June 2011Latest News Latest Reports
Global Push for Alternatives to Detention
The Women's Refugee Commission welcomed the release last month of the International Detention Coalition's report There are Alternatives: A handbook for preventing unnecessary immigration detention. The first-ever guide aimed at preventing unnecessary immigration detention globally, it outlines good practice examples of alternatives to detention from around the world. Here in the United States, the vast majority of immigrants seeking asylum have no violent criminal history, but many—including women, families and unaccompanied children—end up in detention facilities where their basic rights are denied. On any given day, more than 30,000 immigrants are held in detention in the United States.
"Immigration detention is extremely expensive (more than $100 per day per detainee), is not effective at deterring irregular migrants and is known to harm the health and well-being of detainees," said Michelle Brané, director of the Women's Refugee Commission's detention and asylum program. "There are both more cost-effective and humane ways to treat immigrants while ensuring that they also make court appearances and meet other requirements."
The Women's Refugee Commission was consulted for the handbook and is conducting follow-up meetings with U.S. government officials to ensure recommendations from the report are heeded.
Gender Equality, Sexual Identity and Refugee Status
Dale Buscher, senior director for programs at the Women's Refugee Commission, recently presented on a little-discussed topic: promoting gender equality and equal rights for refugees who are sexual minorities. Dale spoke at the Legal Perspectives on Gender and Sexual Equality conference at the Amsterdam Law Forum at Vrije University, where he presented his paper, "Unequal in Exile: Gender Equality, Sexual Identity and Refugee Status" to an audience of law professors, students and advocates. Dale pointed out that the international humanitarian community is tasked with protecting the most vulnerable populations, including lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgendered and intersex (LGBTI) refugees. While international law protects these rights in theory, in practice these rights are often not met and are flagrantly disregarded by many refugee-hosting governments. Having fled persecution in their home countries, many refugees then face other—often equally serious—risks in the countries where they are seeking safety.
New Adolescent Girls Project
The Women's Refugee Commission will be leading a new research and advocacy project, "Building Agency and Social Capital in Adolescent Girls." The project will focus on how to develop the life skills and social networks of girls in crisis and post-crisis settings so they can have more control over their own safety and well-being. This new initiative will build on work we have been undertaking for over four years in promoting economic opportunities and livelihoods for displaced women and youth to increase self-reliance and lessen their risk of sexual exploitation, abuse and gender-based violence.
There is a great need for programs specifically targeting girls ages 10-16, whose needs are rarely addressed and who are often mistakenly grouped with adults or with young children by donors and humanitarian agencies. The adolescent years are crucial and can set the course of a woman’s life. In crisis and post-crisis settings, the risks are even greater because girls’ connections to their family and peer groups often become severely fragmented.
This new project will both incorporate best practices from other organizations and develop new guidance through pilot projects focused on adolescent girls. This information will be shared widely with policymakers, donors and the wider humanitarian community to change policies and practices and to create environments where girls can empower themselves and lead dignified, productive lives.
Watchlist on Children and Armed Conflict and the Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre recently released a report, An Uncertain Future? Children and Armed Conflict in the Central African Republic, which finds that at least four of the six grave violations defined under UN Security Resolution 1612 (2005) are still being committed against children in the Central African Republic.
Mama: Together for Safe Births in Crises
In late April, we launched the innovative social media initiative Mama: Together for Safe Births in Crises, which provides a platform for isolated maternal health care providers to connect and share ideas and advice. If you haven't yet visited the Mama online community on Facebook, we invite you to check it out here. Please encourage the doctors, nurses, midwives and other health workers in the field that you know to join this important community.
In the News
BBC broadcast an interview with the report's author, Laura Perez, as part of its radio program "Focus on Africa" on May 4.
The Women's Refugee Commission was cited in two articles on RH Reality Check, "The Disastrous Effects of Immigration Policy on Women's Lives" and "Immigration Detention Reform: A Matter of Life and Death."
EmpowHER, one of the largest women's health and wellness content libraries on the web, featured a piece on the Mama campaign.