Libyan Civil Society & Government Discuss Alternatives to Immigration Detention

TUNISIA, Tunis —Libyan civil society and government representatives, together with members of the international community discussed on December 15 and 16 the implementation of alternatives, during the latest in a series of workshops aimed at reducing harmful immigration detention.

“The commitment of the government and civil society partners to work together to engage migrants and ensure their basic needs are met is inspiring,” Danish Refugee Council Country Director Martin Vane

According to the UN Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL) there are currently between 4,000 to 7,000 migrants being held in 24 centres spread throughout the country, many of them facing difficult conditions and a stay of indefinite length.

In response to this growing challenge, representatives of Libyan civil society presented a draft law, advocating for alternatives to immigration detention and providing a legal framework for migrants in the country. Members of the Libyan Government DCIM highlighted a new pilot project for registration of migrants that has been coordinated with the local municipal council. A representative of the Ministry of Justice noted that legislation was also required to help regulate centres.

“The commitment of the government and civil society partners to work together to engage migrants and ensure their basic needs are met is inspiring,” Danish Refugee Council Country Director Martin Vane said in the opening remarks.

Mr. Vane commended the effort being made “over these two days to develop a pilot for alternatives to detention, including a focus on vulnerable women and children.”

Organised by DRC, The Alternatives to Detention II two-day workshop was an interagency effort, facilitated by the International Detention Coalition (IDC), and held under the auspices of the newly launched Mixed Migration Working group, co-chaired by IOM and UNHCR. Read the workshop report here.

The participants agreed to work together on practical solutions to harmful detention, including training front line case managers, formalising referral pathways and increasing support to safe community housing options outside detention.

Ms Junita Calder, IDC Regional Coordinator for the Middle East and Africa said “Both Libyan government and civil society have firsthand understanding of the nuances of the local context therefore the alternative to detention pilots they have proposed together have a high likelihood of success.

“We stand together with the Mixed-Migration Working Group, willing to offer technical support for pilot development and implementation.”

The workshop and the practical suggestions are in line with the recent UNHCR dialogue that highlighted an urgent need to end immigration detention of children.

In the recent New York Declaration for refugees and migrants, all 167 UN Member States committed to work together to End Child Detention.

The workshop comes at a critical time as the Global Compact on Refugees and the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration are currently under development by UN Member States.

During the workshop, Libyan civil society organisations called on all partners to help in this collective effort to show that there can be alternatives to immigration detention in Libya.

“While the overall security situation in Libya still causes serious concern, all of the involved actors shall strive to ensure that suitable alternatives to detention for most vulnerable groups such as women, girls, unaccompanied minors will be found,”Mr. Vane added.

“These could be done for example through placement into migrant or Libyan communities if feasible and such processes can be supported by Libyan civil society organizations working on mixed migration issues and by the international donor community.”

The workshop, funded by the European Commission’s Humanitarian Aid and Civil Protection department (ECHO) was also attended by representatives of  UN agencies including UNSMIL, IOM, UNHCR and INGOs, with facilitation from the International Detention Coalition (IDC).