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Becoming Vulnerable in Detention - Administrative detention of


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									        BECOMING VULNERABLE
           IN DETENTION
   Civil Society Report on the Detention of Vulnerable Asylum Seekers
                       Executive Summary
               and Irregular Migrants in the European Union
                            (The DEVAS Project)

Civil Society Report on the Detention of
Vulnerable Asylum Seekers and Irregular
    Migrants in the European Union

          (The DEVAS Project)

        Jesuit Refugee Service-Europe
            BECOMING VULNERABLE IN DETENTION                                   EXECUTIVE SUMMARY

INTRODUCTION                                          Africa but also Eastern Europe and Eastern
The objective of the DEVAS project was to
investigate and analyse vulnerability in detained     The data shows that, at an average of 3.56
asylum seekers and irregular migrants: both the       months at the time of their interview, asylum
way in which pre-existing vulnerable groups           seekers experience the most prolonged periods
cope with detention, and the way in which             of detention in the sample. They were detained
detention can enable vulnerability in persons         for one month longer than irregular migrants. Of
who do not otherwise possess officially               those detained for five to six months, 78 percent
recognised vulnerabilities and special needs.         are asylum seekers.

In partnership with NGOs in 23 EU Member              Taking the entire sample into account, the
States, JRS-Europe oversaw the collection of          average duration of detention at the time of
685 one-on-one interviews with detainees. The         interview is 3.01 months. Detainees were kept
size and scope of the sample reveals that,            for as little as one day, or for as long as 31
despite the diversity of personal circumstances       months.
of the detainees, detention does have a
common negative effect upon the persons who           POSSESSION OF INFORMATION
experience it. In addition to detainees, project
partners interviewed detention centre staff and       Asylum seekers are less informed about the
other NGOs operating within the centres, and          reasons for their detention than irregular
conducted a survey of asylum and immigration          migrants are. One-third of female asylum
laws in their respective countries. This data is      seekers do not know why they are detained; and
included within each of the national reports.         almost 40 percent of asylum seekers detained
                                                      for more than three months contend to know
This study builds on previous reports and             little about why they are detained. Forty percent
projects that investigated vulnerability in           of asylum seekers are uninformed about the
detention. It analyses the situation of individuals   asylum procedure.
and groups that possess officially recognised
special needs, such as minors, young women            Awareness of detention increases with age: one-
with children, the elderly and persons with           third of minors do know not why they are
medical illness. But this study also analyses the     detained, and 76 percent of asylum-seeking
situation of detainees who often go unnoticed:        minors are uninformed of the asylum procedure.
young single men, persons without stated              Women, especially those aged 18 to 24,
physical and mental health needs, and persons         possess less information about detention, and
in prolonged detention. Most importantly, this        their immigration/asylum status, than men do.
study pushes the discussion on vulnerability and
detention one step further because its results        Persons kept for more than three months in
are based exclusively on the voices of                detention know less about the circumstances of
detainees.       Thus the understanding of            their detention, and the details of their respective
vulnerability that emerges from this study            cases, than persons detained for less than three
characterises the experiences of detainees as         months; 85 percent of persons detained for four
they told it themselves.                              to five months describe a need for more
                                                      information on their situation.


                                                      Detainees overwhelmingly feel negative about
                                                      the conditions of the detention centre. Many
BASIC INFORMATION                                     complain of unsanitary toilet and shower
                                                      facilities, and unhygienic kitchens. A large
The average detainee in the sample is male,           number of detainees equate their detention
single, 30 years old and likely to be from West       centre to that of a prison.
Africa, South Asia or the Middle East. But
women do consist of almost one quarter of the         Asylum seekers and long-term detainees more
sample, of which many come from not only West         frequently complain of overcrowded conditions

                                                                        Jesuit Refugee Service-Europe, page 1
            BECOMING VULNERABLE IN DETENTION                                   EXECUTIVE SUMMARY

