Program of Work in 2016-2017


The IDC launched the Vulnerability Screening Tool, in collaboration with UNHCR, at at the Palais Des Nations in Geneva alongside the UNHCR High Commissioners Dialogue on children on the move, December 2016.

  • The IDC continued to serve as Chair of the Inter-Agency Working Group (IAWG) to End Child Immigration Detention, which is an international alliance working to support States to end child immigration detention consistent with existing international human rights obligations to protect the best interests of the child. The IAWG is comprised of over twenty prominent UN groups, inter-governmental and civil society organizations representing stakeholders in every country in the world, including IOM, OHCHR, UNHCR, and UNICEF.
  • The IDC is also part of the NGO Action Committee for the Child Rights Initiative, through which more than 25 leading agencies are advocating for child migrants’ rights to be upheld in the UN Global Compacts on Refugees and Migrants
  • The IDC continued its close collaboration with a number of key UN partners, including among others: the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, the UN Committee on Migrant Workers, the UN Special Rapporteur on the Human Rights of Migrants, the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, and the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment
  • State engagement has continued to be a priority for IDC during this year, with IDC Secretariat staff conducting over 30 country-visits to engage directly with government ministers and/or migration officials.
  • At the UN level, the IDC has actively participated in and taken on a visible role at a number of critical State policy making forums, including the UN General Assembly, the UN Human Rights Council, meetings of the UNHCR Executive Committee (ExCom), and the Global Forum on Migration and Development (GFMD).
  • At the regional level IDC staff and Members participated actively in sessions or workshops of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, the Council of Europe, the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights, The Africa Union, MIDSA, the ASEAN Intergovernmental Commission on Human Rights (AICHR) and the ASEAN Commission on the Promotion and Protection of the Rights of Women and Children (ACWC). The team also held meetings with the European Agency for Fundamental Rights, the COE Committee of Ministers, and the African Committee on the Rights and Welfare of the Child and the Commissioners of the ASEAN Commission on Women and Children among others
  • The IDC’s Global Campaign to End Immigration Detention of Children marked its 5th Anniversary with a series of artworks contrasting the experiences of children in immigration detention with children who have been able to access alternatives to detention. See the full suite of resources developed here.
  • To commemorate International Migrants Day, the Global Campaign hosted an online discussion “It’s Time to End Child Immigration Detention” and a series of videos with key partners explaining why they support migrants’ rights.


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

Work achievements in in this year included:

  • The IDC launched the new report on “Alternatives to Immigration Detention in Africa” which is part of an exciting new series that maps legislation, policies and practices related to immigration detention (including child detention) and alternatives that governments in South Africa, Zambia, Tanzania, Kenya, Libya and Egypt are pursuing. The report brings together a summary of member findings from six countries. Read the report.
  • Fifteen States across Africa committed to developing and implementing alternatives to detention for migrants, including children, at the 2016 Migration for Southern Africa Dialogue (MIDSA). The commitment marks significant progress, upgrading from the previous commitment to exploring alternatives to detention (ATD) to manage migration of vulnerable people in Southern Africa.
  • Following up this MIDSA commitment, an IDC Staff delegation visited South Africa, Zambia, Malawi and Botswana between April 24th and May 14, discussing alternatives to detention in the region. More than 25 Member organisations attended the sessions during the delegation visit, and over 50 government representatives were engaged in these sessions, and follow up programming work has taken place since in Malawi, Zambia and South Africa
  • Trained over 20 inter-agency staff during a two day workshop on alternatives to detention in Johannesburg, South Africa, coordinated by IOM and attended by UNHCR Staff
  • Hosted a regional alternatives to detention implementers meeting in Zambia in May, with 14 members, as well as working collaboratively with the Zambian government to highlight learnings from the National Referral Mechanism which 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
  • Explored further development of alternatives and reinvigorated interest in some existing alternatives which are possible under Zambian Law but currently underutilised via meetings with the Zambian Human Rights Commission Director, the Deputy Commissioner General, the Director of the Department of Social Welfare, the UN Detention Working Group, the Personal Secretary to Ministry of Home Affairs and the Director General of Immigration.
  • Provided technical advice for a Roundtable Policy Platform on Alternatives to Detention in Malawi led by the Department of Home Affairs and Internal Security, in partnership with 5 member organizations and 40 government representatives. During the second day of the Roundtables, the IDC provided technical advice for 40 further organisations and 7 member organisations on National Action Planning for Alternatives to Detention in Malawi.
  • Carried out a two day technical training on alternatives to detention in Gaborone, Botswana, coordinated by IOM Botswana and attended by government representatives from departmental and executive levels.

