There is now a handbook for governments around the world demonstrating how alternatives to detention are cheaper and more humane than mandatory detention. This is the result of a two year research partnership between the International Detention Coalition and La Trobe University in Melbourne, Australia.
More than 6,500 people are currently held in Australian immigration detention.
The 10 June 2011 launch of this Handbook was held at a Roundtable in Canberra attended by the Australian government and co-chaired by the IDC and the UNHCR.
The five-step Community Assessment and Placement model (CAP) outlines mechanisms and examples from around the world that prevent unnecessary detention, enforce immigration law through mechanisms that do not rely heavily on detention, and effectively support individuals in the community.
In most cases, the first three steps of the CAP model will be sufficient.
1. Presume detention is not necessary
2. Screen and assess each case individually
3. Assess the community context
4. Apply conditions to release if necessary
5. Detain only as a last resort in exceptional cases
You can view or download the handbook here
In European countries, South Africa and New Zealand asylum seekers are processed in the community, including in open reception centres.
These and other alternatives to detention are reliable and work for the government, community and individuals. Absconding rates are as low as 1%.
Alternatives cost less than detention, which has now exceeded $2 billion in this year’s budget. There are high compliance rates, including for those facing return, when individuals are supported to explore all legal avenues.
An estimated cost saving of 93% was noted in Canada and 69% in Australia on alternatives to detention compared to regular detention costs, and, independent and voluntary returns in the EU and Australia save approximately 70% compared to escorted removals.
“Australia already has effective alternatives to detention that are used for asylum seekers who arrive by plane, that are achieving high compliance rates and cost less than detention. These can easily be expanded for boat arrivals, who are have been found to be predominantly refugees in need of protection,” says IDC’s Grant Mitchell.
‘Irregular’ migration and concerns related to border protection, security and people smuggling cannot be resolved through detention in Australia or in neighbouring countries, the research found.
These issues must be tackled through international, regional and national cooperation, within a framework of refugee protection.
Governments in partnership with civil society can work through these five stages which are currently being implemented in a range of countries to enforce immigration law through mechanisms that do not rely heavily on detention.
Can a considered approach like this override domestic hysteria and populist politics?