than others do. Moreover, detainees kept for          seekers frequently report being victims of both
more than three months say they have little           forms of abuse.
access to private space within the detention
centre.                                               The living conditions have an impact on
                                                      detainees’ sense of safety. Excessive noise,
RULES WITHIN THE DETENTION CENTRE                     unhygienic conditions and the prison-like
                                                      atmosphere are widely reported factors that
The strict regimes found in many detention            make detainees feel unsafe.
centres have a profound negative impact on
detainees’ lives.     The fixed eating times,         ACTIVITIES WITHIN THE DETENTION
recreation hours and mandatory nightly curfews        CENTRE
lead detainees to feel as if they are in prison.
                                                      Prolonged inactivity is inherent within the
A great number of detainees describe rules that       situation of detention. Detainees have little to do
keep them isolated in their cells more than           unless the staff organises something for them to
anything else. Consequently, many detainees           do. The resulting boredom increases levels of
report to sleep excessively during the daytime,       psychological stress. Most notably, detainees
leading to insomnia at night. Isolation and           aged 18 to 24 – in particular women – report
inactivity leaves other detainees feel degraded       high levels of inactivity in the detention centre.
and undignified.
                                                      Detainees have greater access to sedentary and
The “informal” rules are just as important as the     physical activities, rather than those that would
“formal” rules.        Detainees describe an          engage their intellectual capacities. Television
atmosphere where certain persons receive more         watching, rudimentary sports activities and
favour from the staff, and thus benefit from more     general time spent outdoors is more widely
relaxed rules. This creates an atmosphere of          available than educational and religious/spiritual
arbitrariness, uncertainty and mistrust. It also      activities. Even books are not available to a
makes certain detainees more vulnerable to            significant minority of detainees.
other, more socially dominant, detainees.
                                                      More than anything, detainees either want
DETAINEES’ INTERACTION WITH STAFF IN                  activities that enable them to connect to the
THE DETENTION CENTRE                                  ‘outside world’, or they want nothing at all.
                                                      Asylum seekers and minors especially wish for
Detainees are more frequently in contact with         greater access to the Internet and telephone.
security staff than any other staff. The manner       When asked which activities they would like to
in which detainees interact with staff is good.       have, a startlingly large minority of detainees
But detainees are critical about the way the staff    said that they want “freedom” or “nothing”.
supports their daily needs in detention.
                                                      MEDICAL CARE IN THE DETENTION
Language is an important factor in   detainee-staff   CENTRE
relations. Minors and women          in the study
especially     report    having        experienced    Detention centres are generally only able to
discrimination for not being able    to speak the     provide very basic medical care to detainees,
language of the staff.                                irrespective of their needs. Medical specialists
                                                      such as psychologists, gynaecologists and
SAFETY WITHIN THE DETENTION CENTRE                    dentists are largely unavailable. In fact, 87
                                                      percent say psychological services are
Detainees attribute their safety to the security      unavailable to them.
guards, but their lack of safety to co-detainees.
Nevertheless, incidents of physical and verbal        Language is a major factor here too. Detainees
abuse occur at the hands of staff as well as          report an inability to speak with the medical staff
other detainees. Incidents of physical abuse          because of language differences. Co-detainees
were recorded in three quarters of the EU             are often turned to for help because other
Member States; and incidents involving verbal         options do not exist. Minors frequently report
abuse were recorded in 19 Member States.              experiencing difficulties in this regard.
Minors, women aged 18 to 24 and asylum

                                                                        Jesuit Refugee Service-Europe, page 2
            BECOMING VULNERABLE IN DETENTION                                   EXECUTIVE SUMMARY

Most detainees want improved medical          care    described being “shocked”, “fearful” and
services. Over 90 percent of women aged      18 to    “depressed” at their situation of confinement.
24 express a need for better medical         care.    Detainees’ psychological stress is also a
Many detainees report receiving only         pain-    consequence of the poor living conditions, the
reducing medication for whatever medical     need     self-uncertainty of their situations and their
they express.                                         isolation from the ‘outside world’. Their inability
                                                      to establish a perspective of their future, due to
Persons kept for more than three months in            a lack of information and disconnection from the
detention are more frequently negative about          outside world, places a great deal of
medical care than those who are kept for fewer        psychological stress upon their shoulders. This
months. In fact, detainees who are negative           stress often leads to deeper anxiety and
about the quality of medical care are detained        depression.
on average for one and a half months longer
than detainees who feel positive about the            Prolonged detention compounds the adverse
medical care.                                         mental health effects of detention: 71 percent of
                                                      persons detained for four to five months blame
PHYSICAL HEALTH IN DETENTION                          their psychological problems on detention itself.

