“What do we hope for the future?” was the central question for the recent panel discussion that took place in the Latin American Social Sciences Institute (FLACSO) in Quito, Ecuador, on the 20th of April, 2017. This event followed the release of a report by the same name, which presents information on current policy and practice related to immigration detention and alternatives to detention (ATD) in 21 countries in the Americas region.

“We have to go back to basics: detention must be used only as a last resort”, stated Álvaro Botero, representative of the Interamerican Commission on Human Rights (IACHR).

Botero praised the report as the most exhaustive analysis available on immigration detention and ATD in the Americas. Based on information presented before the IACHR at a thematic hearing in October of 2014, the report identifies the main patterns of human rights violations related to the use of immigration detention, and also highlights key policy and practice that represent positive components of alternatives to detention.

“Less talking, more action. It’s not enough to simply adopt instruments [to protect human rights], they must be respected” stated Ernesto Pazmiño Granizo, Public Defender (Ombudsman) of Ecuador.

The Public Defender acknowledged the recent steps taken by the Ecuadorian government to guarantee the right to personal liberty in the migration context. These steps include the closing of Hotel Carrión, which was being used for immigration detention purposes, and the prohibition of detention included in the new Human Mobility Law. However, he also showed concern for the elimination of judicial review of detention decisions, and detention carried out in airports.

Fortunately, States have a gamut of mechanisms and resources available to avoid unnecessary or arbitrary use of immigration detention.

“Measures for avoiding detention have been found in each country included in this study,” highlighted Elba Coria, principal author of the report and current director of the Alaíde Foppa Legal Clinic at the Universidad Iberoamericana in Mexico.

ATD are defined as legislation, policy or practice, formal or informal, that ensures people are not detained for reasons relating to their migration status.The report includes a series of recommendations to States for eliminating the use of immigration detention, and instead adopting alternatives that guarantee the right to personal liberty and freedom of movement.

We thank everyone that participated in the panel, and are grateful to FLACSO Ecuador, and Asylum Access América Latina for co-organising the event, and Carmen Gómez, Research Professor of FLACSO Ecuador for moderating the panel discussion.