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Locking up the detention centre. Alternatives to detention in Europe By: Philip Amaral, JRS Europe. What I’ll talk about. How JRS views alternatives to detention (ATD) A proposal for how you might think about ATDs What ingredients does a good ATD call for?

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locking up the detention centre

Locking up the detention centre

Alternatives to detention in Europe

By: Philip Amaral, JRS Europe

what i ll talk about
What I’ll talk about
  • How JRS views alternatives to detention (ATD)
  • A proposal for how you might think about ATDs
  • What ingredients does a good ATD call for?
  • Why do we European NGOs need to work on ATDs?
first a question
First, a question:

What elements make for a good alternative to detention?

atds a recipe with many ingredients
ATDs: A recipe with many ingredients

ATDs as a means to an end, and not an end itself.

A means to which end?

A transparent & fair outcome to a person’s case

A dignified and humane immigration procedure

A scenario in which detention is hardly used…

…because gov’ts decide more often to not detain

how does jrs define atds
How does JRS define ATDs?

Any policy, practice or legislation that allows asylum seekers and migrants to live in the community with freedom of movement, in respect of their right to liberty and security of person, while they undertake to resolve their migration status and/or while awaiting removal from the territory.

why does jrs define atds so broadly
Why does JRS define ATDs so broadly?
  • At critical points in a person’s immigration procedure, we want governments to decide not to detain. To have this, we see the need for flexibility on deciding how not to detain.

This is the heart of our views on ATDs

the heart of jrs s view on atds
The heart of JRS’s view on ATDs
  • ATDs are a decision, and not only an outcome.
  • The ATD is the point in which the state authority faces the decision whether to detain an individual or not.
  • Scenario: State authority comes into contact with an asylum seeker, or an irregular migrant, and decides:
    • “No, we won’t detain; the person will live independently in the community.”
    • “No, we won’t detain; but the person has to check-in once a week”
    • “No, we won’t detain; but the person needs to be with a case manager.”
  • The starting point for any decision to not detain should be the person’s liberty & security of person; in other words, no restriction.
why does jrs define atds so broadly1
Why does JRS define ATDs so broadly?
  • State authorities should be screening and assessing each individual to determine the best kind of ATD.
  • Most cases, people can live independently.
  • But there will be cases in which conditions need to be attached. These must be a result of rigourous screening and assessment.
good elements for atds in jrs s view
‘Good elements’ for ATDs, in JRS’s view
  • Decent living conditions
  • Comprehensive support
  • Regular, up-to-date, information
  • Qualified legal assistance
  • Focus on all possible outcomes
  • Frontloading support
another question
Another question:

What are your organisational views on ATDs in Europe?

ngo variety is a good thing
NGO variety is a good thing.
  • We need NGOs who …
    • Are emboldened and strong speaking
    • Prefer working closely with governments
    • Are close to refugees, asylum seekers and migrants
    • Have experience and expertise with service provision
    • Know how to give legal aid
    • Know how to do research

Just because there are different views on ATDs, doesn’t mean we can’t work together to achieve a common goal:

To make detention so unnecessary, so hardly used that it truly becomes an exception.

To make detention extinct as a government practice.

the atd window of opportunity
The ATD ‘window of opportunity’
  • Reception Conditions Directive
  • The Dublin III Regulation
  • The Return Directive
atd language in eu law strikingly similar
ATD language in EU law: strikingly similar
  • “Individual assessment”
  • “Individual case” / “specific case”
  • “Less coercive measures”
  • ATDs must “respect fundamental rights”
  • “Laid down in national law”
where we as ngos come in
Where we as NGOs come in

NGOs have particular expertise that can be used towards governments for the following:

Conduct a good individual assessment

Identify good less coercive alternative measures

Ensure ATDs respect fundamental rights

Make sure ATDs are in law & implemented

Screen individual and specific cases


If we don’t work actively to achieve the best scenario for ATDs, we will have missed an opportunity to reduce detention in Europe over the next years.

to work together we ll need different tactics which ones
To work together, we’ll need different tactics. Which ones?
  • Generate noise to get governments’ & publics’ attention
  • Technical planning and strategy development
  • Service provision methods
  • Monitoring fundamental rights
  • To be close to refugees, migrants, asylum seekers
  • Close connections to decision makers
  • Coordinators, people and organisations who can bring it all together

Let’s take the time we have to start off on this track!

Thank you for listening!

Jesuit Refugee Service Europe


+32 2 250 32 20