New Reports Provide Further Evidence for Advocates Influencing MENA Immigration and Detention Policy

Over the last month few months, IDC members and friends in the MENA Region have produced some very welcome research reports into the state of migrants either in – or at high risk of – immigration detention in the region. It is hoped that the information and migrant voices in these reports will help continue the vital work of influencing policy makers on both sides of the Mediterranean Sea, as well as raising public awareness of denial of fundamental human rights of all those – but particularly children and young people – migrating to and through the Middle East and North Africa.

Here we would like to draw your attention in particular to the MHub Detained Youth report, which focuses on the current situation faced by young migrants in Libya. At the IDC MENA meeting in June, we were inspired by the stories of our local colleagues who weekly visit places of detention in Libya, some of which regularly change hands between government and other forces, even between their visits. As the anecdotal evidence in this report suggests, the non-food items brought in by local NGOs are vital to not only the health, but also the identification and even the survival of many who are arbitrarily imprisoned, sometimes for years.

Similarly, the report Migration Trends Across the Mediterranean: Connecting the Dots prepared by Altai Consulting for the IOM MENA Regional Office and recommended to IDC by UNHCR Libya, combines an excellent overview of the inter-Regional mechanisms already in place, as well as the current situation on the ground in many countries. The report provides many concrete insights into trends which have a tendency to be sensationalised in public opinion. For example, some may be surprised to learn that despite the prevalence of media attention on irregular migration to Europe, only 10% of migrants to Spain came by boat from sub-Saharan Africa through the Mediterranean.

Helpful examples of practical policy-making in transit countries are also given in the report, such as the 2014 decision of Morocco to offer migrants the opportunity to regularise, providing an alternative to immigration detention and removing one of the ‘push factors’ (irregular migration status in North Africa) which lead migrants to attempt the dangerous sea-crossing to Europe. In the words of one 26-year-old Senegalese man quoted in the report: “Now that I can be regularised here, I will try to build a life in Morocco. I hope I can stay and settle here.”

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IDC Member Hotline for Refugees and Migrants, Israel, has also released a new report entitled Rawanda or Saharonim which examines the consequences of the Israeli government’s new policy whereby migrants and rejected asylum seekers will now face indefinite detention in Saharonim prison if they refuse to participate in the bilateral removal arrangement and leave to Rwanda, knowing that they will be deported – or in the case of asylum-seekers, even refouled – from there as well. The conditions and legitimacy of their relegation to the Holot facility are also examined. The report concludes that even though Holot is officially an open facility and it is commendable that the Israeli government no longer sends children or women to be housed there: “There is no way to legitimize the confinement of asylum seekers at a facility in the middle of the desert.”