Arbitrary Detention & International Migrants Day: The GDP Newsletter

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On International Migrants Day 2021, let’s imagine a world where no migrants are subjected to arbitrary detention 
On International Migrants Day, 18 December, we celebrate the invaluable contributions that migrants and their families make to their host communities across the globe, which is reflected in the UN’s optimistic theme for this year’s day: “harnessing the potential of human mobility.” However, the day also serves as a critical moment of reflection, spurring us to confront the rampant demonization of migrants in many countries, as well as the creeping criminalisation of migration, which is reflected in the growing use of detention to deter, control, and punish migrants, asylum seekers, and refugees. 
* Read the GDP’s comment on International Migrants Day and efforts to end arbitrary migration-related detention.
A Comment in Time: Deconstructing the Discourse around Detention 
On 17 December, the GDP’s Rachael Reilly moderated a panel on the advocacy potential of the Committee on Migrant Workers’ General Comment 5 on migrants right to liberty and freedom from arbitrary detention. Panelists at the webinar, which was hosted by Migrant Forum in Asia, included: Alvaro Botero, vice chair of the Committee on Migrant Workers; Akhator Joel Odigie of the African Regional Organization of the International Trade Union Confederation; and Veeca Smith Uka, a Nigerian refugee and community organizer based in Yorkshire. 
* Visit the website of Migrant Forum in Asia. 
The Treatment of Migrants and Asylum Seekers at the Lithuania-Belarus Border: Testimony Provided to the Committee against Torture
On 16 November 2021, the GDP and the Lithuania-based Human Rights Monitoring Institute (HRMI) made a joint oral statement during the 72nd session of the UN Committee Against Torture (CAT) on abuses committed against migrants and asylum seekers along Lithuania’s border with Belarus, including Lithuania’s increasing use of mandatory, prolonged detention, and alleged disappearances of detainees. The GDP and HRMI also brought the deteriorating situation in Lithuania to the urgent attention of the Special Rapporteur on the Human Rights of Migrants.
* You can read the full oral statement to the CAT here.
See also: GDP-HRMI Joint Written Submission to the CAT on Lithuania (18 October 2021)
The UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention as a Venue for Challenging Arbitrary Immigration Detention: A GDP Briefing with Elina Steinerte
On 25 November, the GDP hosted a two-hour training and information session with the Chair of the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention (WGAD), Elina Steinerte, about the importance of the WGAD as a judicial mechanism for challenging cases of arbitrary immigration detention and its growing track record on this issue. The event, held on Zoom, was attended by approximately 60 migrant rights advocates representing some 40 civil society organisations from every region of the world.
* Read more about the event here.
 
“Externalisation, Immigration Detention, and the Committee on Migrant Workers”
By Michael Flynn  
In November, Oxford’s Forced Migration Review published a special issue on Externalisation, which includes contributions from a range of leading scholars and practitioners, including the GDP’s Michael Flynn. The authors examine the consequences for protection as states increasingly take action beyond their borders to prevent the arrival of refugees and asylum seekers. In his article, Michael Flynn discuses how the efforts of wealthy countries to externalise migration and asylum controls have spurred the emergence of new detention systems in numerous countries across the globe, many of which lack basic safeguards, monitoring practices, or the rule of law.
* Read Flynn’s article here
* Access to all the contributions is available on FMR’s website here
OTHER NEWS + ACTIVITIES
Eritreans Forcibly Deported and Disappeared from Egypt: UN Human Rights Experts Speak Out 
On 19 November, a group of UN human rights experts issued a statement expressing “grave concern” about the forced deportations of Eritrean families from Egyptian prisons. “Individuals who have fled Eritrea and subsequently forcefully returned are considered as ‘traitors’ and are often detained upon arrival to Eritrea, questioned, tortured, held in extremely punitive conditions and disappeared,” the experts said. Before the release of the statement, the GDP had been one of a number of civil society groups urging more action by the international community on these deportations on social media and through direct contacts with UN bodies.
* Read the UN statement here
* GDP on Twitter
From the COVID-19 Global Immigration Detention Database Belarus: The deteriorating situation for migrants on the Belarus border with Poland and Lithuania continued to dominate the news during the month of November with reports of increased push-backs, detention, ill-treatment, and manipulation of migrants and asylum seeker by all countries.
* See the Belarus updates here. 

The Maghreb: Collective forced deportations have been the norm across Africa’s Maghreb region throughout the pandemic, including notably by Tunisia and Algeria, who have repeatedly bused entire familiars to desert border regions. 
* See also recent updates on the UKBelgiumMexicoBulgaria, and the Dominican Republic.Visit the COVID-19 Platform here
IN CASE YOU MISSED IT
Immigration Detention in Turkey: Trapped at the Crossroad between Asia and Europe
Turkey has one of the world’s largest migration-related detention systems, operating more than two dozen removal centres with a capacity of nearly 16,000 in addition to ad hoc detention sites along its borders, airport transit zones, and police stations. A reluctant gatekeeper for refugees, asylum seekers, and migrants seeking to enter Europe, Turkey’s influential role has repeatedly been put on display, including in the wake of the Syrian refugee “crisis” in 2015, which culminated in the adoption of the controversial EU-Turkey refugee deal; and, more recently, after the 2021 Taliban takeover in Afghanistan, which spurred an exodus of Afghan refugees trying to reach Turkey. Turkey constructed a 295-kilometre wall and surveillance system along its border with Iran and has engaged in often violent pushbacks, detention, and deportation of Afghan refugees. Read report. 
Afghanistan Situation Report: Decades of internal conflict and foreign military interventions have turned Afghanistan into one of the world’s leading source countries for migrants and refugees, with several million Afghan nationals living outside the country. The evacuation of U.S. and other international forces in 2021 spurred a new surge in Afghans seeking to flee their country. But instead of offering safe haven to these people in need, many countries in Asia, Europe, and the Middle East responded by urging restrictions on their movements and erecting barriers aimed at halting flows out of Central Asia.  Read the full report here.
Immigration Detention in Morocco: Still Waiting for Reforms as Europe Increases Pressure to Block Migrants and Asylum Seekers
Morocco has long prided itself for defending the rights of migrants and asylum seekers, a reputation it sought to reprise when it took a leadership role in the negotiations over the Global Compact for Migration, adopted in Marrakech in 2018. However, this reputation has repeatedly been tarnished as criticism has grown over its treatment of asylum seekers, who can face severe obstacles in accessing protection procedures; as deep-seated xenophobia and anti-Black racism becomes evident in raids and mass forced removals targeting sub-Saharan migrants; and as the country’s long-awaited migration and asylum legal reforms continue to languish, nearly a decade after the Kingdom first announced its commitments to undertake them. In the meantime, increasing pressure from Europe to block the movement of migrants and asylum seekers is encouraging the use of enforcement tactics that violate migrants’ fundamental human rights. Read the full report here.
Immigration Detention in the European Union: In the Shadow of the “Crisis”
Authored by the GDP’s Izabella Majcher, Michael Flynn, and Mariette Grange, Immigration Detention in the European Union: In the Shadow of the “Crisis” offers a unique comparative assessment of the evolution of immigration detention systems in European Union member states since the onset of the “refugee crisis.” More information is available here.
GDP ON THE RECORD