Important reforms are due to be implemented at Norway’s Trandum Detention Centre, raising hopes for improved treatment of people in immigration procedures in the country, according to the 2022 Annual Report of Trandum’s independent oversight board. Among the proposed reforms are several harm-reducing proposals identified by the Global Detention Project in our 2018 report commissioned by the Norwegian Red Cross. These include reducing the amount of time that detainees are locked up in cells and transferring healthcare services from a private company to the Norwegian Public Health Service.
Trandum Detention Centre has faced a host of criticisms, particularly for its punitive and restrictive detention regime, which treats detainees as criminals, even though they are not serving criminal sentences. In 2015, for example, Norway’s Parliamentary Ombudsman, which is mandated to visit all places of detention in the country under its remit as the country’s National Preventive Mechanism (NPM), concluded that the facility was placing an “excessive attention to control and security at the expense of the individual detainee’s integrity,” employing the “same security procedures as the correctional services.”
In 2018, the Norwegian Red Cross commissioned the GDP to produce a comparative assessment of detention conditions and operations between Norway and other European countries in order to identify targets for reforms at Trandum. The resultant report, “Harm Reduction in Immigration Detention,” compared detention centres in Norway, France, Germany, Sweden, and Switzerland. It found that the carceral model adopted by Trandum was more extreme than that adopted by centres elsewhere in Europe, and proposed key reforms (both for Trandum and other facilities) including shedding carceral elements, including regime, internal layout, and design; increasing detainees’ freedom of movement; and ensuring detainees can easily make and receive calls and have access to the internet. Many of these suggestions were subsequently highlighted by the Norwegian Red Cross in a statement urging Norway’s authorities to reform its immigration detention system.
According to Trandum’s Supervisory Board, in 2022 some of these recommendations were finally initiated as “immediate measures”. Following instruction from the Ministry of Justice and Public Security, the amount of time for which detainees can be locked in their cells is to be reduced, and they are also to have increased access to outdoor space. The Ministry of Justice and Public Security has also instructed that detainees are given increased opportunities to communicate with the outside world, and that by June 2023, health care provision within the centre is to be provided by Norwegian public health services (rather than private company) and that detainees face no limitations in accessing care.
However, the Supervisory Board has criticised the Ministry of Justice and Emergency Management for the slow pace at which these reforms are being implemented. For example, health care reorganisation is now only set to be completed by January 2024 – seven months later than the original June 2023 deadline. The Board is also critical of the Norwegian Police Directorate and Police Immigration Unit for failing to quickly introduce the new measures. As of January 2023, detainees’ ability to communicate with the outside world has not yet been increased, and the length of time for which detainees are locked up has so far only marginally decreased (contrary to instructions from the Ministry, they are still locked up twice a day).
The Global Detention Project is also concerned that the Ministry of Justice and Public Security is currently considering transferring responsibility for the centre from the National Police Directorate to the Directorate of Norwegian Correctional Services. Such a development runs counter to our recommendation that the management of the centre be shifted from a security to a social welfare institution. Failure to do so could be a critical barrier to further reforms and hinder efforts to limit or end the use of immigration detention in the country.
- Trandum Supervisory Board, “Tilsynsrådet for Politiets utlendingsinternat, Trandum Årsmelding 2022,” 2022, https://eafo.no/Tilsynsradet2022.pdf
- Parliamentary Ombudsman, “Visit Report: The Police Immigration Detention Centre at Trandum, 19-21 May 2015,” https://www.sivilombudsmannen.no/wp-content/uploads/2017/05/2015-Rapport-Police-immigrationdetention-centre-Visit-report-EN.pdf
- Global Detention Project, “Harm Reduction in Immigration Detention: A Comparative Study of Detention Centres in France, Germany, Norway, Sweden, and Switzerland,” October 2018, https://www.globaldetentionproject.org/harm-reduction-immigration-detention
- Global Detention Project, “Trandum National Police Immigration Detention Centre,” https://www.globaldetentionproject.org/countries/europe/norway/detention-centres/1118/trandum-national-police-immigration-detention-centre-trandum-utlendingsinternat