First MENA Regional Meeting of Peer Exchange and Learning Among States on Alternatives to Detention

Tunis 2-3 October 2019

Based on the Objective 13(h) of the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration, the First MENA Regional Meeting of Peer Exchange and Learning among States on Alternatives to Detention especially for children and families was convened in Tunis on 2 and 3 October 2019. The meeting was co-organised and facilitated by the International Detention Coalition (IDC), the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) and UNICEF. Representatives of Ministries of Interior and Ministries of Social Affairs and their equivalents from Tunisia, Libya and Egypt participated in the meeting that resulted in fruitful discussions among the government counterparts, in the presence of representatives from the organisations that co-sponsored the meeting. 

The meeting shed light on the growing momentum and latest developments of Alternatives to Detention in the MENA region, and discussed the relevance of the Global Compact on Migration with its focus on alternatives to detention, especially in its Objective 13, which clearly stipulates that the use of detention  to be the last resort and to protect the rights and best interests of children. 

The key findings of the research conducted by the IDC were presented to the participants, which confirms that alternatives can be applied in most cases, they are more affordable, more humane, highly effective and less costly. 

The government representatives had the opportunity to present their national contexts of immigration detention and the existing alternatives that are being implemented in a roundtable discussion, followed by a presentation of the challenges facing each of their respective countries to advance and strengthen the implementation of alternatives for adults and to eventually phase out child immigration detention. The consensus among all the government representatives and the participants was that Alternatives to Detention exist in all countries in the MENA region, some codified in the national legislation, and some being implemented in practice.

During the final session of the meeting, the government representatives formulated an agreement of intent and initial steps to be pursued internally in their national contexts and at the regional level. 

Draft Statement by Participants

  • Migrants and refugees have human dignity and rights; they should be respected, and minimum standards of care provided in host countries.
  • Migrants and refugees are not only vulnerable individuals but also contribute to the local economy and community life in the countries which host them. 
  • Alternatives to Immigration detention in the MENA region do exist, and good practices are found in every country in the region. 
  • There is a need to evaluate progress to date and improve data collection systems to build evidence which will facilitate improved migration policy. 
  • Cross border cooperation at the regional and global levels is necessary for effective responsibility sharing in migrant hosting practice. Locally developed responses should be expanded and promoted. 
  • The international community should support locally developed responses to migrant hosting. 
  • Where the legal framework allows, effective implementation should be prioritised.  National laws could be updated in order to reflect and allow for the sustainability of successful local initiatives that are emerging in migrant and refugee hosting. 
  • Coordination between all stakeholders at the national level (governmental and non-governmental) is necessary for the development and implementation of Alternatives to Detention which contribute to the life of host communities.
  • Early screening and referral can avoid unnecessary immigration detention and facilitate access to national systems.  
  • Migrants and refugees should be mainstreamed in the national systems in order to avoid creating costly parallel systems. 
  • Children should never be detained for reasons related to their migration status. Instead, meaningful alternative care systems should be developed. 

Download a PDF of Press Release here.

For more information, please contact IDC’s Africa & Middle East Regional Coordinator, Junita Calder: [email protected]