International coalitions
Aware it is rare for one organisation alone to achieve major policy changes, JRS cooperates with other groups with common aims at a variety of levels: local, national, regional and international. Although most of the time cooperation takes place at project level in an ad hoc manner, some of these issues need to be tackled internationally and in a more structured way. For this reason, JRS International is a member, in some cases a founding member, of four international coalitions: the International Campaign to Ban Landmines, Cluster Munitions Coalition, International Detention Coalition and the Coalition to Stop the Use of Child Soldiers.
  • Detention
  • Landmines/ cluster bombs

Governments increasingly detain refugees, asylum seekers and migrants upon entry to the country and while final asylum decisions or other requests to remain in the country are pending.

Hundreds of thousands of people are held in administrative detention centres and closed camps around the world where living conditions frequently fall below international human rights standards and restrictions are placed on access to asylum for people in need of protection from serious human rights abuses.

Men, women and children, the elderly and disabled – the great majority of whom have committed no crime – are held against their will in removal centres, immigration detention centres, jails, prisons, police stations, airports, hotels, ships and containers pending a final decision on their cases or removal from the country that may take months or years to effect, often in overcrowded and unhygienic conditions. Several governments around the world host large refugee populations and often place significant limits on the movement of resident refugees.

Cost of detention

Apart from the extremely negative human costs (psychological, physical and social) of detention, it is very expensive in financial terms. Alternatives to detention are much more cost-effective.

With regard to encamped refugees, keeping refugees in closed camps has economic implications for both the refugees and host communities, because refugees could be self-sufficient and contribute to the local economies. Refugees who have been de-skilled by effective “warehousing” policies lose their economic capacity at great expense to their current and future human potential. This cost is borne by the country of asylum if they are unable to return to their country of origin or be resettled in a third country.  Years of enforced idleness also undermine their ability to successfully re-integrate in their home countries, should conditions improve, or integrate into countries of resettlement.


Under international law, governments do have the right to protect their national sovereignty. However, also enshrined in international law is the right to seek and enjoy asylum. Moreover, international laws protect against arbitrary and unlawful detention.

To governments:

  • Never use threats of detention to deter people fleeing human rights abuses from seeking asylum;
  • Avoid the use of detention and seek alternatives to detention, e.g. supervised release, open centres etc;
  • Where absolutely necessary, and where all other alternatives have been exhausted, ensure that detention is used only for identification or legitimate removal purposes, is subject to ongoing judicial oversight, and does not exceed a reasonable time limit;
  • Do not detain individuals solely because they have applied for asylum - particularly vulnerable individuals such as children, torture and trauma survivors, pregnant women, the physically infirm and the mentally ill;
  • Permit access to detention facilities by civil society organisations, legal representatives, representatives of religious institutions, and friends and families of detainees;
  • Sign and observe the Optional Protocol to the Convention Against Torture, which provides for regular visits to and monitoring of detention centres;
  • Provide conditions of detention that comply with basic human rights standards, including access to a lawyer, healthcare, education, and adequate food and water;
  • In particular to governments of industrialised countries - provide additional development assistance for refugee-hosting areas in developing countries, encouraging host governments to permit refugees more freedom of movement;
  • In particular to governments of developing countries - move from policies of encampment of refugees towards policies that allow refugees to become self-reliant.

To humanitarian agencies:

  • Join the international coalition on detention of refugees, asylum seekers and refugees established by leading refugee and human rights organisations ( and join in their advocacy work;
  • Seek access to detention facilities in order to provide care and services for detainees;
  • Alert the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention regarding any specific abuses you encounter.

To the general public:

  • Learn about your own government’s policy on detention;
  • If detention is used in your country to deter asylum seekers and refugees, raise public awareness of the effects it has on detainees and urge your political representatives to ensure human rights standards are respected;
  • Establish visitor groups in your area to visit detainees;
  • Visit the above website of the international coalition and support its work.
Landmines/ cluster bombs

Up until the 1990s, antipersonnel landmines were used by almost all the world’s armed forces, in one form or another. Thanks to the 1997 Mine Ban Treaty, landmine use has dramatically dropped. Today, although the weapon is only used in a handful of conflicts, it continues to pose a significant and lasting threat.

