IDC Director, Grant Mitchell, presents at the Global Roundtable. 

Materials from the second Global Roundtable on Alternatives to Detention are now available.

The roundtable, convened by the United Nations of the High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) with the support of the International Detention Coalition and the Oak Foundation was held in Toronto, Canada, from 20-22 April 2015.

It brought together international experts from the UN system, civil society and academia, as well as Government representatives from 24 countries to discuss and share their experiences and good practices on the development and implementation of alternatives to detention for asylum-seekers, refugees, migrants and stateless persons.

The roundtable built on the outcomes of the first Global Roundtable on Alternatives to Detention, held in Geneva in May 2011, and was organised as part of UNHCR’s Global Strategy – Beyond Detention 2014-2019, which aims to support Governments to end the routine detention of asylum-seekers and refugees, in particular to end the detention of children, and is being rolled out in 12 UNHCR focus countries.

The summary of deliberations reflects the broad understandings reached by participants on some of the most critical aspects concerning the development and implementation of reception and alternatives to detention arrangements; in particular, yet not limited to, the following:

  • Reception in the community or in open facilities should be the norm; alternatives to detention should always be considered prior to detention and detention should only be used as a last resort;
  • Alternatives to detention need to be developed and implemented in a way that is context-specific, taking into account the particularities of each situation/country context;
  • Successful alternatives will frequently involve joint Government and civil society collaboration and require strong political leadership;
  • Alternatives to detention have been shown to be nearly universally more cost-effective than detention and to achieve high – higher than 95% in some cases – compliance rates;
  • Successful alternatives to detention encourage asylum-seekers to develop and strengthen links with the local community and preserve family life;
  • Screening helps minimise reliance on detention, by supporting the early identification of persons with protection needs and, if applicable, their channelling into the most appropriate alternative to detention in the individual case;
  • Case management, as also an important component of many successful alternatives to detention, provides for properly tailored support and orientation for individuals to help them navigate the asylum/migration processes, responding to their individual needs and allowing them to engage fully with those processes.
  • Alternatives to detention are also applicable in the returns context and, combined with case management, have been shown to result in solid voluntary return / independent departure rates.

All documents related to the roundtable can be found at: http://www.unhcr.org/3e5f78bc4.html.

All documents relating to UNHCRs Global Strategy are available at: www.unhcr.org/detention.