About the GDP


The Global Detention Project (GDP) is a non-profit organisation based in Geneva that promotes the human rights of people who have been detained for reasons related to their non-citizen status. Our mission is:

  • To promote the human rights of detained migrants, refugees, and asylum seekers;
  • To ensure transparency in the treatment of detainees;
  • To reinforce advocacy aimed at reforming detention systems;
  • To nurture policy-relevant scholarship on the causes and consequences of migration control policies.

The GDP’s activities include: (1) providing policy-makers, civil society actors, and human rights institutions with a source of accurate information and analysis about detention and other immigration control regimes, with a particular focus on the impact these policies have on the health, human rights, and well-being of undocumented migrants, asylum seekers, and refugees; (2) developing and maintaining a measurable and regularly updated database that can be used to assess the evolution of detention practices, provide an evidentiary base for advocating reforms, and serve as a framework for comparative analysis; (3) working with academics and practitioners to develop policy relevant scholarship about detention systems; and (4) collaborating with advocacy organisations to document policies and practices.


The Global Detention Project was initially conceived in 2005 by students at the Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies in Geneva as a tool for improving transparency of detention regimes by systematically documenting where and in what conditions migrants and asylum seekers are detained.

In 2006, the GDP received a start-up grant from the Geneva International Academic Network (RUIG-GIAN) to collaborate with the Graduate Institute’s Political Science Department on completing a comprehensive assessment of the international scope of migrant detention practices.

During 2009-2014, with financial support provided primarily by Zennström Philanthropies and the Swiss Network for International Studies, the GDP continued its work as part of the Graduate Institute’s Programme for the Study of Global Migration. During this period, the project grew from a small academic research project into an important source of information and analysis on detention regimes across the globe.

In 2014, the GDP was launched as an independent nonprofit research centre to enable deeper interaction with advocacy organizations and international human rights mechanisms.

Since becoming an independent association, the  GDP’s work has been supported by a host of institutions and philanthropic organizations, including the Oak Foundation, the Open Society Foundations, the Swiss Federal Department of Foreign Affairs (Human Security Division), the State of Geneva, the City of Geneva, and Loterie Romande.