OHCHR Report: Forced Expulsions from Libya

OHCHR just released a new and important report on 25 November: Unsafe and Undignified: The forced expulsion of migrants from LibyaAccording to OHCHR, the purpose of this report is to assess the key human rights challenges faced by migrants in the context of forced expulsions from Libya and to make concrete recommendations to States in the region, the international community, and other stakeholders for how to strengthen laws, policies and practices related to the protection of migrants in the context of forced return procedures in line with international human rights law and standards.

You can view the launch materials and web story here in English, French, and Arabic, as well as social media posts on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook in English, French, and Arabic.

From Enforcement to Engagement: Scaling Up Case Management as an ATD in Europe

Written by Hannah Cooper IDC Europe Regional Coordinator

Across Europe, there is pressure to increase the use of immigration detention as part of a push to accelerate return rates and reduce irregular migration. The horrifying scenes emerging from the Polish-Belarusian border or the recent tragedy in the English Channel are part of a trend amongst many European countries to use whatever means are at their disposal to push back, deter and contain people arriving at their borders - many of whom have fled their own countries in fear for their lives. Governments are curbing human rights and detaining people in often inhumane conditions, destroying the lives of individuals, their families and communities.

We know that detention is harmful to people’s mental and physical health, it is also ineffective, and expensive for governments and authorities. EU law states that detention should only ever be used as a last resort and in specific circumstances, yet frequently countries use detention by default, and this is on the rise.

Since 2017, the European Alternatives to Detention Network (EATDN) has been advocating for an end to immigration detention through piloting community-based alternatives to detention (ATD) and showcasing their effectiveness. The EATDN believes people don’t need to be deprived of their liberty during the immigration process and that there are better solutions than detention.

Over recent months, supported by IDC and PICUM, the EATDN has been working together to develop a plan to guide our work over the coming years. As part of working towards its goals, the EATDN sees a need to expand and amplify its pilots and this plan sets out a roadmap for how the Network will scale case management projects and community-based ATD for people who are at risk of detention.

Through this planning process, EATDN members have reflected on our collective progress thus far, taking into account internal and external achievements and set-backs, and reflecting on how the network can achieve more social impact by increasing its geographical scope, fostering partnerships with new actors, influencing social and political institutions, reaching more people and resolving more cases. The plan details our four objectives:

  1. Network building: Strengthening our relationships and expanding our networks will help to scale up our projects. Working collaboratively with governments, authorities, legal experts, communities including leaders with lived experience, and civil society will intensify our work to reach more people and contribute to resolving more cases.
  2. Geographical expansion: In the next two years, as well as establishing additional engagement in the areas we already work in, we aim to expand to several additional cities and one additional country. This way we will demonstrate to more governments that community management is the best solution.
  3. Expansion beyond groups experiencing vulnerabilities: We are extending our reach beyond women and families to reach those who are already in detention and those who are not identified as experiencing vulnerabilities.
  4. Increasing numbers: Within two years, we will increase the number of people we support with community-led management by 10-20%.

This scaling will be supported by a focus on advocacy, research, network-building, peer learning and the leadership of those with lived experience of detention. In this implementation plan, the EATDN lays out how these different elements of its work will be organised and implemented over the next two years in order to promote community-based solutions as well as expanding and amplifying case management-based ATD. Ultimately, our goal is to work towards ending immigration detention by providing strong evidence that migration management frameworks that do not include detention are feasible and effective. Our scaling plan outlines how, by broadening and deepening our work, we are creating sustainable change now and into the future. The EATDN’s two-year implementation plan for scaling can be read in full here.

New Campaign to End the Detention of People Seeking Asylum in Mexico

IDC and Asylum Access Mexico, along with partners FM4 Paso Libre, Casa Refugiados, IMUMI, Grupo de Trabajo sobre Política Migratoria, Sin Fronteras, CMDPDH, and others, launched a campaign in November aiming to eliminate the detention of people seeking asylum in Mexico. 

