In November, the GDP hosted its second Geneva Advocacy Week for Global Immigration Detention Observatory partners. Representatives from Lawyers for Human Rights ((LHR), South Africa) and Türkiye-based International Refugee Rights Association (IRRA) joined the GDP in Geneva, attending meetings with key human rights mechanisms to learn more about their work and to bring attention to local detention concerns.
During the week, LHR and IRRA attended meetings with, amongst others, UNHCR, OHCHR’s migration unit, and the Secretariats of the Special Rapporteur on Trafficking in Persons, the Special Rapporteur on Torture, the Special Rapporteur on the Human Rights of Migrants, the Committee on Migrant Workers, and the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention.
During these meetings, IRRA’s Selim Vatandas took the opportunity to discuss several pressing detention concerns in Türkiye, including:
- The classification by Turkish authorities of migrants, asylum seekers, and refugees as Yabancı Terörist Savaşçı (YTS) (Foreign Terrorist Fighters) who are considered to be a national security risk, resulting in their immediate detention and issuance of deportation orders. (For more on this issue, see the GDP and IRRA’s August 2022 submission to the UN Committee on Migrant Workers.)
- The lack of opportunity for detained refugees to apply for asylum or to contact lawyers.
- Overcrowding in Turkish immigration detention facilities.
- The continued detention of children, families, and pregnant and nursing women.
LHR’s Nabeelah Mia, meanwhile, raised concerns regarding the treatment of migrants, asylum seekers and refugees, including the use of immigration detention, in South Africa. The issues she raised included:
- The lack of an independent judicial oversight body and independent monitoring of immigration detention facilities and practices in South Africa.
- The criminalisation of undocumented migrants in South Africa resulting in mass raids in migrant areas, tightening of borders and border controls, the placement of undocumented migrants in criminal facilities before transferring them to administrative detention, and mass deportations.
- Widespread and institutionalised xenophobia, scapegoating, and vigilante violence towards migrants and refugees in South Africa.
- The need for a concerted campaign for South Africa to ratify the UN Convention on Migrant Workers.
During the visit, Ms Mia also attended the 41st session of the Human Rights Council UPR Working Group, during which South Africa was reviewed. (Previously, LHR and GDP had submitted recommendations to the UPR Working Group regarding South Africa’s detention practices – the full text of which is available here.)
In addition to enabling partners to raise issues of concern, the meetings also provided representatives with an invaluable opportunity to learn more about the operations of the UN human rights system–and how civil society organisations can interact with this system. “Thanks to the GDP, we have gained important experience during one-on-one meetings and deepened our knowledge of UN practices,” said the IRRA’s Mr Vatandas.
Following the visit, LHR’s Ms Mia also reported, “Since our visit, we [LHR] have already made a submission to the Special Rapporteur on Torture for input into her second thematic report. In addition, we have prepared a high-level document on the work of LHR in relation to refugee and migrants rights issues which we will be sharing with the mechanisms and working groups.”
About the Global Immigration Detention Observatory
The Global Immigration Detention Observatory is a collaborative initiative between the Global Detention Project and partner organisations, researchers, and human rights practitioners in every corner of the world whose central objective is to promote immigration detention reforms through rigorous research, data development, analysis, and reporting. The project seeks to ensure that local detention conditions get global attention, while helping inform initiatives at the international level with on-the-ground realities and needs.
At the heart of the Observatory is an online interactive database that serves as a consolidated tool for documenting immigration detention laws, practices, and policies in all countries using a shared, comparative framework that is based on international human rights law. The database is intended to enable advocates and researchers to develop a clear understanding of gaps in countries’ efforts to uphold their human rights commitments, assess how different detention systems compare and contrast, develop data-driven advocacy messages, promote transparency in the treatment of detained migrants and asylum seekers, and produce targeted reports for monitoring bodies operating at both the local and international levels.