Turning Pilots into Systems

Traditionally, Mexico has been viewed as a “transit country” in which there are no easy solutions for managing migration without detention. IDC activities have focused on shifting this perspective, encouraging Mexican stakeholders to see this as an opportunity to take up the challenge to lead change in the very complex regional and global migration context.

In previous years, this collaborative work has witnessed significant advocacy wins, including a national child protection system under new legislation that includes migrant children, regulations directly prohibiting immigration detention of children and key government and civil society partners to pilot alternatives for unaccompanied migrant children. See a more detailed account of this work in our 2016 Annual Report.

This year, the challenge was to harness this significant momentum in Mexico, looking to utilize insights gained to achieve meaningful change. Here, we document our multi-pronged approach to expand and formalize the use of alternatives to detention.

We documented results and learnings from the Mexico ATD development experience through: pilot evaluation and follow-up recommendations presented before the Citizen’s Council of Mexico’s National Migration Institute, development of a brochure aimed at sharing positive results with other government stakeholders, and contributing to the making of a video including interviews with children who had benefited from ATD in Mexico, shared during the preparatory meetings and drafting of State commitments for the UN Summit for Refugees and Migrants in September, 2016.

We also shared this good practice knowledge and facilitated dialogue and exchange on ATD implementation among key stakeholders via meetings with representatives from the National Migration Institute (INM), Federal Child Rights Protection System (SIPINNA) and UNHCR. We conducted training with operational staff at the Mexican Refugee Commission (COMAR) and for members of the National Human Rights Commission (CNDH). We collaborated with key civil society partners to facilitate a workshop on ‘Care for Migrant Children in ATDs’ for staff at the first government-run reception space for asylum seeker children in Mexico: Albergue ‘El Colibrí’, in Villahermosa, Tabasco. The reception space marks yet another government-led initiative to develop alternatives that was informed by the success of the pilot.

The IDC together with member organization IMUMI organized an Expert Roundtable and Interdisciplinary Dialogue on Key Issues for the Protection of Child Migrants and Refugees in Mexico in November 2016. Alongside the Roundtable, IDC also facilitated closed-meetings with international experts to give Mexican government stakeholders an opportunity to address and receive advice on particularly sensitive or challenging issues regarding the development of alternatives and child rights protection, including case management, absconding risk, custody and guardianship,
and best interest determinations.

“While significant challenges remain, there’s no doubt that the political and institutional context has been transformed…”

Jerome Phelps, Director of Detention Action and IDC Europe Regional Advisor

At the same time, the IDC built and supported internal capacity within key local member organizations in order to strengthen case management models and expand community placement options through collaborative partnership initiatives. These local promoters of alternatives to detention continue to facilitate trainings and spaces to share learnings on ATD development across the country.

A stakeholder evaluation of alternatives to detention in Mexico identified that a significant trend is emerging: From the first pilot for just 20 unaccompanied children in Mexico City, to the more than 1,000 asylum seekers that have been released from detention centers between July 2016 and June 2017.

The experience in Mexico continues to be utilized extensively as an example in regional and international advocacy.

“While significant challenges remain, there’s no doubt that the political and institutional context has been transformed in that a wide range of actors are now active in implementing changes that are seen as constituting a broader process of positive reform for alternatives to detention and migrant rights in general, even stretching beyond children” said Jerome Phelps, the Director of Detention Action and IDC Europe Regional Advisor after conducting a visit to Mexico and authoring a case study on the pilot process.

Stakeholder workshop evaluating implementation of alternatives to detention in Mexico, July 2017

Mexican stakeholders participate in a specialized workshop on advocacy about alternatives to detention, Mexico City, August 2016

Participants at the Regional Dialogue, April 2017,
including IDC Regional Advisor, Karina Sarmiento

Participants at the Regional Dialogue, April 2017