Transforming the international policy debate

IDC has worked to ensure that community-based alternatives to detention are at the heart of global and national debates on immigration governance.

Pinar Aksu, Advocate for the Global Campaign to End Child Immigration Detention, speaks at the launch of the Joint General Comments at the UN Palais Des Nations. Geneva, Switzerland. April 2018.

Our focus is on alternatives that emphasize engagement with migrant communities, rather than enforcement actions. IDC and our partners have made huge strides in positioning alternatives as an essential element of how governments and international institutions talk about migration governance.

At a time of unprecedented political pressure to regulate migration, and powerful calls for mass detention, the growing momentum around alternatives is the most significant counter-trend to this rush to immigration enforcement.  Alternatives to detention are achieving unprecedented prominence at the global level, with States coming together behind strong language in international agreements and texts, including the New York Declaration, the Global Compact on Migration and the European Commission’s Returns Handbook.

In 2018, the IDC played a key role in guiding the intergovernmental negotiations for the Global Compact on Migration, resulting in more than 160 States now committed to strong language on working to end child detention and developing alternatives. The IDC has continuously engaged in bilateral discussions with close to 30 State delegations in order to understand State concerns and ‘red line’ issues, explore potential compromise positions, and identify States that are willing to support our preferred positions. 

In a major success, in May 2018 our suggested amendments to the immigration detention section of the Global Compact on Migration were fully adopted in the final text version of the Compact by the Co-Facilitators. The Compact was officially adopted in December 2018. The process brought us close working relationships with key States. These relationships will enable us to plan for the forthcoming implementation phase of the Compact, and ensure that commitments lead to national-level change.

The IDC’s expertise fosters close working relationships with a wide range of governments, providing technical advice and offering solutions to complex challenges of migration governance.  Over the last three years, we have provided technical advice to 23 governments, including Botswana, Bulgaria, Canada, Cyprus, Ecuador, Greece, Indonesia, Israel, Japan, Korea, Libya, Kenya, Macedonia, Malawi, Malaysia, Mexico, Netherlands, New Zealand, Poland, Switzerland, Tanzania, Thailand, Turkey, Uganda, the United States, South Africa and Zambia. 110 government officials in total were trained, together with members across all regions.

The IDC has effectively transformed the  international  policy  debate  on  immigration  detention by  reframing  the  little-discussed  technical  concept  of  “alternatives  to  detention”  into  a  key  focus  for  solutions-based  advocacy in the migration sphere.  The IDC is now able to work closely with international bodies, regional rights mechanisms, governments and civil society groups.  Our  sustained  strategic  collaboration  with  members  and  stakeholders  has enabled us  to  mobilise  a  range  of  actors. Our   research,  models  and  evidence  has allowed  us  to  provide  tools  to  build  capacity  of  our  partners,  while  conducting  authoritative  advocacy  to  government  decision-makers.

There is a long journey between what is agreed to in the corridors of the UN, and the actions that will make a difference to the lives of people in immigration detention. Today, it is clear that alternatives to detention are now an established part of the international policy  debate.