This campaign will work to raise awareness and advocate in favor of preventing and eliminating the detention of asylum seekers in Mexico, and will work to build a civil society advocacy movement to promote the issue of non-detention and the adoption of alternatives to detention (ATD). Advocacy goals will include changing law, policy and practice at all levels of government to make space for civil society to monitor and improve access to dignity, freedom and human rights for people seeking asylum and refugees in Mexico.

Follow @idcamericas and @idcmonitor on Twitter for more information about the campaign, and please view our campaign launch materials and feel free utilise them for your own context as well!

Immigration Detention in Trinidad and Tobago

Written by Denise Pitcher Caribbean Centre for Human Rights (CCHR) & Gisele Bonnici IDC Americas Regional Coordinator

Immigration detention policies and practices continue to be a serious human rights issue in Trinidad and Tobago (TT). Trinidad has experienced an influx of migrants, asylum seekers and refugees due to the ongoing humanitarian crisis in neighbouring Venezuela. In addition to the Venezuelan migrant and asylum-seeking population, over 40 other nationalities seek international protection in TT. 

Trinidad and Tobago is party to the 1951 Refugee Convention and its 1967 Protocol however the protections have not been included in national law and the country continues to treat the arrivals of migrants and asylum seekers under the 1976 Immigration Act. This law lacks provisions to treat the particular vulnerabilities and needs of those in need of international protection and to guarantee the rights of migrants. Consequently, persons that are found entering irregularly are charged with illegal entry without an individualised assessment of their cases thereby criminalising the asylum process. 

It is in this context that serious instances of human rights violations occur with respect to immigration detention in TT. The strict application of the Immigration Act results in a reliance on detention to regulate migration in TT, leading to instances of arbitrary and indefinite detention. This reliance on immigration detention places legitimate persons in need of protection at further risk and exacerbates their already vulnerable situations. The Immigration Act urgently needs updating to adapt to the current context of migration in TT and more critically to ensure the protection of human rights of migrants and refugees.

People who are detained are placed in one of two immigration detention facilities. The original immigration detention centre at Aripo has been described by detainees as severely unsanitary and inhumane. Detainees are often forced to live in these conditions for months and even years. One detainee, from an African country, whose exact nationality is unknown, has been in this facility for over eight years and suffers from serious health conditions. It is difficult to ascertain the quality of care he is receiving or what legal support he has access to given the lack of access by civil society to the immigration detention facilities and the lack of independent monitoring.

The lack of independent monitoring in all places of detention is another critical issue as reports regularly surface, citing assault, lack of proper care and other abuses and it is impossible to independently verify the human rights situation of detainees in immigration detention and hold officials accountable. The Caribbean Centre for Human Rights (CCHR) recently received a report of a recognised refugee who had her government registration card confiscated (this card allows Venezuelans that have been registered with the government to live and work in TT) by an immigration detention official before she was returned to Venezuela. She was detained by the police along with her sister on suspicion of being involved in human trafficking. She was not allowed to challenge her deportation, as she was deported three days after being detained. This unfortunately is not a unique event but indicative of the standard practice and treatment by the state towards migrants and refugees. Another disturbing practice that has been reported is that before migrants, asylum seekers and refugees are deported they are made to sign forms that are in English without the support of interpreters. Some detainees may speak English and understand what they are signing, however the vast majority of migrants that are deported are Venezuelan nationals and so English is not their first language and they need support with interpretation.

Particularly concerning is the continued detention of migrant and refugee children who are often detained for several months. Even though international human rights standards and practices emphasise that children should not be detained for their migration status this is an ongoing practice by the government of TT. Notably, TT has ratified the Convention on the Rights of the Child and established legislation to ensure the promotion and protection of children’s rights in the Children's Act. Currently, there are around ten children in immigration detention with one child detainee who is as young as two years old. Also of concern is that women and children are not separated from unrelated men at the immigration detention facility in Chaguaramas.

