No Data

Immigration detainees

No Data

Detained children








A major migrant source country, Senegal is also a destination and transit country for migrants and asylum seekers, many of whom attempt to use Senegal as a departure point for Spain’s Canary Islands. In recent years, Senegal has passed legislation and signed agreements with European countries aimed at preventing “clandestine” emigration from the country. Rights advocates claim that these efforts have resulted in increasing numbers of migration detainees in Senegal. 

Types of facilities used for migration-related detention
Administrative Ad Hoc Criminal Unknown

Related Reading

03 August 2020

A member of the Senegalese graffiti collective
A member of the Senegalese graffiti collective "RBS CREW" paints an informational mural advising how to stop the spread of coronavirus: Human Rights Watch, "Waiting for the Storm: The Coronavirus in Africa," 3 April 2020,

Senegal does not operate a dedicated immigration detention facility, according to information provided by the country’s Ombudsperson (Senegal’s Human Rights Committee, or SHRC). However, SHRC informed the GDP that a network of NGOs has launched a campaign to protect the rights of refugees, asylum seekers, and any other displaced persons during the pandemic. The coalition--which is made up of the Pan-African NGO for Sustainable Development Education, the Senegalese Social Forum, and partners from the Migration and Development Network--seeks to provide refugees and asylum seekers with food and hygiene products, and to encourage decision makers to take into account the rights of migrants and refugees in all response and resilience plans throughout the pandemic.

According to UNHCR, in 2019 there were 37,554 people of concern within the country. Although Senegalese law provides for the granting of asylum or refugee status, the country’s President must approve each case causing delays of many years. Moreover according to refugee advocates, the government rarely grants refugee status or asylum, but generally allows those with pending applications, and some who have been rejected, to remain in the country. According to the U.S State Department (2019), “Police did not arrest denied asylum seekers for staying illegally in the country. Police did arrest asylum seekers if they committed crimes, but authorities generally contacted UNHCR in such cases to verify their asylum status and ensure they deported no one with a pending claim.”

Last updated: August 2009

Senegal Immigration Detention Profile

A major migrant source country, Senegal is also a destination and transit country for migrants and asylum seekers, many of whom attempt to use Senegal as a departure point for Spain’s Canary Islands. In recent years, Senegal has passed legislation and signed agreements with European countries aimed at preventing “clandestine” emigration from the country. Rights advocates claim that these efforts have resulted in increasing numbers of migration detainees in Senegal. Said one source interviewed by the Global Detention Project, “The border of Europe has been pushed back to Senegal. And with these increasing crackdowns, there is no guarantee for refugees who are caught up in mixed migrant flows” (Ndiaye 2009).

Detention Policy

The rights of immigrants and asylum seekers in Senegal are established in various laws, including, inter alia: the Loi relative aux conditions d’admission, de séjour et d’établissement des étrangers, 1971 (or the “Foreigners Act”); the Loi relative a la lutte contre la traite des personnes et pratiques assimilees at a la protection des victims, 2005 (“Law against Trafficking in People”); and the Loi no. 68-27 de 24 juillet 1968 modifiee portent status des refugies (“Refugee Law”).

According to the Foreigners Act, a non-citizen (étranger) is subject to imprisonment and a fine if he/she:
• Enters or returns to Senegal despite being notified that he/she is not allowed to do so;
• Remains in Senegal without appropriate authorization or after the expiration of authorization;
• Obtains residence authorization by fraudulent means;
• Works illegally in Senegal.

Senegal is a party to the 1951 Refugee Convention and has established legal criteria for the recognition and treatment of refugees and asylum seekers. These are set out in the 1968 Refugee Law as well as successive modifications (USCRI 2007). Governmental and non-governmental bodies generally applaud Senegal’s policies on refugees, reporting few or no cases of refoulement and highlighting the country’s protection system (U.S. State Department 2009; USCRI 2007).

The Global Detention Project has received contradictory information regarding Senegal’s detention practices. According to both the U.S. State Department and the U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants (USCRI), undocumented immigrants can be held in administrative detention for up to three months while they await deportation (USCRI 2008; U.S. State Department 2009).

However, the Global Detention Project was unable to verify the law or regulation that stipulates the 3-month administration detention policy. A representative of the West African aid agency OFADEC, which works closely with refugees, told the Global Detention Project that he was unaware of the 3-month detention policy. He added, “The Senegalese government does not have the money or resources to keep immigrants in jail. Those arrested [because of their status] are typically released on bail after sentencing. Many of these people are linked up with trafficking rings, and as soon as they are freed they link back up with their networks and you never see them again” (Ndiaye 2009). 