The data shows that detention harms otherwise         Age and legal status are two important factors
healthy people. While a number express having         for how detainees mentally cope with detention
pre-existing conditions such as asthma, chronic       at a personal level. Minors and detainees aged
pain or medical illnesses, most say they entered      18 to 24 frequently report negative mental health
into detention in relatively good physical health.    impacts. Asylum seekers express shock at their
                                                      detainment – it being far from what they would
The living conditions of the centre, such as the      have expected by coming to Europe. Irregular
lack of fresh air or the mere confinement to one      migrants express anxiety and uncertainty about
location,   and      the  psychological    stress     what may happen to them post-expulsion.
associated with detention all bring harmful           Seventy-seven percent of ‘Dublin II’ asylum
physical health consequences.                         seekers and 55 percent of ‘rejected asylum
                                                      seekers’ report poor mental health in detention.
Physical health deteriorates as detention
endures.    Whereas one quarter of people             SOCIAL INTERACTION WITHIN THE
detained for one month describe their physical        DETENTION CENTRE
health as being poor, 72 percent of people
detained for four to five months say they have        The environment of detention has a negative
very poor physical health.                            impact on the level and quality of social
                                                      interaction among detainees and between
Younger detainees more frequently report poor         detainees and staff.      The mix of cultures,
physical health than older detainees do. Minors       nationalities and languages within the detention
and women aged 18 to 24 frequently describe           centre makes conflict inevitable. Prolonged
negative physical health impacts than when            detainees more frequently report negative social
compared to others.                                   interactions than others.

MENTAL HEALTH WITHIN THE DETENTION                    An absence of language skills makes certain
CENTRE                                                detainees vulnerable to other, more dominant,
                                                      social groups. Minors and detainees aged 18 to
Detention brings very negative consequences           24 are frequently witness to arguments and
for detainees’ mental health. Almost half of the      physical violence.
entire sample describes their mental health as
being poor in detention.                              COMMUNICATION WITH THE ‘OUTSIDE
The mere situation of detention itself is a primary
determinant in the negative mental health             Almost half of the entire sample admits that they
consequences described by detainees. Many             do not have networks of family or friends in the
were unable to provide specific reasons for           host Member State. Detainees are more likely
these impacts. Instead, they more frequently

                                                                        Jesuit Refugee Service-Europe, page 3
            BECOMING VULNERABLE IN DETENTION                                    EXECUTIVE SUMMARY

to receive support from strangers than from             Remarkably, detainees hold positive perceptions
familiar persons.                                       of themselves despite the adversities they
                                                        experience. But almost 70 percent say that
The telephone is the most widely used means of          detention steadily worsens their self-perception.
communication, and detainees’ preferred
method of communication.       However many             When asked directly, most detainees do not
detainees say they are unable to use their              admit to having special needs – but they readily
personal mobile telephones – an important loss          point out the needs and vulnerabilities that
for detainees as their personal mobile                  others possess. Those who do admit having
telephones often contain important contact              special needs are more likely to describe needs
information.                                            that are not officially recognised: language
                                                        capacity, connection to family, possession of
Asylum seekers are particularly isolated from the       information and the ability to communicate with
outside world: approximately 80 percent do not          the outside world. According to detainees,
receive any personal from family and friends,           language capacity and familial connections are
and over half do not have any family or friends in      two of the more important factors of vulnerability
the host Member State.                                  they perceive in others.

The data shows that the young detainees in the
sample are particularly isolated from the ‘outside      PART 2: ANALYSIS
world’. Up to 80 percent of minors, and almost
half of women aged 18 to 24, do not receive any
personal visits. In other cases, people kept for
more than three months in detention are shown           WHAT DOES THIS STUDY SAY ABOUT
to be particularly isolated.                            ‘VULNERABILITY’?

THE IMPACT OF DETENTION ON THE                          The data offers a story of detainees who not
INDIVIDUAL                                              only have special needs such as medical
                                                        problems, pre-existing traumatic histories and
A large majority of detainees express deep              families to take care of, but also of detainees
dissatisfaction over the quality of the food            who become vulnerable to the negative effects
provided in the detention centre, and over half         of detention. Some detainees find that they can
experience insomnia at night. Both conditions           cope with the adversity posed by detention;
significantly contribute to the amount of               others find that they are easily crippled. Some
psychological stress detainees feel.            In      detainees find that detention does not negatively
particular, the quality of the food contributes to      affect them until after one or two months; yet
an overall sense of indignity among detainees.          others find that detention harms them from the
Appetite and weight loss are very common.               very first day.
Prolonged detention exacerbates these negative
effects.                                                The picture that emerges from the data is one of
                                                        a detainee who is trapped and cannot escape,
The situation of detention itself is the biggest        and is thus vulnerable to harm from the factors
difficulty detainees described coping with. The         associated with detention. The detainee must
mere imposition of detention and all of its             therefore rely on their personal attributes, the
consequent effects are an insurmountable                people in their social network and the factors in
difficulty for many detainees.         Everyone,        their environment in order to free him or herself
regardless of age, sex, legal status and duration       from that trap. Conversely, the same personal,
of detention, is affected.                              social and environmental factors – or an
                                                        absence of such factors – may actually hinder
The difficulties of detention are daily present in      an individual’s ability to reduce their level of
detainees’ lives; any changes of these difficulties     vulnerability to detention.
are usually for the worse. The inability to
establish a future perspective is crippling; in fact,   A NEW OUTLOOK TOWARDS
79 percent of detainees do not know when they           VULNERABILITY IN DETENTION
will be released from detention.

