Rights-Based Alternatives to Immigration Detention

PILnet matches International Detention Coalition with pro bono legal assistance, helping expand their work to change systems and protect the rights of people facing immigration detention.

Every year, millions of migrants, refugees, people seeking asylum, and others on the move around the world are at risk of being detained in facilities where conditions are frequently indistinguishable from prisons, based solely on their immigration status.

International Detention Coalition (IDC) is the world’s leading network dedicated to ending immigration detention. The coalition unites civil society organizations, community groups, and individuals working to end immigration detention and promote non-custodial, rights-based alternatives to detention all over the world. Through research, policy advocacy, and coalition and capacity building, IDC works to change laws and policies and promotes alternatives to detention which, in addition to better protecting human rights, are more cost-effective, humane, and create more inclusive systems.

In 2023, PILnet connected IDC with pro bono legal assistance on five matters ranging from legal research into EU legislation, to multi-jurisdictional employment law, to international banking regulations.

“The impacts for us were quite practical and immediate,” said Mia-lia Boua Kiernan, IDC Operations and Development Manager. “We are now better informed and will function more effectively as a global NGO.”

PILnet’s legal partners also helped ease the process of setting up IDCs new Europe headquarters.

“The legal assistance allowed us to expand our role and support more migrant and refugee actors,” said Kiernan. “Without this assistance, we would have had to pay for legal services in several different areas of law, which can be financially restraining for a non-profit.”

PILnet works with civil society organizations and social enterprises from around the globe to pinpoint their legal needs, connect them with pro bono lawyers in PILnet’s global legal network, and work with both sides to create a strategic partnership for sustained impact.

Launched in 2021 on World Refugee Day, the refugee legal assistance matching mechanism is a coordination and referral platform that aims to facilitate access to free legal assistance for civil society organizations, associations, clinics, refugee-led organizations, and legal service providers working with refugees and forcibly displaced persons in a fair and equitable way. It is led and staffed by legal professionals with lived experience of displacement, including our PILnet-RLRH Fellows, which allows us to better reach and support a broad range of civil society organizations—from global NGOs to grassroots organizations, including those led by refugees or stateless people.

Through the platform, in 2023 we matched 25 organizations with pro bono legal assistance in 21 jurisdictions, including 7 refugee led organizations, and we are on track to double this assistance in 2024.