GDP News & Publications

  • New Working Paper: in June the GDP published a working paper by Matthew Flynn, titled "Bureaucratic Capitalism and the Immigration Detention Complex," which argues that post-structuralist approaches to the study of immigration detention, including Giorgio Agamben's concept of "homo sacer" and "zones of exception," present a number of theoretical and conceptual problems. The paper instead advances a conceptual framework based on the bureaucratic capitalism model developed by Gideon Sjoberg.
  • EntreParentesis: Mariette Grange participated in a Jesuit-orgnaized initiative aimed at improving cross-border dialogue, which was held in Madrid on 28 May.
  • Yale University: Michael Flynn gave a presentation at the conference "Detention on a Global Scale: Punishment and Beyond," hosted by the Yale Law School on 9-10 April. Flynn's presentation was titled "Liberty or Security? Human Rights and the Expanding Landscape of Immigration Detention." Other presenters on Flynn's panel included Mary Bosworth, Allegra McLeod, and Zonke Majodina.


"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.



"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


Featured Countries



Argentina rarely applies immigration detention measures and the length of detention tends to be very short. In 2015, it adopted regulations aimed at establishing specific immigration detention procedures. There are recent cases of people being detained for long periods in inadequate conditions and new government initiatives seek to boost deportation numbers.


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Costa Rica

An important transit and destination country, Costa Rica began systemically applying immigration detention in the 1990s in response to migratory pressures from neighboring Nicaragua. The country currently operates two dedicated detention facilities, which have been criticized by national rights bodies for having inadequate sanitary conditions.


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An important destination country in Central America, Panama has in recent years overhauled its migration policies in part as a response to a landmark case at the Inter-American Court of Human Rights involving the detention of migrants. Since the case was launched, Panama has adopted a new migration law, decriminalized immigration violations, and established new dedicated detention centres euphemistically called "albergues" (or shelters).


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Ecuador has been widely lauded for adopting the principle of “universal citizenship” in its 2008 Constitution. However, in recent years, it seems to have backtracked with respect to its reception of migrants and asylum seekers. Although it is one of the most important countries of refuge in Latin America, hosting tens of thousands of refugees from Colombia, Ecuador has in recent years sought to narrow the definition of refugee and its asylum recognition rate has plummeted. It has also begun imposing visa restrictions for people from many countries in Asia and Africa. This more restrictive migration environment has appeared to parallel stepped up detention and deportation efforts. During 2010-2011, for instance, authorities conducted massive immigration control operations aimed at rounding up people from Colombia, Cuba, and Pakistan. In 2010, 2,662 non-citizens were placed in immigration detention, compared to 1,338 in 2008.


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