                                                                         Jesuit Refugee Service-Europe, page 4
            BECOMING VULNERABLE IN DETENTION                                  EXECUTIVE SUMMARY

Within the context of detention and the data that    ‘external factors’, in the sense that they are
was collected for DEVAS, ‘vulnerability’ can be      situated outside of the personal self. Yet they
conceptualised as a concentric circle of personal    do not necessitate existence in the ‘outside
(internal), social and environment (external)        world’, per se – such factors may also exist in
factors that may strengthen or weaken an             the detainees’ social network within the
individual’s personal condition. Put differently,    detention centre. The factors that seem to most
the presence or absence of these factors may         influence detainees’ personal situations are
either empower a detainee to cope with the           family, relatives and/or friend in the ‘outside
negative effects of detention, or they may           world’, the ‘outside world’ (means of contact to),
expose the detainee to further harm.                 co-detainees and detention centre staff.

Factors interact with each other in a variety of     Finally, environmental factors can be defined as
ways, both positively and negatively.        For     the sum of the determinants that exist in the
example, the data findings show that detention       individual’s larger environment but that the
centre staff members are an important part of        individual cannot control nor influence, and
detainees’ social network.        Discriminatory     which may still increase or lessen his or her
attitudes and inappropriate behaviour on the part    level of vulnerability to detention. Among those
of staff can have a detrimental affect on            that seem to most influence detainees’ level of
detainees’ well being.       Thus it would be        vulnerability is the architecture of the detention
important that staff members are sufficiently        centre, the terms and length of their detention
trained so that they can meet the needs of           and the living conditions in the detention centre.
detainees in a dignified and humane manner.
                                                     ASSESSING VULNERABILITY IN PRACTICE
In another example, the study shows that the
possession of information is important for           The data shows that detention has the potential
detainees to understand their situation, to          to harm many types of people: those with pre-
exercise their rights and also to organise plans     existing special needs and otherwise healthy
for their future.      The inability to receive      persons. It is important to stress that a person
understandable and clear information about their     becomes vulnerable from the first day of their
case, and to communicate with supportive             detention, as the individual’s personal condition
networks in the ‘outside world’, may foster a        is instantly affected due to their disadvantaged
deep sense of personal uncertainty, stress and       and weakened position. Detainees’ level of
despair within the detainee. All of these effects    vulnerability fluctuates in relation to the
can lead to a deterioration of their mental and      characteristics that they personally possess, the
physical health.                                     factors in their social network and the
                                                     determinants in their wider environment.
Personal factors can be defined as the sum of
the individual’s personal sense of agency. It is a   This method of understanding attempts to
set of determinants that an individual personally    acknowledge the variety of factors that foster
carries with him or herself, all of which may        vulnerability in detained asylum seekers and
hinder or improve the individual’s ability to cope   irregular migrants. In practice, it shows that
with the adversities of detention. Language          every person must be individually assessed for
capacity,     level    of   awareness     of   the   vulnerabilities and special needs that may make
asylum/immigration procedure and state of            it difficult for them to cope in the environment of
physical and mental health are shown to have         detention. This is the only way to ensure that
the most influence over an individual detainee’s     detention does not cause unnecessarily harm to
ability to cope in the environment of detention.     individuals and is not disproportionate to their
                                                     actual situation.
Social factors can be defined as the sum of the
individual’s existing social network, and
available means of communicating with that
network.     It is made up of the persons,
organisations or bodies in the detainee’s life who
may lessen or increase his or her level of
vulnerability to the adversities of detention.
These social factors may also be labelled as

                                                                       Jesuit Refugee Service-Europe, page 5
            BECOMING VULNERABLE IN DETENTION                                  EXECUTIVE SUMMARY

