This site uses session, functional, analytics and third-party cookies. Please click on "learn more" to read our cookies policy and decide to accept cookies during site navigation.

Europe: one size fits all immigration detention fails to deliver expected outcomes
26 October 2012

A first aid and rescue centre for refugees and migrants on Italy’s Lampedusa Island. This centre was closed end of July 2007, and a replaced with a new one opened in August (UNHCR/A. Di Loreto)
The basis is a migrant's right to liberty. Governments and NGOs should work together to develop alternatives that meet this condition while maintaining the efficiency of migration procedures.
Brussels, 26 October 2012 – Immigration detention is mostly unnecessary because governments can instead use more humane and cost-effective alternatives, argues JRS Europe in their newly adopted policy position on alternatives to immigration detention.

In the policy position, JRS Europe broadly defines alternatives to detention as "any policy, practice or legislation that allows asylum seekers and migrants to live in the community" while having their fundamental human rights to movement and liberty upheld.

"Our new policy position frames detention as it should be: an abnormal and exceptional measure that should rarely be taken. Governments should presume that they can handle a migrant's case in the community instead of locking them up, which leads to much pain and suffering for those who experience it", said JRS Europe Advocacy Officer Philip Amaral.

"There is no 'one size fits all' approach when it comes to alternatives", explains Mr Amaral. "The basis is a migrant's right to liberty. Governments and NGOs should work together to develop alternatives that meet this condition while maintaining the efficiency of migration procedures".

JRS Europe hopes that NGOs can use the policy position as a guideline for their own efforts. "Each of the 14 positions is based on research and practice. NGOs can use them as a basis to develop pilot projects and research studies, and to advise governments who are interested to explore alternatives to detention", says Mr Amaral.

"We hope our policy position can help NGOs answer the question they often face: 'if not detention, then what?'"

Bad practice. Take the story of Hadiaa and her family as a case in point, Mr Amaral continued.

One day armed men invaded her village in Iraq and kidnapped her two sons, aged 16 and 18, along with the other young men in the area. A week later the boys were brought back and killed in front of their parents. Hadiaa's outspoken condemnation of this atrocity led to numerous death threats, forcing her husband and two daughters to another village and Hadiaa out of Iraq with their 12-year-old son.

They arrived to Ireland in the hope of finding protection. Instead Hadiaa was arrested and imprisoned for not having the right documents. Her son was taken by social workers and put in the care of the health service.

"Why are they doing this to me, to us?" Hadiaa cried to a JRS worker.

"I was told my son and I would be safe, that my husband and two daughters would come later. But instead I am in prison. I do not know where my son is being kept. My other two sons are in a grave in Baghdad. I do not know where my husband and daughters are. I just want to die".

Alternatives work. Existing practice shows that Hadiaa and her son could have been treated differently. Belgium, for example, no longer detains undocumented migrant families, instead placing them in community housing. Families stay together and maintain their privacy while receiving individualised support from the state.

The vast majority of families keep their commitments to the authorities without being coerced. Local NGOs hail it as a success.

Press Contact Information
James Stapleton
+39 06 69 868 468