The report, which is based on interviews with migrants participating in alternatives-to-detention programmes in the United Kingdom, Belgium and Germany, concludes that detaining migrants is unnecessary because more humane non-custodial alternatives exist.
‘‘None of the alternatives to detention we looked into are inherently harmful. They exemplify steps – albeit small steps – towards the normalisation of engagement over enforcement’’, said Philip Amaral of JRS Europe.
‘‘The biggest problems we observed relate to the larger systems of migration and asylum. On a whole, these are systems based on assumptions about likely migrant behaviours rather than empirical evidence.
Geert Verbauwhede of the Belgian Immigration Office acknowledged that the current Belgian system is still in its infancy but was appreciative of the JRS recommendations. ‘‘Our system is still growing, we are only existing three years but we will take the JRS report on board’’, he said.
He condemned the type of lawyers mentioned in the report who charge asylum seekers large fees yet provide them with little help. ‘‘Legal assistance is not always of the same quality... some lawyers see it as a cash cow. If we see this, we will complain to the board of lawyers but we have no influence here’’.
He also admitted that there is not enough information provided to those arriving at the border. ‘’It is clear that we have to give them direct information at the time’’, he said.
Antonio Masip Hidalgo MEP, claimed that the biggest problems with adopting a new Reception Conditions Directive lie with member states in the Council. Even those that are the most engaged in the debate, and the most supportive, face difficulties with the compromise.
He said that there is a need to go straight to the member states, i.e. in Brussels, their embassies, permanent representations, in order to persuade them to accept compromises that include alternatives to detention.
The Danish Presidency of the EU (Jan-July 2012), however, will be a critical moment for the Reception Conditions Directive. This period will be a good chance to adopt a directive with higher protection standards, he stated.
Philip Amaral, advocacy officer
+32 2 250 32 23