Alternativas a la detención en contextos de migración de tránsito

En México, justo un año después de la publicación de la Ley General de los Derechos de Niñas, Niños y Adolescentes (2014), IDC impulsó un programa piloto que contempló la liberación de niñas, niños y adolescentes no acompañados que se encontraban privados de su libertad en centros de detención migratoria y su recepción y atención en programas comunitarios de la sociedad civil. En colaboración con el Instituto Nacional de Migración y las organizaciones Casa Alianza y Aldeas Infantiles, esta experiencia fue pionera como estrategia para cambiar perspectivas y abrir posibilidades de cambio estructural. Aportó pruebas para reforzar la labor de promoción que más tarde, en 2020, permitió la reforma legislativa de la Ley de Migración para prohibir la detención de niños y adolescentes por motivos relacionados con la migración. Esto es especialmente importante si se tiene en cuenta que México es un país que tradicionalmente recibe migración de tránsito.

IDC ha constatado que existen evidencias de otros países del mundo en los que se han implementado medidas alternativas a la detención (ATD) dirigidas a diversas poblaciones -como mujeres, familias o refugiados-, en contextos migratorios comúnmente denominados de "tránsito" o que podrían aplicarse en contextos con estas características. Independientemente de la categoría política asignada al contexto migratorio (tránsito o destino), IDC promueve la adopción del TCA en respuesta a los compromisos internacionales de avanzar hacia el fin de la detención de inmigrantes. Con este fin, IDC reconoce y promueve los esfuerzos de los gobiernos y la sociedad civil para construir sistemas de gobernanza de la migración que garanticen la dignidad y los derechos humanos.

"Lo más grave es que la detención de inmigrantes tiene efectos perjudiciales para las personas, las comunidades y sociedades enteras".

¿Por qué es importante sistematizar y compartir buenas prácticas de TCA en todo el mundo?

Aunque se ha avanzado en la adopción del TCA en todo el mundo, la detención de inmigrantes sigue siendo una respuesta generalizada a la migración internacional, no sólo en México, sino también en otros países. Difundir las acciones que los gobiernos pueden emprender de forma que se respeten los derechos humanos, al tiempo que se refuerza la participación de la comunidad y se contribuye a la transparencia y la eficiencia en el uso de los recursos públicos, es una tarea que pretende inspirar a las partes interesadas encargadas de proteger los derechos de las personas que se desplazan.

Aunque existen retos específicos y preguntas comunes sobre la aplicación de los TCA en contextos con "migración de tránsito", IDC ha trabajado en investigaciones que ayudan a clarificar conceptos, mitos, argumentos y experiencias con el fin de aportar elementos útiles para avanzar en su aplicación en estos contextos. Por un lado, nos permite desglosar algunos conceptos clave (como la propia "migración de tránsito"), así como los factores que fomentan el uso de la detención de inmigrantes. Además, ofrece respuestas a las principales preguntas relacionadas con la aplicación de los TCA en contextos con "migración de tránsito" y algunas consideraciones sobre cómo y cuándo los TCA pueden ser útiles como estrategia para quienes trabajan en la defensa y el diseño u operación de políticas públicas que prioricen la libertad.

Para ello, IDC ha explorado experiencias en Australia, Bulgaria, Chipre, Egipto, Francia, Grecia, Jordania, Libia, Malasia, México, Polonia, Suiza y Tailandia y ha sistematizado las más relevantes.

Para saber más:

Le invitamos a leer nuestra publicación Alternatives to Immigration Detention in Transit Migration Contexts (Alternativas a la detención por motivos de inmigración en contextos de migración en tránsito) para conocer más ejemplos prácticos y la evolución reciente en el ámbito de la TTI, con el fin de poner de relieve las prácticas prometedoras y fomentar nuevos avances en este ámbito.


Detención de inmigrantes como medida excepcional de último recurso

Desde la adopción de la Declaración Universal de Derechos Humanos en 1948, el derecho a la libertad personal ha sido recogido en diversos tratados internacionales. Este derecho es uno de los principales marcos para abordar la detención arbitraria de personas en movimiento.

Como parte de la gestión de la migración, los gobiernos de todo el mundo llevan a cabo diversas acciones como parte de la política estatal, una de las cuales es la detención.

IDC ha documentado los diversos efectos perjudiciales de la detención de inmigrantes, como la criminalización de los inmigrantes (incluidos los que necesitan protección internacional), los efectos psicosociales en las personas y sus comunidades, las violaciones de los derechos humanos, así como los elevados costes para los gobiernos.

"La migración irregular no es una elección de la gente, sino una consecuencia de las políticas y acciones del Estado".

Por lo tanto, las normas internacionales apoyan la eliminación de la detención de inmigrantes, y una de las estrategias para lograrlo es limitar su aplicación sólo como medida excepcional de último recurso. Este principio ha sido asumido en varios países y está consagrado en sus marcos jurídicos; sin embargo, existen varios retos en su aplicación.


¿Cómo aplicar el principio de último recurso para la detención de inmigrantes?

Para conseguir que los Estados eliminen gradualmente y pongan fin por completo al uso de la detención de inmigrantes, hay algunas acciones clave de defensa que pueden emprender los actores legislativos, los funcionarios públicos o las propias organizaciones de la sociedad civil.

Varios instrumentos internacionales prohíben la detención de inmigrantes de diversos grupos, como niños y adolescentes, solicitantes de asilo o personas en situación de vulnerabilidad, como embarazadas, madres lactantes, ancianos, personas con discapacidad, personas LGBTQI o supervivientes de trata de seres humanos, tortura y otros delitos violentos graves.

En el Pacto Mundial para una Migración Segura, Ordenada y Regular, los Estados se han comprometido a dar prioridad a las alternativas no privativas de libertad acordes con el derecho internacional, y a adoptar un enfoque basado en los derechos humanos ante cualquier detención de migrantes, en el que la detención sólo se utilice como último recurso.

La excepcionalidad de la detención debe basarse en una evaluación individual y específica del contexto, en un análisis de todas las opciones, y la decisión de optar por la detención debe ser legal y demostrar un objetivo legítimo.

Basándose en las experiencias de sus miembros y socios, IDC se propuso recopilar prácticas prometedoras en la aplicación del principio de último recurso en todo el mundo, incluyendo ejemplos de legislación nacional y su posible efecto en el uso de la detención como medida de control de la inmigración.

Más información:

Le invitamos a leer nuestro documento informativo -La detención de inmigrantes como medida excepcional de último recurso- para conocer mejor las normas internacionales en las que se plantea el principio de último recurso, así como algunas prácticas prometedoras, con el fin de fomentar nuevos avances en esta cuestión.


Entrevista con Carolina Gottardo, de IDC

Esta entrevista fue publicada por primera vez por el Programa Europeo para la Integración y la Migración (EPIM)

Carolina Gottardo, directora ejecutiva de International Detention Coalition (IDC), nos habla en esta entrevista. Carolina guía a la red mundial de más de 275 organizaciones, individuos y miembros de comunidades de todo el mundo para defender los derechos humanos de las personas afectadas por la detención de inmigrantes. A través de la colaboración estratégica con la sociedad civil, las agencias de la ONU y los gobiernos de todo el mundo, IDC trabaja para crear movimientos y dar forma a cambios legales, políticos y de procedimiento destinados a reducir y, en última instancia, poner fin a la detención de inmigrantes y promover alternativas basadas en los derechos en todo el mundo.

Carolina es abogada y economista especializada en migración, asilo y género, con más de 20 años de experiencia en derechos humanos. Carolina ha desempeñado anteriormente funciones directivas en el Servicio Jesuita a Refugiados de Australia y el Servicio de Derechos de la Mujer Latinoamericana, entre otros.

EPIM ha apoyado el trabajo de IDC con la Red Europea de Alternativas a la Detención (ATD), que reúne a ONG que llevan a cabo proyectos piloto de alternativas a la detención basadas en la gestión de casos en siete países europeos (Bélgica, Bulgaria, Chipre, Grecia, Italia, Polonia y Reino Unido) con organizaciones regionales e internacionales.

1. ¿Puede hablarnos del ámbito de trabajo de IDC y de cómo ha evolucionado desde que empezó a trabajar en la organización en 2020?

IDC es una red mundial con miembros en más de 75 países que defiende los derechos de migrantes, refugiados y solicitantes de asilo, con el objetivo de reducir y, en última instancia, poner fin a la detención de inmigrantes y aplicar alternativas a la detención basadas en los derechos y sin privación de libertad.

El IDC enfoca el TCA como una estrategia de cambio de sistemas que trabaja para poner fin a la detención de inmigrantes, al tiempo que construye sistemas de gobernanza de la migración que garanticen la dignidad y los derechos humanos de las personas que se desplazan en la comunidad y fuera de los centros de detención de inmigrantes. En colaboración con la sociedad civil, organismos de la ONU y múltiples niveles de gobierno, construimos estratégicamente movimientos e influimos en leyes, políticas y prácticas, poniendo en el centro la voz de las personas con experiencias vividas.

