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Protecting the rights of migrants in detention

Graphic: Migrants held in immigration detention in Malaysia

The role of NHRIs to monitor the situation of migrants in detention and prevent abuses is the focus of a new training program for APF members.

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The role of national human rights institutions to monitor the situation of migrants in detention and minimise the risks of "refoulement" and unlawful deportation will be the focus of a new training program for APF member institutions.

The detention of migrants is an issue of growing concern in the Asia Pacific Region, where some countries have taken steps to criminalise irregular migration and detain asylum seekers, refugees and irregular migrants in "immigration detention".

Migrants are regularly detained in inadequate conditions that are unsuited to their particular situation. In some cases, their conditions of detention can be worse than those faced by convicted prisoners in the same country.

In addition, many governments do not take into account the particular needs and vulnerabilities of certain groups of detainees, such as refugees, asylum seekers, pregnant women, children (including unaccompanied minors), people with physical and mental disabilities, LGBTI individuals, the elderly and victims of trafficking.


It is particularly alarming that children and families are not exempted from this expanding practice, and some spend long periods behind barbed wire or iron bars.

António Guterres, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees

NHRIs from the region can play a pivotal role to protect the rights of migrants in detention, said Suraina Pasha, APF Regional Training Manager

"Their unique mandate means that NHRIs can inspect detention facilities, monitor the conditions and ensure that key procedural safeguards are respected by highlighting areas that need improvement," she said.

"They can also play a very important role to cooperate and share information with other monitoring bodies."

Graphic: Drawing by a child in detention

The blended learning course, to be run jointly by the Association for the Prevention of Torture (APT) and the APF, will provide participants with skills and knowledge to support them in their work to protect the rights of migrants in dedicated immigration centres.

The two-week online course will take place from 4-18 November 2015.

It will be followed by a four-day workshop in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, from 30 November-3 December 2015.

As part of the workshop, participants will draft a set of practical action points and suggested follow-up activities to take back to their respective NHRIs for implementation.

The course will draw on Monitoring Immigration Detention: Practical Manual, published in 2014 by the APT, UNHCR- the UN Refugee Agency and the International Detention Coalition.

Date: 15 October 2015


Men in prison cells

This blended learning course is part of a three-year series of activities funded by the European Union to strengthen the capacity of national human rights institutions in the Asia Pacific region to prevent torture and other forms of ill-treatment. Other recent activities include the Torture Prevention Ambassadors project, as well as training programs on monitoring police detention and investigating allegations of torture.


Image credits

  1. Migrants held in immigration detention in Malaysia - Human Rights Commission of Malaysia
  2. Drawing by a child in detention - Australian Human Rights Commission
  3. Men in prison cells - APF/Michael Power