External Staff Publications

Liminal Stigma and Disaligning Activity: Online Comments About Trump’s Family Separation Policy

In 2018, the Trump administration initiated a “zero‐tolerance” border policy wherein they criminally prosecuted all individuals who were apprehended crossing the border without proper authorisation. The policy change resulted in numerous migrant children being separated from their parents. In an article for Symbolic Interaction, GDP advisor Matthew Flynn and Eric O Silva (both of Georgia Southern University) examine each side’s aligning activity through a qualitative content analysis of 1,500 YouTube comments made in response to CNN and ProPublica news coverage.

Immigration Detention in the European Union: In the Shadow of the “Crisis”

This book offers a unique comparative assessment of the evolution of immigration detention systems in European Union member states since the onset of the “refugee crisis.” By applying an analytical framework premised on international human rights law in assessing domestic detention regimes, the book reveals the extent to which EU legislation has led to the adoption of laws and practices that may disregard fundamental rights and standards.

Crossing a Red Line

“Crossing a Red Line” is the final report of the Red Line Project, a collaborative initiative led by the Hungarian Helsinki Committee that was aimed at documenting the shift from “reception” to “detention” in EU border regions and the implications of this shift on asylum seekers. The project also counted on the participation of the Global Detention Project, the Bulgarian Foundation for Access to Rights, the Greek Council for Refugees, and the Italian Council for Refugees.

Private Prison Labour: Paradox or Possibility?

Private Prison Labour: Paradox or Possibility? Evaluating Modern-Day Systems and Establishing a Model Framework Through the Lens of the Forced Labour Convention. UCL Journal of Law and Jurisprudence , 8 (2) , Article 4. Overcrowding, deteriorating conditions, ever-increasing costs, recidivism. These are the terms that come to mind when thinking of the world’s punitive justice systems. Ostensibly, […]

Immigration Detention under the Global Compacts in the Light of Refugee and Human Rights Law Standards

In an article for International Migration, GDP Researcher Izabella Majcher explores how immigration detention is addressed in the Global Compact on Refugees (GCR) and Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration (GCM), and investigates the potential implications of the compacts on existing legal framework regulating the use of immigration detention. While Objective 13 of […]

The European Union Returns Directive and its Compatibility with International Human Rights Law

In her new book “The European Union Returns Directive and its Compatibility with International Human Rights Law: Analysis of Return Decision, Entry Ban, Detention, and Removal” (Brill, 2020), GDP Researcher Izabella Majcher undertakes a thorough human rights assessment of the EU Returns Directive. The overarching human rights framework, which circumscribes state prerogatives in the context […]

“Don’t Call the Essex 39 a ‘Tragedy’”

On 23 October, 39 people were found dead in the back of a refrigerated lorry in Essex, South East England. The truck had crossed The Channel from Belgium – a route which is increasingly used by migrants seeking to enter the UK, as well as by trafficking networks. Initially, police said that the 31 men […]

The Recast of the EU Returns Directive: Human Rights Lost Again?

In the EU response to the so-called refugee crisis, it was the return policy, rather than refugee protection, that received most prominence. The European Commission (EC) argued that promoting the effectiveness of returns would help solve the “crisis,” – and this “effectiveness” related to the number of returns, rather than compliance with fundamental rights. Although […]

GCM Indicators: Objective 21: Cooperate in Facilitating Safe and Dignified Return and Readmission, as well as Sustainable Reintegration

As part of the Refugee Law Initiative’s blog series exploring the implementation of the Global Compact for Migration (GCM), GDP Researcher Izabella Majcher addresses Objective 21 (“Cooperate in facilitating safe and dignified return and readmission, as well as sustainable reintegration.”) Majcher proposes focusing on six indicators, which draw from the provisions of binding international treaties, including the Convention against […]

Commentary on the Global Compact’s Objective 21: Returns, Readmission, Reintegration

