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Developing alternatives to detention

Video about programmes that offer alternatives to detention of unaccompanied and separated children on the move

In this video we hear from Mrs Diana Martinez from the International Detention Coalition (IDC) in Mexico. She tells us about a programme offering alternatives to detention for unaccompanied and separated children on the move, developed in partnership with the Government of Mexico and other non-governmental agencies. She also tells us about the steps that were taken including the importance of changing attitudes toward the use of detention. Please note, the additional films of children in detention you see in this video are not of children in detention in Mexico, but of children being detained in other countries.

One significant feature of projects such as the one in Mexico is the development of a range of suitable care options for unaccompanied and separated children. This offers appropriate alternatives to detention. We will see an example of this in the next course step.

The IDC have documented projects around the world that provide alternatives to detention for refugees and migrants. Some of these projects have been developed specifically for unaccompanied and separated children. You can find out more about these projects through this interactive map.

There is work being undertaken in many different countries to provide alternatives to detention. Here are just a few examples:

  • Austria – development of comprehensive reception and care arrangements in the community for unaccompanied children, including guardianship
  • Estonia – laws prohibit detention of unaccompanied children
  • Germany – State policies ensure unaccompanied children receive services through the national child protection system
  • Indonesia – alternatives to detention include shelters for unaccompanied children and community accommodation for those with UNHCR documentation
  • Kenya – a policy for services to register with authorities and receive an identification documentation as an alternative to automatic detention
  • China – Exit and Entry Law excludes vulnerable groups from detention, including children
  • Malaysia – a mandate exists by which alternatives to detention should be considered
  • South Africa – alternatives to detention are now mandated in law and include the provision that children are only detained as a matter of last resort
  • Yemen – unaccompanied children are hosted in child protection facilities
  • Zambia – strengthening capacity of frontline officers and service providers to identify vulnerable migrants including children, using a Profiling Form and referring them to relevant authorities and service providers where they will receive appropriate protection services. Improving coordination and collaboration among stakeholders to improve protective services

You might want to look at this briefing paper developed by IDC on ways to prevent the use of detention. IDC has also produced a report providing details of three pilot programmes in Bulgaria, Cyprus, and Poland. These programmes illustrate how it is possible to develop effective and sustainable alternatives to detention. They also highlight the importance of case management as we discussed earlier in the course.

The ‘See Also’ section below has links to other reading material that may be of interest to you.

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Caring for Children Moving Alone: Protecting Unaccompanied and Separated Children

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