Written by Diana Martínez

During 2021, the Mexican government is serving as the pro tempore president of the Regional Conference on Migration (RCM). The RCM, also known as the Puebla Process, is a non-binding, regional consultative process that operates by consensus. It is a discussion space for member States seeking greater coordination, transparency, and cooperation on regional and international migration. As stated by the RCM itself, this multilateral forum fosters regional efforts to strengthen effective migration governance and protect the human rights of migrants, especially vulnerable groups such as children, as well as promotes alternatives to detention.

After a complicated year due to the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, the RCM resumed regular work, virtually, and convened a Forum for Regional Dialogue of Processes for Migrant Child Protection on 20 and 21 April. This was a response to the challenges and vacuums identified in the inter-institutional coordination of the systems of protection for migrant children. The Forum sought to identify and systematise inter-institutional coordination experiences, actions and best practices that could be replicated or adopted by member States of the RCM to guarantee the effective protection of the rights of children in international mobility, as well as to address the challenges and opportunities of creating regional cooperation mechanisms for the protection of children within the context of human mobility.

International Detention Coalition was invited to the Forum as a panelist as part of the Regional Network of Civil Organisations for Migration (RROCM). This network is the civil society counterpart to the Regional Conference on Migration. IDC highlighted inter-institutional coordination in the implementation of processes for the integral protection of children, as in the Mexican case with the Commission for the Protection of Child migrants and asylum seekers of the System for Integral Protection (SIPINNA). This commission developed the Migrant Child Protection Protocol, a mechanism for coordinating between authorities, international entities and civil society organisations that seek to protect children in detention.

Participants in the Forum, representing member States of the RCM, shared best practices in matters of migrant child protection and agreed on the need to progress with a system of transnational protection.

On 12 May 2021, the RCM presented the Operative Guide for the Application of the Best Interest of the Child within the context of human mobility. This Guide is the result of years of work that formed part of the RCM’s Strategic Plan for the Liaison Officer Network for the Protection of Migrant Children and Adolescents 2017–2022, and serves as a reference for the implementation of mechanisms for best interest determinations of children.

The Guide recognises non-detention as a specific principle for the protection of children. As a first step, it calls for identification to detect and evaluate situations of vulnerability and considers detention centres as one of the places where this identification can occur. Furthermore, when undertaking an internal referral for preliminary identification and rapid evaluation of best interest, the principles of non-detention and no deportation need to be applied.

The steps or stages considered by the Guide for the evaluation of best interest include:

  • designation of the person responsible for evaluation
  • evaluation of conditions and needs
  • design of a plan to manage cases of protection
  • execution of case management plan
  • follow-up and evaluation of plan execution
  • closure of case or transfer to procedures for determining best interest

These efforts, together with others by the RCM in matters of child protection in the region, will be insufficient if they are not reflected in the national arena, and in the exchange of best practices. Furthermore, the guide for the determination of best interest should be adapted to the reality of each member State in order to advance towards a transnational system of protection that guarantees the rights of this population, including that of non-detention.