Director's Report: June 2019

On the Ground in Libya: Implementing Alternatives to Detention

Written by Jerome Phelps, June 2019

Former Executive Director, International Detention Coalition (IDC)

ALSO AVAILABLE IN: Spanish -- French -- Arabic

Migrants are undertaking journeys through some of the most dangerous countries on earth.  In countries deep in conflict, where everyone faces the risk of indiscriminate violence, migrants are often at the greatest risk.  They look different, they are unfamiliar with the environment and they may not have safe housing – additionally, they face the threat of detention, often with no time limit, in appalling conditions.

Maryam’s husband lives in Europe, but he wasn’t able to send back enough money to support Maryam and their two-year old daughter. Maryam then made the decision to leave her home with their child, and travel across the Sahara, towards Europe. Maryam knew she was risking everything to pursue her dream of a better life. 

Maryam’s dream turned into a nightmare.  She spent the last of her money boarding a boat for Italy, but within a few hours of leaving Libya they entered heavy seas. Maryam fell onboard and was seriously injured.  She was rescued by the Libyan Coast Guard, and narrowly avoided joining the 289 migrants who have died in the Mediterranean Sea already in 2019.  When she reached the shore and received treatment, she was told that she would be permanently disabled.  And then, she was detained.

Migrants face the threat of detention, often with no time limit, in appalling conditions.

Libyan detention centres have been widely criticised. Libya is once again racked by civil conflict, yet 670,000 refugees and migrants were estimated to be in the country in 2018 - picked up at sea, in the desert or in towns and cities.

The need for alternatives to detention in Libya is urgent, yet the challenges are massive. If migrants are released to the street, they face a real risk of kidnapping, exploitative labour and violence.  But if there is no prospect of release, they can face indefinite detention.

Libya is still so dangerous that our staff members can’t travel there – as a small international NGO, we can’t get insurance to work there, as most governments advise against all but the most essential travel.  So in February, we travelled to Tunis instead to run a six-day training session for a group of Libyan and sub-Saharan African humanitarian professionals. The participants are working on the ground everyday in Libyan detention centres, and represent various United Nations agencies and aid organisations. We facilitated sharing and exchange about their day-to-day work implementing alternatives to detention in Libya, which was a few hundred miles and an unimaginable distance along the Mediterranean coast from where we were in that conference room in Tunis. These humanitarian professionals get people like Maryam to safety.  

IDC MENA Regional Coordinator, Junita Calder, with IOM National Trainer and participants in the training of trainers workshop

The International Organisation for Migration (IOM) has been running a community programme to enable the most vulnerable migrants to be released to trained host households. This programme is able to support migrants to live safely in the community. IOM also runs a shelter (at one stage in partnership with one of our members) for larger numbers of migrants.  Despite the renewed conflict in Tripoli, the work continues.

IDC has been supporting IOM to develop these programmes and their wider strategy. This collaborative work includes developing training and procedures, based on best practices that have been engaged elsewhere in the region and globally, and documented in our research

The challenges, complexities, and the risks to personal safety are infinitely greater than I was used to in my previous job, which was implementing alternatives in the United Kingdom.  However, the core purpose is the same – to get people out of detention, and into community placements that meet their specific needs. And to ensure that people are given the agency to make their own decisions about their own futures, no matter how difficult the options.

During the training, we talked about the need to take a long view of the difficulties the participants are facing: developing and expanding alternatives to reduce detention has generally taken at least several years.  We also talked about managing physical and mental health challenges, and how hosts can make their heavily traumatised guests feel safe and at home after such hardship. I learnt that, if your guest is unable to even think about what they would like to eat for dinner, you can start by asking them which cup they would like to use.