En los últimos años, la misión de IDC ha evolucionado desde su objetivo inicial de reducir la detención de inmigrantes hasta el de acabar con ella. También hemos afinado nuestro enfoque de las alternativas a la detención como estrategia de cambio de los sistemas de gobernanza de la migración que no implican el uso de la detención de inmigrantes.

2. En los últimos años al frente de la red europea ATD, ¿puede hablarnos de algunos de los principales logros de la red?

Los proyectos piloto y las iniciativas de ATD, junto con la defensa de los mismos a escala nacional y regional, han dado lugar a varios avances de gran repercusión.

Entre otras cosas, se han establecido asociaciones formales entre el gobierno y la sociedad civil para ofrecer TCA basado en la gestión de casos; se ha desarrollado la capacidad institucional para el TCA en los departamentos gubernamentales; se han establecido relaciones de trabajo con los departamentos gubernamentales y las autoridades locales; se han desarrollado evaluaciones basadas en pruebas sobre el impacto de los proyectos piloto de TCA, así como una mayor concienciación y experiencia entre las instituciones gubernamentales, los parlamentarios y un mayor interés y comprensión del TCA entre las ONG locales, el mundo académico y los medios de comunicación.

Por ejemplo, la Asociación para la Intervención Legal (SIP) de Polonia firmó un memorando de entendimiento con las autoridades en virtud del cual las personas con vulnerabilidades específicas que corren riesgo de ser detenidas serían remitidas a su piloto en lugar de ser internadas.

En Chipre, el Consejo Chipriota para los Refugiados estableció una asociación no oficial con el departamento nacional de migración que permitía liberar a personas en su programa piloto de TCA. Esto también condujo más tarde al nombramiento de un funcionario especializado en TCA.

En Bélgica, el departamento de Inmigración empezó a desplegar entrenadores de Gestión Individual de Casos para ayudar a los indocumentados a resolver sus casos en la comunidad con el JRS Bélgica.

En Bulgaria, CLA colabora con el gobierno nacional en programas de TCA, y las autoridades locales italianas, incluidas las de Roma y Turín, colaboran estrechamente con CILD, Progetto Diritti y Mosaico en la aplicación del TCA.

3. Una de las críticas que oímos sobre los TCA es que el ambiente político actual no les favorece, ¿es cierto? ¿Qué ha conseguido entonces el trabajo? ¿Hay futuro para los TCA en Europa?

Si bien es cierto que el clima político plantea retos para el TCA, no es nuevo, y nunca ha sido fácil navegar por él.

Además de las recientes políticas restrictivas y tendencias a la criminalización a escala nacional, es probable que el Pacto de la UE sobre Migración y Asilo provoque un preocupante aumento de la detención de migrantes, incluidos niños y familias.

Algunos gobiernos de todo el espectro político reconocen que la detención de inmigrantes no es una solución eficaz para la gestión de la migración y no contribuye a resolver los casos ni a disuadir a quienes esperan emprender el viaje a Europa. El entusiasmo de algunos Estados por el TCA es evidente, como se desprende del aumento de prácticas prometedoras en los países europeos y de la mayor visibilidad de la detención y el TCA en diversos foros internacionales. También hay un impulso global para poner fin a la detención de niños inmigrantes que debe avanzar, y oportunidades potenciales para la implementación del TCA a nivel nacional a pesar del próximo Pacto. Los enfoques de aprendizaje entre iguales y el intercambio de prácticas prometedoras también han atraído la atención de los Estados, algunos de los cuales, como Portugal, están dispuestos a actuar como "campeones" del TCA y conectar los esfuerzos nacionales, regionales y mundiales.
4. ¿Qué han aprendido IDC y los socios piloto sobre el establecimiento de relaciones en estos últimos años? ¿Cómo apoya esto la defensa del fin de la detención a largo plazo?

El establecimiento de relaciones ha sido un componente esencial del éxito de los proyectos piloto y de la promoción eficaz de la red.

El desarrollo de relaciones de trabajo y de acuerdos informales con las autoridades nacionales y locales competentes ha sido un éxito por sí mismo y también ha propiciado una mayor concienciación, conocimiento y comprensión del TCA, y algunas autoridades han incorporado y aplicado el concepto a nivel gubernamental.

El establecimiento de acuerdos formales con los gobiernos ha sido especialmente importante a la hora de ampliar los enfoques basados en la gestión de casos. Los recursos necesarios para lograr un cambio significativo y a largo plazo en los sistemas de gobernanza de la migración son muy superiores a los que puede aportar la sociedad civil por sí sola, y las asociaciones y la gobernanza multilateral de la migración son fundamentales para colmar esta laguna.

Además de la importancia de colaborar con las autoridades, y de ver el impacto más significativo que puede tener, hemos aprendido que mediante la formación de asociaciones con organizaciones afines, la Red puede ampliar sus esfuerzos de defensa y facilitar el cambio a mayor escala. Es importante ampliar las asociaciones más allá de las organizaciones de la sociedad civil orientadas a la migración y más allá de la sociedad civil, como la colaboración con las autoridades locales. Esto puede dar lugar a un diálogo con los responsables políticos y permitir que surjan enfoques basados en la gestión de casos en otros contextos.

5. En términos de migración e integración en la Europa actual, ¿qué cambio ve que le haga albergar más esperanzas?

Resulta difícil mantener la esperanza cuando se observa el aumento de la criminalización de la migración y el nuevo Pacto de Asilo y Migración.

Dicho esto, los recientes programas de regularización, como el de Irlanda, o el encuadramiento de la migración y la regularización en Portugal, han supuesto un avance positivo, y son interesantes los recientes progresos en materia de TCA centrados en las soluciones, incluida la colaboración entre el gobierno y la sociedad civil.

La respuesta a la situación en Ucrania ha sido esperanzadora, ilustrando claramente que las respuestas coordinadas, no basadas en la criminalización, pueden funcionar cuando existe voluntad política. Además, la labor de las autoridades locales de distintas ciudades de Europa, que abogan por la acogida y la integración de las personas que se desplazan, también nos da esperanzas. Otro ámbito prometedor es la unión de esfuerzos nacionales, regionales y mundiales y el aumento de las oportunidades de aprendizaje entre iguales para compartir prácticas prometedoras.

Otras novedades interesantes son el mayor impulso dado al liderazgo basado en la experiencia vivida y la mayor solidaridad de la sociedad civil mundial que trabaja sobre la migración de una manera más interseccional.

6. Sabiendo lo que sabe ahora, ¿qué aconsejaría a los profesionales que se inician hoy en este campo?

Tras más de dos décadas trabajando en temas de defensa de los derechos humanos, migración y género, y siendo una persona muy motivada e idealista para empezar, estas son mis conclusiones:

Estás ahí a largo plazo. El cambio sistémico no se produce de la noche a la mañana y requiere tiempo, planteamientos tácticos y diferentes actores. El cambio sistémico tampoco es lineal.
No pierda la esperanza. A veces, la labor de defensa puede ser un esfuerzo ingrato, sobre todo en una cuestión tan politizada como la migración. Sin embargo, los profesionales y defensores de los derechos de los inmigrantes tienen un papel clave que desempeñar.
El cambio social es un esfuerzo colectivo que requiere múltiples actores que trabajen a varios niveles y cambien de táctica según los distintos contextos. No puedes lograr el cambio por ti mismo, pero puedes poner tu granito de arena hacia el cambio social y los enfoques basados en los derechos, y tus esfuerzos sin duda importan.
La labor de la sociedad civil es crucial para lograr el cambio a través de la defensa de la migración. Sin embargo, la limitada financiación es uno de los principales retos que limitan los esfuerzos y el impacto de la sociedad civil. Los recursos adicionales para este trabajo son esenciales y tenemos que ser creativos a la hora de recaudar fondos.
Céntrese en las soluciones y no sólo en los problemas. Se trata de una forma eficaz de interactuar con los responsables de la toma de decisiones y presentarles formas aceptables de avanzar. Me ha resultado útil ir más allá de la crítica, aunque la denuncia y la crítica también tienen un papel esencial que desempeñar.
-Los esfuerzos de defensa eficaces requieren diferentes tácticas, y hay espacio para la defensa desde dentro y desde fuera, los grupos de presión, las campañas, el litigio estratégico y la creación de movimientos. Los retos a los que nos enfrentamos con la criminalización de la migración son importantes, y estos enfoques se complementan entre sí. Cada organización puede aprovechar sus puntos fuertes y colaborar estrechamente con otras.

7. ¿Qué ha desaprendido desde que trabaja con IDC?

Pensar de otro modo sobre el compromiso y dejar atrás los estereotipos.