                                                     upon the individual person. Only in very few
PART 3: CONCLUSIONS &                                cases do detainees describe their personal
                                                     situation as having improved after detention; and
RECOMMENDATIONS                                      just as few say that detention has not impacted
                                                     them whatsoever.         The vast majority of
                                                     detainees describe a scenario in which the
DEVAS RESEARCH IMPLICATIONS FOR THE                  environment of detention weakens their personal
ONGOING USE OF DETENTION                             condition. The prison-like environments existing
                                                     in many detention centres, the isolation from the
The data reveals that detention is implemented       ‘outside world’, the unreliable flow of information
in a broad variety of cases and situations.          and the disruption of a life plan lead to mental
Everyone, from asylum seekers to irregular           health impacts such as depression, self-
migrants, from minors to older persons, and          uncertainty and psychological stress, as well as
from medically ill persons to the healthy, can be    physical health impacts such as decreased
subject to detention irrespective of their special   appetite and varying degrees of insomnia. The
needs and vulnerabilities.                           manner in how detainees see themselves is
                                                     significantly impacted by detention.         In this
Detention, as observed from the research, is         context, self-perception becomes an important
used in a mostly indiscriminate manner with little   indicator of the effects of detention because as
deference to personal choice and preferences.        an administrative measure, it should not bring
The cases that were recorded demonstrate a           such detrimental personal consequences.
situation where detainees can do little to alter
their circumstances within the detention centre.     The biggest implication from the DEVAS
They must accept the state of living conditions      research is the way in which detention –
within the detention centre, and cohabitation        frequently implemented as a tool of asylum and
with persons of differing nationalities, cultures    immigration policymaking for the EU and its
and even personalities and temperaments; and         Member States – leads to high rates of
they must accept the restriction on their freedom    vulnerability in people. It calls into question the
to move about as they please, even within the        proportionality and necessity of detention in
confines of the detention centre.        Although    relation to the ends it seeks to achieve: that is,
exceptions may exist in some Member States for       to systematically manage migration flows so that
persons with special needs, the ‘average             States may enforce their asylum and
detainee’ will find that he or she is unable to      immigration policies.
exercise a degree of personal choice and must
therefore accept detention as one accepts a          The research reveals that the human cost of
punishment, rather than an administrative            detention is too high, regardless of the
procedure.                                           achievability of these ends because

The results show that persons with officially        •   The negative consequences of detention
recognised needs, such as minors, young                  and its harmful effects on individual persons
women and the medically ill, are indeed                  are disproportionate to their actual
negatively impacted by detention. The adult              situations, in that they have committed no
environment of detention immediately puts                crime and are only subject to administrative
minors at a disadvantage, especially if they are         procedures, and;
unaccompanied, because they are vulnerable to
the behaviour of the staff and to the prison-like    •   It is unnecessary to detain persons and thus
atmosphere of detention, for example. The data           make them vulnerable to the harmful effects
findings show that women, especially between             of     detention    because      non-custodial
the age of 18 and 24, especially suffer from             alternatives to detention do exist.
adverse mental health impacts. The medically ill
may not be able to receive the treatment they
need because the detention centre only provides
for basic medical care.

In almost every case, the study shows that
detention has a distinctively deteriorative effect

                                                                       Jesuit Refugee Service-Europe, page 6
           BECOMING VULNERABLE IN DETENTION                                 EXECUTIVE SUMMARY

                                                        they might cope within the environment of
RECOMMENDATIONS FOR EU                                  detention. This is why non-custodial
POLICYMAKING ON THE DETENTION OF                        alternatives to detention should always take
ASYLUM SEEKERS                                          precedence.