“As a government, we welcome all the measures which the experts come up with to reduce the detention of immigrants… alternative measures have the ability to really assist us to reduce the congestion of prisons”

Grace Chiumia, Minister of Home Affairs and Internal Security, Migration Meeting May 8, Lilongwe, Malawi


Álvaro Botero, representative of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR), Carmen Gómez, Research Professor of FLACSO Ecuador, Elba Coria, principal author of the report and current Director of the Alaíde Foppa Legal Clinic at the Universidad Iberoamericana in Mexico and Ernesto Pazmiño Granizo, Public Defender (Ombudsman) of Ecuador, Quito, April 2017.

Álvaro Botero, representative of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR), Carmen Gómez, Research Professor of FLACSO Ecuador, Elba Coria, principal author of the report and current Director of the Alaíde Foppa Legal Clinic at the Universidad Iberoamericana in Mexico and Ernesto Pazmiño Granizo, Public Defender (Ombudsman) of Ecuador, Quito, April 2017.

  • Published the most comprehensive report to date on immigration detention and ATD in the Americas ¿Qué esperamos del futuro?, which has served as a key document for multi-stakeholder analysis and dialogue to inform national and regional advocacy. A series of digital assets was also developed to share report findings, including an interactive map
    of ATD in the region
  • Launched a Spanish language version of the IDC website, which has enabled more complete integration of Americas regional information, as it houses key resources.
  • Published ‘10 ways the Trump Executive Orders will impact immigration detention’, in liaison with US members, with a total reach of more than 30,000
  • Provided technical advice to the Family Case Management Committee which supported more than 600 families in the United States, until April 2017
  • Canada is in the midst of immigration reform, and the IDC Director presented to the Canadian Border Service Agency on alternatives to detention
  • Published the Community Reception and Placement: A Model for Unaccompanied Migrant Children in Mexico. This English translation of the original Spanish text not only increases understanding of the Mexico context and progress, but also serves as an example of how an international human rights framework can be applied even in complex, mixed migration context.
  • Officially launched the Vulnerability Screening Tool (VST), developed jointly with UNHCR, and produced a Spanish language version. The VST was presented at the First Caribbean Workshop on ATD, during the Regional Dialogue in Quito, Ecuador, and also with key government officials in Mexico from the INM and PFPNNA, with proposals to conduct capacity building and technical meetings on the tool.
  • The IDC held the first workshop on alternatives to detention in the Caribbean in September 2016. The workshop was organised in collaboration with UNHCR and the Faculty of Law at the University of the West Indies, St. Augustine Campus, in Trinidad and Tobago.
  • Conducted Mexico pilot follow-up for expanded implementation of alternatives to detention and continued advocacy.
  • To follow-up on and strengthen Mexican government commitments to develop ATD for children, IDC together with IMUMI organized an Expert Roundtable and Interdisciplinary Dialogue on Key Issues for the Protection of Child Migrants and Refugees in Mexico  in November 2016. There were over 70 participants, including government representatives as well as international organizations and civil society actors from more than 20 organizations involved in the development and implementation of alternatives across the country.
  • Coordinated and moderated webinars in Spanish and English on the UN Global Study into Children Deprived of their Liberty, for which we successfully advocated to include immigration detention in its mandate. More than 100 people attended both webinars.
  • In April 2017, the IDC, together with IDC Regional Advisor, Asylum Access América Latina, organized the Regional Dialogue ‘A Latin American Response to Guarantee Rights for Migrants and Refugees: From Commitments to Results’. This multi-stakeholder dialogue brought together representatives from inter-governmental and international organisations, regional human rights bodies, civil society and academia to discuss use of immigration detention and ATD in the region and develop concrete proposals for a shared regional advocacy agenda.
  • Senior-level government officials have felt more confident in making declarations that support alternatives to detention, including in the San José Action Statement emitted by 12 States, with specific commitments from the Mexican government to develop and implement ATD in coordination with civil society; and a public commitment from President Peña Nieto to promote ATD for asylum seekers, and especially children, made during the UN Summit for Refugees and Migrants, held on September 19, 2016.

