Alternatives to immigration detention are an essential safeguard against arbitrary detention. Deprivation of liberty can expose individuals to a serious risk of rights violation, so less harmful options must be considered before the state resorts to using detention.

There can never be full agreement on what constitutes an alternative to detention, as different things can be alternatives in different countries. As a result, it can be more useful to think of alternatives as a strategy for reducing the scale and length of detention.

The problems with immigration detention are well known. It’s harmful, expensive and often ineffective. Incarceration in detention centres does not help people to go through the immigration process or work towards concluding their cases with dignity. Inadequate healthcare, restricted access to legal support and emotional counsel can severely hamper individuals’ ability to progress their own immigration cases.

In the community, there is more freedom to access support available from families, friends and community groups, and it is easier to work on a legal case. Individuals can also avoid the harm that arises from deprivation of liberty in prison-like detention centres.

High quality case-management is central to any effective alternative to detention project, which needs to ensure that it provides tailored support that meets the needs of individuals. Case managers should be independent from Home Office decision-makers and government departments. Good quality case-management incorporates measures that ensure individuals’ well-being and dignity are protected as they engage with case managers and the alternative to detention programme.

Interested in learning more about alternatives to detention? Start with our FAQs.