Stop Arbitrary Detention of Migrants, Refugees, and Asylum Seekers

My experiences as a detainee on Manus Island have driven me to fight to ensure that the world knows about the suffering people endure in immigration detention and to prevent more suffering. As a fellow at the Global Detention Project, I learned how to effectively document detention practices to make powerful calls for change. Abdul Aziz Muhamat, GDP Fellow, former detained refugee, recipient of the Martin Ennals Human Rights Defender Award

Thousands of men, women, and children are locked up every day just because they fled their countries, were trafficked overseas, or sought better lives abroad. Hidden from scrutiny, they face inhumane conditions and grave abuses. Some people die in detention, others simply disappear, and others lose hope of ever being freed—even though they are not charged with crimes.  

Donate to the Global Detention Project today to:

  • End arbitrary and indefinite migration-related detention.
  • Ensure that children and other at-risk people are never detained.
  • Expose harmful detention practices.
  • Demand justice for those unjustly detained. 
  • Promote the respect and dignity of all non-citizens.

*The Global Detention Project is a registered tax-exempt association in Switzerland and donations are tax deductible as per the laws and regulations of the donor’s jurisdiction. Those wishing to make a tax deductible donation in the United States, please click HERE.*

**Those wishing to pay by bank transfer, click here.**


Uncovering Detention

We work to ensure that countries reveal how many people they detain, in what conditions, and why, which is essential information for making meaningful calls for reforms. We have successfully encouraged many countries to release data, including an early FOIA request in the US, which led to our publishing the first comprehensive map of US detention sites, featuring a staggering 900+ facilities. Recently, the EU’s statistical office—Eurostat—announced that it would begin collecting data on member states’ immigration detention statistics, which marked a milestone in efforts to promote transparency in EU deportation practices. The GDP played a leading role in helping make this happen, undertaking ground-breaking investigations like “The Uncounted,” repeatedly lobbying the agency to collect and publicise better migration enforcement data, and publishing major academic studies on the implications of the growth of unaccounted detention regimes across the region.

Ending the Detention of Children

We have been a leading voice highlighting the enduring harm that immigration detention has on children and have regularly provided advice on how refugee and migrant children should be treated. When officials in Geneva began seeking non-detention methods for minors in custody, they came to us looking for examples of how other countries do this. When the Swiss NGO Terres des Homme sought data to advocate an end to Switzerland’s child detention policies at the Swiss Parliament, they came to the GDP to build the evidence for their case. Our advice and input has informed numerous global studies and reports, including those produced by the Committee on the Rights of the Child and the UN-mandated Global Study on Children Deprived of Liberty

The Global Detention Project persistently unearths and publicises information about immigration detention systems so that we can build better informed societies that embrace the human rights of all migrants. Salva Lacruz (Fray Matias de Cordova Human Rights Centre, Mexico)

Promoting Better Healthcare

The World Health Organisation acknowledges that immigration detention is inherently damaging to people’s health, a conclusion it was able to draw in part on the basis of GDP studies and data. In 2022, the WHO asked the GDP to undertake a global evidence of review on health indicators and outcomes in immigration detention settings as part of its series, Global Evidence Review on Health and Migration. Our systematic review of evidence, which builds on our multi-year reporting initiative on COVID-19 in detention, has pointed to several daunting lessons, including the apparent lack of willingness by many states to implement sustainable reforms in their health provision for detained refugees, asylum seekers, and migrants, and the devastating impact this is having on people across the globe.

Spurring UN Action

We strive to ensure that UN human rights agencies are alerted to urgent and unfolding situations involving detained asylum seekers and refugees so that they can take immediate action to address violations and ensure that states fulfill their protection obligations. Recently, we helped mobilise UN action on the plight of refugees and migrants stuck in Ukrainian detention centres amidst Russia’s bombardment, the disappearances of Eritrean refugees in Egypt, and abuses of migrants trapped in border areas between Belarus and neighbouring countries

It is not easy for the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention (WGAD) to reach out to organisations working on the ground and the Global Detention project has been an important partner in providing a bridge. But it has been more than that: The GDP has also played an important role in assisting the WGAD to spread the message that arbitrary detention occurs outside the criminal justice context. Elina Steinerte (Former Chair, UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention)

Amplifying Local Voices Globally

The GDP works with local NGOs to develop evidence and argumentation to empower their campaigns for improving the treatment of vulnerable migrants and asylum seekers. The Norwegian Red Cross, for instance, asked us to produce a report comparing the treatment of detainees in Norway to other countries. The resulting report, “Harm Reduction in Immigration Detention,” served as the basis for nationwide calls for reforms in the operations of Norway’s Trandum detention centre. We recently launched an innovative data-driven partnership initiative, the Global Immigration Detention Observatory, where local partners learn to use online database and documentation tools to build evidence to be used in their outreach to international human rights bodies, which has already led to numerous calls for reforms

Preventing Arbitrary Detention

Migration-related detention is often wielded as an arbitrary measure that fails to take into consideration the risks it poses to vulnerable and suffering people, their health needs, or their legal rights. The right to liberty — freedom! —  is one of our most cherished rights and a fundamental element of all modern liberal democracies. The decision to take it away must never be made lightly. And yet, today, across the globe, we are witnessing–and the GDP is carefully documenting–the emergence of harmful detention regimes in countries where the rule of law is non-existent, human rights scorned, and detention conditions brutal and inhuman. This is why the GDP has nurtured strong relations with some of the world’s more influential monitoring bodies, like the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, and worked to build ties between these agencies and on-the-ground advocates working to end abuses.

The Global Detention Project is a strong advocacy organisation that promotes the human rights of detained migrants and contributes to global debates on relevant standards and policies that govern migration. Felipe González Morales (UN Special Rapporteur on the Human Rights of Migrants)