Senior Tutor Patrick Wells attended the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) Workshop on Alternatives to Detention of Refugees and Asylum Seekers held in Trinidad and Tobago, September 27-29, 2016 at the Faculty of Law, St Augustine Campus, University of the West Indies.
The workshop, a partnership between the Faculty of Law, the UNHCR and the International Detention Coalition was facilitated by experts from these agencies. Attendees included academics, government officials and staff from several non-governmental organizations, particularly the Red Cross.
Mr. Wells reports that the programme for the workshop included presentations, group exercises and discussion forums. “The core of the workshop was to explore laws, policies and practices through which persons seeking refuge or asylum may be able to reside in the community, without being detained by the state for migration-related reasons.”
The main alternatives to detention identified and discussed were:
- private accommodation;
- living with immediate family, friends or relatives;
- living with members of host communities;
- government-funded housing;
- private housing funded by charities;
- open reception centres for asylum seekers;
- open centres for recognised refugees;
- open refugee camps;
- shelters run as part of humanitarian aid;
- shelters for unaccompanied children or separated children;
- foster homes or orphanages (such as used with children who are citizens);
- shelters for destitute, irregular migrants;
- homeless shelters or transitional housing for the homeless; and
- centres for migrants preparing to depart the country.
“On the whole I found the workshop instructive and productive. As an experience, it was very enlightening. I was particularly engaged by the practical experiences shared by several of the attendees,” said Mr. Wells.