“Programs that emphasize alternatives to detention provide a more balanced way for States to ensure compliance with immigration laws ” – Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (Annual Report 2014,  paragraph 124).


May 2015 – The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) announced the publication of their 2014 Annual Report, which includes recommendations that all States in the region end immigration detention as a general policy and instead develop alternatives to detention. The IACHR calls detention a “disproportionate measure” that should only be used “after assessing each case individually and determining that there is indeed a need to deprive that person of his or her liberty” (paragraph 124).

Over the past year, immigration detention has been a priority issue for the IACHR and is a central topic in their annual report, which provides an overview of the human rights situation  in the Americas and makes recommendations to governments. As part of this focus, the IACHR highlights the importance of the contributions made by civil society at the thematic hearing on Migrant Detention and Alternative Measures in the Americas, where the International Detention Coalition, together with 162 co-petioners highlighted “a disturbing increase in automatic, widespread detention in some countries in the region; the punitive nature of this type of deprivation of liberty; and the lack of guarantees for due process and judicial review in cases involving migrant detentions” (paragraph 119). As follow-up to the hearing, the IDC supported the Commission it it’s request for information on immigration detention to be included in their Annual Report, creating an opportunity for States and Civil Society to provide examples of the most emblematic issues that demonstrate patterns or obstacles, as well as good practices.

Thus, the report expresses concern about the practice of large-scale family detention in the United States, especially in regards to child’s rights violations in be able to seek and receive asylum, as well as fast-track deportation processes for all migrants and little to no access to legal representation.

Regarding Mexico and Caribbean countries, the Commission highlighted the problematic situation of asylum seekers and refugees who are detained for long periods of time, or even indefinitely. These situations are especially concerning since international standards hold that detention should never be used for vulnerable groups, including  children, asylum seekers and refugees.

The IACHR also referenced their recent precautionary measures issued for the Bahamas that direct the government to ensure that legal assistance to detainees is available, adopt the necessary measures to address the special situation of unaccompanied children, and ensure that civil society and international organizations have access to the detention center for the purpose of monitoring.

For all States in the Americas region, the Commission’s recommendation to develop and implement alternatives to immigration detention is clear.


Read Chapter IV of the Report: Human Rights Developments in the Region

Read the Full Report

Read the IACHR Press Release

View Statistical Data on the activities of the IACHR

See photos from the hearing on immigration detention and alternatives in the Americas (photo credit Daniel Cima)