In mid-December, UN Member States will meet in Morocco to adopt the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration. As part of a Refugee Law Initiative blog series assessing the final draft of the GCM, GDP Researcher Izabella Majcher examines the Compact’s Objective 21, concerning cooperation in facilitating safe and dignified return and readmission, […]

The Dilemmas of the International Organization for Migration

In June, Antonio Vitorino was elected Director General of the International Organization for Migration (IOM). Formerly a minister in the Portuguese government of the Socialist Prime Minister Antonio Guterres, Vitorino is only the second non-American director in the IOM’s history. Given the historical and political proximity between the IOM and the U.S. government, his election is a notable development. In this article for “The Conversation” (France), GDP Researcher Mariette Grange and Antoine Pécoud (Paris 13 University) examine the IOM’s relations with the U.S. and the organisation’s involvement in migration control “dirty work.”

Critiquing Zones of Exception: Actor-Oriented Approaches Explaining the Rise of Immigration Detention

Immigration policy has catapulted to the forefront of public debate around the world as governments resort to increasingly restrictive measures to block migrants and refugees. While severe border policies are by no means new, this surge in migration control raises questions about the forces driving national policies. This chapter in the new book Immigration Policy in the Age of Punishment advances an actor-oriented analysis that views detention systems as complex organisations that rely on deeply rooted institutional structures to buttress their existence, multiple sources of financing to grow operations, and support from a broad array of social actors.

The EU Hotspot Approach: Hotspots and Plethora of Freedom-Restricting Measures

This themed blog series organized by GDP Researcher Izabella Majcher for the Oxford University-based Border Criminologies examines the EU hotspot approach from the perspective of the right to liberty and freedom of movement, highlighting the unclear division of roles and responsibilities between EU agencies and host member states, the blurred line between detention and reception, substandard material conditions, a lack of transparency, and differential treatment based on nationality, among a host of other concerns.

The Migrant Workers Convention: A Legal Tool to Safeguard Migrants Against Arbitrary Detention

Adopted in 1990 and in force since 2003, the UN Migrant Workers Convention is the most comprehensive international treaty in the field of migration and human rights. In this chapter, Mariette Grange details how the convention safeguards migrants against arbitrary detention. She explains, however, that as the convention has only been ratified by 51 states—none of which are industrialised, migrant-receiving countries—the full potential of the convention remains to be tested.

First Perspectives on the Zero Draft for the UN Global Compact on Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration

Following the recent publication of the Zero Draft for a UN Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration, 17 expert academics—including GDP Researcher, Izabella Majcher—provide commentary on the positive and negative aspects of the Objectives, as well as the necessary follow up.

Uneven Business: Privatisation of Immigration Detention in Europe

Europe reflects a variety of policy responses to the growth of the immigration control industry – from the privatisation of the management of entire immigration detention estates to keeping all detention facilities in official hands and employing private non-profit groups. In this chapter, Michael Flynn, Matthew Flynn, and Eryn Wagon detail the variety of levels and forms of privatisation adopted across the region, as well as the challenges that the outsourcing of immigration controls posits.

Challenging Immigration Detention: Academics, Activists, and Policy-makers

Governments increasingly rely upon detention to control the movement of undocumented migrants and asylum seekers. Approaching detention from an interdisciplinary perspective, this new edited volume brings together leading writers and thinkers to provide a greater understanding of why it is such an important social phenomenon and suggest ways to confront it locally and globally.

Kidnapped, Trafficked, Detained? The Implications of Non-state Actor Involvement in Immigration Detention

This article critically assesses a range of new non-state actors who have become involved in the deprivation of liberty of migrants and asylum seekers, describes the various forces that appear to be driving their engagement, and makes a series of recommendations concerning the role of non-state actors and detention in global efforts to manage international migration.

Putting Immigration Detention in Interdisciplinary Perspective

What can we learn from the interdisciplinary study of immigration detention regimes? Michael Flynn explains in this essay for Oxford University’s “Border Criminologies” research network.

Immigration Detention and Statelessness

The Institute on Statelessness and Inclusion interviews the GDP’s Mariette Grange about the detention of stateless persons and the importance of international human rights standards in safeguarding the rights of this vulnerable population.