Llevo más de dos décadas trabajando con la sociedad civil en distintos países y contextos. El trabajo con IDC ha sido uno de los más impactantes en los que he participado porque se centra en enfoques basados en soluciones.

Esto implica salir de las formas tradicionales de pensar y de los estereotipos y trabajar codo con codo con los demás, incluidos los funcionarios públicos a distintos niveles y otras partes interesadas.

Los gobiernos son entidades complejas compuestas por distintos niveles y departamentos. No todos piensan igual, por lo que es fundamental comprender de cerca cómo funcionan. A menudo, como parte de la sociedad civil, simplificamos en exceso a los gobiernos. Sin embargo, muchos campeones dentro de los gobiernos podrían ser aliados para el cambio que queremos realizar. Aunque las aspiraciones sean diferentes, podrían buscarse puntos en común. Tenemos que intensificar nuestros esfuerzos y aumentar nuestro impacto. Los estereotipos negativos o fijos no nos ayudan a conseguirlo.

Uno de los aspectos más importantes de trabajar con IDC ha sido explorar diversas formas de trabajar y pensar de manera innovadora. Colaborar con los aliados adecuados, tanto dentro como fuera de los gobiernos, podría ayudarnos a avanzar en nuestra causa, por supuesto garantizando siempre que no haya riesgo de cooptación y que la promoción de los derechos de los migrantes esté siempre en el centro mismo de todos nuestros esfuerzos.


Alternatives as fiction? What the EU Pact on Migration and Asylum means for Alternatives to Detention

In June, EU Ministers responsible for Justice and Home Affairs met in Luxembourg to discuss, amongst other issues, reform of the EU’s approach to asylum and migration. Their discussions resulted in an agreement on two key files – the asylum and migration management regulation and the asylum procedure regulation. Almost three years since the European Commission published its proposal for a New Pact on Migration and Asylum, progress on moving forward the proposals contained within the Pact has been uneven. Following lengthy discussions within the European Parliament, a Roadmap published by the co-legislators in September 2022 set out their joint commitment to adopt the legislative proposals within the Pact before the end of the 2019-2024 legislative period. Sweden, which held the Presidency of the Council of the European Union from January to June 2023, expressed its intention to “advance the negotiations on a Pact on Migration and Asylum.” It now looks like an agreement may be in sight.

In recent months, Linklaters LLP and International Detention Coalition (IDC) undertook an analysis of the provisions laid out within the Pact in order for IDC to better understand the implications when it comes to the viability of alternatives to immigration detention (ATD), should the provisions outlined be agreed upon and implemented. Given the recent movement made on the Pact, we set out below IDC’s summary of findings based on that legal analysis, in order to shed light on the consequences of the Pact for the continued viability of ATD in the EU. You can access the original research report undertaken by Linklaters LLP for IDC here.

Detention in the Pact proposals

The effect that the Pact is likely to have on the use of detention in the EU is already well-documented. The International Commission of Jurists has pointed out that “prolonged immigration detention will inevitably result as a practice”, and the Platform for International Cooperation on Undocumented Migrants has concluded that the proposals set out within the Pact will result in “more detention, fewer safeguards.”

Detention within the Pact is largely set out within the Screening Regulation and the Amended Asylum Procedures Regulation. These two instruments outline a new screening process for individuals at external borders and establish border procedures for processing asylum applications and facilitating returns.

The European Commission itself has affirmed that border procedures “imply detention.” The new Pact proposals therefore undermine the principle that detention should only be applied as a measure of last resort; instead, depriving people of their liberty at the borders is set to become the default approach.

For those who are refused asylum, the border procedure may mean being detained for up to 6 months at the EU’s borders and, in exceptional situations, procedures can be extended – meaning that people may spend up to 10 months in detention at the border.

The proposed changes serve to deny people full access to their rights by creating a situation whereby they are not considered to have legally ‘arrived’ in an EU Member State despite being physically present on the territory – a practice dubbed the ‘fiction of non-entry’. Moreover, the proposed border procedures will likely apply to children aged 12-18, meaning that children will also be detained. This is in direct conflict with the commitment set out within the Global Compact for Migration (GCM) – signed by the majority of EU Member States – to work towards ending immigration detention of children.

These proposals are not without their critics, and indeed have been sticking points during the long negotiations in the European Parliament. During an early debate in Parliament, MEPs raised concerns around border procedures and in particular pointed to the likelihood that border procedures would resemble policies implemented in Greece that have led to widespread deprivation of liberty or de facto detention.

Viability of ATD within the Pact proposals

The table below outlines the key aspects of the proposed legislative instruments contained in the Pact (as of June 2023) which are of relevance to the viability of ATD.

Whilst the Pact’s legislative instruments do not expressly refer to ‘alternatives to detention’, some references are made to ‘less coercive’ and ‘less coercive alternative’ measures. This reflects existing language in the Return Directive and Reception Conditions Directive. Moreover, it is implied that immigration detention will continue to be used only as a last resort, in line with regional and international legal standards, and that alternatives will be considered before detention.

However, despite this intention it is difficult to see how the provisions of the Pact – as currently drafted – would allow for community-based ATD in practice.

It is particularly difficult to envisage how Member States will be able to implement ATD while ensuring the “fiction of non-entry” is upheld – after all, how can states place migrants within the community if they do not acknowledge their legal presence in the country? ATD will be particularly challenging if other Member States follow the approaches already being taken in Greece (given apparent similarities between Greek national law and the Pact), Italy and Spain, where border procedures have resulted in de facto detention as standard. Indeed, according to the European Parliament Research Services Study on the Pact:

the blanket non-entry policies for all migrants (during screening, thus including refugees), or particular categories of migrants (in case of the mandatory border procedure or for rejected asylum seekers in the return border procedure), makes it impossible to ensure compliance with the guarantees in the Reception Conditions Directive and the Return Directive.”

Simply put, the fact that an individual can physically arrive in a country without being considered to have legally arrived, will inevitably result in considerable restrictions on freedom of movement and access to services – and this deprivation of liberty is at odds with the idea of ATD.

Ensuring meaningful alternatives to immigration detention

Enshrining ATD in legislation and policy provides an important safeguard against the use of detention. At present, EU Member States can only detain migrants if effective alternatives are not available – this serves to ensure that governments are not detaining individuals in a manner that is arbitrary, unnecessary and disproportionate.

Yet in the current framework of the EU Pact on Migration and Asylum, which by its very nature is likely to introduce widespread and indiscriminate detention of people in the context of expanded border procedures, it is difficult to see how such procedures will function without resorting to de facto detention. In this context, legal requirements to use ATD will be unlikely to work in practice.

With the Council position on the Pact now clear, trilogue negotiations are beginning in earnest as the co-legislators aim to reach a conclusion by early 2024. It is vital that the negotiations keep existing regional and international legal standards front and centre, particularly when it comes to the right to liberty. In order to do this, ATD must be included as a meaningful way to ensure that immigration detention is only ever a last resort, with concrete possibilities for community-based ATD identified. 

Our analysis shows that this will be challenging, but the alternative – large-scale, de facto detention at the borders for extended periods of time – is unthinkable.

 


OCC & ECDN Call on Malaysian Government to Release Children from Immigration Detention & Implement ATD

Versi Bahasa Melayu di bawah

PRESS STATEMENT

Sydney, 20 June 2023- On World Refugee Day, the Office of Children Commissioner (OCC) and the End Child Detention Network (ECDN) join hands to urge the Malaysian government to take immediate action towards ending the detention of children in immigration facilities and implementing effective Alternatives to Detention (ATD).

It is deeply concerning that as of 15 May, 11,068 people including 969 children, including refugee children, are held in immigration detention in Malaysia. These children have fled violence, conflict, and persecution in their home countries, seeking safety and protection in our nation. It is our moral obligation to ensure their well-being and safeguard their rights.

We call upon the Malaysian government to embark on the following crucial steps:

  1. Begin releasing children from immigration detention into an Alternative to Detention (ATD) program, and ensure the inclusion of all children, regardless of their migration status.                   
  2. Ensure that ATD projects are implemented in good faith to achieve its primary objective, which is to resolve the issue of arrest and detention of children.
  3. Urgently present the working paper on shifting children out of immigration detention depots in Cabinet, a vital document currently being developed by the Home Ministry.
  4. Develop a comprehensive legal framework for refugees that grants them legal status and access to employment, health services, education, and social, and public benefits. This framework is crucial in protecting refugee children and building an environment for their healthy development.
  5. Grant United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) unrestricted access to immigration detention centres. This will allow for the continued registration of persons of concern and the subsequent release of all individuals registered with UNHCR, facilitating their integration into the community.
  6. Take immediate steps to enact legal and policy changes to halt the immigration detention of children, including all refugee and asylum-seeking children. 
  7. Conduct a comprehensive review of immigration detention policies and practices to ensure they align with international legal and human rights standards. This review is imperative to safeguard the rights and well-being of all individuals at risk of immigration detention, particularly children.