Immigration detention policies and practices in TT, particularly the absence of a legal framework to guide treatment of migrants and people seeking asylum, requires further scrutiny by the international community. Without accountability mechanisms, human rights violations will persist. CCHR makes the following key recommendations with regard to immigration detention and the use of ATD:

  • The need for a refugee policy or legislation, or implementation of the Refugee Convention, which will reduce the instances of immigration detention because a policy/law will establish mechanisms for individualised assessments to identify persons in need of protection. 
  • The government should cease detaining children and adopt non-custodial, community-based alternatives to detention, relying on civil society and members of the migrant community to support with the care of migrant children.
  • Adhere to the provisions in the Immigration Act, in particular to ensure that Special Inquiries happen after each arrest to ascertain whether the person should be subjected to detention.
  • Increase the use of Orders of Supervision to mitigate a reliance on immigration detention, thus allowing persons to be released on an order of supervision under which they would be required to report to immigration division on a regular basis.
  • Increase engagement with local and international stakeholders to develop a coordinated and holistic approach to immigration detention that prioritises the human rights of migrants and refugees.
  • Train frontline state officials, police, magistrate, coast guard on human rights obligations with respect to migrants and refugees.

IDC stands by our partner CCHR in their recommendations, as well as their ongoing advocacy to protect the human rights of migrants and refugees in Trinidad and Tobago.

Strengthening Community-Based ATD in Thailand

Written by Chawaratt Chawarangkul IDC Southeast Asia Programme Manager

Since July 2021, IDC and HOST International have worked together to strengthen community-based alternatives to immigration detention for children and their families in Thailand through funding from the Canada Fund for Local Initiatives (CFLI). This project aims to shift focus from enforcement-focused models towards ATD that is centered on community-based protection and care for all children and their families, including women heads of households and survivors of sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV).

Currently, IDC and HOST International are working to collate and strengthen the evidence-base for these new ATD models within the Thai context. We will convene the Thai government and civil society networks such as the Coalition for the Rights of Refugees and Stateless Persons to share and discuss our findings, and encourage further coordination on expanding the use of community and rights-based, gender responsive ATD. These new models will provide greater respect for the rights of children and their families released under the ATD MOU.

From August to November 2021, HOST International and IDC commissioned a formal independent evaluation of the HOST Community-based Case Management Pilot Program, which began in December 2018 in response to the release of children and their families from immigration detention under the ATD-MOU of the Thai government. Based on the independent evaluation, we found that the majority of parents and children experienced stress in detention, and felt emotional relief once living in a community setting. They emphasised that they gained confidence in living and moving around the neighborhood without fear of being arrested. It is evident that living outside of detention allows them to reclaim their rights and dignity. For the children who attend school, there has been a very positive impact, and they are supported to integrate into Thai community and culture. Parents, as well as some of the children, have had the opportunity to strengthen life skills through HOST’s activities such as planting vegetables. While there are many benefits, there are also some challenges. For example, the majority of mothers, as well as social workers, have stated that women experience difficulties transitioning from the detention centre to living in a community. During the initial stages, likely due to the ongoing effects of detention, the majority of mothers felt insecure, lacked confidence, and relied on others while caring for their children alone. One of the key recommendations following this program evaluation is that: HOST could establish a support group so that women can help and support one another, particularly those who have recently been released from detention and have settled in the community.

In parallel, we have documented the latest promising practices on community and rights-based, gender responsive ATD models globally; this research has specifically focused on models that could be applied in Thailand to support the Thai government and ATD-MOU implementing partners in better responding to children and their families released from, or at risk of immigration detention.  For example, we have identified a range of mechanisms by which governments prohibit the immigration detention of children and their families in law, policy and practice. This includes ensuring that refugee, asylum seeking and migrant children are mainstreamed into national child protection systems, and have the same access to rights as other children in the country, such as education, healthcare and accommodation. There are also important mechanisms to support unaccompanied children, such as the appointment of guardians, family-based care, and appropriate age determination processes. Through our research, we have documented promising examples from a number of countries, including Ireland, Sweden, Italy, UK and the Netherlands. A clear finding from our research has been that there is a gap in gender-responsive approaches and analysis in the development and implementation of community-based ATD. This gap needs to be filled. 

