Over forty experts from EU MS, Eastern Partnership countries, international organisations, civil society and academia came together to compare their views, best practices and challenges in the field of immigration detention. The two-day expert workshop on detention took place in Chisinau on 26-27 March, under the Eastern Partnership Panel on Migration and Asylum and was co-hosted by the Republic of Moldova and Sweden.
The meeting started off with an active discussion highlighting the need to take “clever detention decisions”. As summarised by Niclas Axelsson from the Swedish Migration Board, this means that the drastic decision to place a migrant in detention should not only be based on a careful assessment of the individual situation of the migrant and the perspectives to organise his/her return, but should also intervene only when and if no alternatives seem possible.
Individual approaches to migrants’ situations, concerns and prospects remain a crucial aspect in the context of detention. Providing migrants with proper access to information, updates on their case as well as the opportunity to discuss their options considerably contribute to “give people back the responsibility of their own life”, as highlighted by Filipe Henriques, representative of Luxemburg, and can help people to make informed and sustainable choices.
The meeting also served as a platform to share certain best practices and the participants confirmed that detention monitoring mechanisms andalternatives to detention as presented and discussed throughout the meeting will remain high on the agenda for future exchange, planning and harmonising detention practices throughout the EU MS and its Eastern Partners.
Georgia, currently in the process of drafting specific legislation on migrant detention, found the Panel expert meeting very topical which will ensure that the Georgian system reflects and develops all of the best practices and builds on the lessons learned.
The meeting ended with a field visit to the Migrant Custody Centre of the Republic of Moldova, giving the experts the opportunity to transpose the theoretical discussions and best practices to a very practical example. The Centre was constructed in line with existing best European practices and can hold up to 250 persons, but is not used at full capacity at the moment due to the low number of migrants. Although maximum length of detention in Moldova should not exceed 6 months, according to the administration of the Centre is the average duration of stay now is up to 4 weeks.
The European Commission concluded the meeting with the words that the format of the meeting as well as participants’ active involvement, their openness and constructiveness in themselves are to be stressed as best practices of the Eastern Partnership.