Recent Country Updates

GDP News & Publications

      • CINETS Network: On 10 October Izabella Majcher presented a paper titled “European Union Immigration Detention Regime: A Manifestation of Crimmigration?” at the second CINETS conference  "Borders of Crimmigration," in Leiden, Netherlands.
      • Asia Pacific Refugee Rights Network: On 3 September, Izabella Majcher gave a presentation titled "Measuring Immigration Detention: An Introduction to the Global Detention Project's Data Design and Methodology" at the 5th Asia Pacific Consultation on Refugee Rights, Bangkok, Thailand.
      • UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention: On 2 September, Michael Flynn was a panelist at UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention’s "Stakeholders Consultation to prepare draft principles and guidelines on remedies and procedures on the right to court review of detention.” His statement is available here.
      • New publication: In July, the Journal on Migration and Human Security, a peer-reviewed academic publication of the Center for Migration Studies, published an article by Michael Flynn titled “There and Back Again: On the Diffusion of Immigration Detention.” The article employs concepts developed in the literature on diffusion theory to explain the mechanics that have enabled the spread of immigration detention practices around the globe. The article is available here  

      • Center for Migration Studies: On 21 July, the Center for Migration Studies in New York hosted a dialogue examining the global expansion of immigration-related detention practices. Featured panelists were Michael Flynn and Dora Schriro, the former head of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Office of Detention Policy and Planning.
      • USC Law School: On 17 July, Michael Flynn gave a presentation at the University of Southern California's Gould School of Law on the development of the GDP's database of detention regimes. The event was organized by Prof. Niels Frenzen, publisher of the blog Migrants at Sea.
      • Japan Bar Association: On 15-16 July, the Japan Bar Association (JBA) hosted Michael Flynn during its annual visit to the controversial Japan East Detention Center outside Tokyo, where several detainees have died in recent months. Following the visit, Flynn gave a presentation at the JBA on how Japan’s policies and practices compare to those of other countries.
      • International Sociological Association: On 14 July, Prof. Matthew Flynn of Georgia Southern University and the GDP’s Michael Flynn presented a paper on immigration detention at the International Sociological Association’s World Congress in Yokohama, Japan. The paper was titled “On the Maturation of Immigration Detention: Theories and Evidence.”
      • UNHCR Global Detention Strategy: On 16 June, the GDP participated in UNHCR’s strategy meeting with civil society partners marking the launch of its new global strategy on detention.

      • Expert consultation: On 13 June, the GDP’s Mariette Grange participated in an Expert Consultation held at the Office of the High Commissioner for Human on a new Global Study on Children Deprived of Liberty.

      • Expert meeting: On 8-9 April, Mariette Grange participated in an Expert Meeting on Indicators on the Human Rights of Migrants hosted by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights in Geneva (OHCHR). The meeting was organized in collaboration with the World Bank’s Global Knowledge Partnership on Migration and Development (KNOMAD), UNICEF, the ILO, and Migrant Forum in Asia.

      • New working paper: "How and Why Immigration Detention Crossed the Globe," by Michael Flynn. Read paper

      • Taz.lab: On 12 April, Michael Flynn was a panelist at a workshop on the future of immigration in Europe that was part of the annual conference of the German newspaper Tageszeitung, the Taz.lab, held in Berlin. Other panelists included Marion Bayer of Welcome2Europe; Madjiguene Cissé, a founder of the "Sans Papier" movement in France; and Laura Maikowski of "Watch the Med."

      • UN meeting on human rights indicators: On 8-9 April, Mariette Grange was invited to participate in an Expert Meeting on Indicators on the Human Rights of Migrants hosted by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights in Geneva. The meeting was organized in collaboration with the World Bank’s Global Knowledge Partnership on Migration and Development (KNOMAD), UNICEF, the ILO, and Migrant Forum in Asia.

      • Odysseus conference: Izabella Majcher participated in the Odysseus Academic Network's 7th annual European Congress on Asylum, held on 8-9 April in Brussels.

      • Public debate on Greece: On 20 March, Izabella Majcher participated in a public debate on the situation of migrants in Greece that was held at the European Parliament. The event was organised by PICUM in cooperation with Amnesty International, the European Network of Migrant Women, EAPN, ENAR and Médecins du Monde. It was part of the project “Promoting EU Action to Address Criminalisation of and Violence Against Migrants in Greece,” funded by the Open Society Foundation.

      • Workshop on the criminalisation of migrants: Michael Flynn was an invited guest at a workshop on the criminalisation of migrants that was co-hosted by the Centre for European Policy Studies and PICUM in Brussels on 17 March. The workshop was part of an EU-funded project on judicial issues in the European Union called Fiducia.