By taking these significant steps, Malaysia will not only fulfil its international obligations but demonstrate its commitment to protecting the rights and dignity of every child, regardless of their migration status. We firmly believe that these measures will bring us closer to a society that respects human rights, embraces diversity, and upholds the principles of compassion and justice.

As OCC and ECDN, we stand ready to collaborate with the Malaysian government and other stakeholders to develop and implement effective ATD solutions that prioritise the best interests of all children in Malaysia, including refugee and asylum-seeking children.

Together, let us work towards a future where no child is subjected to the harmful impacts of immigration detention, and where every child can thrive and realise their full potential.

About OCC: The Office of Children’s Commissioner (OCC) is an independent office within the Human Rights Commission of Malaysia, tasked with promoting and protecting the human rights of all children in Malaysia.

About ECDN: The End Child Detention Network is a coalition of 21 civil society organisations and individuals working to ensure that no child is detained in Malaysia due to their immigration status.

For more information, please contact: Hannah Jambunathan - End Child Detention Network (ECDN) Coordinator & Asia Pacific Programme Officer, International Detention Coalition, [email protected]

 

KENYATAAN MEDIA

OCC dan ECDN Menyeru Kerajaan Malaysia untuk Membebaskan Kanak-kanak daripada Tahanan Imigresen dan Melaksanakan Alternatif kepada Penahanan 

Sydney, 20 Jun 2023- Pada Hari Pelarian Sedunia, Pejabat Pesuruhjaya Kanak-kanak (OCC) dan Rangkaian Penghapusan Tahanan Kanak-Kanak Malaysia (End Child Detention Network - ECDN) berganding bahu untuk menggesa kerajaan Malaysia mengambil tindakan segera ke arah menamatkan penahanan kanak-kanak di depot imigresen dan melaksanakan Alternatif kepada Penahanan (ATD) yang berkesan.

Angka yang membimbangkan setakat 15 Mei 2023 iaitu sebanyak 11,068 individu termasuk 969 kanak-kanak, termasuk kanak-kanak pelarian ditahan dalam tahanan imigresen di Malaysia. Kanak-kanak ini telah melarikan daripada keganasan, konflik, dan penindasan di negara asal mereka, dan mencari keselamatan dan perlindungan di negara kita. Adalah menjadi kewajipan moral kita untuk memastikan kesejahteraan mereka dan menjaga hak mereka. 

Kami menyeru Kerajaan Malaysia untuk melaksanakan langkah penting seperti berikut: 

  1. Memulakan proses untuk mengeluarkan kanak-kanak dari tahanan imigresen kepada program Alternatif kepada Penahanan (ATD), dan memastikan semua kanak-kanak, tanpa mengira status migrasi mereka dimasukkan ke dalam program tersebut.
  2. Memastikan bahawa program ATD dilaksanakan dengan bersungguh-sungguh untuk mencapai objektif utamanya, iaitu menyelesaikan isu penangkapan dan penahanan kanak-kanak.
  3. Membentangkan dengan segera di Kabinet kertas kerja berhubung pemindahan keluar kanak-kanak dari depot tahanan imigresen, yang merupakan dokumen penting yang sedang dibangunkan oleh Kementerian Dalam Negeri.
  4. Membangunkan sebuah rangka kerja undang-undang yang komprehensif bagi pelarian untuk memberikan pelarian status sah dari segi undang-undang dan akses kepada pekerjaan, perkhidmatan kesihatan, pendidikan, dan faedah sosial dan awam. Rangka kerja ini penting dalam melindungi kanak-kanak pelarian dan membina satu persekitaran yang menyokong perkembangan mereka dengan sihat.
  5. Memberikan akses tanpa had kepada Pesuruhjaya Tinggi Bangsa-Bangsa Bersatu untuk Pelarian (UNHCR) untuk masuk ke pusat tahanan imigresen. Hal ini akan membolehkan pendaftaran berterusan individu yang terkesan dan pembebasan seterusnya semua individu yang berdaftar dengan UNHCR, yang akan memudahkan integrasi mereka ke dalam komuniti.
  6. Mengambil tindakan segera untuk menggubal pindaan undang-undang dan polisi untuk menghentikan penahanan imigresen terhadap kanak-kanak, termasuk semua kanak-kanak pelarian dan pencari suaka. 
  7. Menjalankan semakan menyeluruh ke atas polisi dan amalan penahanan imigresen untuk memastikan perkara tersebut sejajar dengan piawaian undang-undang dan hak asasi manusia antarabangsa. Semakan ini adalah penting untuk melindungi hak dan kesejahteraan semua individu yang berisiko ditahan imigresen, terutamanya kanak-kanak.

Dengan mengambil langkah penting ini, Malaysia bukan sahaja akan memenuhi kewajipan antarabangsa Malaysia, tetapi juga menunjukkan komitmen Malaysia untuk melindungi hak dan maruah setiap kanak-kanak, tanpa mengira status migrasi mereka. Kami amat percaya bahawa langkah-langkah ini dapat membawa kita menjadi negara yang menghormati hak asasi manusia, menerima kepelbagaian, dan menegakkan prinsip belas kasihan dan keadilan. 

OCC dan ECDN bersedia untuk bekerjasama dengan kerajaan Malaysia dan pihak berkepentingan yang lain untuk membangunkan dan melaksanakan penyelesaian ATD yang berkesan, yang mengutamakan kepentingan terbaik semua kanak-kanak di Malaysia, termasuk kanak-kanak pelarian dan pencari suaka. 

Marilah kita bersama-sama berusaha ke arah masa depan yang tiada kanak-kanak terdedah kepada akibat buruk daripada penahanan imigresen, serta semua kanak-kanak boleh berkembang maju dan merealisasikan potensi penuh mereka.

Mengenai OCC: Pejabat Pesuruhjaya Kanak-kanak merupakan sebuah pejabat bebas di Suruhanjaya Hak Asasi Manusia Malaysia yang bertanggungjawab dalam mempromosi dan melindungi hak asasi kanak-kanak di Malaysia. 

Mengenai ECDN: Rangkaian Penghapusan Tahanan Kanak-Kanak Malaysia (ECDN) adalah gabungan 21 organisasi masyarakat sivil dan individu yang bekerja secara kolektif untuk memastikan tiada kanak-kanak ditahan di Malaysia kerana status imigresen mereka. 

Untuk maklumat lanjut, sila hubungi: Hannah Jambunathan - Koordinator, Rangkaian Penghapusan Tahanan Kanak-Kanak Malaysia (ECDN) & Pegawai Program Asia Pacific, International Detention Coalition, [email protected]


10 Years of IDC’s Work to End Child Immigration Detention

Over ten years ago in 2012, International Detention Coalition (IDC) launched the Global Campaign to End Child Immigration Detention (the Global Campaign) at the 19th Session of the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva, Switzerland, supported by the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR). Later that year, the Committee on the Convention of the Rights of the Child issued key recommendations on the rights of children on the move, and highlighted IDC’s proposed model for a move to community-based alternatives for children.

With the simultaneous release of Captured Childhood, a report based on 70 interviews of children with lived experience of immigration detention across 11 countries, IDC set in motion a global movement grounded in the vision of a world that cherishes the humanity and dignity of children. Specifically, IDC campaigned to persuade the international community and governments that the immigration detention of children and their families is always a child rights violation and is never in the best interests of the child. IDC offered evidence of positive actions that States could take instead of depriving children of their freedom, and put forward practical and current evidence of a new perspective of rights-based alternatives where children and their families could live in non-custodial community-based settings while their immigration cases were being resolved.

The Global Campaign joined opinions across diverse sectors in different parts of the world advocating for an end to immigration detention of children and families, with the message that immigration detention is never an appropriate place for a child and is never in the best interest of the child.  The Global Campaign amplified the voices of children in detention through The Invisible Picture Show and showed the negative impact of even short periods of immigration detention on their mental health and development. The campaign called on States to step up to their international obligations, and ensure that all refugee and migrant children:

  • Be treated first and foremost as children
  • Be free
  • Be looked after according to their best interests 
  • Live in freedom in the community with their parents or primary care-givers
IDC and partners host the global launch of The Invisible Picture Show at the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland, 2012

As the Global Campaign expanded, it became a platform for national campaigns and advocacy strategies calling for an end to the immigration of children around the world, most notably in Australia, Greece, Malaysia, Mexico, South Africa and Tanzania, as seen in the Global Campaign’s history

IDC and partners launch the Global Campaign to End Child Immigration Detention in El Salvador, 2012

The Campaign also brought to light the issues of regional protection of children, for example family separation with detention and deportation procedures in the United States and the mass deportations of children and families to the Central American countries of Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador. 

IDC mobilised for States to adopt child-friendly, rights-based, humane, non-custodial and community-based alternatives to detention (ATD), as seen in this advocacy video developed in 2015 by IDC and partners A Tale of Two Children.

