In the face of growing evidence that indeterminate detention has ill effects on mental health and stricter standards imposed by the European Union, many countries are seeking alternatives to detention as solutions to processing refugees seeking asylum. These alternatives are heavily dependent on engagement and community integration to achieve success.

Belgian Community Housing

When Belgium faced global criticism for the conditions in their immigration detention centers they decided to change how refugees are treated entirely. They have adopted a case management refugee plan where each individual asylum seeker is assigned a case worker or “coach”.

These coaches are responsible for the timely dissemination of information as well as monitoring the status of the cases involving their charges. Refugees are kept in the loop about any progress made or obstacles to overcome, while being given information about Belgian society and law to better achieve integration into society.

In response to the influx of families seeking asylum in Belgium, open family housing centers have replaced the closed detention centers of old. Authorities are finding that allowing families to stay together during the asylum process is having a positive effect on assimilation and morale among the refugees.

Swedish Caseworkers

Sweden also utilizes government housing and case managers. While the goal of the program is convincing the refugee to return to their home country voluntarily, this program is using education early in the process to accomplish the departure.

Recently, Sweden has stopped incentivizing prolonged stays after asylum denial. Those denied residence after the process concludes, will no longer enjoy government sponsored housing, food, and medical treatment like those still awaiting a decision.

These alternatives are more cost effective than detention centers and satisfy more concerns posed by human rights advocates. But, there is some debate as to if the new approach does enough to deter unlawful immigration. Sweden was soon overrun with refugees when they originally adopted their open plan. For this reason, they are now revisiting their position on open borders. The rest of the world is watching to see if the recent adjustments to the policy will pay dividends.