      "The [new U.S. House of Representatives government funding bill] adds 2,000 agents at border ports and mandates that Immigration and Customs Enforcement 'maintain a level of not less than 34,000 detention beds through September 30, 2014.' This represents, at a cost of 2.8 billion, 'the highest detention capacity in history.' It is mindless to keep throwing billions at border enforcement and detention at a time when illegal immigration [in the United States] is at historic lows. ... Why make the people who run a vast and expensive law-enforcement apparatus responsible for keeping prison beds warm rather than communities safe--especially when there are low-cost alternatives to detention that don't involve fattening the bottom lines of for-profit prison corporations?"

      New York Times, 20 January 2014


      “[Immigration] detention is the opposite of criminalization in the sense that it is putting people in prison without using the criminal process. ... The present system we have is one of administrative discretion that allows a vast amount of detention to go on without any proper rules of law and oversight. If there is going to be detention it should be criminal rather than administrative. That would make it much harder to detain. Governments would have to rethink because the criminal process is just a lot more difficult, and more costly, and more demanding.”

      Dan Wilsher, Presentation at the Graduate Institute, 8 March 2012.


      “The modern prison is assigned the task of administering its inmates’ lives to foster ‘docile and useful bodies.’ … The immigration detention center, by contrast, is a pre-modern prison--nothing more than a site for the punishment and permanent removal of ‘wasted’ bodies.”

      Shahran Khasravi, 'Illegal Traveller: An Ethnography of Border (Palgrave 2010)


      "Allowing the private sector to run immigration detention will mean ... an ever increasing number of people coming into the system and staying there longer ... as companies seek to maintain and expand their markets."

      Stephen Nathan, Presentation at the Graduate Institute, Geneva, 2 March 2010


      "Justice [Sonia] Sotomayor’s opinion in the [2009 U.S. Supreme Court] case, Mohawk Industries v. Carpenter, No. 08-678, marked the first use of the term 'undocumented immigrant,' according to a legal database. The term 'illegal immigrant' has appeared in a dozen decisions."

      New York Times, 8 December 2009


      Featured Countries



      Located between impoverished and politically volatile countries to the south and Israel and Europe to the north, Egypt has long been an important destination and crossing point for international migrants and asylum seekers in the Mediterranean region. Since the start of the conflict in Syria, the country has also become an important destination for Syrian nationals and Palestinians fleeing the violence. Wracked by its own internal political turmoil, Egypt's response to these migration pressures has a times been characterized by violence and arbitrariness. According to unofficial sources, thousands of Africans, many trafficked in the Sinai by Bedouin tribes, have disappeared in recent years, some of whom were later found confined in Egyptian jails. Syrians, who were initially welcomed by Egypt, now find themselves frequently detained in police stations. The legal status of many of these detainees is often unclear as they shift between criminal and administrative forms of custody. The Global Detention Project estimates that nearly 60 detention facilities, all of them either prisons or police cells, have been used in recent years for immigration-related detention.


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      Tunisia’s 2011 Jasmine Revolution was meant to usher in a new era of political openness in the country. However, foreigners in the country, particularly those from sub-Saharan Africa, face endemic racism as well as little or no possibility of seeking asylum because the country has yet to adopt a refugee protection regime. Compounding matters, the government continues to maintain secrecy over where foreigners are being detained and does not provide any statistics on the numbers of people detained or deported. Despite these short-comings, the European Union has recently brokered an agreement with the country that eventually could lead to thousands of third-country nationals being deported to Tunisia, where they will in all likelihood be subject to detention.


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      The war in Syria has put Lebanon's treatment of asylum seekers and undocumented migrants in sharp relief. Three years into the conflict, Lebanon has gained the distinction of having the highest per-capita concentration of refugees recorded anywhere in the world in recent history, this despite the fact that Lebanon is not a party to the 1951 Refugee Convention. The country also hosts tens of thousands of long-term Palestinian refugees and a sizable population of immigrants from as far away as Sri Lanka, the Philippines and Ethiopia, many of whom are domestic laborers vulnerable to detention and deportation because their contractual agreements link residency to their employers. Non-citizens who are apprehended on account of their irregular residency status are generally charged with violations of Lebanese criminal law. After completing prison sentences, they are typically transferred to Lebanon’s sole dedicated immigration detention centre, which is located in a former parking garage underneath a highway that crosses Beirut. The facility is often overcrowded and conditions are extreme, with no natural light or ventilation. There is no established maximum limit on the duration of administrative detention and legislative reform has been lagging.


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      In April, Turkey’s new Law on Foreigners and International Protection came into force, providing the country’s first overarching legal framework on migration and asylum. The law also contains new provisions on immigration detention and shifts oversight of Turkey’s detention centres from the national police to a new civilian institution. Although observers have welcomed the improved procedural standards provided in the law, they have been critical of its inclusion of controversial statutes found in EU legislation—including provisions for accelerated procedures for asylum seekers—and its failure to eliminate geographical limits on international protection. There are also concerns that the recent adoption of an EU-Turkey readmission agreement could add to the already considerable migratory pressures confronting Turkey because it will lead to growing numbers of third-country nationals being “sent back” to the country, where they will likely be detained on arrival. While Turkey has been repeatedly criticized for its often appalling detention conditions and restrictive asylum policies, international observers have lauded its efforts to accommodate Syrian refuges. As of March, there were approximately 800,000 Syrian refugees in the country, as well as more than 80,000 non-European asylum seekers.