IDC and partners host a film screening to promote advocacy against child detention and the Global Campaign in Thailand, 2015

Following this, IDC also launched the NextGen Index in 2018, which served as a comparative tool to rank States on their progress in ending child immigration detention. The Index used a standard scoring framework to assess strengths, weaknesses, and key factors to ensure national migration management systems are sensitive to the needs of children and, importantly, avoid child detention.

The Inter-Agency Working Group (IAWG) to End Child Immigration Detention, an international alliance of civil society organisations and UN entities was key to convening global advocacy efforts from 2012 until 2018, with a critical turning point in the obligation of States being the adoption of the New York Declaration for Refugees and Migrants by the UN General Assembly in 2016. The subsequent negotiation process of the Global Compact for Migration and its adoption in 2018 represented a significant win by collective global advocacy efforts, in that it includes a clear commitment by States to work to end child detention by focusing on ensuring availability and accessibility of alternatives in non-custodial contexts. 

IDC and partners host events alongside the UN General Assembly in New York City to commemorate the 25th anniversary of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, 2014

The 2019 release of the UN Global Study on Children Deprived of Liberty, to which IDC and its Global Campaign were key contributors, further added to the growing body of expert evidence on the harms of immigration detention on children and families, the extent of the practice and the solution-oriented approach based on alternatives.

Since 2018, the implementation of the Global Compact for Migration has provided a platform to concretely discuss and share national practice, legal and policy frameworks in global spaces. IDC pioneered efforts in this direction by leading regional and global discussions to develop a cross-regional peer learning platform on ending child immigration detention. This initiative led to the inclusion of peer learning as part of the UN Network on Migration Work Plan and the creation of the UN Network on Migration Working Group on Alternatives to Detention in 2019.    

IDC and partners coordinate a government peer-learning event on alternatives to child immigration detention in Geneva, Switzerland, 2020

Since 2019, IDC co-leads the UN Network on Migration Working Group on Alternatives to Detention (ATD) alongside UNICEF and UNHCR, which prioritised supporting States in their work to end child immigration detention through global and cross-regional peer learning exchanges, organised in collaboration with the governments of Thailand, Colombia, Nigeria, Ghana, and Portugal. Recently the Working Group produced a global snapshot on Ending Child Immigration Detention, which highlights efforts in Mexico and Zambia, as well as an accompanying video. The Working Group is planning, together with key champion States, another peer learning exchange on ending child immigration detention in 2023.

We saw further international progress into 2021 with General Comment 5 to the International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of their Families, which called for child immigration detention to be fully eradicated globally. Child immigration detention was also a centrepiece of detention-related discussions at 2022's International Migration Review Forum (IMRF), with some States making pledges to end the practice entirely.

IDC coordinated side events and collaborative advocacy with partners at the 2022 IMRF

Where Change Happens

While the influence of global standards and political frameworks is a critical point of intervention for IDC, the core of our work exists at local and national levels, which is where change and impact is directly felt by communities at risk of immigration detention. 

Following over a decade of coordinating multi-level advocacy, collaboration between civil society organisations, international partners, federal and local government authorities, and communities in Mexico, IDC was proud to be part of an historic political moment in 2020 when the Mexican Congress declared that immigration detention is no place for children.

This 2020 legislative reform that now legally prohibits the detention of children for immigration reasons came on the heels of a pioneering collaboration in joint advocacy by migrant and child rights groups in Mexico. This collaborative IDC work involved key partnerships with UNICEF and UNHCR, the Global Campaign, hearings before the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, as well as clear recommendations to Mexico from the IACHR and the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child

New legislation in 2014 established a national protection system for all children, along with regulations that specifically prohibited their confinement in immigration detention centres. This opened up opportunities for deeper IDC engagement with immigration authorities, providing technical advice for the development and implementation of the successful first ATD pilot for unaccompanied children. The pilot was developed and implemented in collaboration with SOS Children's Villages (Aldeas Infantiles) and Covenant House (Casa Alianza), two organisations with strong community models and long-term experience working with children in Mexico. ATD initiatives demonstrated how children and families can be supported to live in the community as they participate in their ongoing migration or asylum process. 

IDC and partners organising forums and training with local authorities and civil society in Mexico, 2022

In the challenge to contribute towards effective implementation of the legal prohibition on child detention, IDC continues to prioritise engagement with the National Commission for the Protection of Migrant Children through capacity building and technical advice at federal, state and local levels. As a result of these efforts, we have seen the adoption of a National Protocol for the Protection of Migrant Children and we are currently working with state committees to develop and adopt local protocols that will serve to improve protection gaps and coordination among authorities at borders and along migration routes. 

IDC believes it is important to continue to work on the ground, as close as possible to children and families with lived experience, local authorities and local civil society organisations, especially public and private shelters to strengthen community-based reception and care models. We also continue engagement with the Mexican legislature including training and harmonisation of the legal framework.

IDC Americas Regional Coordinator Gisele Bonnici states of these long-term efforts:

“Working side by side with our dedicated partners in Mexico, IDC continues to promote and support practical implementation of effective and appropriate community-based reception and care options for migrant and refugee children. Our goal is that no child, whether travelling accompanied or unaccompanied, be detained for any period of time in any type of space for immigration reasons.” 

IDC Americas Regional Coordinator Gisele Bonnici speaking to press at the launch of the Global Campaign in El Salvador, 2012

Similarly, in 2019, representatives of 7 Thai Government agencies signed the Memorandum of Understanding on the Determination of Measures and Approaches Alternatives to Detention of Children in Immigration Detention Centres (ATD-MOU), as well as Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) to implement the MOU-ATD starting in September 2020. The MOU-ATD was a concrete outcome of a pledge made by Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha during the 2016 Leaders’ Summit on Refugees at the United Nations in New York. At the summit, he publicly pledged to end the immigration detention of refugee and asylum seeking children in Thailand. 

Following this huge political commitment, IDC has worked with local partners, such as HOST International to collate and strengthen the evidence-base that can be used to increase practical understanding of community-based, rights-based, and gender-responsive ATD to better protect children and their families in the context of migration; including, a Global Promising Practices on ATD which contextualised our design to the Thai context, a Community-based Case Management Programme Evaluation, as well as an accompanying Practices Guidelines on Community-based ATD in Thailand. Along with the Thai government Department of Children and Youth – Ministry of Social Development and Human Security (DCY) and UNICEF Thailand, IDC developed a government Monitoring, Evaluation, and Learning (MEL) framework in line with key international standards to track progress on the MOU-ATD implementation. The evaluation led by DCY aims to take place in 2023 as a collaborative effort of key stakeholders in Thailand.

IDC supporting the partnership between the Government of Thailand and HOST International to implement the MOU-ATD for migrant child protection in Thailand, 2022

For several years now, IDC has seen our members and partners engaged in advocacy and service provision for children impacted by immigration detention. With IDC’s support, members in Thailand and Malaysia define strategies to end child immigration detention in their countries. These strategies have prioritised and coordinated efforts towards the ultimate goal of ending the immigration detention of children and their families.

IDC Southeast Asia Programme Manager Mic Chawaratt states of IDC’s efforts in Thailand:

“Political will, commitment to the best interest of the child, and multi-stakeholder collaboration have been the key drivers of advocacy efforts among Thai civil society, government partners, UN agencies, the diplomat community, academics, and people whose lives are impacted by immigration detention. I believe that one day immigration detention will no longer exist in my country, and people who migrate here will live with rights and dignity – which is IDC’s vision for the world.”

IDC Southeast Asia Programme Manager speaking at an event in Thailand, 2022

Additionally in the Asia Pacific region, the Ministry of Home Affairs in Malaysia officially launched an ATD pilot programme in February 2022 for unaccompanied and separated children following approval of the pilot by the Malaysian cabinet in 2021. This was a key milestone for IDC following a decade of ongoing advocacy that centred around an incremental and collaborative strategy alongside our members, the human rights commission (SUHAKAM) and UN agencies. The national campaign in Malaysia was originally spurred by the Global Campaign, and provided leverage and a space to engage a broad number of groups around the issue, while previously the discussion on this issue was severely limited. Now, the planning, development and implementation of the pilot is being supported by IDC partners SUKA Society and Yayasan Chow Kit.

Following this development, IDC continues to coordinate the End Child Detention Network Malaysia (ECDN), and brings members together to discuss strategy and collective advocacy efforts. IDC has also started a public engagement programme in Malaysia, including new initiatives focused on developing public and media engagement strategies on refugee and migrant rights. 

In the  Middle East and North Africa (MENA) this year, and in partnership with UNICEF, IDC organised a series of online ATD trainings focused on screening, assessment, referral mechanisms of children, as well as case management and community placement options for children. IDC believes that these critical elements serve as a framework for identifying and developing rights-based ATD. This training series aims to strengthen the capacity of civil society organisations, as well as bring together a network of actors working in the field of ending child immigration detention across the region. The latest training in October 2022 was attended by 50 participants working on issues related to refugee and migrant children from more than 10 countries in the MENA region.

