A key forum in Africa highlights a significant opportunity in Africa.
The IDC, invited by the Africa Commission for Human and Peoples Rights (ACHPR) Committee for the Prevention of Torture in Africa (CPTA) and the Special Rapporteur on Refugees, Asylum Seekers, Internally Displaced Persons and Migrants, joined a panel discussion on the Situation of Migrants at Risk of Torture and other Ill-treatment in Africa: Alternative Approaches during the 63rd Ordinary Session of the African Commission.
“State representatives and the Commission members expressed a real interest in solutions…” Dr. Mandlate at ACHPR 63
Dr. Aquinaldo Mandlate from IDC member organisation Southern African Litigation Centre (SALC) represented the IDC. He spoke alongside Commissioner Hatem Essaiem (Chairperson of the CPTA); Commissioner Maya Sahli-Fadel (Special Rapporteur); Judge Malick Sow (Member of CPTA); and Mr Mamina Jallow (Member of the Gambian Returnees from Backway Association).
The Panel drew attention to the situation of migrants in Africa. Judge Sow, Commissioners Essaiem and Sahli-Fadel highlighted the risk of torture and other ill-treatment of migrants during their journeys, especially in detention; also pointing out the duties of States to prevent such abuse under the Guidelines and Measures for the Prohibition and Prevention of Torture, Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment in Africa (the Robben Island Guidelines). Mr Jallow then humanised the discussions by poignantly sharing his own experience of abuse, extortion and ill treatment while travelling from The Gambia across Mali, Mauritania, Burkina Faso, Niger and Libya, in the hope of reaching Europe.
Dr. Mandlate outlined solutions to the problem. He presented “Alternatives to detention” as a strategy that Governments, along with civil society, can pursue in order to implement more humane, effective and affordable migration management systems.
IDC member Aquinaldo Mandlate speaking on the Panel. Photo Acknowledgement, ACHPR.
Questions and comments were raised by representatives from the Arab Republic of Egypt; the National Preventive Mechanism (NPM) of the Islamic Republic of Mauritania; the National Human Rights Commission of the Republic of Rwanda; Prisoners Rehabilitation and Welfare Action (PRAWA); Advoc Aid Sierra Leone; Equality Now – Solidarity for African Women’s Rights (SOAWR) Coalition; and la ligue marocaine pour les droits de l’homme. The discussions touched on three pressing issues that African governments should address in order to increase the safety of migrants and ensure Alternatives:
- The lack of both socio-economic opportunities in their countries and legitimate migration pathways which is pushing people to embark on dangerous journeys
- The military crises and conflicts fueling insecurity and forcing people to flee
- Corruption among relevant authorities that leads to abuse and extortion of migrants
Commissioner Essaiem closed the panel by urging states to use Alternatives as a solution.
Dr. Mandlate noted: “State representatives and the Commission members expressed a real interest in solutions which will prevent torture of African migrants in the future. This proves there is much space for engaging stakeholders in the development and implementation of effective Alternatives to immigration detention in Africa.”
The IDC looks forward to finding ways to support African states in their implementation.