IDC and HOST International are now developing ATD Practice Guidelines for the Thai government and NGOs to use in developing and implementing community and rights-based, gender responsive ATD for urban refugees and asylum-seekers in Thailand. Based on the outcomes of these tools, we will convene a workshop in February 2022 to introduce the ATD Practice Guidelines and facilitate a program visit for social workers from the Thai government and key ATD implementing partners in Thailand. Through this, we hope to increase understanding of the practicalities of community and rights based, gender responsive ATD in the Thai urban refugee context and collectively strengthen the ATD policy and practices in Thailand.




Ending Immigration Detention & the GC5

On 23 September 2021, the Committee on Migrant Workers (CMW) published its 20-page General Comment No.5 (GC5) on migrants’ rights to liberty and freedom from arbitrary detention. This followed an extensive consultation process, which included dozens of submissions from governments and NGOs, including IDC. 

As States around the world increase their use of immigration detention and further criminalise migrant communities, the GC5 comes at a crucial moment and provides an opportunity for the global movement to end immigration detention to align on values, principles and rights-based advocacy. In particular, paragraph 47 of the GC5 “considers that States should take measures to abolish immigration detention.” IDC believes this is a key declaration of the GC5, and welcomes its alignment with our vision for a world where immigration detention no longer exists and people who migrate live with rights and dignity.

Additionally, the GC5 calls on governments to expand their use of alternatives to detention (ATD), and prioritise community-based non-custodial measures that allow people to live freely. It also reiterates international law by calling for an end to the immigration detention of children, and others experiencing vulnerabilities. Further, the GC5 applies beyond migrant workers, and is inclusive of all migrants, asylum seekers, refugees, stateless people and others on the move. As IDC considered the implications of the GC5, we connected with some of our members and partners across regions to hear about realities on the ground, as well as their perspectives on the GC5 and how it might support their advocacy efforts. 

Right to Liberty & Protection Against Arbitrary Detention 

The GC5 prioritises ending arbitrary detention, which is prohibited under international law. It emphasises that mandatory detention is arbitrary, calls for individualised assessment, and to ensure that people are detained for the shortest possible period.

The members and partners we spoke with reflected that some countries do require individualised assessment by law, however this doesn’t commonly occur in practice. On the other hand, some countries do not have protection principles under immigration law, and no standards for length of detention either. As a result, time in detention is often directly related to the speed of deportation processes. Further, in some countries with mandatory detention, there is no basis for individualised review. 

Concerningly, many countries continue to use detention as a deterrence mechanism to create fear in migrant communities, despite the fact that there is no evidence to show that detention has a deterrence effect

Non-Detention of Children

The GC5 reaffirms international law and states that the detention of children, whether travelling alone or with their families, is never in their best interests, and it is always unnecessary and disproportionate. The GC5 urges States to prohibit child immigration detention by law, and fully eradicate it in practice.

The members and partners we spoke with reflected that some countries do have internal government processes for releasing children. However, because these processes are not law, children are often still detained in practice. In many cases, even if there is a prerogative by the government to end child immigration detention, the migration and child protection agencies, or other institutions charged with implementing sustainable screening and support processes are often underfunded.

Obligation to Implement Alternatives to Detention (ATD)

The GC5 asserts that States have an obligation to implement all available non-custodial alternative measures in each case, in accordance with the right to liberty and principles of necessity and proportionality. This includes ensuring that sufficient resources are allocated to implement ATD.

The members and partners we spoke with reflected that civil society is often relied upon to resource ATD. While there may be government funds for some migration related schemes, for many countries the community programmes that provide holistic case management and care are largely operated by faith-based groups, NGOs, and UN agencies. For ATD to be effective, sufficient resources must be dedicated to supporting diverse needs and minimum standards must be in place, including access to documentation, basic services, case management support and independent legal assistance. However, government resourcing for community-based ATD continues to not be prioritised in many cases.