IDC has also carried out a mapping research with UNICEF on the current legislations, policies and practices with regards to child immigration detention in the MENA region. This led to the production of two policy briefs targeting governments; which aim to support sharing among governments in the MENA region, and to strengthen practices in line with the Convention on the Rights of the Child and the Global Compact for Migration (GCM). The mapping analysed trends and identified promising protection and care practices for refugee and migrant children with a focus on child-sensitive alternatives to custody across 9 countries in the MENA region: Djibouti, Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Libya, Morocco, Tunisia, Saudi Arabia, and Sudan.

In November 2022, IDC co-organised with UNICEF a regional workshop for 8 governments in the MENA region, to present and share promising protection and care arrangement practices for children on the move, from across the region and beyond, facilitating discussions and exchanges on common challenges, strengths, and proposed ways forward for their countries and across borders. The workshop highlighted key aspects from the child protection continuum from identification and referral to alternative care models specifically highlighting promising practices on child protection including child sensitive alternatives to custody. 

In Europe, meanwhile, efforts have been ongoing to advocate for an end to child detention. The conditions set out in EU law, alongside the requirements of the European Convention on Human Rights and the case law of the European Court of Human Rights, make it clear that depriving children of their liberty is only permissible in exceptional circumstances. Despite this, however, at least 27 countries in the region still detain children. IDC has been working with civil society organisations across Europe to train policymakers, child protection experts, judges and lawyers on the legal requirements of states when it comes to ensuring alternative care arrangements for children. This has included working with the International Commission of Jurists to support the roll-out of a set of training materials on ATD for migrant children. In addition, the Belgian member of the European ATD Network - which IDC coordinates - has been implementing an ATD for families with children since 2020, working to ensure that children can live in the community while they and their parents work to resolve their migration status.

IDC and European ATD Network partners convene in Italy to align best practices and strategies moving forward, 2022

As with any major policy chance, progress often feels slow and can even appear to be moving backwards at times. The provisions for reception and border procedures set out in the new EU Pact on Migration and Asylum, for instance, are likely to result in a dramatic deterioration of the rights of people on the move, including children. Yet there remain signs of hope; Germany's pledge at the 2022 IMRF to end immigration detention of children, and indications from a number of governments that they are working to integrate children on the move into mainstream protection systems, show that there is still space to move forward with this agenda.

Lived Experience at the Centre

In 2012, the UN Committee on the Rights of Child declared that immigration detention is a violation of a child’s rights. This declaration represented a clarity of language that began a shift in international law, and the shift was made following a performance by five young advocates who IDC partnered with to share their experiences of detention, as well as their proposed solutions, at the UN. They curated a theatre piece called Hear Our Voices, and powerfully stood before global policy makers and academic experts to stake their claim on this issue. Together, they moved the dial on child immigration detention worldwide.

IDC continues to believe that people with lived experience of detention need to be involved in shaping the policies that directly impact their own lives and communities. IDC recently co-organised the Children and Youth Affected by Migration-Led Advocacy Workshop, which involved conducting youth engagement training for 43 different local partners, as well as leadership and advocacy training for 175 migrant and refugee children and youth in Thailand. The youth leaders were then invited to share a statement directly with policy-makers in April 2022 at a forum attended by Thailand’s Representative to ASEAN Commission on the Promotion and Protection of the Rights of Women and Children (ACWC), representatives from the Thai government, as well as international organisations and NGOs. 

Children and youth affected by migration from Bangkok and suburb areas celebrate their successful advocacy with the Thai government, IDC and relevant stakeholders, 2022. Photo Credit: Department of Children and Youth (DCY)

Further in Malaysia, IDC works with Akar Umbi, a local NGO, to conduct a leadership programme called the Azalea Initiative with a group of young refugee women in Kuala Lumpur. The programme’s goal is to support their empowerment, and build their capacities as changemakers within their communities. 

Participants of the Azalea Initiative presenting an activity during the "Visioning Human Rights" workshop session, 2021. Photo credit: Akar Umbi Development Society

In Mexico, IDC and its partner SOS Children’s Villages in Comitán, Chiapas have engaged young people from migrant communities in leadership training and activities, piloting methodology adapted from IDC’s Community Leadership Curriculum. IDC also worked with partners to support migrant children to create video documentaries of their own experiences and hopes for the future.

Participants of the Migrant Youth Leadership Curriculum implemented by IDC partners SOS Children’s Villages in Comitan, Mexico, 2022

Grounded, community-based efforts like this, alongside coordinated advocacy strategies to amplify impact, have been the heart of IDC’s work to end child immigration detention worldwide. While we have taken the lead on global events and international outcomes on child detention, we have also worked side by side with regional partners and national coalitions to develop tailored and transformative strategies that make a real impact on the ground. This year, IDC re-commits to our ten year, long-term effort to end the immigration detention of children all over the world, in line with our broad vision of ending immigration detention for all.

 

Written by Gisele Bonnici, IDC Americas Regional Coordinator and Mia-lia Boua Kiernan, IDC Communications and Engagement Coordinator


IDC-UNICEF Joint Workshop: Children on the Move Cross Border Continuum of Protection & Care

للغة العربية ، اضغط هنا

In late November 2022, IDC and UNİCEF co-organised a three-day workshop entitled “MENA Regional Children on the Move Cross Border Continuum of Protection and Care” in Amman, Jordan. The workshop brought together 8 governmental delegations from across the MENA region representing key institutions and policymakers - all of whom shared promising protection and care arrangement practices for children on the move. IDC and UNICEF,   as well as regional representatives of IOM and UNHCR, presented  on the frameworks and mechanisms to ensure the protection of children on the move, and facilitated governmental exchanges and  dialogues on these matters. Further, representatives from two national and regional governments neighbouring the region, Turkey and Catalonia, were invited to present their perspectives and implementation of the Cross-Border Coordination and the Continuum of Protection and Care. 

This workshop came together following over a year of collaborative work between UNICEF and IDC to implement a regional project aimed to further explore the experiences of refugee and migrant children in the region, and assess policies related to their protection, and best practices of care in different countries. Two policy briefs developed from this research were introduced at the workshop. One brief focuses on findings related to regional promising practices of Whole-of-Government and Whole-of-Society Approaches, and the other brief highlights practices regarding Community and Family Based Alternative Care Initiatives in the Region.

The workshop included a variety of presentations covering the protection of  children on the move. IDC’s  MENA Regional Programme team Amera Markous and Asma Nairi aimed to elevate human-rights based approaches by detailing models for alternatives to detention, case management and referral mechanisms.

IDC Executive Director Carolina Gottardo  presented on case management, and how it can be utilised as a protection tool for children on the move. Carolina provided both technical aspects and examples of practical implementation from different regions. She also presented on the importance of the whole of government and whole of society approaches for the region. 

IDC MENA Regional Coordinator Amera Markous shared the concept and implementation of  Alternatives to Detention (ATD) highlighting the importance of community and family-based alternative care for migrant and refugee children. Throughout the workshop, governments were able to engage in country level group activities to explore further solutions and policy initiatives based on the  tools presented and the outcomes of the inter-governmental exchanges. 

This workshop was a  successful milestone in the MENA region towards enhancing awareness and joint work with UNICEF and  with governments in the region.  Moving forward, IDC will continue working jointly with relevant actors to implement better solutions to guarantee the protection of children on the move in the MENA region.


Working to Uphold People’s Rights in the Digital Age of Migration Policy

IDC’s New Workstream on Technologies, Detention & Alternatives to Detention (ATD)

Whether we like it or not, when it comes to migration governance digital technologies are here to stay. From customer service portals to collection of biometric data, forecasting models to face recognition tools, over the past two decades such technologies have been increasingly used by governments across the world in the conception and design of their migration systems. The COVID-19 pandemic further accelerated this trend.

Yet, these types of technology are never neutral. There is no such thing as a technical ‘fix’ to a complex problem, and efforts by some to portray digital technology as the solution to human bias have been shown to be at best naïve, at worst dangerous. When Artificial Intelligence (AI) and digital technologies are employed, this is a political choice. But the people deciding rarely experience these policies themselves. It is people on the move, as well as their families and communities, who ultimately find themselves at the ‘sharp edges’, subject to policies and practices that they have no control over and little to no agency in shaping.

Technology & (Alternatives to) Immigration Detention

Immigration detention and alternatives to immigration detention (ATD) have been acutely impacted by the expanded use of technologies in migration governance systems. For instance, certain digital technologies utilised within the carceral system (e.g. ‘Smart Prisons’) are now being adopted in the context of immigration detention. Meanwhile, technologies such as electronic monitoring and facial and voice recognition are being used or explored by a growing number of governments, ostensibly as part of their efforts to move away from the widespread use of immigration detention and put in place ATD. While this may seem like progress, these trends raise serious concerns for IDC. 

