Since June 2014 the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) has been working towards a five-year “Global Strategy – Beyond Detention” (2014-2019), which aims to support States to end the use of detention for asylum-seekers and refugees by supporting the implementation of alternatives to immigration detention (“alternatives”) and with a special focus on protecting children.
The Global Strategy started with 12 focus countries that have developed progress reports and targeted national action plans together with NGOs and other stakeholders working on immigration detention issues at the national level. These countries include: Canada, Hungary, Indonesia, Israel, Lithuania, Malaysia, Malta, Mexico, Thailand, the United Kingdom, the United States and Zambia.
Building on the success of the Global Strategy over the past two years, UNHCR announced in December 2016 at the occasion of the High Commissioner Dialogue on Protection “Children on the Move” that the Strategy will be expanded to a further seven focus countries. These new focus countries include: Belgium, Botswana, Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Macedonia, South Africa and Zimbabwe. This expansion means that the Global Strategy is now operating in 19 countries, with the hope that further countries will continue to join the Global Strategy in the remainder of the five-year plan.
The IDC continues to actively support the Global Strategy, with the IDC’s three key goals mirroring the strategic priorities identified by IDC Members in the course of our annual and strategic planning, namely:
- to end the detention of vulnerable groups, particularly children;
- to ensure that alternatives to detention are available in law and implemented in practice; and
- to ensure that conditions of detention (where detention is necessary and unavoidable) meet international standards.
Thus far, the Global Strategy – Beyond Detention has achieved a number of major developments in the expansion of alternative to detention pilots and working groups at the national level. The Global Strategy has also led to the development of a number of joint IDC / UNHCR tools, including a Tool for Identifying and Assessing Vulnerability in the decision to detain, a video on alternatives to detention for children and families, and a Practical Manual for Monitoring Immigration Detention developed in collaboration with the Association for the Prevention of Torture (APT). Specifically to the attention of Governments, UNHCR also developed at the occasion of the 2015 Toronto Roundtable on Reception and Alternatives to detention two Options Papers on alternatives to detention (one on care arrangements for children and families, the other for adults), and a few months later, a Conference Room Paper on Alternatives to detention.
In January 2017, UNHCR also published its position regarding the detention of refugee and migrant children in the migration context, clarifying the position of 2012 Detention Guidelines that children should never be detained for immigration-related purposes, irrespective of their legal/migratory status or that of their parents, and that detention is never in their best interests. It further confirms that, in all cases, appropriate care arrangements and community-based programmes need to be in place to ensure adequate reception of children and their families.
The IDC welcomes these seven new focus countries to the Global Strategy – Beyond Detention, and looks forward to continuing to work closely with our UNHCR and government partners to achieve the Global Strategy’s three key goals.
To learn more about the Global Strategy – Beyond Detention, including to become involved in your country’s national working group, please contact Marie Huberlant, Global Strategy Specialist (firstname.lastname@example.org), or UNHCR national focal point.
UNHCR Options Papers
UNHCR also developed at the occasion of the 2015 Toronto Roundtable on Reception and Alternatives to detention two Options Papers on alternatives to detention (one on care arrangements for children and families, the other for adults), and a few months later, a Conference Room Paper on Alternatives to detention.