“Today, there is some form of alternative to detention in more than 60 countries and many are extremely successful with compliance rates well above 90% and voluntary participation by migrants across the board,” he said. “National security is a serious concern when it comes to undocumented migration, but in a system where migrants have an interest or incentive for being registered, you know who is in your country, for how long and why.”

Paco Nunez, Secretary of the Grand Bahama Human Rights Association (GBHRA), attended the UNHCR / IDC Workshop on Alternatives to Detention
in the Caribbean. Read more of his reflections here.

Asia Pacific

A delegation of experts collaborated with experts in Japan to explore alternatives to immigration detention – in this picture, delegates with the Members of the Diet of Japan

A delegation of experts collaborated with experts in Japan to explore alternatives to immigration detention – in this picture, delegates with the Members of the Diet of Japan

Work achievements in in this year included: 

  • The IDC undertook comprehensive training of more than 16 members, as well as working collaboratively with 5 governments (Australia, Japan, Indonesia, Malaysia and Thailand) in the region on the development of robust alternatives to detention.
  • In October 2016, the IDC attended roundtables and meetings with officials from the Ministry of Justice, members of the Diet of Japan, NGOs, lawyers and academics to promote an expansion of alternatives to immigration detention in Japan. The roundtables and meetings were organized by IDC member Forum for Refuges Japan (FRJ), as well as the Japan Federation of Bar Associations (JFBA), and UNHCR Japan. The IDC was joined by the Asia Pacific Refugee Rights Network (APRRN) and representatives from the United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement who shared good practices from their family case management program, risk classification tool and other alternative to detention programs.
  • The IDC, Save the Children, Terre de Hommes, APRRN organized a regional conference on children on the move in Southeast Asia in Bangkok, Thailand on 24 and 25 May 2017, as part of the regional consultation for the Global Children on Move conference held in Berlin in June 2017 and the forthcoming Joint General Comment on Children in the Context of Migration.
  • Specialised capacity building training was undertaken in Jakarta, Indonesia in March 2017 with 8 members of the IDC on alternatives to detention, including the IDC’s Community Assessment and Placement Model and advocacy strategies for engaging governments on alternatives
  • An international delegation visited New Zealand in April, exploring ways alternatives to detention for children could be expanded in the region. The visit included meetings with eight Members of Parliament, senior Immigration staff, refugee settlement service providers, child rights groups, members of IDC and APRRN, and civil society groups.
  • 23 civil society organisations in Australia have continued a four-year advocacy strategy to promote legislative change to prevent children from being placed in immigration detention
  • Alternatives to children continue to be discussed, developed or strengthened in Indonesia, Malaysia and Thailand at the government level. The IDC has continued to work closely with its members, partners and other organizations in each country in advocating for and developing alternatives.
  • Continued engagement with regional bodies and processes on alternatives to detention for children. This has included briefings with commissioners from AICHR and ACWC, as well as active expert participation in the Asia Dialogue on Forced Migration.

“I feel so much time can be saved for workshops and capacity building made more accessible with your online resources.  You set a good example.”

Lars Steng


Participants at the peer exchange workshop in Sofia, June, 2017

Participants at the peer exchange workshop in Sofia, June, 2017

  • Contributed to establishing a new network of European NGOs which aims to reduce immigration detention by showing governments what works better in practice: not just by talking about it, but by actually doing it. Set up at the end of March, the “European Alternatives to Detention (ATD) Network” links civil society organisations developing case management-based pilot projects in five European countries: Belgium, Bulgaria, Cyprus, Poland and the United Kingdom, with regional-level NGOs.
  • Several peer exchange meetings have taken place pertaining to the work of European ATD Network since, providing a vital space for civil society to learn from the collective experiences and explore pilot ATD projects as a way to achieve change in detention policy and practice.
  • The IDC Coordinated over 50 national, regional and international civil society organisations to submit a joint statement to the European Committee on Legal Co-operation (CDCJ). IDC Members submitted a joint statement during a consultation with key civil society stakeholders from 22-23 June 2017 at the Council of Europe.
  • Continued to support the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) to conduct national work for the Campaign to End Child Detention collaborating with local agents to promote the issue among 47 member states
  • Advocacy and member engagement in Belgium, Bulgaria, Cyprus, France, Greece, Macedonia, Netherlands, Poland, Slovakia, Switzerland, Turkey and the UK.
  • Regional bodies that have been engaged during this period include the European Commission, the European Parliament, the EU Fundamental Rights Agency as well as the Council of Europe. In February, the Council of Europe Human Rights Commissioner, Nils Muižnieks,highlighted the urgent need for States to invest in alternatives to immigration detention, while outlining a 5 step plan to abolish the use of migrant detention.
  • Europe regional level engagement has continued with IOM, OHCHR, UNHCR and ICRC.

