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Reducing the use of immigration detention in the EU

In recent years, the European Union (EU) and Member States have prioritised reducing migrants’ irregular entry and stay by reinforcing external border controls and intensifying administrative detention as a form of migration management.

National Red Cross Societies in the EU witness how immigration detention increases the vulnerability of individuals who, for a variety of reasons, are usually already at risk. They believe that liberty should be the norm, and that detention ought to be a measure of last resort which is limited in time and of a non-carceral nature.

The purpose of this position paper is to encourage States to safeguard the liberty of migrants and to avoid the use of detention for immigration-related reasons. If there are grounds for detention however, guidance is also included to support States to develop and implement alternatives, as well as to guarantee humane treatment in immigration detention, in line with applicable international, European, and domestic laws and standards.


Based on their operational experience, National Red Cross Societies in the EU make the following recommendations to the EU and Member States to protect the liberty of migrants and discourage the use of detention:

  1. Ensure that immigration detention is an exceptional measure of last resort – liberty should be the norm.
  2. Develop and implement alternatives to detention. If there are grounds for detention, alternatives to detention should be systematically considered first.
  3. End the immigration-related detention of children and other vulnerable groups.
  4. Avoid the detention of refugees and asylum seekers.
  5. Only use detention when it has been determined to be necessary, reasonable, and proportionate to a legitimate purpose.
  6. Guarantee that detention is always subject to timely judicial reviews and effective appeal mechanisms.
  7. Make sure that the conditions of immigration-related detention are non-carceral and as lenient as possible.
  8. Enable migrants to restore and maintain contact with their family members and to access other relevant services.
  9. Ensure regular independent monitoring and inspections of immigration detention facilities.
  10. Support efforts to limit immigration detention in third countries.


Download the complete position paper

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