IDC MENA Program Officer, Seza Kirishdjian, runs an ice-breaker for the group

IDC is in no position to implement alternatives in all the places that they are so urgently needed, particularly in extremely complex contexts, such as Libya.  We need to partner with United Nations entities like IOM and other organisations that are able to work on the ground with people at risk of detention. We need to capture learnings from the work in Libya, and help IOM and others build on and expand alternatives. This work is a critical part of how we will reduce detention overall. Maryam and her child were identified by IOM as among the most vulnerable of all the migrants in the overcrowded detention centres that they have access to.  After much negotiation and overcoming many logistical hurdles, Maryam and her daughter were released from detention to live with a host family. Their hosts were fellow migrants from her region who had been living in Libya for over a decade.

Maryam spent three months with her host family. There she began her recovery from trauma, and adjusted to her new reality of being a young mother living with a physical disability.  Despite everything, she seriously considered risking another boat journey to Europe, since there was no option to regularise her stay and establish a life in Libya. Ultimately, Maryam made the decision to return to her mother’s home in her country of origin.  It was her access to safety and support that allowed her to start the process of recovery and weigh her options, because she was no longer only focused on survival while facing daily trauma and hunger in detention.

Despite the situation in Libya, the majority of African governments have consistently pushed back against European pressure to invest in detention infrastructure and heavier border control. These measures have not been seen as a solution to the European perception of a ‘migration crisis’. In the negotiations for the Global Compact on Migration last year, African States’ Common Position consistently referred to the need to explore and implement alternatives.

In reality, the sheer numbers of people who are on the move in the region make mass detention on that scale simply impractical, as well as harmful.  As a result, African States are and will remain at the forefront of exploring alternatives to detention


IDC Statement on Afghanistan & Non-Detention of Afghan People

With US-led Coalition Forces officially withdrawn from Afghanistan at the end of August, and as the Taliban establishes a new government, many have declared that the “War is Over.” International Detention Coalition (IDC) stands with Afghan community leaders, particularly Afghan women, girls and LGBTIQ+ leaders, along with human rights organisations around the world, who recognise that the experience of war continues for tens of millions of Afghan people and their loved ones.

Exacerbating this experience for those who attempt to seek safety outside of Afghanistan is the potential of being detained and deprived of liberty in the very places they hoped would provide them with sanctuary. Immigration detention is too often used by governments in an effort to dissuade future arrivals, despite the fact that there is no evidence to show that detention has a deterrence effect. IDC and its members bear witness every day to the devastating and long-term human impact of immigration detention on the physical safety, mental health and wellbeing of individuals, families and whole communities. IDC calls on all governments to ensure respect for the human rights of Afghan people who have fled their country. This includes a commitment to non-detention, as well as implementation of rights-based, community-based, and engagement-based alternatives to detention (ATD) where relevant. 

IDC echoes the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) Position on Returns to Afghanistan, and its call for all governments to “suspend the forcible return of nationals and former habitual residents of Afghanistan, including those who have had their asylum claims rejected.” IDC urges all governments to adhere to this moratorium on forced returns to Afghanistan, and further believes that throughout this moratorium no Afghan people should be detained for deportation in immigration detention anywhere in the world. IDC also supports the UNHCR call for all countries to ensure respect for the principle of non-refoulement, in line with their obligations under the 1951 Refugee Convention. IDC urges all governments to respect the human right to seek asylum, particularly to countries neighbouring Afghanistan, and to ensure that all who wish to leave Afghanistan are able to do so safely with their human rights respected at every step.

Further, whilst IDC applauds those governments who have pledged to resettle Afghan refugees, the commitments made fall far short of what is needed. IDC urges all governments to increase their resettlement commitments to Afghan people, prioritising family reunification, as well as immediate resettlement of human rights, women’s rights and gender justice defenders, and persecuted groups in situations of vulnerability, particularly women, girls and LGBTIQ+ people, ethnic and religious minority groups such as Hazaras, Sikhs and other at-risk groups, all children, and all personnel involved in the US-led Coalition Forces mission in Afghanistan. 

