Alternatives to detention


Country Report: Alternatives to detention Last updated: 30/11/20


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According to the Reception Regulations, when a detention order of an asylum seeker is not taken, alternatives to detention may be applied for non-vulnerable applicants when the risk of absconding still exists.[1] These alternatives to detention foreseen in the Regulations are the same as the ones listed in the Directive, namely the possibility to report to a police station, to reside at an assigned place, to deposit or surrender documents or to place a one-time guarantee or surety. These measures would not exceed nine months.[2]

Following the transposition of the recast Reception Conditions Directive, concerns were expressed by NGOs that alternatives to detention could be imposed when no ground for detention is found to exist.[3] The wording of the legislation and the Strategy Document seem to imply that alternatives to detention may apply in all those cases where detention is not resorted to, including those cases where there are no grounds for the detention of the asylum seeker. This goes against the letter and the spirit of the Directive where alternatives to detention should only be applied in those cases where there are grounds for detention.

According to the authorities, 1,358 asylum seekers in 2019 were released from detention and placed under alternatives to detention (ATD). They were requested to report regularly at a police station, to reside at an assigned place and to deposit some of their documents.[4] Moreover, it seems that some groups of asylum-seekers have more restrictive measures imposed upon them, such as signing in the reception centre several times a day, which has prevented them from working full-time. It seems that these distinctions depended on the applicants’ nationalities. This practice was noticed in relation to Bangladeshi applicants.

Moreover, many applicants were released and placed under ATD when there was no valid ground for detention or when such grounds never existed, as in the case of applicants detained under the new regime on the basis of the Health Regulations. It looks like the authorities do not use this provision as an actual alternative to detention but rather as a way to monitor applicants once released from detention.

NGOs reported that there is no clear pattern on the reason, when and why ATD are applied to asylum-seekers.

Following release from detention, applicants face difficulties retrieving the possessions the Immigration Police would have confiscated from them immediately following their arrival. These possessions include money, jewellery and mobile phones. Applicants are often required to rely on the intervention of NGOs to reclaim their possessions, at time months after their release from detention.


[1] Strategy Document, November 2015, 26.

[2] Regulation 6(8) Reception Regulations.

[3] aditus foundation, et al., NGO Input on the Draft Strategy Document: Strategy for the Reception of Asylum-Seekers and Irregular Migrants, November 2015; available at:

[4] Information provided by Immigration Office of Malta Police Force, January 2020.


Table of contents

  • Statistics
  • Overview of the legal framework
  • Overview of the main changes since the previous report update
  • Asylum Procedure
  • Reception Conditions
  • Detention of Asylum Seekers
  • Content of International Protection
  • ANNEX I – Transposition of the CEAS in national legislation