5 June 2015

In the framework of its Global Strategy Beyond Detention 2014-19, UNHCR has published two papers outlining practices adopted in countries across the globe, including some EU member states, to reduce detention of asylum seekers. The first paper illustrates options for governments on care arrangements and alternatives to detention for children and families, while the second focuses on open reception centres.

The papers stress that asylum-seeking, refugee and migrant children should not be detained in principle, their detention should be a measure of last resort, for the shortest possible period of time, and that the best interest of the child should always be taken into account. In addition, UNHCR emphasises that there is no evidence showing that detention deters irregular movement. At the same time, detaining asylum seekers and migrants is more expensive than implementing alternatives to detention (ATD). Other positive outcomes resulting from the use of sound ATD are the asylum seekers’ increased cooperation with procedures, a reduced risk to long-term psychological and physical harm, and enhanced trust between the host community and asylum seekers.

The UNHCR Global Strategy’s goals include the termination of migrant children’s detention, the introduction and implementation of alternatives to detention and, when detention is inevitable, the establishment of detention conditions that meet international criteria.

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This article originally appeared in the ECRE Weekly Bulletin of 5 June 2015. You can subscribe to the Weekly Bulletin here.