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Alternatives to detention

Video showing alternatives to detention for unaccompanied and separated children on the move, including small group homes.
We consider that Alianza is a community with an open door policy. To answer your question, I’d like to explain that when children arrive on their first day to this house, they arrive with a lot of anxiety. And the first thing they do is to look for their escape route; to look for where they can escape. But then they realise there are no fences in this house, there are no railings. There are a lot of doors; there are many entrances; there are other children going to their preferred activities; their level of anxiety drops dramatically. Therefore, the concept of open door policy makes the children think that they want to be there, because it is their house.
“There are no railings, no doors, nothing that will stop me escaping; except the love I started to feel for this house, for this space.” Another advantage about the house, is its location. It is located in a semi-residential area, here in Mexico City; we are visible; the community appreciate us for both the positive things as well as for the negatives. At the beginning, it was very hard for the community to accept us; to accept there was going to be a House because they thought that it was going to be a lot of movement. Another advantage we have, is that the House, in the outside there is no logo that will identify our foundation.
There’s not any sign that identifies this as a children’s home. That is the idea, to give that structure inside as well as outside.
Good practice is very important for us with regards to with regards to the inclusion of migrants in society. Society has negative views, mostly, but not all. But most people have negative views, towards the children that come, not just the minors, but also older people. The fact that they are known as migrants means they are labelled as illegal when the condition or legal status is “regular” or “irregular.” So, they suffer rejection because they have that label of being people with bad behaviour or people who don’t work honestly So for us, it’s very important that they know and have contact with society.
First, for society to get to know and give them the chance to live with them in a healthy way and for them to have access to all the rights that any other person has. Right? So then, it’s also important that the children, at the same time, overcome that fear and they feel they have the confidence to be able to interact with any person out there. That they are able to handle themselves with ease, go to a park, and not feel rejected, or not feel excluded just because they weren’t born here. That they are able to feel free to go up to someone and have a chat.
In the case of adolescents, that they are able to live with their peers, in every sense… to be able to go to the cinema, have friends, be able to go to school, to a shop, and not be looked at badly, just because of their appearance or the way they talk. So for us it is very important, this practice of social inclusion into the community.

In the previous course step we heard about a programme to develop alternatives to detention in Mexico through provision of more suitable care options for unaccompanied and separated children. In this video we have a second opportunity to learn about the two small group homes in Mexico we reviewed in course step 4.18. Both these projects are being recognised by government, UN and non-government agencies in Mexico as examples of alternative care that offer an alternative to detention.

We first hear about a small group home managed by the Fundación Casa Alianza – a national NGO in Mexico. The second project – Albergue Colibrí – is a small group home run by a local authority in one region of Mexico. The two projects have benefitted from collaboration with each other as well as assistance from UNICEF Mexico.

These two projects care for unaccompanied and separated children. Some children are in transit and others are hoping to remain in Mexico. Both of these care settings have specifically developed an ‘open door’ policy. This means that children and young people are able to be part of the local community, attend local schools, and take part in other activities such as social and sporting events.

In the video we will hear from Roberto Guerrero Reyes, a Programme Director for Fundación Casa Alianza, as well as Abraham Cárdenas Vadillo, the Director of Albergue Colibrí, and Dulce María Kemparra, the Assistant Director at Albergue Colibrí. They explain why pioneering this open door policy in Mexico is so important for unaccompanied children. We will also meet children living in these two care settings as they take part in a number of different social activities. Please note that some children may have their identity hidden for protection reasons.

A major element of these two projects is the way they have worked to combat the discrimination against unaccompanied and separated refugee and migrant children. Discrimination is a factor contributing to unaccompanied and separated children being held in closed centres. The projects also help the children and young people overcome any fears they may have about the new society in which they find themselves, and help build their confidence through interaction in the community. The project teams also believe that having an open door policy, while creating a caring and child friendly environment, deters children and young people from running away, which is a situation that could put them at risk of abuse and exploitation.

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Caring for Children Moving Alone: Protecting Unaccompanied and Separated Children

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