A recently published research paper entitled “Immigration detention and its impact on integration – a European approach”, questions the disconnect between migration and immigration policies in analysing the impact of migrants’ detention on their further integration into the receiving society.

The paper argues that detention and integration are considered to be distinct policy areas in the EU. However, a large number of third country nationals who are detained for immigration purposes in fact remain on EU territory. This phenomenon is also called the “deportation gap”. As a consequence, a significant proportion of individuals that have been detained also come under the scope of EU integration policies. There is therefore a need to connect these two migration-related policy areas.

“The starting point of this research is that while the negative impact of immigration detention is well acknowledged, very little attention is actually given to the situation of people after detention. The analysis so far has been put into a legal perspective (compliance with human rights and EU law) or in research looking at the criminal aspect of migration law and policy,” explains the author, Anne Bathily, Project Officer for ECRE.

The first part of the paper looks at the EU frameworks for integration and detention, while the second part focuses on the long-term impact of detention, existing research evidence from various fields of science (medical research, criminology, law, political and social sciences) about influencing factors and qualitative studies conducted by several NGOs.

While taking a multidisciplinary approach, the author brings evidence to the fact that detention – and its immediate and long-term negative impact on people’s mental health – also impacts the integration of migrants and refugees and has consequences on societies. The paper considers the effect of detention on the different key areas of integration identified at EU level: social inclusion, health, employment, education, family life and the two-way process of mutual accommodation by all immigrants and residents of EU Member States.

It concludes that the experience of confinement damages people’s view of themselves and of others and affects the individual’s ability to interact and engage with the host society. It thus has a range of consequences on all areas that are considered key for successful integration in the EU. Moreover, the paper points out that a hostile environment towards migrants can lead to unintended consequences such as damaging the feeling of belonging of settled ethnic communities and “second-third generation” migrants.

Thus, the research paper both highlights the need to “connect the dots” between the immigration detention and integration policy fields and questions the use of immigration detention given the importance the EU places on integration.

This paper adds to the current debate on integration taking place in Europe by addressing the impact certain migration policies have on the integration process and questioning the issue of policy consistency and costs for individuals and societies. By documenting the immediate and long-term negative impact of immigration detention on individuals and society, it also adds to a body of research including the IDC’s “There are Alternatives“.

Posted 10 February 2015