Additionally, IDC urges all governments to resettle Afghan refugees from countries of asylum and transit countries, as well as establishing safe and legal routes for all people to continue leaving Afghanistan. Yet resettlement must not be seen by governments as a substitute for continuing to uphold the fundamental right to seek asylum. At any point during this deteriorating humanitarian crisis, it is essential that Afghan people are not criminalised or discriminated against while exercising their right to seek asylum anywhere in the world. 

As the moral compass of the world is being tested at this moment, IDC urges all governments to act with leadership, solidarity and empathy during this critical time, and to centre their duty to human rights, human dignity, and to ensuring gender justice and equality for women, girls and LGBTIQ+ people.

To Afghan communities around the world, we stand firmly with you in solidarity.

 

Alternatives to Detention (ATD) Resources


Asia Pacific Virtual Workshop on Case Management

IDC & ADFM Co-Host a Regional Peer-Learning Virtual Workshop on Case Management 

On 31 May 2021, IDC co-convened a Virtual Workshop on Case Management with the Secretariat of the Asia Dialogue on Forced Migration (ADFM), as part of the ongoing Regional Peer-Learning Platform and Program of Learning and Action on Alternative Care Arrangements for Children in the Context of Migration in the Asia Pacific (the Regional Platform). The Regional Platform, which was launched in November 2019, brings together individuals from policy and implementing agencies from the governments of Thailand, Indonesia, Malaysia, Australia, and New Zealand as well as civil society and international organisations, in order to share positive practice and concrete examples of what is working.

Since the launch of the Regional Platform in Bangkok, subsequent meetings have been convened virtually due to travel restrictions resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic. This Virtual Workshop on Case Management is the second in a series of online events, with further virtual events planned for 2021 to support peer learning and facilitate knowledge and resource sharing between the participating countries and partners. For more information on this initiative, please view the meeting summary as well as further materials on case management approaches.

Most recently, on 9 September, IDC and ADFM co-hosted another workshop in this series focused on access to education for refugee and migrant children. This included dialogue regarding the relationship between access to education and successful ATD, drawing on positive practices and learnings from Australia, Indonesia, Malaysia, New Zealand and Thailand. A meeting summary and further materials from this workshop will be available in coming weeks.


IDC Joins Global Refugee Forum Legal Community Pledge

In March 2021, IDC signed the Global Refugee Forum (GRF) Legal Community Pledge joining a diverse range of legal and refugee rights actors committed to strengthening access to legal assistance, rights and justice for asylum seekers, refugees, stateless persons and others forcibly displaced, including those subject to immigration detention.

Amongst the commitments made, private sector lawyers that joined the pledge committed to provide over 129,000 hours of legal assistance for free (‘pro bono’) each year to address the unmet legal needs of refugees and others forcibly displaced, as well as the organisations that work with them. PILnet - which supports implementation of the pledge - coordinates the matching of these pro bono hours with unmet legal needs. The IDC secretariat and some of the network's NGO members have already benefited from free legal advice matched by PILnet to support their organisational legal needs and the legal needs of those they work with.

IDC is proud to be part of the #GRFLegalCommunityPledge and to contribute to efforts to protect and find solutions for refugees and other forcibly displaced persons. Please also read the new joint report on the Global Refugee Pledge which highlights progress made in 2020.

For IDC members interested in learning more about the types of legal assistance which can be provided please refer to the GRF Legal Community Pledge - Menu of Pro Bono Options.

The GRF Legal Community Pledge remains open for local legal aid, refugee rights or other actors to join. Please visit the GRF Legal Community Pledge website or contact the GRF Legal Community Pledge Coordinator, Jasmine Simperingham, at PILnet - [email protected] - to learn more about how you can be matched with free legal help or get involved in the pledge.


Regional Conference on Migration Advances Issues of Child Protection in the Americas

Written by Diana Martínez

During 2021, the Mexican government is serving as the pro tempore president of the Regional Conference on Migration (RCM). The RCM, also known as the Puebla Process, is a non-binding, regional consultative process that operates by consensus. It is a discussion space for member States seeking greater coordination, transparency, and cooperation on regional and international migration. As stated by the RCM itself, this multilateral forum fosters regional efforts to strengthen effective migration governance and protect the human rights of migrants, especially vulnerable groups such as children, as well as promotes alternatives to detention.