Border Securitization and Containment vs. Fundamental Rights: The European Union’s “Refugee Crisis”

When the “refugee crisis” surged to the forefront of the EU’s agenda in 2015, it did little to discourage the xenophobic wave that swept across member states. It did just the opposite.

Detained Beyond the Sovereign: Conceptualising Non-State Actor Involvement in Immigration Detention

In this chapter for the recent book Intimate Economies of Immigration Detention (Routledge, 2016), Michael Flynn discusses the emergence of new actors in immigration detention systems across the globe and the challenges this poses in efforts to hold states accountable.

From Bare Life to Bureaucratic Capitalism: Analyzing the Growth of the Immigration Detention Industry as a Complex Organization

This journal article by a GDP Contributing Researcher assesses post-structuralist approaches to the study of immigration detention, contrasting them with conceptual approaches developed in bureaucratic capitalism, which highlight the various private- and public-sector interests impacting the evolution of detention regimes.

The Immigration Detention Puzzle

We should be shocked that so many countries fail to provide even basic details about their immigration detention practices. And yet, for those who have worked on this issue over the last two decades, the absence of public accountability about detention comes as no surprise.

Sovereign Discomfort: Can Liberal Norms Lead to Increasing Immigration Detention?

Liberal democracies betray discomfort at public scrutiny of immigration detention, neglecting to release statistics, cloaking detention in misleading names, and limiting what they define as deprivation of liberty. These countries have also expanded their detention activities and encourageed their neighbors to do the same. What explains this simultaneous reticence towards and embrace of detention?

Detaining Outsiders: Migrants, Borders, and Security

Research undertaken by the Global Detention Project indicates that an often over-looked variable shaping detention policies and practices is the response by states to pressure stemming from key international norms relevant to the rights of non-citizens, including the right to liberty and security of the person. Available here.

The CJEU’s Ruling in Celaj: Criminal penalties, entry bans and the Returns Directive

In its ruling in the Skerdjan Celaj case (C-290/14), rendered on 1st October 2015, the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) addressed once again the relation between immigration and criminal law and in particular the compatibility of national penal measures imposed as a punishment for irregular migration with the EU Returns Directive.

Discipline and Punish? Analysis of the Purposes of Immigration Detention in Europe

Pre-removal detention is usually considered an administrative measure aimed at the facilitation of the removal of irregular migrants by preventing them from absconding during removal proceedings. The administrative nature of immigration detention implies that persons subject to this measure do not have access to the fair trial guarantees that criminal detainees are entitled to. However, the assessment of pre-removal detention under European Union and Swiss legislation demonstrates the penal nature of such detention despite its formal administrative classification.

Immigration detention in Europe: What are the facts? A new European Migration Network Study

Read the blog here.

The EU Returns Directive and the Use of Prisons for Detaining Migrants in Europe

Can immigration detainees be held in prisons? Can they be confined alongside ordinary prisoners? On 17 July 2014, in its decisions on the joint cases of Bero & Bouzalmate and the case of Pham, the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) rendered its opinion on these practices.

Human Rights Violations during EU Border Surveillance and Return Operations: Frontex’ Shared Responsibility or Complicity?

As the International Law Association highlights “[power] entails accountability, that is the duty to account for its exercise.” Against this background, the article focuses on the question of accountability of the European Union (EU) border agency Frontex for potential human rights violations that may occur in the course of its operations. The article aims to […]

There and Back Again: On the Diffusion of Immigration Detention

From Mexico to the Bahamas, Mauritania to Lebanon, Turkey to Saudi Arabia, South Africa to Indonesia, Malaysia to Thailand, immigration-related detention has become an established policy apparatus that counts on dedicated facilities and burgeoning institutional bureaucracies. Until relatively recently, however, detention appears to have been largely an ad hoc tool, employed mainly by wealthy states in exigent circumstances. This paper uses concepts from diffusion theory to detail the history of key policy events in several important immigration destination countries that led to the spreading of detention practices during the last 30 years and assesses some of the motives that appear to have encouraged this phenomenon.

