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COVID-19: Detainees In Solomon Islands Can Now Call Their Loved Ones

Detainees across the Solomon Islands can now call their loved ones with the support from the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC). Due to the ongoing global threat of COVID-19, the Corrections Service of the Solomon Islands (CSSI) suspended all family visits as of 23rd March 2020 as part of various measures to prevent the entry of the disease into the correctional centres.

Detainees using ICRC donated mobile phone (Source-CSSI)

“The decision was not made easily as I knew the importance of the visits for detainees and their families, but that the safety of detainees, families and corrections staff was paramount,” said the Corrections Commissioner Mr. Gabriel Manelusi. “Thanks to the timely donation of mobile phones from the ICRC with the support of the Solomon Islands Red Cross Society, hundreds of inmates across the Solomon Islands can now call their loved ones.”

When authorities have to suspend family visits to prevent a contagious disease from entering a place of detention, it is of utmost importance that mitigating measures aiming at the mental well-being of detainees and their loved ones are put in place.

“It is our priority that detainees and their loved ones have to remain in touch and assure each other of their well-being,” says Björn Rahm, who oversees the ICRC detention support in the Pacific. “We appreciate the flexibility of the CSSI Commissioner to permit detainees to make phone calls and are happy that we could assist the CSSI in putting the telephone system in place.”

The ICRC donated eleven mobile phones to the CSSI for its six facilities and will continue to pay for the costs of weekly calls between detainees and their loved ones and lawyers, for as long as this crisis lasts. The ICRC also donated a tent to the CSSI that is set up at the entrance of Rowe Correctional Institution in Honiara and is used to screen incoming detainees and prison staff for symptoms of COVID-19.

Meanwhile, Mr Manelusi praised ICRC for their timely support and added that the support will be a great relief to families and inmates in terms of communication. “I thank the International Committee of the Red Cross and the National Society for their continuous support in this area. Indeed, it will be a great relief for the inmates and their families to be able to communicate with each other during this period family visits are suspended”

The ICRC has long expertise and experience in visiting detainees to monitor their conditions of detention and the way they are treated. The organization engages with detaining authorities by sharing recommendations, guidance and, at times, direct material assistance.

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