After a complicated year due to the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, the RCM resumed regular work, virtually, and convened a Forum for Regional Dialogue of Processes for Migrant Child Protection on 20 and 21 April. This was a response to the challenges and vacuums identified in the inter-institutional coordination of the systems of protection for migrant children. The Forum sought to identify and systematise inter-institutional coordination experiences, actions and best practices that could be replicated or adopted by member States of the RCM to guarantee the effective protection of the rights of children in international mobility, as well as to address the challenges and opportunities of creating regional cooperation mechanisms for the protection of children within the context of human mobility.

International Detention Coalition was invited to the Forum as a panelist as part of the Regional Network of Civil Organisations for Migration (RROCM). This network is the civil society counterpart to the Regional Conference on Migration. IDC highlighted inter-institutional coordination in the implementation of processes for the integral protection of children, as in the Mexican case with the Commission for the Protection of Child migrants and asylum seekers of the System for Integral Protection (SIPINNA). This commission developed the Migrant Child Protection Protocol, a mechanism for coordinating between authorities, international entities and civil society organisations that seek to protect children in detention.

Participants in the Forum, representing member States of the RCM, shared best practices in matters of migrant child protection and agreed on the need to progress with a system of transnational protection.

On 12 May 2021, the RCM presented the Operative Guide for the Application of the Best Interest of the Child within the context of human mobility. This Guide is the result of years of work that formed part of the RCM’s Strategic Plan for the Liaison Officer Network for the Protection of Migrant Children and Adolescents 2017–2022, and serves as a reference for the implementation of mechanisms for best interest determinations of children.

The Guide recognises non-detention as a specific principle for the protection of children. As a first step, it calls for identification to detect and evaluate situations of vulnerability and considers detention centres as one of the places where this identification can occur. Furthermore, when undertaking an internal referral for preliminary identification and rapid evaluation of best interest, the principles of non-detention and no deportation need to be applied.

The steps or stages considered by the Guide for the evaluation of best interest include:

  • designation of the person responsible for evaluation
  • evaluation of conditions and needs
  • design of a plan to manage cases of protection
  • execution of case management plan
  • follow-up and evaluation of plan execution
  • closure of case or transfer to procedures for determining best interest

These efforts, together with others by the RCM in matters of child protection in the region, will be insufficient if they are not reflected in the national arena, and in the exchange of best practices. Furthermore, the guide for the determination of best interest should be adapted to the reality of each member State in order to advance towards a transnational system of protection that guarantees the rights of this population, including that of non-detention.


IDC & Partners Implement Course on Child Migrants in the Americas for Governments & Civil Society

Written by Diana Martínez and Araceli Peña, Independent Monitoring Group of El Salvador

As part of the work of International Detention Coalition, a joint project was undertaken with Aldeas Infantiles, the Institute for Women in Migration, and the Independent Monitoring Group of El Salvador, to develop a specialised course on child and adolescent migrants, with academic accreditation by the Specialised Institute of Higher Education for Diplomatic Training in El Salvador (IEESFORD).

The main objective of the course was to contribute to the analysis, identification, development, and integration of solutions to the main challenges facing migrant children in the region. The course was conducted for public officials, representatives of civil society organisations, and local governments of member states of the Regional Conference on Migration, whose work is both directly or indirectly related to migration.

Due to the COVID-19 emergency health crisis still facing the region, the 9-week course was conducted virtually on the IEESFORD platform. Sessions combined conceptual elements and practical exercises which helped participants to obtain greater understanding through dialogue, master classes, virtual forum discussions and questionnaires.

The course had a positive response, with 47 participants from 7 countries in the region, all of whom are members of various public institutions, international entities, and civil society organisations. Of the 47 registered participants, 33 were women and 14 were men.

