At our recent members’ meeting we heard updates from the two Home Office funded pilot projects on alternatives to detention. After all the bleakness surrounding the Nationality and Borders Bill, it was very uplifting to hear from colleagues who were talking so positively about a government funded initiative which was taking a far more humane approach to immigration.

Firstly we heard from UNHCRm, who talked about the recent evaluation of the alternatives to the detention pilot project run by Action Foundation in the north east of England.

The pilot involved vulnerable women with asylum-seeking status being placed in the community and given legal support and 1:1 intensive case management.

The evaluation of the approach found that:
– there are better outcomes for people when not in detention;
– it is more humane and less stressful for those involved, enabling them to make better decisions based on the advice received;
– it is more cost-effective (cheaper per participant per night).

Other key points were that participants experienced greater stability and better health and wellbeing outcomes, as well as feeling a sense of connection, community and trust.

We also heard from the second project, which is still running, at the Kings Arms project in Bedford. Since August 2020 they have supported 79 individuals. The majority who received legal advice have been presented with viable options to pursue leave to remain.

Over the coming months many of our members will be seeking opportunities to talk about these alternative to detention projects in order to build support for more such initiatives. These pilot projects show the way forward for a humane and compassionate immigration system where there is focus on the individual person and their unique situation.

As a network of over 50 independent NGOs, we want to end the use of immigration detention because it is neither just nor humane. And these two pilot projects give us a glimpse of what an alternative future could look like. We will continue to make the case that there is a better way!