                                                    3. A system of qualified identification of
The institutions of the European Union and its         asylum seekers’ special needs and
Member States have an important role to play in        vulnerabilities should be designed and
the way asylum seekers are received and                implemented at ports of entry, be they
treated within the territory of the EU. But the        land, sea or air, for the purpose of
legal minimum standards that have been                 avoiding the use of detention.
established at the end of the first phase of the       This identification should be done as soon
Common European Asylum System, such as in              as possible after entry. It can help to ensure
the Reception Conditions Directive and Dublin          smoother procedures at later stages, a more
Regulation, provide very little guidance for the       efficient use of State resources and a higher
implementation of detention, and for the               degree of safety and care for asylum
treatment of asylum seekers with special needs.        seekers’ potential vulnerabilities.       Most
                                                       importantly, an appropriate assessment of
The DEVAS research findings allow us to put            special needs and vulnerabilities can ensure
forth a series of recommendations that aim to          that detention is not used for persons who
further improve future EU policymaking on              may be particularly harmed by it.
vulnerability within the context of detention for
asylum seekers:                                     4. A qualified identification system should
                                                       be individually based and holistic, taking
1. Asylum seekers should not be detained               into account the personal, social and
   during the asylum procedure.                        environmental factors that are present
   It is not appropriate for asylum seekers to be      within the asylum seeker’s situation.
   detained because there should neither be a          Factors such as legal status, country of
   presumption that they have committed a              origin, marital status, the possession of
   wrongdoing, nor a presumption of rejection          information, the presence of supportive
   or removal while they are in the asylum             social networks and the state of physical
   procedure.         Furthermore, the legal           and mental health highly impact detainees’
   complexity inherent within the asylum               level of vulnerability to detention. These and
   procedure means that asylum seekers                 other factors should be assessed in order to
   should access all means of support at their         determine an individual asylum seeker’s
   own volition; the closed environment of             vulnerabilities, and the types of concrete
   detention cannot provide this. The negative         special needs he or she may possess.
   impacts of detention, and the vulnerabilities
   it creates, make the asylum seeker less able     5. If the detention of asylum seekers cannot
   to present his or her case in an appropriate        be avoided, and if all non-custodial
   way, calling into question the fairness of the      alternatives have been exhausted, then
   asylum procedure.                                   detention should be subject to regular
                                                       tests of necessity and proportionality;
2. Non-custodial alternatives to detention             the duration of detention should be for as
   for asylum seekers that respect their               short a time period as possible.
   human dignity and fundamental rights                Criteria for the necessity of asylum seeker
   should always take precedence before                detention should adhere to the 1999
   detention.                                          UNHCR Revised Guidelines on Applicable
   Asylum seekers, due to the legal complexity         Criteria and Standards Relating to the
   of their situation and the asylum procedure,        Detention of Asylum Seekers. Regular tests
   require a level of care and support that            of necessity and proportionality should be
   cannot be provided in a detention centre. In        conducted on a monthly basis by the
   particular, detention cannot be implemented         relevant judicial authority.
   if there is no assessment of their special
   needs and vulnerabilities at the beginning,      6. If detention cannot be avoided, then
   because it would then not be known how              asylum seekers should be given

                                                                     Jesuit Refugee Service-Europe, page 7
            BECOMING VULNERABLE IN DETENTION                                  EXECUTIVE SUMMARY

    appropriate and effective legal aid and/or           Medical care, as well as mental health care,
    assistance from the very first day of their          should be made available everyone in the
    detainment.                                          detention centre. In the case that such care
    The legal complexity of asylum procedures            only exists outside of the detention centre,
    in the EU, mixed together with the                   the staff should ensure that access remains
    precarious situation of asylum seekers,              unhindered and facilitated.
    means that they may not be able to
    adequately fulfil all of the asylum procedures
    in a manner that serves their best interests –   RECOMMENDATIONS FOR MEMBER STATE
    especially if they are in detention. Legal aid   POLICYMAKING ON THE DETENTION OF
    and/or representation are thus vitally           ASYLUM SEEKERS

7. Detained asylum seekers should be                 Member States can take steps toward improving
   given regular and transparent access to           the immediate situation of asylum seekers in
   all information concerning their asylum           their territory. They can do this by implementing
   case and the terms of their detention, in         current EU asylum law in a manner that best
   verbal and written form, and in a                 serves the interests of asylum seekers, and in a
   language they can understand.                     manner that narrowly restricts the use of
   The isolative environment of detention            detention.
   means that extra efforts should be made to
   inform asylum seekers as well as possible         11. Article 18.1 of the Asylum Procedures
   on all details that concern their situation.          Directive, “Member States shall not hold
   The regular provision of information is a key         a person in detention for the sole reason
   step    in     lowering    asylum      seekers’       that he/she is an applicant for asylum”,
   vulnerability to the adversities of detention.        should      be      adhered      to  in     all
8. Detained asylum seekers should be                     Member States should make this principle
   afforded all means of contact to the                  applicable for reception conditions and for
   ‘outside world’.                                      asylum seekers in the “Dublin system”. It
   Detained asylum seekers should be able to             should be the one principle that applies to all
   contact family, relatives, friends and other          circumstances. In this context, “detention”
   supportive persons who are in the ‘outside            should be defined as confinement to a
   world’. The DEVAS research shows that it              particular place and therefore also covering
   can reduce psychological stress, and it can           the situations at the port of entry.
   help prepare detained asylum seekers for
   their eventual release from detention.            12. If detention cannot be avoided, then
                                                         Article 18.2 of the Asylum Procedures
9. Detained asylum seekers should be                     Directive stipulating, “Where an applicant
   given regular access to activities that               for asylum is held in detention, Member
   engage their physical and intellectual                States shall ensure that there is a
   capacities.                                           possibility of speedy judicial review”
   The monotony of detention that comes as a             should be strictly adhered to.
   consequence of its isolative environment              Access to regular judicial reviews is
   can have a negative impact upon the                   important in order to continually determine
   physical and mental health of detained                the necessity and proportionality of
   asylum seekers. Time spent in detention               detention. This is especially necessary for
   should not be ‘wasted time’; instead,                 detainees to know when they will be
   detainees should be afforded activities that          released from detention. The data findings
   help them to pursue their goals.                      show that not knowing the release date
                                                         places a great deal of psychological stress
10. Detained asylums seekers should be                   upon detainees. Therefore, such judicial
    given regular access to appropriate and              reviews should be effective, transparent and
    relevant medical care, including mental              should occur at least once per month.
    health care.

