IDC Members at the Alternatives to Detention Implementers Meeting in Lusaka, Zambia, May 2017

Significant steps to further develop alternatives to detention in the Southern Africa were undertaken this month.


IDC Staff visited South Africa, Zambia, Malawi and Botswana between April 24th and May 14, discussing alternatives to detention in the region.


The delegation included the Director of the IDC, Mr. Grant Mitchell, as well as Ms. Junita Calder, the Africa Regional Coordinator of the IDC and the Africa Program Officer of the IDC, Tiffany Shakespeare. The Coordinator of the Global Campaign to End Child Immigration Detention, Ms. Leeanne Torpey and Ms. Ramya Dilipkumar, Communications Intern for the IDC.


In each country, the IDC met with members, supporters, UN agencies and Governments about positive practice in the region and ways that these practices can be expanded.


The visit builds on the commitment by fifteen States across Africa to develop and implement alternatives to detention for migrants, including children, at the 2016 Migration for Southern Africa Dialogue (MIDSA). Find out more about this significant achievement in the MIDSA Dialogue here.


During the visit, the IDC highlighted the need for alternatives to detention to be considered as immigration law is being updated in South Africa. Read our press release here.


The Zambian government has already developed a National Referral Mechanism (NRM) that provides guidelines to identify vulnerable groups like refugees, victims of human trafficking and children, to ensure that they are not detained unnecessarily or for prolonged periods.


While learning more about this alternative to detention, the IDC met with partners and members, as well as the Zambian Department of Home Affairs and Immigration, the Department of Correctional Services, the National Human Rights Institute and attended a Mixed Migration Taskforce Meeting. Many government contacts expressed an interest in how case management could be utilised to strengthen alternatives to detention, with the potential for a pilot program to be developed to strengthen existing programming.


The IDC also visited several alternatives to detention in Zambia and visited migrants being held in a maximum security prison. The press release about national meetings can be found here.

Technical working group on mixed migration in Zambia

Department of Home Affairs and Immigration with Annie Lane from IOM and Grant Mitchell, IDC Director, Lusaka, Zambia

Department of Correctional Services in Kabwe, Zambia – with Annie Lane from IOM and Grant Mitchell, IDC Director

In Malawi, a government roundtable on alternatives to detention was held with UN partners, civil society organisations and the visiting delegation from the IDC. See the press release on the roundtable here. During the roundtable participants committed to a working group which will explore the development of a pilot alternative to detention program for unaccompanied minors. See the participant statement here.

In Botswana, the delegation met with government representatives and explored further partnerships with civil society.

Find out more about the situation of migrants and refugees in these countries in our recent publication Alternatives to Immigration Detention in Africa.


If you would like to find out more about our visit contact Junita Calder via [email protected] .

Grant Mitchell, Director of the International Detention Coalition highlights the opportunity that these commitments provide for the region.

“I am impressed by the considerable work that has already been undertaken by Governments to reflect on their migration policies. During my visit we shared examples of positive practice in other parts of the world to inspire policy makers, especially in countries whose law already enables the use of alternatives. This is a critical time for this work to be undertaken.”

Junita Calder, Africa and Middle East Regional Coordinator, looks forward to the UN Agency staff and their government counterparts fulfilling their MIDSA 2016 commitment to “develop and implement” alternatives to immigration detention.

“This is the time to test what works, by supporting pilots in the region to ensure that alternatives to immigration detention are implemented in a way that is effective and explores all options in each individual person’s case.”