In its World Refugee Survey 2007, USCRI highlighted a number of detention cases, including the detention of refugees: “Authorities arrested at least six West and Central Africans for lack of valid papers. In April, authorities detained an Ivorian refugee overnight even though he had an attestation of refugee status. In August, authorities arrested two Liberians for illegal residence, held them for three weeks, and sentenced them to a month in prison. The Liberians had applied for asylum four months earlier, but the [National Commission for Eligibility] had not given them receipts. Authorities could hold persons in administrative detention for up to three months before deportation. No court reviewed refugees' or asylum seekers' detention. Generally, authorities informed UNHCR of arrests and, when necessary, UNHCR intervened to assure release” (USCRI 2008).

According to the U.S. State Department, in 2008 the Senegalese government “violated the rights of some asylum seekers by not offering them due process or security since appeals filed by denied asylum seekers were examined by the same committee that examined their original cases, and a denied asylum seeker can be arrested for staying illegally in the country. Those arrested sometimes remained in ‘administrative detention’ for up to three months before being deported” (U.S. State Department 2009).

Because of its status as a transit state for migrants trying to reach Europe, Senegal has passed legislation and worked closely with European partners to impede the trafficking of immigrants across its territory. The Law against the Trafficking in People, passed in 2005, has been widely applauded for its stringent penalties aimed at people traffickers (see, for example, U.S. State Department 2009b). However, the law broadly targets all those involved in “clandestine migration.” Article 4 of the law provides, “Illegal migration, organized by land, sea or air, as well as the use of national territory for origin, transit or destination, is punishable by 5-10 years imprisonment.” According to one rights advocate in Senegal, enforcement of this law has led to increases in the numbers of people, including both Senegalese and non-citizens, detained and prosecuted for migration-related offenses (Sadikh 2009).

Since passage of the 2005 anti-trafficking law, Senegal has signed a number of bilateral agreements with European countries, including Spain and France, aimed at cooperating in efforts to prevent “clandestine” emigration from Senegal and/or allowing for the repatriation of unauthorized immigrants (AFP 2008; Bernard 2006; Euronews 2006). According to rights groups, however, these agreements risk violating basic rights and have led to increased numbers of detainees. Amnesty International reported in 2007, “Thousands of migrants and asylum-seekers, mostly sub-Saharan Africans, continued to transit through Senegal. Many sought to reach the Canary Islands (Spain) and hundreds were arrested by Senegalese security forces. Coastal surveillance was reinforced after an agreement in August between Senegal and Spain to implement joint security measures to curb the flow of clandestine migrants. In September and October [2006], more than 90 Pakistani migrants, including at least one minor, were arrested, charged with attempted illegal immigration and repatriated” (AI 2007).

Human Rights Watch (HRW) has criticized a 2006 agreement between Spain and Senegal on the repatriation of unaccompanied children on the grounds that it provides too little time (20 days) to adequately assess situations. The group added, “The deadlines also increase the risk that information will be shared with the Senegalese government before an assessment is made whether a child or his or her family are subject to persecution and have a claim for protection under the Refugee Convention. Under these circumstances, sharing such information could conceivably place the child or the child's family at additional risk of persecution” (HRW 2008).

Detention Infrastructure

Senegal does not maintain dedicated facilities to hold immigration detainees in administrative detention. Instead, Senegal uses prisons and police stations to hold these detainees (Ministry of Interior 2009b; Sadikh 2009). According to one advocate who works with detained immigrants, the principal prisons used for this purpose include: Prison Centrale (aka “100 metres”), Liberte VI (for women), and Fort-B (for minors) in Dakar; and the prisons in Rufisque, Theis, and Saint-Louis (Sadikh 2009). Prisons are managed by the Direction de l'Administration Pénitentiaire of the Ministry of Justice (International Centre for Prison Studies 2008). Immigration detainees are under the authority of the Direction de la Police des Etrangers et des Titres de Voyage of the Ministry of Interior (Ministry of Interior 2009).

Facts & Figures

As of 2007, Senegal had 2,538 pending asylum claims and was home to more than 20,000 certified refugees (UNHCR 2008). The majority of refugees and asylum seekers in Senegal come from Mauritania. Others come from Guinea Bisseau, Rwanda, Liberia, Sierra Leone, and Cote d’Ivoire (USCRI 2007).


