Alternatives to detention


Country Report: Alternatives to detention Last updated: 19/05/21


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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. These concerns remained valid in 2020 as most asylum seekers released from detention were imposed “alternatives to detention” arrangements, even though there was never any ground to detain them in the first place.

According to the authorities, 1,762 asylum seekers in 2020 were released from detention and placed under alternatives to detention (ATD). They were requested to reside at an assigned place, and to notify the Principal Immigration in case of change of residence.[4]

NGOs reported that there is no clear pattern on the reason, when and why ATD are applied to asylum seekers. However, it transpires very clearly from the policy that alternatives to detention are seen by the authorities not as an alternative but as a natural continuation of the status post-detention, with said detention often being ordered without legal basis.

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. This was exacerbated in 2020, as so many people were detained and released throughout the year. Police informed that an investigation is conducted following every boat arrival and that possessions can only be retrieved at the end of the said investigation, which can take more than a year.

Asylum-seekers are never informed or requested to consent that their phones and personal belongings will be searched and investigated and are never informed when items are ready for collection.


[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, February 2021.

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