A new report by IDC member Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS) Europe has concluded that detaining migrants is unnecessary because more humane non-custodial alternatives exist in Europe.

The report is based on in-depth interviews by JRS Europe with 25 migrants participating in alternative to detention programmes in Belgium, Germany and the UK. It found that although community-based measures are clearly a step in the right direction, unless they are accompanied by appropriate legal, social and other support, migrants can be forced into destitution.

“Community-based measures are more humane than detention, so long as migrants are given adequate support”, said Philip Amaral, JRS Europe Advocacy Officer and author of the report.

The report goes further in highlighting that community-based alternatives are five times cheaper than immigration detention, which costs states like Belgium and the UK as much as 200 euro per day. In times of economic crisis, EU states should implement cost-effective alternatives to detention, rather than waste precious resources on a harmful and ineffective system.

Detention is akin to using a sledgehammer to crack a nutshell. It does not make sense to deprive the liberty of large groups of migrants on the assumption that a minority would abscond from the authorities”, said Mr Amaral.

In each of the three projects that JRS researched, asylum seekers and undocumented migrants live freely in the community with few restrictions. The individuals and families who were interviewed expressed a strong desire to fully cooperate with the national authorities, based on their interest to resolve their cases as effectively as possible.

“Alternatives-to-detention work best when they are linked with improvements in the larger system. The migrants with whom we spoke strive to be honest in their dealings with the national authorities. They ask to be treated in a dignified and fair manner, with access to good legal advice and basic social support – conditions that are necessary for effective asylum and immigration systems ”, concluded Mr Amaral.

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