  • Agence France Presse (AFP). 2008. “Senegal and Spain Prolong Cooperation to stop illegal immigration.” Agence France Presse. 21 May 2008.
  • Amnesty International (AI). 2007. “Amnesty International Report 2007 – Senegal.” Amnesty International. 23 May 2007.
  • Human Rights Watch (HRW). 2008. “Spain’s Push for Repatriations.” 17 October 2008.
  • Bernard, Phillipe. 2006. “L’emigration, une manne indispensable pour le Senegal.” Le Monde. 27 septembre 2006.
  • Euronews. 2006. “Francia y Senegal acuerdan frenar la inmigracion clandestine.” Euronews. 24 September 2006.
  • International Centre for Prison Studies. Website. "Prison Brief for Senegal." Last updated 1 September 2008. (accessed 21 July 2009).
  • Journal Officiel de la Republique du Senegal. 1971. Loi relative aux conditions d’admission, de séjour et d’établissement des étrangers. Journal Officiel de la Republique du Senegal. 20 fevrier 1971.
  • Ndiaye, Mamadou (OFADEC). 2009. Phone interview by Michael Flynn (Global Detention Project). 22 July 2009. Geneva, Switzerland.
  • Ministry of Interior. Website. "Directions." (accessed 17 July 2009).
  • Ministry of Interior. 2009b. Phone conversation between unnamed official in the Ministry of Interior (Direction de la Police des Etrangers et des Titres de Voyage) and Michael Flynn (Global Detention Project). 17 July 2009. Geneva, Switzerland.
  • Sadikh, Niass (RADDHO-Senegal). 2009. Email communication to Michael Flynn (Global Detention Project). 16 July 2009. Geneva, Switzerland.
  • UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). 2008. Statistical Yearbook: 2007. UNHCR. December 2008.
  • UN Human Rights Committee. 1996. Consideration of Reports Submitted By States Parties Under Article 40 of the Covenant: Fourth periodic reports of States parties due in 1995: Addendum: Senegal. UN Human Rights Committee. CCPR/C/103/Add.1. 22 November 1996.
  • U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants (USCRI). 2007. World Refugee Survey 2006. USCRI. July 2007.
  • U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants (USCRI). 2008. USCRI. World Refugee Survey 2007. June 2008.
  • U.S. State Department. 2009. 2008 Human Rights Report. U.S. State Department. 25 February 2009. (accessed 24 June 2009).
  • U.S. State Department. 2009b. Trafficking in Persons Report 2009. U.S. State Department. 16 June 2009. (accessed 20 July 2009).


Criminal prison population
Percentage of foreign prisoners
Prison population rate (per 100,000 of national population)
International migrants
International migrants as a percentage of the population
Ratio of refugees per 1000 inhabitants
Total number of new asylum applications
Refugee recognition rate
Stateless persons
Total number of immigration detainees by year
Number of immigration detainees on a given day
Top nationalities of detainees
Number of persons granted alternatives to immigration detention
Number of detained asylum seekers
Total number of detained minors
Number of detained unaccompanied minors
Number of detained accompanied minors
Number of detained stateless persons
Number of apprehensions of non-citizens
Immigration detainees as a percentage of total international migrant population
Estimated total immigration detention capacity
Number of dedicated long-term immigration detention centres
Estimated capacity of dedicated long-term immigration detention centres
Number of dedicated medium-term immigration detention centres
Number of immigration offices
Number of transit facilities
Number of criminal facilities
Number of ad hoc facilities
Number of persons removed/returned (voluntary returns and deportations)
Number of deportations/forced returns only
Percentage of persons removed in relation to total number of people placed in removal procedures
Estimated number of undocumented migrants


Gross Domestic Product per capita (in USD)
Remittances to the country
Remittances from the country
Unemployment Rate
Net official development assistance (ODA) (in millions USD)
Human Development Index Ranking (UNDP)
170 (Low)
163 (Low)
Pew Global Attitudes Poll on Immigration
Unemployment rate amongst migrants
Detention for deterrence
Immigration Index Score
World Bank Rule of Law Index
Domestic Opinion Polls on Immigration


Legal tradition
Civil law
Customary law
Constitutional guarantees?
Core pieces of national legislation
Additional legislation
Regulations, standards, guidelines
Immigration-status-related grounds
Non-immigration-status-related grounds providing for administrative detention in immigration legislation.
Does the country provide specific criminal penalties for immigration-related violations?
Grounds for criminal immigration-related detention/incarceration and maximum potential duration of incarceration
Has the country decriminalized immigration-related violations?
Maximum length for administrative immigration detention in law.
Longest recorded instance of immigration detention.
Maximum length of time in custody prior to issuance of a detention order
Average length of detention
Maximum length of detention for asylum-seekers
Maximum length of detention for persons detained upon arrival at ports of entry
Provision of basic procedural standards
Types of non-custodial measures
Impact of alternatives
Is the detention of vulnerable persons provided in law? Are they detained in practice?
Mandatory detention
Expedited/fast track removal
Re-entry ban


