BRUSSELS / LONDON / ATHENS / NICOSIA / PARIS / MADRID
The widespread use of criminalising language impacts the daily realities of undocumented migrants. The perception that someone is ‘illegal’ creates a key barrier to access services and uphold human rights. The use of “illegal” to categorise migrants as criminals also legitimises and normalises repressive law enforcement measures against people, simply on grounds of their administrative status.
As a migrant worker from the Philippines, living in the Netherlands explained, “Since the word ‘illegal’ has become a stigma in my everyday dealing with people, I started to ask myself whether I was really illegal. Of course, I am not and will never be. I am undocumented.”
With the slogan ‘Words Matter!’, the Platform for International Cooperation on Undocumented Migrants (PICUM),Right to Remain, Praksis, the Greek Forum of Refugees (GFR), KISA, Institut Panos Europe, Red Acoge, Andalucía Acoge and the Organisation for Undocumented Workers (OR.C.A.) campaign for the use of the impartial terms ‘undocumented’ or ‘irregular’ migrant in all EU languages. Available in English, Greek, Dutch, and Italian, the campaign leaflet on accurate terminology provides a lexicon with translations of these terms in all EU languages and gives an overview of reasons why to stop using ‘illegal migrant’.*
From a judicial perspective, the term ‘illegal migrant’ is incorrect as being undocumented does not constitute a crime per se. As it is not an offense against persons, property or national security, in most countries it belongs to the realm of administrative rather than criminal law.
It is inaccurate to use the term ‘illegal’ to describe those who have crossed borders through unofficial routes as it violates their right to due process before the law. Due process is a fundamental legal safeguard. Moreover, the term ‘illegal’ ignores migrants’ fundamental dignity and rights. Only used against migrants and never applied to citizens, it is both discriminatory and offensive.
For more information about PICUM’s work on terminology or if you wish to endorse the campaign or send your support in form of photos, videos or written quotes, contact:
PICUM Communications Officer
+32 2 210 1780
The Platform for International Cooperation on Undocumented Migrants (PICUM), is a non-governmental international organisation (NGO) that promotes respect for the human rights of undocumented migrants within Europe. For more information go to: www.picum.org
Institut Panos Europe: http://www.panoseurope.org/
Red Acoge: http://www.redacoge.org/
Andalucía Acoge: http://www.acoge.org/
Organisation for Undocumented Workers (OR.C.A.): http://www.orcasite.be/
Right to Remain: www.righttoremain.org.uk
Greek Forum of Refugees (GFR): http://refugeegr.blogspot.be/
KISA Action for Equality, Support, Anti-racism: http://kisa.org.cy/