The participating bodies included:

  • Belize The Immigration Department of Belize
  • Dominican Republic The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the National Board for Migration and Refugees
  • Guatemala La Casa del Migrante, the Human Rights Ombudsman, the Guatemalan Migration Institute, Casa Nuestro Raices, the Secretariat of Social Welfare, and the Congress of the Republic of Guatemala
  • Honduras The Secretariat of Foreign Relations, the Office of Migration, the Directorate of Children, Adolescents and Family, the Municipal Mayor of Tegucigalpa and the General Secretariat of the Government of Honduras
  • Mexico The COMAR, the National Institute of Migration, the Federal Protection Attorney, SIPINNA and the DIF from Mexico
  • Nicaragua The Ministry of Education, the Nicaraguan School for Migration and Immigration and Aldeas Infantiles
  • El Salvador The Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology, and the National Council for Children and Adolescents

The course included issues such as understanding the reality of migrant children, as well as the government and civil society response to migrant protection. In particular, Dr. Luciana Gandini presented the topic as: “Situations of vulnerability and differentiated care. Impacts on accompanied and unaccompanied migrant children: before, during and after their journeys.” She then analysed the increase in numbers of children leaving their home countries, as well as the issue of child immigration detention.

Without a doubt, in order to guarantee better protection and best interest determination of children, the professionalisation of actors charged with protecting migrant children and adolescents is both urgent and necessary. This course helped to provide them with a greater understanding of the dynamics that lead children to abandon their home countries and expose themselves to risks, including the risk of immigration detention.


IDC Welcomes the First GCM Regional Review in the Asia Pacific

Written by Chawaratt Chawarangkul and Min Yamada Park

In mid-March 2021, IDC was able to take part in  the first Regional Review of the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly, and Regular Migration (GCM) in the Asia Pacific. The Regional Review, which took place both virtually and in Bangkok from 10 to 12 March, was organised by the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) and the Regional UN Network on Migration for Asia and the Pacific. The event brought together over 200 government representatives, UN agencies, civil society stakeholders and people with lived experience and provided an ample space for participants to discuss concrete steps to align migration governance with sustainable development goals and respect for human rights, particularly in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond.

The GCM is an important inter-governmental framework for improved migration governance grounded in international human rights law and reaffirms States’ commitment to respecting, protecting and fulfilling human rights for all migrants. The first GCM Regional Review in Asia-Pacific offered an opportunity for participants to share promising practices and learnings from the countries in the region and enhance collective actions under the framework. As IDC is working on the human rights of all migrants with a specific focus on ending immigration detention through the implementation of ATD, we have prioritised the people-centered framework and human rights-based approach provided by the GCM and therefore support the Regional Review.

IDC’s key interventions at the Regional Review were threefold. On 11 March, the IDC’s Executive Director Carolina Gottardo delivered her speech at the roundtable on ‘Protecting Migrants Through Rights-Based Border Governance and Border Management Measures.’ She highlighted the criminalisation of the migrants and refugees and child immigration detention as major human rights challenges the region is facing: “Let’s leave no doubt: there is no good practice for detaining children. Children do not belong in immigration detention”.  She also stressed the need for scaling up the implementation of the community-based alternatives to detention, noting that the solution to these challenges shouldn’t end at releasing migrants and refugees from detention: “Releases are welcome but are not enough. They need to be accompanied by casework and by access to services and rights, so migrants are not left in destitution. ...The leadership of people with lived experience of detention is crucial. Their voices need to be at the heart of the effective implementation of GCM and of developing rights-based ATDs”. The event details and audio recording can be found here.

IDC’s Executive Director Carolina Gottardo delivered her speech at the roundtable on ‘Protecting Migrants Through Rights-Based Border Governance and Border Management Measures.’