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      Greece has been ground zero in Europe’s efforts to halt irregular migration for several years. At the same time, the country’s economic crisis has exasperated social divisions leading to increasing violence and hostility directed at foreigners. With massive financial and operational assistance provided by the European Union, Greece has confronted migratory pressures by emphasizing interdiction, detention, and removal, to the detriment of the protection of vulnerable migrants and asylum seekers. Conditions at its detention centres are regarded as among the worst in Europe, and numerous UN bodies have published scathing reports about the state of these facilities. In addition, domestic and regional courts have issued more than a dozen judgements condemning Greece’s detention practices. In one illustrative case from 2012, a judge in a domestic court acquitted several migrants of charges related to their escape from a detention facility in the port of Igoumenitsa on the basis that the conditions of their detention violated the country’s obligations under the European Convention on Human Rights. 


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      New Zealand

      Often regarded as a positive example for its humane treatment of refugees and asylum seekers, New Zealand has significantly hardened its immigration rhetoric and laws in recent years, even as migratory pressures in the country diminish. Following the example of Canada and its neighbour Australia, New Zealand has adopted new legal provisions that provide the possibility for indefinite detention, mass—and, many critics argue, arbitrary—arrests, and the deprivation of liberty of minors. In addition, the country's conservative government has concluded an agreement with Australia that provides for the use of controversial offshore detention facilities to hold unauthorized maritime arrivals, which the country's leaders argue will help deter migrants and smugglers. On the other hand, the country has never experienced the type of migratory phenomenon its new laws and policies are purportedly aimed at addressing, raising important questions about the real motives behind its toughening posture and drawing parallels with Switzerland, which passed a law banning the construction of minarets while hardly any existed in first place.


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      Traditionally a country of emigration, Morocco is also an important transit country for sub-Saharan migrants seeking passage to Europe. Since the early 2000s, the European Union has pressured—and provided funding to—Morocco to stem the flow of migrants transiting the country. A Moroccan commission of enquiry into serious incidents along the Spanish enclaves of Ceuta and Melilla in 2005 observed that while reluctant to act as a policeman for Europe, Morocco had over time become a “cheap and natural detention centre." Although detention plays a role in Morocco's treatment of migrants and asylum seekers, in recent years crack downs on foreigners have been characterized by mass rounds and summary deportations, which observers claim are based on racial profiling by police.


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      Hungary is often characterized as an important transit country for migrants attempting to reach Western Europe. However, in its most recent reports, the EU border control agency Frontex does not mention Hungary as being one of the major migrant crossing points into the EU. An important source of international migrants in the country has been Afghanistan, with Afghan nationals fleeing the conflict in their country making up more than 40 percent of asylum seekers in 2012. Yet, at the same time, Hungary has systematically detained people seeking international protection. In fact, the country appears to be one of the only EU countries to set up a wholly separate detention regime for asylum seekers, adopting grounds of detention that are specific to those seeking asylum and establishing a separate detention facility for them. In June 2013, it transposed the EU (Recast) Reception Conditions Directive, even before the Directive had been formally adopted and promulgated. The UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) criticised the country for adopting the Directive in a selective manner, focusing on detention-related provisions while leaving aside provisions on the needs of vulnerable persons.


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      Despite falling numbers of asylum seekers and far fewer foreign workers than in years past, Ireland has put increasing pressure on irregular third-country nationals to leave the country. Between 2008 and 2012, the number of people issued removal orders rose from 1,285 to 2,065. On the other hand, Ireland's annual detainee population has consistently dropped over the past decade. In 2003-2004, nearly 3,000 people were placed in prison for immigration-related reasons. More recently, in 2010, 459 people were detained; and in 2012, 385. Perhaps because of these falling numbers, Ireland has yet to build a dedicated immigration detention centre and some rights watchdogs, like the Council of Europe's Committee for the Prevention of Torture, have ceased pressuring the country to stop using prisons for immigration purposes.


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      Officials in Malta have argued that unauthorized migration to the country has reached an “emergency scale” and that there is a “national crisis” with respect to administrative detention. When Maltese officials refer to this “crisis,” they argue that Malta represents an exceptional case due to its small size, high population density, and extensive maritime borders. To cope with boat arrivals Malta applies a form of mandatory detention which, although unique among EU countries, has some similarities to the policy pursued by Australia. Once undocumented non-citizens are issued removal orders, they are automatically subject to detention. Authorities claim that immigration detention is a “powerful deterrent” and serves as a form of punishment. As one government minister put it, “The message needs to … be received by everyone that entering Malta illegally will not go unpunished.”


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