Articles 74/6 (detention on the territory) and 51/5 (detention under Dublin) of the Aliens Act refer to the need for less coercive alternative measures to be considered before imposing detention. These alternatives were supposed to be defined by Royal Decree, which has still not been adopted.
The current Secretary of State claims to prioritize the development of these less coercive measures.
In 2021, 60 new civil servants were attracted for the Immigration Office to start working for the newly founded department of ‘Alternatives to Detention’. They will be responsible to man local provincial ICAM-offices (Individual Case Management Support). After receiving an order to leave the territory a migrant will be invited to a series of interviews, where his/her file would be explained to them and a trajectory towards return or other existing procedures would be organised (depending on the individual). Attendance is mandatory and failure to cooperate with return procedures or to show up may result in detention. This ICAM approach will be rolled out in the frame of the Dublin procedure in 2022.
However, neither the law nor the Royal Decree has yet been amended. This means that until now, no clear gradation of the different possible coercive measures is listed. It is yet too early to report on the concrete impact of these so called ICAM coaches, and whether or not this approach can be considered an effective alternative to detention.
For families with (minor) children, two types of less coercive measures were set up: home accommodation in the context of an agreement under Article 74/9(3), and return homes.
As for the return homes, a study conducted by NGOs concluded that some fundamental rights of children were not respected. The fact that children are removed from their usual living areas, do not always have access to school or leisure activities is clearly contrary to the best interests of the child.
The government declared, in its general policy note in November 2021, the intention to create more places in the return houses. Until now, no independent evaluation of the conditions of such facilities has been carried out.
Despite the introduction of return houses, the government opened five family units in August 2018 in the 127bis repatriation centre as a result of which families with children were being detained again. Detention is applied where the family manifestly refuses to cooperate with the return procedure. The royal decree allowing this practice was suspended by the Council of State in April 2019, however. Between August 2018 and April 2019, a total of 9 families with 20 children were detained.
The current government, however, has agreed that it can no longer detain children in closed centres, as a matter of principle. New, alternative measures will be developed to avoid that this measure would be abused to make return impossible.
For detention at the border, the Aliens Act does not contain any reference to less coercive measures or to an individual assessment prior to applying detention at the border. UNHCR has stated that this provision does not offer sufficient guarantees against arbitrary detention. While detention was originally provided for those who applied for asylum invoking manifestly unfounded grounds, asylum procedures at the border are now generally considered to be procedures on the access of irregular immigrants to the territory, thus allowing detention until a decision has been made on this (or until the maximum detention period has elapsed). The detention measure is not evaluated on its necessity or proportionality by the Immigration Office, and the judicial review is mostly limited to the question of legality (see Procedural Safeguards: Judicial Review).
 “Full implementation of the obligation under the European regulations to develop less coercive measures for detention effectively and apply them. To this end, the feasibility of the various possible alternatives to detention examined, building on already existing studies. These include return homes, regular administrative and/or police controls, house arrest, bail and electronic surveillance. It will be sought be sought to develop and apply viable alternatives to detention that have an effective return result, without creating an organized policy of tolerance. These alternatives will be evaluated in a systematic manner in order to adjust them if necessary”: Chamber of Representatives, Policy Note on asylum and migration, 4 November 2020, available in Dutch and French, available at: https://bit.ly/3sJdgMd, 35. This ambition was repeated in the Policy note of 2021.
 Information provided by the Cabinet of the Secretary of State Sammy Mahdi.
 Mineurs en exil – Report (in French), Les maisons de retour en Belgique, une alternative à la détention à part entière, efficace et respectueuse des droits de l’enfant?, January 2021, available at: https://bit.ly/3qwWYqh.
 Council of State, Decision No 244190, 4 April 2019.
 UNHCR, Commentaires relatifs aux : Projet de loi 2548/003 modifiant la loi du 15 décembre 1980 sur l’accès au territoire, le séjour, l’établissement et l’éloignement des étrangers et la loi du 12 janvier 2007 sur l’accueil des demandeurs d’asile et de certaines catégories d’étrangers (ci-après « Projet de loi monocaméral »). – Projet de loi 2549/003 modifiant la loi du 15 décembre 1980 sur l’accès au territoire, le séjour, l’établissement et l’éloignement des étrangers (ci-après « Projet de loi bicaméral »), 4 Octobre 2017, available in French at: http://bit.ly/2ilDJj3.
 See also: Marjan Claes, Vasthouding van personen met een mogelijke nood aan internationale bescherming als uitzonderingsmaatregel na de wet van 21 november 2017, December 2019, available in Dutch at: https://bit.ly/39kotIE.