IDC also co-organised a virtual roundtable ‘Child Rights and Migration in Asia’ with Save the Children, the Initiative for Child Rights in the Global Compacts, UNICEF and the UN Mayor Group  on Children and Youth: “Child Rights and Migration in Asia''. The outcomes of the event were reflected in this joint communique: Putting children's rights at the heart of the Global Compact for Migration's implementation in Asia Pacific.

Additionally, on 12 March, IDC also co-organised a virtual side-event on ‘Implementing Alternatives to Detention: Lessons Learned from the Global Pandemic’s at the Regional Review, alongside the Thai government (Department of International Organisations, Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Thailand), Bonigi Monitoring, and the UN Major Group on Children and Youth (UNMGCY). This side event covered Objective 13 of the GCM, which focuses on the commitment of States to use detention only as a last resort and work towards alternatives. Panelists from government, civil society, and people with lived experience of detention came together to explore the core purpose, opportunities, and framework of ATDs as well as the critical relevance of ATDs in the era of COVID-19. Link to the side-event details and audio recording.


Director's Update: June 2021

Dear Members and Partners,

I am delighted to provide some updates as part of IDC's June Newsletter. Firstly, IDC is delighted to welcome Hannah Cooper as the new Europe Regional Advocacy Coordinator. Hannah was successful in a very competitive process with around 118 applicants. She will start in July, and we are very excited that she will be joining our team to help us advocate against detention and further the implementation of ATDs in Europe. She will also co-coordinate the European Alternatives to Detention Network along with our partners at PICUM, and develop a strategic plan to upscale ATDs in Europe. We would like to thank Barbara Pilz for her amazing work as Acting Europe Regional Coordinator during this transition period, and wish her all the best in her future endeavours!

This year, IDC is embarking on a process to review our Membership Strategy and Membership Structure. Our members are very important to us and we would like them to be at the centre of all our efforts! We aim for the new membership strategy to reflect this commitment. We are excited about this process, and will be contacting key members for their input soon.

IDC has also been busy preparing for the second Global Peer Learning on ATD as one of the co-leads of the UN Network for Migration Working Group on ATD alongside UNICEF and UNHCR. The first Global Peer-Learning took place in November 2020, and was attended by representatives from more than 60 member States. We are looking forward to the second peer-learning event coming up at the end of June!

Additionally during this time, IDC has been active in the Global Compact for Migration Regional Reviews. We were part of the panel on "Protecting migrants through rights-based border governance and border management measures" at the Asia Pacific GCM Regional Review from 10th to 12th March  and also co-organised a side event on "Implementing Alternatives to Detention: Lessons Learned from the Global Pandemic" with the Thai Royal Government, Bonigi Monitoring and the UN Mayor Group on Children and Youth as part of the Regional Review. We also co-hosted another side event with Save the Children and UNICEF as part of the Regional Review. IDC was also active in the Latin American Regional Review which took place from to 26-28 April. IDC participated in regional multi-stakeholder consultations and facilitated the Thematic Roundtable on "Protecting the human rights, safety and wellbeing of migrants" during the Review. IDC and its partners will also participate in Africa Regional Review events during June and July. We are happy to participate actively in these Regional Reviews, and look forward to continuing working towards the International Migration Review Forum in 2022.

I am also happy to share with you that IDC has been appointed as the civil society representative on the Steering Committee of the Migration Multi Partner Trust Fund (MPTF) alongside with the Mayors Migration Council and the UN Rapporteur on the Rights of Migrants, as well as some member states and UN agencies. We are delighted with this appointment and will strive to play an effective role as part of the MPTF.

I look forward to keeping you informed of IDC's developments in the future, and to continuing our work with you!