                                                                       Jesuit Refugee Service-Europe, page 8
            BECOMING VULNERABLE IN DETENTION                                    EXECUTIVE SUMMARY

13. Detained asylum seekers should have               17. Access to translators and interpreters
    regular access to visitors from the                   should be ensured for asylum seekers
    ‘outside world’, including the UNHCR,                 who need it.
    lawyers, civil society organisations and              The inability to speak the same language as
    also family, relatives and friends.                   detention centre staff, the asylum authorities
    Alongside this, detained asylum seekers               and even with co-detainees has a profound
    should have access to persons in their                effect on one’s ability to cope with being in
    social network that help them cope with the           detention. Translators and interpreters can
    negative      effects   of    detention,   e.g.       help detained asylum seekers with
    spiritual/faith counsellors, psychosocial care        understanding the information that is given
    providers – all of which may greatly limit the        to them, and they can also help to maintain
    level of vulnerability asylum seekers may             good relations between staff and detainees.
    experience in detention.

14. All guarantees and protections contained          RECOMMENDATIONS FOR MEMBER STATE
    within the Reception Conditions Directive         POLICYMAKING ON THE DETENTION OF
    should be extended to asylum seekers in           IRREGULAR MIGRANTS FOR THE PURPOSE
    detention.                                        OF REMOVAL
    This should include rights to information,
    medical care, education and vocational
    training. In the case of Article 14.8 allowing    Taking into account the elements within the
    Member States to “exceptionally set               Return Directive that relate to the detention of
    modalities for material reception conditions      irregular migrants, the DEVAS research allows
    different from those provided … when the          us to propose a set of recommendations that
    asylum seeker is in detention”, such              aim to improve government policymaking in this
    modalities should include strong safeguards       area. As the deadline for national transposition
    that monitor the level of vulnerability of        has not yet passed, it may be too early to
    detained asylum seekers.                          indicate in which specific way EU policy should
                                                      be improved since the common standards
15. Health care provision – foreseen in               contained within the Directive have not yet been
    Article 13 of the Reception Conditions            sufficiently tested in the Member States. Thus
    Directive – should include sufficient             the     main      target    of   the    following
    resources to care for the mental health           recommendations will be Member States’ efforts
    needs of detained asylum seekers.                 to transpose the Directive into their respective
    Access to mental health professionals such        national legislation.
    as social workers, psychologists and
    psychiatrists, should be afforded to asylum       18. Detention for irregular migrants should
    seekers who need such services; these                 only be used as a last resort.
    services should be available from the first           The negative effects of detention are so
    day of their detention.                               great as to warrant its spare use. Detention
                                                          should only be applied in cases of strict
16. Detention centre staff persons should                 necessity, and in a manner that is directly
    receive sufficient training in order to               proportionate to an individual person’s
    respond to the vulnerabilities and needs              situation.
    of detained asylum seekers.
    Article 24 of the Reception Conditions            19. Article 15.1 of the Return Directive
    Directive – ensuring the necessary training           stipulating “sufficient but less coercive
    of staff – should be implemented so they              measures”        should      lead       to    the
    can be able to respond appropriately to               establishment          of        non-custodial
    asylum seekers’ concerns and needs. In                alternatives to detention that respect the
    particular, staff persons should be trained to        fundamental rights and human dignity of
    identify signs of vulnerability within                individual persons and families.
    detainees.                                            The optimal way to reduce people’s
                                                          vulnerability to detention is to limit its use by
                                                          instituting viable alternatives to detention.
                                                          Only by removing persons from the closed

