1. Detention does not deter irregular migrants The research found that detention is not an effective deterrent of asylum seekers and irregular migrants in either destination or transit contexts. Detention fails to impact on the choice of destination country and does not reduce numbers of irregular arrivals. Studies have shown asylum seekers and irregular migrants either are:

  • Not aware of detention policy or its impact in the country of destination
  • May see it as an inevitable part of the journey, and
  • Do not convey the deterrence message to other back to those in country of origin.

2. Detention interfers with human rights Detention undermines an individual’s right to liberty and places them at greater risk of arbitrary detention and human rights violations

3. Detention harms health and wellbeing Detention, even for short periods, harms health and wellbeing for all. The consequences for the cognitive and emotional development of children may be lifelong

4. Detention is counterproductive in achieving compliance with final decisions. On the contrary, asylum seekers and irregular migrants in the community comply and cooperate if they are able to meet their basic needs, have been through a fair and informed process and are supported to achieve sustainable long-term solutions while awaiting a decision on their case. Individuals awaiting a decision on their case are a low absconding risk, and in transit contexts individuals appear less likely to abscond, if they are not at risk of detention and refoulement, and remain hopeful on future prospects.

5. There are alternatives to detention: Cost-effective, humane and reliable alternatives to detention are currently used around the world and have been found to benefit government, the community and the individual.

6. Alternatives cost less than detention A cost saving of 93% was noted in Canada and 69% in Australia on alternatives to dete

ntion compared to detention costs. In addition independent returns in the EU and Australia save approximately 70% compared to escorted removals.

7. Alternatives maintain high rates of compliance and appearance A recent study collating evidence from 13 programs found compliance rates ranged between 80% and 99.9%. For instance, Hong Kong achieves a 97% compliance rate with asylum seekers or torture claimants in the community, and in Belgium, a pilot working with families facing removal had an 82% compliance rate.

8. Alternatives increase independent departure and voluntary return rates for refused cases Examples in Canada, Australia and the US of both refused asylum seekers and irregular migrants had return rates of between 60% and 69%, while Sweden reported an 82% rate of return from the community among refused asylum seekers.

9. Alternatives reduce wrongful, unnecessary and long-term detention Wrongful detention has led to litigation, costly compensation and public criticism in a range of countries including Australia, South Africa and the UK. For instance, court rulings in Hong Kong required the government to demonstrate the reasons for detention, leading to a number of policy changes including the introduction of individual case assessment.

10. Alternatives improve client health and well being, integration outcomes and respect human rights obligations Appropriate management in the community has been found to be more likely to uphold human rights and support well being, improving ability to contribute fully to society if residency is secured or to face difficult futures such as return.