In Mexico, just one year after the publication of the General Law on the Rights of Children and Adolescents (2014), IDC promoted a pilot program that saw the release of unaccompanied children and adolescents who were deprived of their liberty in immigration detention centres and their reception and care in community-based civil society programs. In collaboration with the National Migration Institute and the organizations Casa Alianza and Aldeas Infantiles, this experience was pioneering as a strategy to shift perspectives and open possibilities for structural change. It provided evidence to strengthen the advocacy that later, in 2020, enabled legislative reform of the Migration Law to prohibit the detention of children and adolescents for migration-related reasons. This is particularly important considering that Mexico is a country that traditionally receives transit migration.

IDC has found that there is evidence from other countries in the world where they have implemented alternative to detention (ATD) measures aimed at various populations -such as women, families or refugees-, in migration contexts commonly referred to as “transit” or that could be applied in contexts with these characteristics. Regardless of the political category assigned to the migratory context (transit or destination), IDC promotes the adoption of ATD in response to international commitments to move towards ending immigration detention. To this end, IDC acknowledges and promotes the efforts of governments and civil society to build migration governance systems that guarantee dignity and human rights.

“Most critically, immigration detention has detrimental effects on individuals, communities and entire societies.”

Why is it important to systematise and share good practices of ATD around the world?

While there has been progress in adopting ATD around the world, immigration detention continues to be a widespread response to international migration, not only in Mexico, but in other countries as well. Disseminating the actions that governments can take in a manner that respects human rights, while strengthening community participation and contributing to transparency and efficiency in the use of public resources, is a task that seeks to inspire stakeholders in charge of protecting the rights of people on the move.

Although there are specific challenges and common questions about the application of ATD in contexts with “transit migration”, IDC has worked on research that helps to clarify concepts, myths, arguments and experiences in order to provide useful elements to advance its implementation in these contexts. On the one hand, it allows us to break down some key concepts (such as “transit migration” itself) as well as the factors that encourage the use of immigration detention. In addition, it provides answers to the main questions related to the application of ATDs in contexts with “transit migration” and some considerations on how and when ATDs can be useful as a strategy for those who work in advocacy and design or operation of public policies that prioritise freedom.

To this end, IDC has explored experiences in Australia, Bulgaria, Cyprus, Egypt, France, Greece, Jordan, Libya, Malaysia, Mexico, Poland, Switzerland and Thailand and systematized the most relevant ones.

To learn more:

We invite you to read our publication Alternatives to Immigration Detention in Transit Migration Contexts for more practical examples and recent developments in the field of ATD, in order to highlight promising practices and encourage further progress in this area.