Individual complaints procedure
Acceptance Year
ICERD, declaration under article 14 of the Convention 1982
ICCPR, First Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, 1966 1978
CEDAW, Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women, 1999 2000
CAT, declaration under article 22 of the Convention 1996
Ratio of complaints procedures accepted
Observation Date
Relevant recommendations issued by treaty bodies
Recommendation Year
Committee on Migrant Workers "§27. (a) amend act no. 71-10 of 25 january 1971 on conditions of admission, stay and establishment of foreigners in senegal so as to decriminalize irregular migration, since the committee is of the view that, in accordance with its general comment no. 2 (2013) on the rights of migrant workers in an irregular situation and members of their families, staying in a country in an unauthorized manner or without proper documentation or overstaying a residence permit should not constitute a criminal offence; (b) indicate in its next periodic report the number of migrants, disaggregated by age, sex, nationality and/or origin, who are currently being detained for having violated the law on migration, specifying the location, the average length and conditions of detention and providing information on the number of expulsions and the procedures followed; (c) detain migrant workers for having violated the law on migration only in exceptional circumstances and as a last resort; and ensure in all cases that they are held separately from ordinary prisoners, that women are detained separately from men, that conditions of detention are in conformity with international standards and that alternatives to detention are used for children and their families and for unaccompanied minors; (d) prohibit and consider alternatives to the administrative detention in police stations of foreigners awaiting deportation from the national territory." "§31. (a) facilitate access by senegalese migrant workers residing abroad to consular and diplomatic assistance from the state party, particularly in cases of detention or expulsion; (b) ensure that its consular services effectively carry out their duty to protect and promote the rights of senegalese migrant workers and members of their families and, in particular, provide the necessary assistance to any such persons who are deprived of liberty or subject to an expulsion order; (c) take the necessary steps to ensure that the consular or diplomatic staff of the states of origin or of a state representing the interests of those states are systematically informed when one of their nationals is taken into custody in the state party." 2016
Committee on Migrant Workers " take the necessary steps to ensure that the detention of migrant workers in an irregular situation is only a measure of last resort and that, in all circumstances, such detention is carried out in accordance with article 16 and with article 17, paragraph 2, of the convention." 2010
Regional legal instruments
Year of Ratification (Treaty) / Transposed (Directive) / Adoption (Regulation)
ACHPR, African Charter on Human and Peoples Rights 1982
ACRWC, African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child 1998
APRW, Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa (Maputo Protocol) 2004
Relevant recommendations of the UN Universal Periodic Review
Observation Date
No 2009
No 2013
Ratio of relevant international treaties ratified
International treaty reservations
Treaty bodies decisions on individual complaints
Regional treaty reservations
Regional judicial decisions on individual complaints
Recommendations issued by regional human rights mechanisms
Bilateral/multilateral agreements linked to readmission
Visits by special procedures of the Human Rights Council
Relevant recommendations by UN Special Procedures


Custodial authority
Direction de la Police des Etrangers et des Titres de Voyage (Ministry of Interior) Interior or Home Affairs
Detention Facility Management
Ministry of Justice / Direction de l'Administration Pénitentiaire (Governmental)
Federal or centralized governing system
Centralized or decentralized immigration authority
Apprehending authorities
Formally designated detention estate?
Types of detention facilities used in practice
Authorized monitoring institutions
Is the national human rights institution (NHRI) recognized as independent?
Does NHRI carry out visits?
Does NHRI have capacity to receive complaints?
Does NHRI publicly release reports on immigration detention?
Does national preventive mechanism (NPM) carry out visits?
Does NPM have capacity to receive complaints?
Does NPM publicly release reports on immigration detention?
Do NGOs carry out visits?
NGO capacity to receive complaints?
Do NGOs publish reports on immigration detention?
Do parliamentary organs carry out visits?
Do parliamentary organs have capacity to receive complaints?
Do parliamentary organs publicly report on their detention findings?
Do internal inspection agencies (IIAs) carry out visits?
Do IIAs have capacity to receive complaints?
Do IIAs publicly report their findings from detention inspections?
Do international and/or regional bodies (IRBs) visit immigration-related detention facilities?
Do IRBs publicly report their findings from inspections?
Types of privatisation/outsourcing
Detention contractors and other non-state entities
Estimated annual budget for detention operations
Estimated annual budgets for particular detention-related activities
Estimated cost per detainees day (in USD)
Estimated annual budget for non-custodial measures (in USD)
Estimated costs of non-custodial measures (in USD)
Does the country receive external sources of funding?
Description of foreign assistance