06 February 2015

Alternatives to detention are generally underused and applied to few people, according to a comparative study published by the Odysseus Network that examined national legislation and judicial practice in six EU member states: Austria, Belgium, Lithuania, Slovenia, Sweden and the United Kingdom.

The study shows that although all six states have included forms of alternatives to detention in their national legislation, only Austria is using alternatives to detention to a similar extent as detention. In addition, although in all six states there are legal provisions restricting the detention of vulnerable groups, the lack of procedures to identify such groups often results in vulnerable people being detained, with the exception of people who are ‘visibly’ vulnerable, such as unaccompanied children and women at the end of their pregnancies.

The research underlines that in order to impose alternatives to detention, authorities must first prove that there are grounds for detaining the individual. Furthermore, it is stressed that there should be scrutiny to ensure that alternatives to detention are non-custodial, respect fundamental rights and do not become ‘alternatives form of detention’.

In addition, the study recommends that it should be possible to appeal both the imposition and the non-imposition of an alternative to detention.

Finally, the study calls for evaluation and monitoring mechanisms to be put in place in order to assess the functioning of existing alternatives to detention schemes, so as to learn from successful programmes and to improve practice.

The research covers measures such as reporting systems, sponsorship, financial guarantees, the requirement to live in a designated residence and electronic tagging.

This study is a part of the project MADE REAL, ‘Making Alternatives to Detention in Europe a Reality by Exchanges, Advocacy and Learning’, which was co-financed by the European Commission, and implemented by the Academic Network for legal studies on asylum and immigration in Europe, the Odysseus Academic Network, together with 13 national NGO partners.


 This article originally appeared in the ECRE Weekly Bulletin of 6 February 2015. You can subscribe to the Weekly Bulletin here.