strengthening the dissemination of rights , coordinating with the rest of the actors in the system, and opening channels for collaboration with the police, among others.
However, the main initiative that followed the period of social crisis in Chile stemmed from the support lent by EUROsociAL+, European Union programme managed by the FIIAPP, whose specialists are currently collaborating with Public Defenders to prepare a ‘Criminal defence protocol for the initial hours following arrest‘.
Its main objective is to find a means to provide coverage that guarantees the right of detained persons to a defence lawyer in the shortest possible time, thus protecting their right to technical defence. Furthermore, as international organisations that promote and protect human rights have revealed, the presence of a defence lawyer is a safeguard to protect the detained person’s other rights, particularly to prevent torture.
These actions enable comprehensive, effective achievement of the institutional mission to guarantee the right to defence of any accused person at all stages of the criminal process, preventing violation of rights and strengthening judicial detention review, providing public defenders with more tools to appeal against the punitive power of the State on an equal footing before the courts of justice.
The objective is always the same: to reinforce institutional commitment to the rule of law, a peaceful society and democracy in Chile, a task for which we are grateful to have the steadfast, permanent support of European cooperation.
By Andrés Mahnke M., National Defender (Chilean Public Criminal Defender)
In relation to the work done together with the Chilean Public Criminal Defender’s Office, the EUROsociAL+ programme has just published a diagnosis of the criminal defence of people in the first few hours of detention in the Latin American country.
19 September 2019
These projects, financed by the European Union and in whose management the FIIAPP participates, hold a high-level bi-regional conference today in Montevideo on alternative measures to the deprivation of liberty
With the presence of numerous European and Latin American authorities, COPOLAD, EL PAcCTO and EUROsociAL+ combine efforts, work, discourse and media in this conference with the aim of achieving a greater impact of the issue on society.
The conference was closed with a broad agreement formalised in a joint declaration ratified by all the representatives of the participating Latin American and Caribbean countries, as well as by the European Union and by the three regional cooperation programmes organising the event: COPOLAD II, THE COURT and EUROsociAL+.
Each from its perspective, in this post the three projects highlight the common dimension that they share around alternative measures to imprisonment.
COPOLAD and the importance of coordination between institutions
In recent years, several alternative measures to prison have shown encouraging results by reducing, in some prisons, the overpopulation and with it, the problems associated with this situation. The lecture will explain the main lines of action in this area, which have shown positive results, consistently and in different social contexts, in relation to overcrowding and in addressing other associated problems. In this context, and in order to explore the successful alternatives implemented in some countries and the evaluation of their benefits, an aspect that is common, basic and essential for ensuring success in the application of any alternative measure will be considered.
This key factor is the need for inter-institutional coordination, a concept that is easy to formulate but more complex to apply. Inter-institutional coordination has proven to be at the centre of any action that promotes the development of public policies in the field of alternatives to prison if they are to be effective (evidence-based), efficient and aligned with development goals, especially the protection of human rights, the empowerment of women, the promotion of public health and good governance.
With this in mind, the conference will provide an opportunity to look more in-depth at what inter-institutional coordination means in this area, the implications of facing the many challenges of developing and managing opportunities and the coordination mechanisms (multisectoral platforms and tools) that must exist to improve horizontal cooperation between the judicial system and the security forces, as well as between social and healthcare services.
Teresa Salvador-Llivina is director of COPOLAD and Claudia Liebers is responsible for Institutional Relations and Project Strategy.
EL PAcCTO: the relationship between alternative measures to prison and organised crime
Worldwide, and Latin America is no exception, many states have a prison overpopulation that sometimes reaches alarming levels. Overcrowding is an evil in itself, since in addition to affecting the human dignity of persons deprived of liberty, it prevents or greatly complicates the correct implementation of social reintegration programmes, the physical separation between dangerous detainees and minor criminals or first-time offenders.
Numerous international studies underline that prison cannot be the only solution for dealing with crime and show that, frequently, it becomes a crime school, favouring the proliferation of criminal groups that act inside and outside the detention centres, putting the safety of convicts and society as a whole at risk. There are several criminal organisations that have emerged and have been strengthened in the prison environment, taking advantage of the weaknesses of the systems due to high overpopulation.
Therefore, one of the main concerns of EL PAcCTO is the need to support the execution and use of alternative measures to deprivation of liberty, considering them as essential to easing congestion in prison systems and focusing attention on the most dangerous persons deprived of their liberty, who can recruit followers in prisons. For these reasons, we consider that the measures are also an essential tool for the fight against organised crime.
In addition, alternative measures are a transversal issue that need a holistic approach, strong coordination and lead to cultural change and a shared approach among all the actors involved also in terms of external communication.
Giovanni Tartaglia Polcini is the coordinator of the EL PAcCTO Prison systems component, Lorenzo Tordelli is the thematic co-coordinator-manager and Nathalie Boissou is the deputy coordinator.
