Immigration Detention in the Baltics: A Regional View
The three Baltic countries—Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania—were largely shielded from the impact of Europe’s “refugee crisis.” However, a cursory review of their detention policies, border control practices, and public discourses concerning immigration would seem to tell a different story: New fences are being built on the borders with Russia; detention capacity is expanding in all three countries; and officials often describe migration developments as “emergencies” even as the overall populations of the countries steadily decline.
With comparatively few arrivals and diminishingly small numbers of asylum seekers, the Baltic countries’ detention rates are generally lower than those of most other EU countries. Of the three, Latvia detains by far the most, 671 in 2016, which compares to roughly 100 in Estonia and 200 in Lithuania that year. Despite their small detainee populations, national and international human rights observers have repeatedly raised concerns about the detention practices in all three countries, as we underscore in this regional mini-series.
Amongst the key issues that we highlight are evolving provisions in legislation concerning the detention of children and asylum seekers; the lack of use of “alternatives to detention,” in part because officials see migrants as flight risks since most are deemed as trying to transit the Baltic region en route to other locations in Europe; and detention provisions that are not compliant with the EU Returns Directive.
Gender-Responsive Migration Legislation, Policies, and Practices: Submission to the Special Rapporteur on the Human Rights of Migrants
Women, girls, and gender-nonconforming individuals can face terrifying immigration detention conditions in every corner of the globe. This is happening despite numerous calls by government watchdogs and authoritative human rights bodies that states refrain from detaining such people. In our response to a questionnaire distributed by the UN Special Rapporteur on the Human Rights of Migrants in preparation for his upcoming report on “good practices or initiatives of gender-responsive migration legislation, policies and practices,” the GDP details numerous concerns about the detention of women, girls, and gender-nonconforming individuals and urges the Special Rapporteur to consider emphasising various actions that states should undertake. Read the full submission.
The Recast of the EU Returns Directive: Human Rights Lost Again?
In a blog post for the Refugee Law Initiative, GDP Research Izabella Majcher examines the recast Returns Directive and the trend in lowering protection of fundamental rights. Read the full article.
Open NGO Letter Regarding the Critical Funding Gap Affecting UN Human Rights Mechanisms and the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights
Delays in payments by UN member states has led to the likely cancellation of UN treaty body sessions later this year. The GDP has joined hundreds of NGOs in signing an open letter urging UN member states to pay their UN dues, to prioritise funding for the UN’s human rights pillar, and to initiate discussions on how to ensure that UN human rights mechanisms are not disproportionately affected by budget cuts. Read the open letter.