While a growing number of States are prioritising the rights of migrants amidst the Covid-19 pandemic and opting for decongesting detention facilities, others are unfortunately detaining more migrants for longer periods of time or releasing them only to deport them unlawfully. The impacts of the increased use of immigration detention in the context of COVID-19 are severe – indefinite detention in overcrowded facilities for some, prolonged situations of vulnerability for others, heightened risk of infection for all: detainees, staff, their families, and their communities.
In a policy brief released on 28 April 2020, the United Nations Network on Migration‘s Working Group on Alternatives to Detention explores urgently needed practical recommendations, providing guidance for States and stakeholders on preventing and responding to Covid-19 within the context of immigration detention. By focusing on the development of non-custodial alternatives based in the community, the brief highlights steps that several governments have already taken to swiftly release migrants from detention and to provide access to healthcare, housing, and other services regardless of migration status.
The Working Group – co-led by members from UNICEF, UNHCR, and the International Detention Coalition – developed this guidance in partnership with UN agencies and civil society organisations, including the Global Detention Project.