Skip to main content

Policy Brief: COVID-19 & Immigration Detention: What can governments and other stakeholders do?

Knowledge Platform

At a glance

This policy brief provides practical guidance to Member States and stakeholders on preventing and responding to COVID-19 in the context of immigration detention, highlighting instances of promising practices to draw from.

What it offers

This policy brief includes practical recommendations, a call to action, and resources focused on prevention, release, placement and case management, regularization and access to services, and conditions in immigration detention. It provides guidance to Member States and stakeholders on preventing and responding to COVID-19, in relation to: 

  • Stopping new detentions of migrants for migration - or health-related reasons and introduce a moratorium on the use of immigration detention.   
  • Scaling up and urgently implementing non-custodial, community-based alternatives to immigration detention in accordance with international law.   
  • Releasing all migrants detained into non-custodial, community-based alternatives, following proper safeguards.   
  • Improving conditions in places of immigration detention while alternatives are being scaled up and implemented. 

An annex (EN, FR, ES) is also available to highlight some promising responses to COVID-19 and immigration detention identified in the policy brief.

Further information

The guidance was developed by the Alternatives to Immigration Detention Working Group Co-leads (IDC, UNHCR, UNICEF), and reviewed by the members of the Alternatives to Detention Working Group and Returns and Reintegration Working Group: Asia Pacific Network on Migration (APRNN); Asylum Access; Better Care Network; Bloque Latinoamericano en la Migración; HOST International; El Instituto para las Mujeres en la Migración (IMUMI); Independent researchers (Ian Matthew Kysel, Izabella Majcher); Initiative on Child Rights in the Global Compacts; IOM; International Social Service (ISS); ODIHR/OSCE; OHCHR; Physicians for Human Rights; Platform for International Cooperation on Undocumented Migrants (PICUM), Special Rapporteur on the Human Rights of Migrants; Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Violence Against Children; United Cities and Local Governments (UCLG); UN Major Group for Children and Youth; Women’s Refugee Commission.

Date of Publication
Type of Resource
Policy Brief
Target Audience
General Public
Source / Publisher
Working Group on Alternatives to Immigration Detention
Geographic Scope
Workstream Output
Alternatives to immigration detention 
Regional Review Process
GCM Objectives
Cross Cutting Theme
Human rights
Detention (migration)
Human rights

*References to Kosovo shall be understood to be in the context of United Nations Security Council resolution 1244 (1999).