Evaluation report concludes that support for asylum seekers in the community is more humane and less costly than detention centers

Evaluation report concludes that support for asylum seekers in the community is more humane and less costly than detention centers

January 31, 2022

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) released an evaluation report last week outlining the findings of a pilot project on the use of alternatives to immigration detention.

The 81-page report is available here.

The pilot program, known as Action Access, was the first government-funded “alternative to detention” (ATD) to be piloted under the Department of Community Engagement (CEP) pilot series. Interior.

Action Access was designed by the Home Office in conjunction with the Newcastle-based charity Action Foundation. It benefited from the contribution of UNHCR and other relevant stakeholders.

Last week’s assessment report was compiled by NatCen Social Research (NatCen), the UK’s largest independent social research organisation.

NatCen explained, “The general premise of the CEP series is to test approaches to help people resolve their immigration case in the community. UNHCR commissioned NatCen Social Research to undertake an independent evaluation of Action Access, the first pilot project in the CEP series. by Action Foundation over two years from 2019 to 2021, Action Access aimed to support women with asylum seeker status in an engagement-driven, community-based ATD through the provision of one-on-one support by a support worker, shared accommodation, and legal advice from a qualified legal professional. Our assessment included desk research, interviews with pilot participants (at two time points), and interviews with policy and delivery stakeholders and civil society key informants.

The Action Access pilot project aimed to test whether community support leads to more effective case resolution for migrants and asylum seekers compared to detention.

While the program initially aimed to support up to 50 female asylum seekers who would otherwise be detained at the Yarl’s Wood Immigration Removal Centre, the impact of Covid-19 and the lockdown meant the pilot had to be adapted and it did not reach its full capacity (20 women participated).

Overall, NatCen’s assessment report finds that supporting asylum seekers in the community is a more humane and significantly less expensive alternative to keeping them in immigration detention centres.

It is estimated that a future ATD program could represent less than half the cost of detaining an individual.

Outcomes for pilot participants were improved, with the report concluding: “The primary value of the pilot from the perspective of pilot stakeholders, pilot participants and broader sector key informants was that Action Access offered more humane treatment than immigration detention.Our evaluation found qualitative evidence that participants experienced more stability and better health and well-being outcomes while being supported by Action Access in the community than they had received while in detention. Evidence from this pilot project suggests that these results were achievable without diminishing compliance with the immigration system.”

A legal advice model was also developed during the pilot, designed to give participants the opportunity to be treated fairly, have their case fully considered, and have their legal options clearly explained.

The report states: “The pilot project’s legal advice model is an important example of a promising practice in that it offers pilot project participants the opportunity to have their case reviewed by an independent legal representative and to feel they have been treated fairly. The legal advice model provided pilot participants with three meetings with a legal representative and was designed to allow pilot participants to fully explore their immigration options.

“Holistic support offered alongside legal advice was integral to the delivery of the legal advice model. The pilot project provided a more humane and less stressful environment for pilot participants to engage in the legal review and take decisions about their future, compared to Even when these decisions were difficult and participants had no legal reason to stay in the UK, the pilot project gave them the space and time to engage in their immigration options.

Duncan McAuley, chief executive of Action Foundation, said the results of the assessment demonstrated the need for a new approach to immigration detention. Nevertheless, the Home Office opened a new women-only immigration removal center in Durham in November 2021.

McAuley said: “While we recognize the need for some capacity at Immigration Removal Centres, it is shocking to see the Home Office investing millions of pounds in a new facility on our doorstep. Derwentside.Instead, we would like to see taxpayers’ money invested in alternatives, avoiding the huge personal cost to individuals themselves.Why spend millions of pounds to build and run a center 15 miles down the road as we demonstrated a cheaper and more humane alternative based in local communities?”

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