Kind regards,

Carolina

Carolina Gottardo, IDC Executive Director


Envisioning the Future of ATD Post-2020

The worldwide health, economic, social and racial justice crises of 2020 drastically shifted the advocacy landscape at national, regional and global levels. This moment called on us to come together and strengthen our collaborative approach, so that we can support each other to move boldly towards a world where immigration detention no longer exists, and people who migrate live with rights and dignity. In February 2021, IDC held two cross-regional webinars for selected members and partners to create space to collectively take stock, reflect, and envision the future of ATD post-2020. IDC was thrilled to be joined by 75 participants from the following 32 countries:

Australia | Belgium | Bulgaria | Canada | Egypt | France | Greece | Guatemala | Guinea | Honduras | Hong Kong | Indonesia | Italy | Japan | Kenya | Libya | Malawi | Malaysia | Mexico | New Zealand | Norway | Poland | Romania | South Africa | Spain | Thailand | Trinidad & Tobago | Turkey | Uganda | United Kingdom | United States

IDC would like to give special thanks to our panelists who shared critical insights into their experiences advocating for ATD throughout 2020, as well as their visions for a future without immigration detention:

____________________________________________________________

During 3 intensive breakout group sessions on specific topics, the following common and key themes and approaches emerged, which will guide IDC and our work alongside our members and partners:

ATD ADVOCACY STRATEGIES TO END IMMIGRATION DETENTION

Human Rights ATD advocacy must center international human rights, as well as be adaptable to tailored messaging at national levels

Multi-Level Connectivity Prioritise advocacy collaboration across national, regional & global levels to maximise change on the ground

Global Partners Ensure strong partnerships with UNHCR, UNICEF, IOM & other UN entities to promote global accountability & engagement

Strategic Allies Engage related sectors & initiatives, such as healthcare, criminal justice, child welfare, the Sustainable Development Goals, etc

Documentation Document civil society collaboration & advocacy approaches, such as coalition building, campaigning, community organising, strategic litigation, ATD pilots, UN working groups, GCM implementation, UPR, and other global or regional review processes

IMPLEMENTING ATD PROGRAMMES TO STRENGTHEN & PROTECT COMMUNITIES

ATD Definition Reclaim the ATD term & definition to prevent it from being co-opted or used to represent enforcement-based ATD

Government Peer-Learning Identify promising & challenging elements of ATD programmes, share successes as well as strategise & troubleshoot barriers to ATD implementation

Gather Evidence Identify & document existing & promising ATD practices to support civil society & governments to institutionalise & scale with robust evidence

Cross-Sector Parallels Identify potential collaborations with rights-based, community-based & engagement-based programmes in other sectors, such as healthcare, housing, criminal justice

M&E Standards Develop new standards & metrics for monitoring & evaluating ATD programmes centered on rights-based standards & human rights principles

CIVIL SOCIETY MOVEMENTS: REPRESENTATION, LEADERSHIP & COLLABORATION

Grassroots Inclusion Center grassroots leadership through flexible structures, spaces & capacity building that facilitates meaningful engagement & community-led decision-making

Civil Society Peer-Learning Prioritise the development of collective global spaces for civil society to exchange, strategise, collaborate & act in solidarity with one another

Strategy Coordination Collaboration includes diverse approaches, tactics & contributions, as well as understanding the value of different contributing elements within the larger strategy

Influence the Public Map the political landscape & develop accessible language, messages & arguments that will impact public perception & promote broader cultural & mindset change

Ethical Storytelling People are more than stories. Trauma is not for consumption. Storytelling must center the leadership, resilience, strength & power of the storytellers &
their communities.

 

"Our goal needs to be ambitious & clear: Pursue rights-based ATD as part of a systems-change strategy to ultimately work towards a world where immigration detention no longer exists."

Carolina Gottardo, IDC Executive Director


Tin Otoch Children’s Shelter: Sonora, Mexico

In recent years, International Detention Coalition in Mexico has been working with various local authorities towards implementing alternatives to detention for migrant children. The Sonora Attorney General for Child Protection is one such authority. When the “Tin Otoch” children’s shelter opened its door, it also paved the way for the state to implement alternatives to detention even before the law prohibiting child detention had been passed. With the approval of the law, the role of Tin Otoch gained momentum, not only as a shelter, but also for facilitating case management. In this article, the Sonora State Attorney for Child Protection, Lic. Wenceslao Cota Amador, shares the efforts that have been made to eliminate migrant detention for children in the state.

