(December 2001)




PICUM, the Platform for International Cooperation on Undocumented Migrants, is an umbrella organisation of several non-governmental organisations working with undocumented migrants in Europe. Based on the experience of theses NGOs and the expertise built up by PICUM on the theme of irregular migration, we whish to communicate some of our concerns to the Ministers taking part in the Laeken Summit. 


PICUM hopes that the policy orientation of the Laeken Summit concerning asylum and migration policies will be human and realistic, avoiding that people are tempted, forced and/or trapped into illegality.




With a view on the recent impetus given to the fight against illegal migration, PICUM wishes to stress the importance of taking into account the fact that those immigrations rules are not written on a clean sheet. Because of restrictive, unrealistic and inappropriate national policies, many undocumented migrants are currently living in a situation of predicament. PICUM wishes to urge the ministers to take the situation of these migrants into account, committing themselves to respect the human and basic social rights of undocumented migrants. Measures against illegal migration should consider illegal migrants rather as victims than as criminals.


A major concern for PICUM is that, in the fight against illegal migration, citizens and NGOs providing social and humanitarian help to undocumented migrants residing in Europe are excluded from penalisation. It should be recognised and respected that not financial advantage but humanitarian considerations drive many European citizens to assist and support undocumented migrants. 


PICUM furthermore strongly recommends to accompany an implementation of measures against irregular migration with a discussion on a harmonized concept of regularisation of the undocumented migrants residing within the European member states.




Especially in relation to the development of a common policy for labour admission, PICUM hopes that attention will be given to the legal and social position of the undocumented labour migrants who already reside in the European Union and already contributed – and continue to contribute -  to the economies of member states.


PICUM wishes to explicitly raise the issue of non-legal labour migrants with a view to their legalisation and their possible participation, on a legal basis, in the regular labour market. This appeal by PICUM is based on the following grounds:


1.     Undocumented migrants may belong to the workforce that is available for filling vacancies in those sectors of the labour market where there is shortage of manpower, as soon as they are given the relevant additional schooling and training. Moreover they are an answer to the demographically indicated lack of manpower that within few years will be considerable.


2.     The non-legal residents who already have lived for some time in our countries are relatively well-acquainted with the social institutions here and may rather quickly be considered as co-citizens.


3.     It is in the interest of all workers that the informal labour market be reduced to the structural minimum and that its further extension be combated.


4.     Concerning the fight against the informal labour market, the UN Convention 1990/158 stresses the importance of penalizing malpractices of employers with regard to illegal employment, in particular in the field of salaries and work conditions, rather than penalizing the persons who work under these conditions.


5.     Existing programs for regularisation of non-legal residents have proven that these have a positive spin-off effect on the ‘whitewashing’ of work delivered in the black labour market.




Respect for a dignified existence should prevail above everything.


PICUM realises that above mentioned concerns ask for a serious societal debate. Positive measures leading to an active policy of regularisation and creative directives concerning the decent fight against the informal labour market ask for a well-founded and courageous political approach. The non-governmental organisations are willing to cooperate actively in this field.


In the mean time however we need to stay alert regarding the situation of undocumented migrants residing structurally within the European Union. Also for the public interest, everything should be done to keep this group from slipping deeper away in the poverty gap. This would cost more to our societies than providing a dignified assistance in shelter, health care, food, and education. 


The lack of such assistance goes not only against the spirit and the letter of the International Convention on Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of their Families (UN, 1990) and various human rights treaties, but goes also against our common will to restrict the insecurity in our countries and cities. The denial of a dignified existence creates a general malaise, insecurity and more illegality.


PICUM asks that undocumented migrants would be treated with respect. Within the European Union, they are the signal of the inequality in the world. 




November 2001