“When we work with clients, we build up their confidence over time: gaining their trust, showing that we can provide credible information and advice and that there are benefits for them in staying engaged with the process”

Dilyana Giteva, lawyer and case manager at Bulgarian Lawyers for Human Rights

Middle East North Africa

Libyan civil society and government representatives at the Alternatives to Detention Workshop 15 and 16 December, Tunis

Libyan civil society and government representatives at the Alternatives to Detention Workshop 15 and 16 December, Tunis

  • IDC facilitated the The Alternatives to Detention II two-day workshop was held under the auspices of the newly launched Mixed Migration Working group, co-chaired by IOM and UNHCR. According to the UN Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL) there are currently between 4,000 to 7,000 migrants being held in 24 centres spread throughout the country, many of them facing difficult conditions and a stay of indefinite length. In response to this growing challenge, representatives of Libyan civil society presented a draft law, advocating for alternatives to immigration detention and providing a legal framework for migrants in the country. Read the workshop report here.
  • The Libyan Mixed Migration Working Group, co-chaired by UNHCR and IOM, included extensive work on alternatives to detention, building on several workshops coordinated by IDC in 2014 and 2016.
  • Members from Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon and Tunisia attended the Inter-Regional IDC Workshop for implementers of alternatives to detention with follow up resources from the workshop provided on developing robust alternatives to detention
  • The IDC continued to identify and share alternatives to detention across the network in collaboration with UN Agency partners, including “Did You Know? Alternative to Detention Facts from MENA”
  • IDC Members in Israel have worked to document, identify and refer cases in need of critical care, with few local rehabilitation options available. The increased use of Holot to encourage the return of asylum seekers has further challenged this work. In June this year, the IDC Director, Grant Mitchell, visited Israel to build on this work, presenting to government officials, UNHCR and NGOs on strategies and techniques when working with torture survivors.
  • Highlight the great work of members in various regional and international fora, including the work of IDC Member INSAN to support vulnerable migrants during a civil society session of the Global Forum on Migration and Development
  • Key IDC members produced research reports on the state of immigration detention in the region, a significant contribution to ongoing advocacy and lobbying efforts.

“The commitment of the government and civil society partners to work together to engage migrants and ensure their basic needs are met is inspiring”

Danish Refugee Council Country Director Martin Vane

Resources produced in 2016:  

Online Toolkit

Now you can learn about alternatives to detention – online, anywhere, anytime, in both English and Spanish. The IDC’s comprehensive Online Toolkit features short structured 15 minute online lessons, including interviews with people implementing alternatives to detention and key resources to promote a comprehensive understanding of the benefits of alternatives.

Vulnerability Screening Tool

This screening tool on identifying and addressing situations of vulnerability is a UNHCR and IDC collaboration intended to help guide and inform frontline workers and decision-makers on the relevance of an individual’s vulnerabilities and strengths in the context of asylum and migration procedures and systems. The tool can be used in the context of detention decisions, as well as referrals to alternatives to detention, open reception facilities, community-based placement and support options. It’s available in Spanish and English language.

Briefing Paper – Never in a child’s best interests

This briefing paper reviews the applicable human rights standards regarding child immigration detention, highlighting expert clarifications that the detention of children in the context of migration is never in their best interests and is always a child rights violation. The paper then reviews the ways in which this standard is implemented in legal frameworks by describing laws in over 15 countries that establish safeguards against child immigration detention. It’s also available in the Thai language.

What do we expect for the future? Immigration detention and alternatives in the Americas region

This study collates policy and practice related to immigration detention and alternatives to detention in 21 countries in the Americas region.  It is based on information presented before the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) in a thematic hearing on immigration detention and alternatives to detention in the Americas.

Alternatives to Immigration Detention in Africa

As part of an exciting new series, IDC’s first report on ‘Alternatives to Immigration Detention in Africa’ maps legislation, policies and practices related to immigration detention, including child detention, and alternatives that governments in Egypt, Kenya, Libya, South Africa, Tanzania and Zambia are pursuing.