Moving Forward: Using the GC5 in Advocacy

While not legally binding, IDC believes that the GC5 is a significant political and progressive statement from global leadership about issues that directly impact communities on the ground everyday. It offers organisations and groups an additional tool to leverage their ongoing advocacy. The members and partners we spoke with shared a few examples of how the GC5 will be useful:

Looking forward, the GC5 needs to be brought down to the ground, to communities. We must ensure that global standards are translated into inclusive and accessible forms, such as short summaries, social media materials, and videos. For example, alongside members and partners in Mexico, IDC has initiated a campaign to end the immigration detention of asylum seekers. The materials for this campaign include excerpts from the GC5, with the aim to connect global standards to the realities of detention, as well as raise awareness of this new resource for the movement. Follow @idcmonitor on Twitter, and feel free to utilise the materials

Finally, and most critically, we must ensure that global standards are underpinned by lived experience, and we must be guided by the leadership of people and communities directly affected by immigration detention, in all of their diversity.

IDC strongly applauds the CMW for their incredible leadership in this effort, and for providing all of us who are part of the global movement to end immigration detention with this new and useful resource. IDC is currently engaged in research to identify promising ATD practices across regions, and will share these findings in early 2022. Ahead of this, IDC will also release a position paper on how to use ATD as a strategy to reduce and end immigration detention; please stay tuned!


We would like to express our gratitude to the following IDC members and partners for sharing their time and thoughts on the GC5 with us over the past few weeks: Oktay Durukan, Refugee Rights Turkey; Adisorn Kerdmongkol, Migrant Working Group, Thailand; Puttanee Kangkun, Fortify Rights & Coalition for the Rights of Refugees and Stateless Persons, Thailand; Pinar Aksu, Refugees for Justice & Maryhill Integration Network; Miska Pillay, Lived Experience Campaigner; Alejandra Macias, Asylum Access Mexico; Elba Coria, Kids in Need of Defense.  

Asia Pacific Peer-Learning Workshop: Access to Education

Written by Min Jee Yamada Park IDC Asia Pacific Programme Officer 

In September 2021, IDC, together with the Secretariat of the Asia Dialogue on Forced Migration (ADFM), co-convened a Virtual Workshop on Access to Education for refugee and migrant children in Asia Pacific, as part of the Regional Peer Learning Platform and Program of Action on Alternative Care Arrangements for Children in the Context of International Migration in the Asia Pacific.

The Regional Platform continues to bring together government agencies, civil society organisations and international organisations from Thailand, Indonesia, Malaysia, Australia and New Zealand and provides a space for constructive and practical policy discussions related to alternative care arrangements for children in the context of migration in the Asia Pacific.

This workshop was the third in a series of online events and focused on the benefits to both society and the individual of allowing access to education for refugee and migrant children. A number of participants were from Education Ministries and local education offices of participating countries and their participation brought a great deal of knowledge and perspectives into this important discussion.

IDC is also very encouraged that as a result of the workshop, some countries have taken steps to continue meeting in their country groups on the issues discussed during the Regional Platform. Some also have expressed interest in working with IDC and ADFM to convene bilateral meetings between participating countries to exchange further learnings on education policy and implementation.

For more information, a high-level meeting summary is also available.

Haitian Migrants & US Immigration Detention

Written by Gisele Bonnici IDC Americas Regional Coordinator

IDC stands in solidarity with its members and partners in the US who are working tirelessly and urgently to address the injustice happening to Haitian people and families seeking refuge and safety at the southern border. Please read more in the Dignity Not Detention statement here.

Further, IDC is deeply concerned by measures of extraterritorial immigration enforcement, especially detention, as we seen with the reopening of the detention facility in Guantánamo Bay to detain Haitian migrantsDeportation and other push backs, as well as the externalisation of immigration enforcement, have been shown to obstruct access to basic due process rights, in particular the right to request asylum and to legal defence, and to cause aggravated harm to people at risk. IDC further expresses our concern for the decision to seek private contractors to operate the detention center on Guantanamo.

We will monitor this troubling situation alongside our members and partners in the US.