EUROsociAL + , favouring social insertion and the abandoning of crime
In Montevideo, the EUROsociAL+ programmes, together with El PACcTO and COPOLAD, are currently organising a bi-regional conference on alternative measures to deprivation of liberty. All three, each from its own perspective, have addressed this issue, converging on common problems that make us work in the same direction.
Imprisonment as a penalty, which should be a last resort, has been used indiscriminately in Latin America. There has been an exponential growth in the prison population in recent decades. This overpopulation, which has caused problems of overcrowding, health, and violence, has been questioned to the extent that it has shown not to be able to favour social insertion processes, nor has it had a deterrent effect reducing re-offending, or positive effects on social rehabilitation
The social cohesion approach, which the EUROsociAL+ programme promotes, is closely linked to the development and use of alternative measures to deprivation of liberty, not only because inequality contributes to violence, and this in a programme that aims to reduce all kinds of inequalities, but because in their eagerness to “leave no-one behind”, the question that should interest us above all is not why do criminals commit crimes? but why do they stop committing crimes? The search for actions that favour the decision to abandon crime is the key in the processes of social insertion of offenders and in alternative measures.
A special focus will be given to women deprived of their liberty in this conference. Despite the fact that the percentage is much lower than that of men, the number of women imprisoned in the region has almost tripled in recent decades. This growth is very fast and proportionally much higher than that of men. These trends should be a concern for governments and the prison system, still lacking or indifferent in dealing with the specific needs of women. It is urgent, therefore, to incorporate the gender perspective.
Of course, the application of alternative measures cannot be incorporated without the backing of reliable administrative action. Implementation requires a framework of action with rehabilitative measures that allow judges to give real consideration and offenders to take responsibility for their actions and change and abandon crime.
Sonia González Fuentes is coordinator of the Democratic Governance policy area of EUROsociAL+ at FIIAPP.
29 August 2019
Posteado en : Reportage
The project addresses access to justice for people in vulnerable situations. This documentary video presents a paradigmatic case: that of the Mapuche woman Lorenza Cayuhan
Access to justice is a hallmark of the EUROsociAL+ programme, which is funded by the European Union and managed by FIIAPP, and is one of the dimensions through which the fight against exclusion and inequality is being organised.
Despite the notable advances in this area in the Latin American region, there is still a need to improve and guarantee access to justice for certain at-risk groups in order to strengthen social cohesion. Within that framework, the Brasilia Rules on Access to Justice for people in a vulnerable situation, which was approved by the Ibero-American Judicial Summit, are a key instrument for guaranteeing access to justice and contributing to social cohesion in the region. Since the beginning of EUROsociAL in 2005, the programme has supported the countries in the region as well as regional networks, not only in initially defining the Brasilia Rules in 2008, but also in revising and updating them in 2018 and in their dissemination and implementation at the national level in Latin American countries.
The case of Lorenza Cayuhan, which is presented in the video, is paradigmatic in this regard because it shows multiple discriminations (intersectionality of discrimination) for being a woman, Mapuche, pregnant and deprived of freedom, as was ultimately recognised by a ruling of the Chilean Supreme Court of Justice.
EUROsociAL+ Democratic Governance Policy Area
04 April 2019
Posteado en : Entrevista
We interviewed Pansy Tlakula, the High Commissioner in South Africa for the right of access to information, during the International Conference of Commissioners on Access to Information, in which EUROsociAL+ also participated.
How important is the right of access to public information for human rights and democracy?
Access to information is the key to enjoying other rights. You cannot enjoy social and economic rights without the right of access to information; and, moreover, it is also important for the right to vote. For all these reasons, it is fundamental to the human rights system.
From the historical point of view, what has been the importance of this right for South African citizens?
In this case, it is important to bear in mind the country’s sad history with apartheid and racial segregation. That is why, in 1994, when the people became free, one of the first things done was to make sure that the “culture of secrecy” ended. One of the first laws we adopted after gaining freedom promoted access to information.
Can we highlight any relevant cases relating to public information that have been historically important in South Africa?
I think the most important case in this regard occurred last year. Several civil society organisations had asked the political parties to disclose the source of their funding and, initially, they refused. Then, an organisation called Right2Know took the case to court, which determined that the right of access to information is fundamental to the right to vote. In order for citizens to exercise the right to vote, they must be able to access information about the financing of political parties.
EUROsociAL+, the programme financed by the European Union and managed by FIIAPP, has presented its experience in supporting the Transparency Network in Latin America (RTA) at the conference. In Africa, there is a plan to create a similar network. How do you think the creation of a similar network on the continent would be beneficial?
I think the network is very important and the collaboration between countries in Africa and Latin America is significant because it is South-South cooperation. For example, these past couple of days, when we held our first meeting on establishing the African Network of Information Commissioners, our colleagues from the Latin American network explained how they had established their network.
Let’s talk about gender and the right of access to information: How important is this right for women in South Africa and throughout Africa?