JRS helped establish the International Campaign to Ban Landmines (ICBL) in 1994, to accompany those injured by landmines, help survivors tell their stories, promote solid ethical reflection and support national campaigns. The awarding of the 1997 Nobel Peace Prize to the Campaign gave a boost to the many tireless JRS staff who participated in the campaign. Tun Chunnareth, who has worked with JRS Cambodia for years and is himself a landmine victim, has been a prominent spokesperson for the International Campaign to Ban Landmines. It was he who accepted the 1997 Nobel Peace Prize in Oslo on behalf of the campaign. JRS continues to lobby for the signing and ratification of the Mine Ban Treaty by other countries.

JRS provides information for the ICBL's annual 'Landmine Monitor', an in-depth study into the on-going use, production and destruction of landmines, as well as a watchdog style report on states' commitments under the Mine Ban Treaty (1997 Ottawa Convention). JRS has played a leading role in the campaign and contributed research on Cambodia, Thailand, and Indonesia for the 'Landmine Monitor'. In addition JRS continues to support landmine survivors in countries such as Bosnia, Cambodia, Thailand, and Kosovo, and actively raises awareness of the issue in these and other landmine-affected countries.

Following the signing of the treaty banning landmines, civil society groups, including JRS, established the Cluster Munitions Coalition, and shifted their advocacy activities to concentrate on the prohibition of cluster munitions. These weapons, when fired, release hundreds of submunitions and saturate an area as wide as several football fields. Like landmines, cluster munitions, or cluster bombs, often fail to explode on impact, representing a fatal threat to anyone in the area. Most cluster munitions, therefore, hit areas outside the military objective targeted.

After years of campaigning, in May 2008 in Dublin, Ireland, 107 countries negotiated and adopted a treaty that bans cluster bombs and provides assistance to affected communities. The Convention on Cluster Munitions, CCM, prohibits all use, stockpiling, production and transfer of cluster munitions. Separate articles in the Convention concern assistance to victims, clearance of contaminated areas and destruction of stockpiles. It becomes binding international law when it enters into force on 1 August 2010.

Some reasons to campaign for a total ban on landmines and cluster munitions

Socio-economic costs

The presence of these weapons poses a threat to displaced civilians returning to their homes, hampers post-conflict development, renders agricultural land inaccessible and forces people to work in contaminated areas because there is no other means for them to earn an income. It also hinders the provision of aid and relief services and threatens, injures and kills aid workers.

The human costs

Antipersonnel landmines and cluster munitions still maim and kill ordinary people every day. They blow off their victims' legs, feet, toes and hands. They fire shrapnel into their faces and bodies. They kill. Moreover, medical treatment for survivors, where available, is costly, burdening already overstretched healthcare systems.

Civilians bear the brunt

The vast majority of victims are civilians and not soldiers. This is not just during a conflict – most of the countries where casualties are reported are at peace.

Humanitarian law

Under international humanitarian law, parties to an armed conflict are obligated to protect civilians. Weapons that cannot discriminate between civilian and military targets or  cause excessive humanitarian harm constitute a grave concern, and this is why countries signed a treaty banning antipersonnel landmines in 1997. It is important that countries do the same for cluster munitions.

Long-term effects

Once planted or fired, cluster munitions and landmines remain unless they are cleared. The only way to prevent long-term damage is to stop their use altogether and devote resources to clearing contaminated areas and helping survivors.

Children are victimised

A child who is injured by a landmine or a cluster bomb may face months of recovery. A growing child with a prosthetic limb will need it refitted each year. Some never return to school after their accident. Many face social exclusion. Like adult victims, they will face enormous practical, economic, social and psychological challenges in their rehabilitation and reintegration process.

Border protection: there are alternatives

Mines are largely ineffective in protecting border regions, for example from non-state armed groups. Instead of offering protection, minefields terrorise and impoverish the communities living in the area. Alternatives exist and include the use of mobile and fixed border patrols and motion detection equipment and barriers.
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