Alternatives to Detention training held for Libyan CSOs

Alternatives to the detention of refugees and migrants transiting through Libya offer more affordable and humane options that address the needs of vulnerable groups such as women and children, said the Danish Refugee Council, during the launch of the International Detention Coalition (IDC) handbook, “There are Alternatives” February 2-3, in Tunis, Tunisia.

Spear-headed by the DRC-Libya program, funded by the Humanitarian Aid and Civil Protection department of the European Commission (ECHO),  and bringing together local Libyan civil society organisations, the International  Organization for Migration (IOM), UNHCR, ICRC and other international non-governmental organisations (INGOs), the training event highlighted concern that the numbers of migrants and refugees transiting through Libya to Europe had not abated, despite over 2,892 lives lost attempting the crossing in 2015. Over the past 12 months, 153 842 people had reportedly crossed the Mediterranean through the Central Mediterranean route departing from Libya. Detention centers are in place throughout the country and while local CSOs intervene on an ad hoc basis to have vulnerable people released from detention, such as children and women, there are currently no systematic alternatives to detention available in Libya.

All civil society groups present at the training endorsed the principle of potential alternatives to detention as set out in the IDC handbook.  “Even when people are on the move and in transit they can benefit from increased protection options,” said Junita Calder, IDC Middle East and North Africa focal point.  “We have examples from other similar contexts including effective screening, open shelters for vulnerable persons and registration leading to temporary stay permits”.

The IDC handbook showcases minimum standards and points to the benefits of alternatives including greater adherence to human rights principles, higher compliance rates and reduced costs. As one of the training participants, Dr Giuma Ataigha from Libyan Human Rights Association expressed “this is a good effort and we appreciate what has been done because we are in need of such trainings and alternatives. Of course due to the political and security situation in Libya at this time we see ourselves as preparing for the future”.

Participants made a number of clear recommendations for alternatives to detention and highlighted ways in which they were already working to assist vulnerable individuals to be released from detention.

Closing the conference, DRC-Libya Country Director Martin Vane, emphasized that such alternatives could not only decrease vulnerability of migrants and refugees but present also interesting economic opportunity for Libyan communities with long term shortages of workers and services in several sectors.  He also affirmed DRC’s and IDC’s commitment to pursue this issue with Libyan NGOs and other relevant actors as a joint responsibility of the international community. DRC will be producing overall workshop report to be shared with interested stakeholders.

The DRC and its demining wing the Danish Demining Group have been operational in Libya and Tunisia since 2011, focusing on protection, humanitarian assistance towards Libyan IDPs, humanitarian mine action, community safety planning,  technical and organisational development of local partners and stakeholders.