I think it is very important for women throughout the world, for example, if we look at the rights related to reproductive and sexual health; in this case, women and girls cannot benefit from these rights if they do not have enough information. If they knew about it, they would be able to face the specific health challenges that these issues entail.
And some of them can be easily resolved by giving women access to information, so this year, at the International Conference of Commissioners on Access to Information, we gave a presentation on the importance of access to information for vulnerable groups: on how this impacts women and people with disabilities. Personally, I believe that access to information has a positive impact on everyone, including vulnerable groups.
14 March 2019
Posteado en : Reportage
Laura Cárdenas is the author of this text and a EUROsociAL + expert in the development of an awareness strategy for alternative measures to prison
Just like every week, Miguel comes to PROMESEM, the Social and Community Insertion Program of the National Institute of Social Inclusion of Adolescents Uruguay (INISA). Every day psychologists, social educators, professors and teachers await to work closely with him and to comply with the sanction imposed by the court for the crime he committed, after a year of confinement, now in an open environment. “They are my guardian angels,” he explains. And that is the atmosphere in the INISA centre. Hugs, smiles, the smell of incense, decorated walls and teenagers, men and women, who are looking for encouragement and a way to make up for the damage they caused, to society and to themselves.
Miguel is one of more than 300 teenagers who are under the protection of INISA, the governing body in charge of young people guilty of criminal conduct, within a system in which imprisonment “has been the rule rather than the exception”, according to its president, Gabriela Fulco. That is why the State has created a new model for addressing non-custodial measures that “responds to the need to comply with the commitment acquired by the State on ratifying the Convention on the Rights of the Child ” and implies more extensive application of socio-educational and reintegration measures, facilitating the continuity of the social and family lives of teenagers and establishing peace within the community.
Because of this, the European Union, through its EUROsociAL + programme, which is managed by the FIIAPP, is assisting INISA in this process by exchanging experiences and good practices in European and Latin American public policies in this area. These include designing a communication and awareness-raising strategy to serve as a guide to raise awareness among Uruguay’s citizens, state institutions, media and private sector of the need to promote the application of measures other than imprisonment to improve social cohesion.
As explained by Fulco, from the perspective of both children’s rights and citizen security, imprisonment does not solve the problem of insecurity or improve the possibilities of social reintegration of teenagers. However, the model that applies alternative sanctions to imprisonment through socio-educational measures has demonstrated internationally lower rates of recidivism and greater reintegration.
PROMESEN serves teenagers who have previously been imprisoned and others who have not . According to its director, Fernanda Albistur, there is a big difference between them: “Those who come after being incarcerated are stunned, during the initial weeks they do not even want to leave the house and many are afraid to come alone. They keep hearing the noises of the prison, the padlocks, the doors … It is much more difficult to get them to participate in the programme. Confinement also aggravates the family situation and all the conflicts they had prior to their detention and that were frozen reappear, “explains Albistur. “We often ask ourselves what we can do to repair the institutional damage caused by confinement, what we can do to repair the horrible experiences they have had.”
Miguel went every week to the geriatric hospital Piñeiro del Campo, where elderly homeless people live, as part of one of the community service programmes the socio-educational sanction requires.
Laura Berois, a teacher, accompanied the teenagers in this activity. “They have very complex lives and when faced with situations more difficult than theirs they become aware of how important it is to look after themselves,” she says.
Mariela, who also participates in this programme, lives with her parents and grandparents in a neighbourhood that she does not like, she explains. Now Mariela says that she has realised that “it is useless to take the easy way. You have to fight and live peacefully with other human beings . ” Mariela imagines a future in which she can continue with her studies “to work and bring up my family because I want to be a nurse to be able to heal people”. “I still have two months left to keep coming, but I’m going to do it. In addition, there are good people here, they help us “, she emphasises.
Sofia Rodríguez is one of the PROMESEM educators. Every day, she faces the challenging task of seeing the conditions in which the teenagers live. Their basic needs and rights have been totally violated which is why “they care so little about their own lives”. They are teenagers who are totally excluded from society, from the education system, who are born and live in a criminal environment, which is why Sofia asks: “How can they be expected to respect the rights of others if all their own rights have been totally violated? Nobody questions why adolescents in trouble with the law do not belong to the middle or upper classes, but to the poor. As a society, we are responsible for what is happening”, she insists.
“ Most have been neglected throughout their lives . Some have serious psychological disorders and cannot distinguish between right and wrong”, explains Carolina, one of the centre’s psychologists. However, all the workers at the centre praise these teenagers’ resilience.
“I have never been treated as well as at Piñeiro Hospital. What’s more, the old people were always waiting for us and when we left they were sad. We did art together and even did an exhibition of the works at Santo Domingo City Hall”, says Miguel. Now, Miguel, thanks to the agreement between the Municipality of Montevideo and INISA and, above all, to his change of attitude, has found a job and will be able to meet the needs of his newborn son and those of his family.