IDC Detention Concerns raised at the Global Forum on Migration and Development (GFMD), Manila, Philippines, 2008

The IDC attended the GFMD as part of the civil society days as a formal delegate. While there was criticism regarding the structure of the GFMD, lack of effective interaction between civil society and governments and the need for it to be put under a UN mandate, the IDC had the opportunity to raise the issue of detention of refugees, asylum seekers and migrants, with a statement made and supported by a number of delegates, particularly on children in detention. The final civil society statement to the 163 UN-member states who attended included three of the IDC’s eight point recommendations for States. This included:

“All governments are asked to avoid detention of refugees, asylum seekers and migrants, to consider and pursue alternatives to detention and never place certain groups such as pregnant or lactating women, children, survivors of torture, abuse and trauma, elderly, disabled or persons with serious health conditions, in detention.” (Section 3.2)

The IDC made the following statement to GFMD: 

“The International Coalition on the Detention of Refugees, Asylum Seekers and Migrants is a network of more than 150 civil society groups in 50 countries who are concerned about governments increasing use of detention as a migration management tool. We have recently completed a global survey of the use of immigration detention, and the findings were very disturbing- we found an increasing criminalisation of irregular migrants, increased detention of refugees, migrants and migrants often with a lack of legal, social, cultural and other rights, and blatant human rights abuses, either in administrative detention centres, closed camps or other places of detention. 

We are particularly concerned about the increased detention of women, children and those particularly vulnerable to human rights abuses, and the refoulement and coercive deportation practices being used. In terms of children only one country has stopped detaining migrant children in the past five years, and that is Australia where we heard this morning the work of civil society has been extremely successful and targeted in its work to see changes to policy and practice, and provides a model for other countries. But there are many countries where civil society has impacted on detention practice, like Lebanon, Hungary and elsewhere.

We would like to strongly recommend to States to avoid the use of detention, and to instead actively explore alternatives to detention which are working in a range of countries, particularly where civil society is involved in the development and implementation,  and to ensure the rights  and conditions of detainees are upheld, and to do this there needs to be rights-based legislative frameworks for detention policy, and active monitoring of places of detention, which includes functioning NHR Institutions and for states to accede the Convention against Torture, and the Optional Protocol.”

The full list of IDC recommendations to States can be found below:

International Detention Coalition Recommendations to States at the Second Global Forum on Migration and Development, Manila, Philipines,  October 2008
The International Coalition on the Detention of Refugees, Asylum Seekers and Migrants, which comprises of 150 civil society actors from 50 countries, urges States to:

  • Avoid the detention of refugees, asylum seekers and migrants. 
  • Consider and pursue alternatives to detention, such as supervised release, regular reporting requirements or posting bail.
  • In compliance with international and regional human rights standards, only detain in circumstances where alternatives have been assessed as not sufficient, only as a last resort and for the shortest possible time.
  • Ensure that any decision to detain must be subject to regular judicial review and the time period must be reasonable, ensuring no-one is subject to arbitrary or indefinite detention.
  • Ensure that conditions of detention must comply with human rights standards, and that there is regular independent monitoring of places of detention.
  • Not place certain groups – such as pregnant or lactating women, children, survivors of torture and trauma, elderly persons, disabled or persons with serious health conditions – in detention. 
  • Move from hosting refugees in closed camps, towards policies that allow refugees to become self-reliant and with freedom of movement.
  • Work within the international community to uphold the human rights of refugees, asylum seekers and migrants and better allocate assistance to refugee hosting areas.

24th October, 2008

For further details on the GFMD 2008 click here