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European Alternatives to Detention Network

Primary GCM Objectives

GCM Guiding Principles*

*All practices are to uphold the ten guiding principles of the GCM. This practice particularly exemplifies these listed principles.


2017 - Present

Type of practice


Geographic scope



The European Alternatives to Detention Network (EATDN) is a group of NGOs that aims to end immigration detention in Europe. Established in 2017, it brings together civil society organisations implementing case management-based ATD (alternatives to detention) pilots in seven European countries (Belgium, Bulgaria, Cyprus, Greece, Italy, Poland and the UK) in partnership with regional-level and international organisations. The network – which is facilitated by the International Detention Coalition – aims to create a shift at a systemic level from enforcement-based migration management systems that rely on detention, to promoting community-based alternatives. Ultimately, the goal of the EATDN is to reduce and eventually end the use of immigration detention. The EATDN works towards this by building evidence and momentum on rights-based approaches which are based on the principles of case management in the community, in order to demonstrate how migration management without detention can be effective. Network members implement and test case management-based approaches aimed at supporting individuals in an irregular situation to work towards a durable solution while living in the community. They also provide non-coercive, non-enforcement based ATD to support people who would or could otherwise be detained, and promote the further expansion of this model over enforcement-based ATD. The pilots are all carried out in line with the principles of the Community Assessment and Placement (CAP) model, employing case managers to work with individuals at risk of detention in order to ensure that their holistic needs are being met.


Main Implementing Organization(s)

International Detention Coalition (IDC)
European Alternatives to Detention Network
JRS Belgium
Centre for Legal Aid - Voice in Bulgaria
Cyprus Refugee Council
Human Rights 360
Coalizione Italiana Libertà e Diritti Civili
Progetto Diritti
Stowarzyszenie Interwencji Prawnej
Detention Action
Action Foundation

Detailed Information

International Detention Coalition, JRS Belgium, Centre for Legal Aid - Voice in Bulgaria, Cyprus Refugee Council, Human Rights 360, Coalizione Italiana Libertà e Diritti Civili, Progetto Diritti, Stowarzyszenie Interwencji Prawnej, Detention Action, Action Foundation

Partner/Donor Organizations

Platform for International Cooperation on Undocumented Migrants - PICUM
International Detention Coalition - IDC

Benefit and Impact

The pilots have had a significant positive impact on the communities with whom they work. In many cases, they have secured the release of individuals from immigration detention and more broadly succeeded in reducing the risk of detention for those involved in the pilots. Through their work, the pilots have managed to demonstrate the effectiveness of a case management-based approach, including when it comes to the number of cases resolved and the level of migrant engagement. An evaluation report of EATDN pilots in three of the pilot countries (Bulgaria, Cyprus and Poland) shows that 97% of individuals remained engaged with immigration procedures through case management in the community. Across the different countries in which the pilots operate, authorities are increasingly reaching out to EATDN members for collaboration. There is political momentum in some countries and also examples of increased engagement and dialogue with civil society. In Belgium, the Cabinet is reaching out to civil society and also to local municipalities; potential partnerships between national immigration authorities and ATD pilot implementers are being negotiated. Pilot implementers in Cyprus and Poland continue to have good access to key authorities including some collaborative work, while in Italy members of the EATDN are engaged in conversations with key local authorities, the Ministry of Interior and some political leaders. Network members have also highlighted the considerable added value brought by the EATDN when advocating for community-based solutions, both nationally and regionally, in allowing them to present their pilot as part of a wider European ‘movement’.

Key Lessons

Key lessons learned include:
• The importance of using evidence and learning coming out of the pilots in order to effectively advocate for changes in law, policy, and practice. It is key to create the political space to make this possible, and advocacy strategies must be based on a deep understanding of key stakeholders and of the level at which advocacy can be undertaken most strategically. This includes coordinating local, national and regional efforts.
• The importance of network building as an enabler. It is only through strategic and reliable partnerships that the Network can successfully scale its innovative approach. This includes working with partners in a range of sectors as well as national and local authorities.
• Grounding our work in lived experience. The EATDN is committed to meaningfully working with people on the move who have lived experience of immigration detention in order to ensure that our pilots and approaches are truly responsive to their needs and demonstrate their leadership and agency.

Recommendations(if the practice is to be replicated)

Our recommendations for government actors include:
- Investing in innovative civil society pilots;
- Scaling up and resourcing pilots where they have shown effectiveness;
- Increasing collaborative partnerships with civil society actors.

For actors keen to replicate this practice, the Network website ( includes good practice around implementing the case management approach and working with people at risk of detention. IDC's CAP model also contains key elements for organisations to consider. The Network has also produced a document on case management-based approaches:


Our community-based Alternatives to Detention pilots show that when we work together, a community-led approach results in better outcomes for everyone. The European ATD Network has been working in Belgium, Bulgaria, Cyprus, Greece, Italy, Poland and the UK to drive down detention by collaborating with partners. and building holistic alternatives to detention that work. Based on well-established social work principles and applying them to ATD, this innovative approach gives people the tools they need to work through their own cases. By providing caseworkers in the community, people have access to legal assistance, healthcare, and essential support to navigate the immigration process for themselves. There is evidence to show how successful this approach can be; one pilot evaluation showed that 97% of people remained engaged with immigration procedures through community management. People are supported and empowered to make informed decisions about their case, leading to increased engagement and resolution. Community-based solutions are feasible and effective, and it is essential that they are scaled up to reach a larger number of people and have a greater impact.

Date submitted:

30 March 2022

Disclaimer: The content of this practice reflects the views of the implementers and does not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations, the United Nations Network on Migration, and its members.



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