                                                                        Jesuit Refugee Service-Europe, page 9
            BECOMING VULNERABLE IN DETENTION                                    EXECUTIVE SUMMARY

    and isolative environment of detention can        23. The provision of information on “rules ...
    they best prepare themselves for the                  rights and obligations” in detention – as
    possibility of return, but also for the               foreseen in Article 16.5 of the Directive –
    possibility of legal residence within the             should be provided in a language the
    Member State should the opportunity                   detainees can understand.
    present itself.                                       Many of the persons interviewed for the
                                                          DEVAS project have never before been in a
20. The criteria foreseen in Article 15.1(a, b)           situation of detention.        The stress of
    for the purpose of determining whether                detention and its isolative effects means that
    an irregular migrant should be detained               detention centre staff should make an effort
    should go beyond the “risk of                         to immediately inform detainees of all rules,
    absconding” and the hampering of the                  rights and obligations. Language is a key
    “return or ... removal process” to include            factor of vulnerability because it facilitates
    a holistic assessment of the person’s                 communication and understanding. This is
    level of vulnerability to detention.                  why it is important that such information be
    The DEVAS research shows that all types of            given in an understandable language.
    persons are vulnerable to the negative
    effects of detention, irrespective of whether     24. The provision of “legal assistance and/or
    or not they possess officially recognised             representation” – as foreseen in Article
    special     needs.        Holistic   individual       13.4 of the Directive – should be provided
    assessment criteria should include a review           to all detainees at no additional cost, and
    of the personal, social and environmental             in a language that detainees can
    factors that are present in an individual’s           understand. Such legal assistance and/or
    situation, such as their legal status, the            representation       should      extend      to
    presence of supportive social networks and            detainees who challenge the lawfulness
    their level of physical and mental health.            of their detention.
                                                          The DEVAS research shows that the legal
21. If detention cannot be avoided, then it               complexities of detention can have an
    should be strictly set for “as short a time           adverse affect on detainees because they
    period as possible and only maintained                are unsure of how to proceed and how to
    as long as removal arrangements are in                alleviate their situation. Legal assistance
    progress”, as laid down in Article 15.1 of            and/or representation is a key factor of
    the Return Directive.                                 vulnerability in detention; without it
    The DEVAS research shows that while                   detainees are left disempowered and with
    detention carries negative consequences               further deteriorations in their mental health.
    from the first days of its implementation, the
    personal circumstances of detainees               25. Detained irregular migrants should have
    deteriorates as the time period of their              the opportunity to establish immediate
    detainment endures. Alternatives should be            contact with supportive persons or
    immediately sought when detention is no               bodies in the ‘outside world’, as foreseen
    longer necessary or proportional.                     in Article 16.2 of the Directive.
                                                          Detainees should be able to communicate
22. The situation of individual detainees and             by fixed-line and mobile telephone,
    detained families should be reviewed at               especially since the latter often contains vital
    least once per month, using holistic                  contact information that detainees need.
    assessment criteria to determine the                  Internet stations should be made available,
    personal impacts of detention.                        as this would allow detainees to search for
    Ongoing assessments are the only way to               support if they lack a social network in the
    ensure that harmful effects of detention are          Member State.
    minimised as much as possible. Detention
    centre staff, especially social workers or
    staff who have received sufficient inter-
    cultural or psychosocial training within the
    context of detention, may be among those
    who conduct these assessments.

                                                                       Jesuit Refugee Service-Europe, page 10

   Jesuit Refugee Service-Europe aisbl
   Rue du Progrès 333, bte 2
   1030 Brussels

   T: +32 2 250 32 20
   F: +32 2 250 32 29

   Copies of the full report can be downloaded from:

   Date of publication: June 2010
   Editor: Philip Amaral, JRS-Europe

   Cover/back photograph: Sečovce detention centre, Slovakia, 2007
   by Alžbeta Kovalová, Caritas Slovakia

   Cover/back design: Stefano Maero

                                                         Jesuit Refugee Service-Europe, page 11
Civil Society Report on the Detention of Vulnerable Asylum Seekers
            and Irregular Migrants in the European Union
                         (The DEVAS Project)

                            The DEVAS project is coordinated by
                              JRS-Europe in partnership with:
                                      Caritas Austria
                           The Bulgarian Helsinki Committee
                                    Symfiliosi (Cyprus)
             The Association for Integration and Migration (Czech Republic)
                              The Estonian Refugee Council
                             The Greek Council for Refugees
                           The Hungarian Helsinki Committee
                                 JRS-Italy (Centro Astalli)
                                       Caritas Latvia
                                      Caritas Vilnius
                               The Dutch Refugee Council
                                      Caritas Poland
                                     Caritas Slovakia
                            The Spanish Refugee Commission
                                   JRS-United Kingdom

                                Jesuit Refugee Service-Europe


    The DEVAS project is co-financed                 Methodological support provided by the
    by the European Commission               Institute of Ethics and Law, University of Vienna

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