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Members of the Destination Unknown campaign have signed a joint statement welcoming the Council of Europe’s increased attention on issues facing migrants in administrative detention, and to express collective concern on the issue.

A fundamentally different approach is needed if the Council of Europe’s current process to develop European rules on the conditions for the administrative detention of migrants is to truly respect the human rights of those being detained because of their migration status.

Detaining migrants, asylum seekers and refugees for migration control purposes increasing at an alarming rate across Europe. We are witnessing an ethical drift, whereby detention is becoming a standard element of the migration system.

Migration is not a crime. It should never be criminalised or subject to other punitive measures – a notion backed up by numerous UN experts and human rights treaty bodies. According to International Law, detaining people purely for immigration purposes should only be considered as a measure of last resort and for children it is never in their best interest.

Because of this, the Destination Unknown campaign urges the European Committee on Legal Co-operation (CDCJ) to:

1) Make sure new rules avoid legitimising the use of unsuitable places of detention by States;

2) Reinforce, beyond the right to liberty and protections against torture and other ill-treatment, other fundamental human rights that ensure safety, dignity and humanity. These include additional legal safeguards – access to a lawyer from the outset of the legal proceedings to determine a person’s migration status, the right to appeal or review the detention order, access to an interpreter and to have information provided in a language the person understands;

3) Explicitly condemn the detention of migrants in situations of particular vulnerability, including children. The CDCJ should insist that children on the move are referred to national child protection services and that they are housed in caring and protection-based alternatives to detention;

4) Call for alternative measures to detention to used. The obligation to pursue alternative measures to detention is critical to ensuring no one is arbitrarily detained. It must be proven that all alternatives to detention have been explored and that the detention of migrants is genuinely a measure of last resort;

5) Strengthen the safeguards concerning access and monitoring of places where refugees and migrants are detained.

For instance, monitoring bodies must have unrestricted access to all places of immigration detention and guarantees of confidential and free communication with migrants. Protection against the risk of reprisals on migrants or any other person who engaged with monitors must also be provided.

The Destination Unknown campaign demands our concerns are taken into consideration and that the rights of migrants in Member States of the Council of Europe be respected, protected and fulfilled.

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