NEWSLETTER: Committe On Migrants Workers on the Right to Liberty; Updates on Afghanistan, Greece, Australia, Egypt, Poland, Italy


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
Global Detention Project Updates: Greece, Australia, Egypt, Poland, Afghanistan, Italy
As part of our ongoing monitoring of how countries have responded to the COVID-19 pandemic in their migration control policies, we looked at the situation in Greece, Australia, Egypt, Poland, Afghanistan and Italy during the month of September.  A theme running through many of these  updates has been how countries such as Greece and Poland have tightened their borders, built walls, and engaged in increasing pushbacks and detention in response to the unfolding crisis in Afghanistan and fears of a repeat of the 2015 Syrian “refugee crisis.”  We have also reported on how migrants, refugees and asylum seekers in detention seem to have been forgotten in the pandemic response, for example in Australia, or held in unsafe conditions, such as in Italy, and how the pandemic has disproportionately affected refugees and asylum seekers, many of whom are detained in regular prisons, as in Egypt.


Greece opens a new detention centre
On 18 September, Greece opened a new high security facility on the island of Samos, near the border with Turkey, for asylum seekers, refugees, and migrants.  Fully funded by the EU to the tune of 43 million Euros, the new centre was hailed by the Greek authorities as a “modern and safe new closed, controlled access centre … that will give back the lost dignity to people seeking international protection, but also the necessary conditions of safeguarding and restraint for illegal migrants who are to be controlled.” But with its military-grade barbed wire fencing, police and CCTV surveillance, magnetic gates and x-ray scanners that asylum seekers must pass through when entering and leaving, NGOs and migrant rights activists have said that the new centre is essentially a prison.  About 500 asylum-seekers still living on Samos are now housed in the new centre which will serve as a model for similar facilities on the islands of Leros, Lesbos, Kos, and Chios. Read more about the situation in Greece here.
UN Committee on Migrant Workers General Comment No 5 on Migrants’ Right to Liberty
On 24 September, the UN Committee on Migrant Workers (CMW) released its General Comment No 5 on migrants’ rights to liberty and freedom from arbitrary detention. The GDP served as an external reviewer and expert commentator during the drafting phase of the General Comment. We welcome this important and authoritative guidance, which arrives at a time when migrants’ rights to liberty and other human rights are under attack across the world. Among the many contributions provided in the General Comment is its robust definition of “alternatives to detention,” an often disputed concept, emphasing the inherently legal basis of these measures and underscoring that alternatives to detention are not applicable when there is no longer a lawful basis for detention. Read the CMW General Comment here.
Working Group on Arbitrary Detention Annual Report 
The Working Group on Arbitrary Detention (WGAD) presented its annual report to the Human Rights Council on 20 September.  The report included a special deliberation by the WGAD on women deprived of liberty, including non-national women, such as migrants, asylum-seekers and refugees.  The report reminds States that non-national women should not be arbitrarily deprived of their liberty, including in administrative detention such as immigration detention, whether in recognised or non-recognised centres. The full WGAD report is available here.  


Submission to the UN Special Rapporteur on the Human Rights of Migrants: The Impact of COVID-19
In a submission to the Special Rapporteur on the human rights of migrants in response to his call for input on the impact of COVID-19, the GDP identifies several key trends in states’ treatment of immigration detainees. While recognising that some states took important steps to protect migrant detainees by ensuring their release, the GDP highlights the fact that many refused to adopt such measures, and even stepped-up apprehensions—often under the guise of “protecting public health.” 
Read the full submission.
Immigration Detention in South Africa: Stricter Control of Administrative Detention, Increasing Criminal Enforcement of Migration
Long an important destination for migrants and refugees from across Africa and Asia, South Africa has increasingly viewed cross border movements through the lens of national security and criminality. The country’s Border Management Act, adopted in 2020, reflects this embrace of a securitisation agenda, say observers, who worry that the country’s policies will encourage an expansion of migration detention, both domestically and in nearby countries. Read the full report.
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.