Training Georgia’s Migration Department on Engagement-based ATD

Written by Hannah Cooper IDC Europe Regional Coordinator & Min Jee Yamada Park IDC Asia Pacific Programme Officer

In mid-June, IDC was invited by the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) in Georgia to deliver a two-day training session to officials of the Migration Department of the Ministry of Internal Affairs.

The aim of the training was to increase the practical knowledge of Georgian Migration Department officials on Alternatives to Detention (ATD). The training specifically focused on how community-based case management can be used to reduce and prevent detention, and provided guidance on how such an approach can be translated into the Georgian context. Migration Department officials gathered in Tbilisi to attend the training, with IDC trainers joining online due to COVID-related measures.

The training covered the following four modules:

  • Introduction to ATD - definition, trends, and benefits
  • Key components of successful ATD
  • Community-based Case Management
  • Implementing ATD – Knowledge to Practice

Participants also had an opportunity to delve into case studies from other countries where ATD are successfully implemented and evaluated. Experts from two IDC member organisations – the Association for Legal Intervention (Stowarzyszenie Interwencji Prawnej, SIP) in Poland and the Cyprus Refugee Council – were invited to brief the Georgian officials, and to set out their ongoing work piloting case management-based approaches with a view to ending detention. These organisations are both part of the European Alternatives to Detention Network, a group of NGOs across Europe that is building evidence and momentum on engagement-based alternatives to detention, in order to reduce the use of immigration detention in Europe.

Post-training feedback from participants showed a dramatic increase in the knowledge of migration officials when it comes to ATD, relevance to their work, as well as an increased awareness of practical mechanisms for implementing ATD that are based on a community-based case management model that has at its core respect for the dignity and rights of all migrants. Participants also commented positively on the new insights they had gained around the role that civil society organisations can play in implementing ATD effectively.

This training was delivered as part of a long-standing capacity building programme on ATD that IDC offers, and will now develop further in order to provide governments and other actors interested in ATD approaches a curated and tailor-made training experience. More information on IDC’s ATD Training Programme can be found here.

Human Rights Situation of Migrants & Detention Centres in the USA

Written by Gisele Bonnici IDC Americas Regional Coordinator

A hearing before the Inter-American Commission for Human Rights (IACHR) in June included a civil society cohort of speakers from Project South, Detention Watch Network, and the Transnational Legal Clinic who highlighted abuse happening in detention centres in Georgia and across the United States, and spoke to the following violations of the American declaration and other rights declarations inherent in the US system of immigration detention:

  • Right to dignity and security of person
  • Right to health
  • Right to freedom from forced labour
  • Right to the protection of family life
  • Right to due process
  • Right to seek asylum
  • Right to freedom of expression
  • Right to non-discrimination
  • Right to freedom from retaliation

A quote from a recent Center for Victims of Torture report was referred to ahead of the cohort’s requests of the IACHR: “The system of immigrant detention is inherently violative of the United States’ obligations under the Convention Against Torture (CAT) and other international human rights treaties and norms. It is not enough to talk of standards, as standards have done little to protect those taken into ICE custody and locked away in detention centres across the United States.” The cohort then called upon the IACHR to urge the United States to bring an end to immigrant detention. 

The IACHR also heard directly from survivor of immigration detention Wendy Dowe, about the abuse and forced sterilisation she suffered at Georgia’s Irwin County Detention Center in 2018: “From the day I entered Irwin County, it was like I was in hell. The next person, the next woman, the next mother, the next child, does not have to go through this suffering that me and my family have been through. I’m asking for it to stop, for nobody else to go through this type of abuse.”

Wendy Dowe testifying before the IACHR

IDC’s member Detention Watch Network also shared concerning numbers including the expansion of the immigration detention system in the US over the past 20 years, which now includes over 200 detention centres and jails around the country that detain up to 500,000 people each year: “These experiences that you’ve heard should shock the conscious. Unfortunately these experiences are not unique to the state of Georgia. They are emblematic of the entire US immigration detention system, which is a part of the US system of mass incarceration that has a disproportionate impact on people of colour, and in particular on Black people.”

IDC stands in solidarity with its US members and partners in their work to end the immigration detention system in the US. View the hearing in full here.