Information surrounding the use of tech in ATD – and its impacts on people – remains largely confined to data from a few key countries (namely Canada, the UK and the USA). But we know that an increasing number of governments are contemplating the idea of employing such tech, if not already actively using it. In the European Union, for instance, Denmark, Hungary, Luxembourg and Portugal have all established the use of electronic tagging in law or administrative regulations. Turkey, meanwhile, has included electronic monitoring on a list of authorised ATD included within amendments to the Law on Foreigners and International Protection made in 2019 (but yet to be implemented).

IDC members working with communities and individuals affected by detention or at risk of detention, have been increasingly expressing concerns about the growing use of such technologies in the immigration detention space. People at risk of immigration detention are particularly vulnerable to the misuses of digital tech; they often have precarious immigration status and thus little ability to assert their own rights if technology is abused. 

Over the coming months IDC plans to launch a workstream focused specifically on the use of technology and AI in immigration detention and ATD. In particular, we aim to examine:

Alternative Forms of Detention & De Facto Detention

On the whole, research to date has focused on how States have used digital technologies to further restrict people’s liberties, undermine their human rights, and increase surveillance and enforcement. This has been labelled “techno-carcerality” in the context of the Canadian government’s ATD programme, and represents “the shift from traditional modes of confinement to less traditional ones, grounded in mobile, electronic, and digital technologies.” A report on the Intensive Supervision Appearance Programme (ISAP) in the USA stated that its electronic monitoring components amount to “digital detention.”

Over the years, IDC has warned against the use of alternative forms of detention – which are de facto deprivation of liberty, simply detention by another name – and the potential for the term ATD to be co-opted and used as a smokescreen for such initiatives. Specifically regarding electronic tagging, IDC has been clear:

IDC classifies electronic tagging as an alternative form of detention rather than an alternative to detention, as it substantially curtails (and sometimes completely denies) liberty and freedom of movement, leading to de facto detention. It is often used in the context of criminal law and has been shown to have considerable negative impacts on people’s mental and physical health, leading to discrimination and stigmatisation.

More broadly, electronic monitoring devices pose a threat to personal liberty as a result of heightened surveillance and indiscriminate data collection. We know, too, that voice and facial recognition technologies have questionable accuracy, especially for communities that are racialised. This can lead to mistakes that have serious and irreversible consequences – including detention, deportation, and the separation of families and loved ones.

Tech as a Way to Improve Engagement?

Yet there are also some anecdotal reports that the use of digital technologies in ATD can have some benefits for people on the move. One notable example is the shift in the UK from in-person reporting to telephone reporting. This approach was originally tested during the pandemic, and then adopted on a more permanent basis in large part due to sustained advocacy from campaign groups. IDC has heard accounts from people subject to reporting requirements that this shift has helped ease in-person reporting requirements that were onerous, expensive and disruptive to their livelihoods and schooling. Moreover, places such as police stations and reporting centres often cause people increased anxiety that they will be redetained; limited physical contact with such places is likely to have a positive impact on people’s mental health and wellbeing.

Of course, as one of the groups campaigning for this change stated, “[t]elephone reporting itself could be equally burdensome if implemented without care.” It is essential that people are provided with the means to report in this way (for instance with support to buy a telephone and credit), and that the consequences for missing a call are not harsh; otherwise, this type of reporting can have negative impacts on people. Moreover, whilst the use of phones is a relatively rudimentary form of technology, it is important that tools such as voice or face recognition are avoided for the reasons mentioned above.

Lived Experience of Tech-Based ‘ATD’

IDC’s main impetus for launching this new workstream on technology, immigration detention and ATD has come from our members, and in particular the experiences and insights of leaders with lived experience and community organisers on the ground who we engage with on an ongoing basis. Through this workstream, in particular, we hope to explore the impact that this technology is having on people’s lives, wellbeing, and futures. Since our founding almost 15 years ago, IDC has been advocating for ATD as a way of moving towards migration governance systems that do not use detention and – crucially – ensure that people on the move have the agency and the ability to meaningfully engage with such systems.

Therefore, we hope to understand not only how tech can be harmful to people on the move, but also if and how it can help to increase positive and meaningful engagement. This will help IDC to better assess how to partner with others to push back on certain types of technologies, and also where innovations might open up opportunities for people with lived experience in terms of improvements to services, information provision, and communication. This will include looking at the impact of digital technologies through an intersectional lens, and understanding that people’s diverse and intersecting identities mean that their experiences of such technologies vary greatly.

Accountability & Due Process

Last but not least, the question of accountability – and the distinct but related issue of due process – is one that we are hoping to explore through this programme of work. Use of AI and tech in the migration governance sphere is notorious for lacking transparency, which is potentially very harmful, particularly when methods are being implemented towards people who struggle to access their fundamental rights and legal recourse. Additionally, ATD themselves can lack key safeguards that allow for due process. The right to appeal and review a decision to detain is often expected in detention (whether or not it is respected in practice), however the same is not necessarily true when somebody is placed in an ATD programme. Where restrictions are imposed, including those linked to digital technology, these should be subject to rigorous review, and the right to appeal should be standard.

When technology is used to increase people’s freedom of movement and ability to access information, as well as to increase their agency and support their empowerment, it has the potential to uphold key human rights and standards. However, when the primary purpose of digital technologies is to expand surveillance and enforcement-based monitoring, it has the opposite effect and leads to the curtailment of rights and freedoms. Unfortunately, given the increasing tendency of many states across the world to adopt migration governance systems based on criminalisation, coercion, control, and deterrence, their growing use of technologies risks exacerbating what are already restrictive, harmful and unaccountable systems. 

IDC will learn and build upon some of the excellent research that already exists, and we will compile resources and develop insights for our members and partners. Our ambition is that, by getting to grips with this issue, we can support the growing movement to ensure that use of technology in the immigration detention and ATD space does not lead to a further erosion of human rights and dignity for migrant, refugee, and asylum seeking communities.

 

Written by Hannah Cooper IDC Europe Regional Coordinator and Carolina Gottardo IDC Executive Director. IDC would encourage anyone interested in collaborating on this workstream to get in touch with us; we look forward to connecting with others on this crucial issue.


Summary Document: Children & Youth Workshop Consultations in Thailand

From December 2021 to March 2022, the Thai government Department of Children and Youth – Ministry of Social Development and Human Security (DCY), International Detention CoalitionTerre des Hommes Germany (TDHs) and UNICEF Thailand, with support of the European Union, co-organised the Children and Youth affected by Migration-Led Advocacy Workshop and Consultation on the National Plan of Action on the Rights of Children in the Context of Migration in Thailand. 

These partners developed a summary document describing their work with children and youth during this time. This includes a detailed overview of the problems and challenges identified by the children and youth, the proposals they presented to government stakeholders and their responses, as well as an Appendix with a list of coordinated forums, the Statement of Children and Youth Affected by Migration in Thailand, and the child-friendly activities implemented throughout this initiative, with further child-friendly materials available here.

For further insights and reflections, please also view the corresponding blog: 5 Lessons We Learned From Children & Youth Affected by Migration in Thailand.

 

 

Summary Document English (16 pages) DOWNLOAD

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Summary Document Thai (18 pages) DOWNLOAD


5 Lessons We Learned from Children & Youth Affected by Migration in Thailand

 

Today, millions of children and youth migrate and cross international borders for many complex reasons, with some forced to leave their homes to escape conflict, violence, poverty, or environmental degradation, and to seek safety, peace and stability. Along the way, they are at risk of abuse, exploitation, and violence. Many travel with family members, but an increasing number of children are travelling alone, putting them at greater risk of harm and exposure to these dangers. The impact of these experiences is devastating and long-lasting. 

In response, the international community has made a number of commitments to protect and uphold the rights of children. For example, the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) adopted in 1989, and the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration (GCM) and the Global Compact on Refugees (GRC) which were both adopted in 2018 and have been implemented since. In Asia, at the sub-regional level, the ASEAN Declaration on the Rights of Children in the Context of Migration (ASEAN-CCM) and its Regional Plan of Action (RPA) were adopted and began implementation in 2019 and 2021, respectively. Additionally, at the regional level, children and youth affected by migration shared their views at the Asia-Pacific Regional Review of Implementation of the GCM in March 2021, as well as at the virtual launch of the ASEAN RPA on the Rights of Children in the Context of Migration in January 2022. 

As the International Migration Review Forum (IMRF) takes place this May, and beyond, more leadership and agency need to be given to people with lived experience, especially children and youth, to provide feedback and to influence laws, policies, and practices that directly impact their own lives. This inclusion will lead to better and more informed policy development and implementation by States and relevant stakeholders at all levels, with the aim to ensure that the human rights of displaced people and migrant communities, especially children, are always promoted, protected and fulfilled. 