Alternativas al Internamiento de Inmigrantes en Situacion Irregular

Crimmigration in the European Union: The Case of Immigration Detention

For over a decade U.S immigration scholars and practitioners have observed a growing convergence between criminal justice and migration control systems. Regular posts at the crImmigration.com blog document the spread of this phenomenon in the U.S. This post, which builds on the author’s Global Detention Project working paper “Crimmigration” in the European Union through the […]

Alternatives to Detention


Does making immigration detention more humane make it more widespread?

Online debate between Michael Flynn (Global Detention Projecy) and Michelle Brané (Women’s Refugee Commission) over the strategies for countering the growth of immigration detention. Read entire debate here.

Whither Alternatives to Detention

Contribution to the “Border Criminologies” program at Oxford University regarding the debate over the impact of “alternatives” to immigration detention. Read post here. 

Immigration, Human Rights, and Language

New research from the Global Detention Project publicized on the Border Criminologies website. See post here. 

The European Union Returns Directive: Does it prevent arbitrary detention?

This article provides a critical analysis of immigration detention regime under European Union (EU) law. It assesses the relevant provisions of the EU Returns Directive and their domestic implementation in several EU states against the underlying requirement for any deprivation of liberty not to amount to arbitrary detention. Three elements embodied in this requirement are highlighted: the exceptional nature […]

Be careful what you wish for

Can the promotion of liberal norms have an unintended – and damaging – impact on how states confront the challenges of irregular immigration? Article for the Forced Migration Review. Read the full article here.

Who Must Be Detained? Proportionality as a Tool for Critiquing Immigration Detention Policy

The article for Refugee Survey Quarterly endeavours to use the legal principle of proportionality as a tool to critique immigration detention practices and policies. To this end, the article proposes a methodology for assessing operations at detention centres that opens the phenomenon up to empirical study and allows for comparative research of detention practices across […]

Rethinking Pre-removal Immigration Detention in the United States: Lessons from Europe and Proposals for Reform

In this article for Refugee Survey Quarterly, Christina Fialho, a former research intern at the Global Detention Project and founder of the California-based Community Initiatives for Visiting Immigrants in Confinement (CIVIC), examines the legality of lengthy detention of non-citizens held in pre-removal immigration detention in the United States, while presenting a comparative analysis of the European Union and […]

Europe: On Its Borders New Problems

Where’s the U.S. Border? Portraits of an Elastic Frontier

Who’s Trying to Cross the Border? Everyone

What’s the Deal at Manta?

The United States said it would restrict its activities at Manta to anti-drug efforts—so why is it messing with migrants and more?

U.S.-Ecuador: Stretching Borders to Block Migrants

The Elastic Frontier

Concurrent with high-profile border control efforts, the United States has been busy quietly formulating and putting in place a strategy aimed at pushing migrant interdiction, detention, and deterrence into neighboring countries. These beyond-the-border efforts have led some observers to describe what they see as the southward migration of the U.S.-Mexico border, or to call the […]

Searching for Safe Haven

Most of the world’s up-rooted are migrants—people who have left their countries in search of food, better living conditions, jobs, or to be with family members. Who deserves protection? What responsibilities should governments and the international community shoulder? How can refugee pro- tection efforts be fine-tuned? What is the price we pay for not coming […]

U.S. Immigration Policies: The Double Standard

This op-ed for the Chicago Trbiune assesses the U.S. detention policy enshrining a double standard between treatment of Haitians that was quietly issued in 2001 by the Bush administration in the hopes of deterring a wave of migrants and asylum seekers fleeing the rapidly deteriorating political and economic conditions in Haiti. Haitians making it to U.S. territory would […]

Guatemala: Is This Peace?

Donde Esta La Frontera?

Millions try each year to slip into the United States through its “soft underbelly”—the U.S.- Mexico border. The U.S. government’s solution: Move the border south.