UNHCRGENEVA (15 April 2015) – Every year over 300 representatives from around the world attend UNHCR’s Annual Consultations with NGOs in Geneva. The Consultations provide a forum to network, gather and share information, hear about new policies and best practice, discuss protection gaps, and identify joint solutions.

Over the past number of years, the topic of “Detention” has been given increasing attention as more and more refugees, asylum seekers and migrants are being subject to unlawful and arbitrary detention in all regions of the world.  The IDC has done extensive work in this space, including to explore, promote and help states to implement non-custodial, community-based alternatives to detention (ATD).

This year, UNHCR’s Annual Consultations with NGOs will take place from 1-3 July at the Centre International de Conférences Genève (CICG) and focus on the theme  ‘Solutions.’

To highlight this theme, the IDC is hosting a side event entitled “Community-based support and care: providing alternatives to the detention of refugees and asylum seekers”. This side event seeks to provide a platform for community-based organisations to discuss the myriad ways that they are providing solutions for refugees and asylum seekers in the form of non-custodial, community-based ATD. This session will explore a number of ATD positive practices that UNHCR and its implementing partners can use to develop and implement non-custodial, community-based ATD in a variety of country contexts, and will build on UNHCR’s new 5-year Global Detention Strategy which, includes the goal of “ensur[ing] that alternatives to detention are available in law and implemented in practice.”

International law clearly provides that the detention of refugees, asylum seekers and migrants should only ever be an exceptional measure of last resort. As a result, states are obliged to consider and implement less intrusive alternative measures prior to any decision to detain. Globally, there is a growing consensus on the need to explore, develop and implement ATD as a matter of priority, yet there is little guidance for how to do this. There is a particular need for better research to understand the elements of successful alternative to detention models. A key finding of the IDC’s global research is that there are a variety of mechanisms currently in use that prevent unnecessary detention and can effectively manage populations in the community without the resort to detention.

The IDC has identified more than 50 types of ATD being used across all regions of the world. Particularly we have found a number of effective screening mechanisms and effective community-based care models: everything from intensive case management of unaccompanied minor children, through to minimal reporting requirements for families or individual refugees and asylum seekers.

In line with these findings, the IDC has sought to expand current policy debates beyond a narrow interpretation of ATD by looking more broadly at a variety of mechanisms and practices that successfully allow refugees and asylum seekers to reside in the community with freedom of movement, while ensuring safety, compliance and cost-effectiveness.

This side event will invite a number of leading practitioners who are currently managing successful ATD programs to discuss their work and services and to share insights regarding how to build and maintain successful community-based ATD programs for refugees and asylum seekers.

If you would like to be involved in this side event either as a panelist or supporter, please contact IDC Advocacy Coordinator, Ben Lewis ([email protected]).