Painting by migrant and refugee children asking the Myanmar government to stop killing people, and requesting Thailand to provide safe space for refugees from Myanmar. Photo Credit: The Development for Children and Community Network (DCCN)

Children and Youth Lead the Way

From December 2021 to March 2022, the Thai government Department of Children and Youth - Ministry of Social Development and Human Security (DCY), International Detention Coalition, Terre des Hommes Germany (TDHs) and UNICEF Thailand, with support of the European Union, co-organised the Children and Youth affected by Migration-Led Advocacy Workshop and Consultation on the National Plan of Action on the Rights of Children in the Context of Migration in Thailand. Here are five lessons we learned from this important initiative:

1. Meaningful child participation is critical to advocacy

Meaningful “child participation” refers to ensuring that all children enjoy the right to be heard, express their opinions, and influence decisions that impact them directly. This practice has proven to have a positive impact on the development of children and youth, through enabling them to acquire skills, build on their strengths and competencies, and increase their confidence and self-esteem. Child participation also advances the capacities of children and youth to promote leadership, civic engagement, tolerance, and respect for others. By applying the child participation principle throughout the capacity building process of this initiative, we strengthened the personal and collective empowerment of 175 children and youth affected by migration across 7 provinces in Thailand, including those from migrant, asylum seeking, refugee, and statelessness backgrounds. Through this leadership programme, which was designed using various partner materials, such as TDHs’s Manual on Children’s Participation and IDC’s Community Leadership Curriculum, these young people learned how to analyse relationships of power and develop campaigns to target policy makers and implementers. They also learned about the fundamentals of child rights, and global and regional policy mechanisms.

Migrant children and youth in Maesot, Thailand share their understanding of safety through pictures. Photo Credit: Help Without Frontiers Foundation (HWF)

This group was diverse in background, age, gender, legal status, language, etc., which gave them the opportunity to learn from each other, and share their experiences, challenges and ideas for solutions. Child-centred and inclusive approaches were critical to this process, as it allowed for effective interaction between children and youth, facilitators, teachers, parents and others working on this initiative. As a result, the children and youth were more engaged and confident in amplifying their voices to adults in decision making. We also developed child-friendly materials on the GCM, GCR, ASEAN-CCM and RPA to help children and youth understand these instruments in a simple and clear way so that they were better able to strategically share their opinions with the Thai government and other stakeholders. We also provided capacity building for local organisations to facilitate meaningful child participation using these materials at the grassroots level on an ongoing basis. 

While there has been progress through this initiative, meaningful child participation in policy and decision making continues to be limited. All stakeholders are needed to address this issue and ensure widespread inclusion of the leadership of children and youth affected by migration in advocacy and policy making. 

Children with stateless status in Chiang Rai, Thailand tell adults what makes them feel happy and unhappy. Photo Credit: Hill Area and Community Development Foundation

2. Lived experience leadership has power and impact

In the migration context, leaders with lived experience are those who have direct, personal experience of the migration system, policies and issues. Based on their lived experience and their leadership, these leaders are best placed to inform, shape, and guide social purpose efforts aimed to benefit communities with shared experiences to their own. 

In light of the Thai government’s National Plan of Action on the Rights of Children in the Context of Migration, which facilitates Thailand’s commitments in both Global Compacts, ASEAN-CCM, and its RPA, we invited migrant children and youth leaders from our capacity building process to share their experiences and solutions directly to policy-makers. In this forum, attended by Thailand’s Representative to ASEAN Commission on the Promotion and Protection of the Rights of Women and Children(ACWC), representatives from the Ministries of Interior, Foreign Affairs, Social Development and Human Security, as well as international organisations and NGOs, the children and youth leaders raised their concerns and presented their statement and recommendations for addressing challenges they face, such as legal status, access to healthcare, access to education, and immigration detention. Listening to these young people and hearing their stories directly was incomparable to reading reports and data, and the representatives present were moved, and felt inspired by the children and youth to take action. The policy-makers and key stakeholders committed to ensuring that the leadership and voices of children and youth are included in the development of the National Plan of Action on the Rights of Children in the Context of Migration. 

Through this process, it was clear that centering the leadership of children and youth has power and impact in constructive engagement with policy-makers. We also learned that children and youth are key actors in creating systemic social change when provided the opportunity to do so.

Representatives of children and youth affected by migration in Thailand present their experiences, challenges and recommendations to the Thai government and relevant stakeholders. Photo Credit: Department of Children and Youth (DCY)

3. The whole-of-society approach increases collective capacity to make change

The whole-of-society approach is defined in the GCM and GCR as broad multi-stakeholder partnerships, including governments, UN agencies, civil society, migrant communities, and other actors, that holistically address migration and refugee issues in all of their dimensions. Both Global Compacts also encourage governments to work with relevant stakeholders to make national plans to actualise the agreements made in the Global Compacts through concrete action. In line with the GCM, GCR, ASEAN-CCM, and its RPA, we applied the whole-of-society approach by partnering with government agencies, UN agencies, international and local Non-Government Organisations (NGOs) to advance a united goal to promote, protect and fulfil the rights of migrant children in Thailand. We did this together through the development of the National Plan of Action on the Rights of Children in the Context of Migration. 

Children with stateless status in Chiang Rai, Thailand present their needs to adults. Photo Credit: Hill Area and Community Development Foundation

Most importantly, we involved children and youth affected by migration as key stakeholders and partners in the design of this National Plan of Action through meaningful and constructive engagement and capacity support. We ensured that their voices and views were heard and were part of developing solutions, which we believe helps all stakeholders better respond to needs on the ground. This whole-of-society approach allowed all stakeholders involved to understand the mandates, capacities and strengths of their counterparts, and create ways to work together in their various roles toward developing a more humane, just and child-centred migration policy.  This collaborative approach is beneficial, as it increases our collective capacity as a group to challenge complex issues, which cannot be addressed alone or in silos. Most importantly, we learned that in broad multi-stakeholder partnerships, all actors must approach collaboration with respect, trust and with an open-mind. 

The Thai government, intergovernmental organisation, civil society organisations, UN agency, and lived experience leaders jointly committed to improving the situation of children and youth affected by migration in Thailand. Photo Credit: Department of Children and Youth (DCY)

4. Political will is necessary to make systems change

Thailand is a GCM Champion Country, and leads the implementation of Objective 13 of the GCM (alternatives to detention and ending child immigration detention) and Objective 15 (access to services for migrant communities; particularly access to healthcare). Thailand also plays the lead role in developing and implementing ASEAN-CCM and its RPA. These various global and regional commitments affirm the Thai government’s political will to promote the rights of children affected by migration in the country. The commitments also create a more inclusive and enabling environment of change among relevant stakeholders, including civil society, migrant communities and UN agencies, who can more easily plan their advocacy in line with the governments’ agreements within these global and regional instruments. 

Additionally, it is important that we learn from children and youth affected by migration and their leadership and advocacy in Thailand, and use our experience as an example of systems change where those most impacted are part of the change-making process from the beginning. There is much more for the government and relevant stakeholders to do from here on to ensure widespread replication of this process. For example, all stakeholders must agree to this new approach, and involve children and youth affected by migration throughout the development and implementation of policies that directly impact them.

H.E. Wanchai Roujanavong, Thailand’s Representative to ACWC for Children’s Rights, told children and youth affected by migration to bring their suggestions to ASEAN to help promote meaningful change. Photo Credit: Department of Children and Youth (DCY)

5. Global-to-local advocacy must be driven by local solutions 

The global-to-local concept is based on ideas of inclusion and interconnection between global and local levels. For example, the GCM, GCR, ASEAN-CCM, and its RPA are global and regional instruments and commitments that must be implemented at national, local and community levels. Through our process, we applied this concept by translating global and regional commitments into the local context by creating a roadmap for implementation alongside children and youth affected by migration - the National Plan of Action on the Rights of Children in the Context of Migration. 

We identified this process as a good practice and an important local solution in Thailand, and believe that the lessons we learned can help others hoping to do the same in their countries, as local solutions in one country can be adapted, replicated and scaled in other settings. By sharing the lessons we’ve learned, we hope to help encourage others to also ensure that the voices and leadership of migrant children are heard in all parts of the world.

Children and youth affected by migration from Bangkok and suburb areas celebrate their successful advocacy with the Thai government and relevant stakeholders. Photo Credit: Department of Children and Youth (DCY)

 

The partners involved in this initiative have developed a detailed Summary Document about their children and youth consultation and leadership process, please view this for more insights. For further information about the Children and Youth Affected by Migration-Led Advocacy initiative in Thailand, please contact: 

 

Written by Chawaratt Chawarangkul IDC Southeast Asia Programme Manager & Mia-lia Boua Kiernan IDC Communications & Engagement Coordinator