 

Written by Lic. Wenceslao Cota Amador

Sonora State Attorney General for Child Protection 

The State of Sonora, Mexico, is located in the north-east of the country and shares a more than 580-kilometer border with the United States. It is thus considered a transit and shelter area for migrants, among whom are national and foreign, accompanied, and unaccompanied children. Their motives and circumstances for crossing the border may vary, but all require protection of their human rights. 

The Sonora Government has designed and implemented solid public policies aimed at guaranteeing the protection of the human rights of migrant children. Since 2004, with the implementation of the “Camino a Casa” (Way home) program by Sonora’s System for the Integral Development of the Family (DIF), Mexican children deported from the United States have been offered protection and provided with residential foster care in a Center for Social Assistance. Here, their food and clothing needs are met, and psychological and legal support are provided. The program works towards family reunification, in collaboration with DIF offices in other states, mainly Guerrero, Chiapas, Tabasco, and Oaxaca, among others. This program has operated with public resources from the Sonora State Government and has secured alliances to professionalise work teams in matters of the protection of human rights in accordance with national and international laws that recognise and promote respect of the rights of migrant children.

The DIF Sonora’s “Camino a Casa” program currently attends to more than 70,000 national, unaccompanied children, and has become a consolidated policy within the context of the risks confronting children, young people, and families in the country. 

Claudia Pavlovich Arellano’s government is committed to reorienting public and human resources, as well as infrastructure to strengthen public policy regarding the protection of the rights of foreign, accompanied, or unaccompanied migrant children, in accordance with the General Law for the Rights of Children, passed in 2014, that recognises children as subjects of human rights. The state governor has created strategic alliances (with the Howard G. Buffet Foundation) to build a model of open door residential foster care; and worked with international organisations to establish its foundations, based on concepts and principles such as the superior interest of the child, no detention, a multidisciplinary approach to childhood, and family reunification, among others.

In August 2018, the Sonora DIF Center was opened. “Tin Otoch” (“My home” in Mayan) is based on a model that restores children’s right to health and recreation through occupational projects, such as: music, sport, handicrafts, environmental care, art therapy, and workshops on resilience. The model has become a reference at both a national and international level. 

 

 

Since its opening, the center has attended to more than 500 accompanied and unaccompanied children, predominantly from Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador. Its work is based on manuals and protocols that have been developed with a human rights focus, and guarantees specialised, multidisciplinary attention guided by the best interests of the child and aimed at family reunification or asylum applications. This is done through the work of the State Attorney General for Child Protection. 

Our vision and focus aim to provide alternatives to detention during the course of administrative processes. This has meant that interviews are no longer conducted in immigration offices, but rather, in “Tin o Toch” by multidisciplinary teams, guaranteeing that children’s opinions are heard and providing them with a framework in which to freely express emotions, fears and expectations. Children who have passed through the center have the following levels of schooling: 53% primary school studies; 29% secondary; 9% high school; 1% incomplete bachelor degrees; and 10% have no schooling.

 

 

The main destination points in the United States are California, Texas, New York, and Florida. Family reunification is the primary motivation for migration, followed by abuse or domestic violence. 

Teams from both the offices of the Attorney General on Child Protection as well as the Center have undergone extensive professionalisation on providing integrated, human rights focused attention, and have worked in a strategic alliance with International Detention Coalition in Mexico to strengthen work mechanisms and the accompaniment of children. 

The Sonora DIF, under the coordination of Karina Zárate Felix, has developed mechanisms of collaboration based on alternative care models (residential foster care, foster families, family reunification) for migrant children, ensuring successful experiences where the right to family life has been guaranteed for accompanied and unaccompanied migrant children. 

We face great challenges, but are committed to working in collaboration with government, national and international organisations, families, and communities to ensure the rights of children are respected and that children feel protected in their transit through Sonora, regardless of nationality or origin.