1)  Does the Global Detention Project (GDP) research “secret” detention sites that are part of the “war on terror”?

2) What is “immigration-related detention”?

3)  Do different countries employ different names for immigration detention centres?

4)  Many countries, like France, have holding centres (or “zones d’attente”) in airports and border crossings. Why aren’t these included in the GDP’s maps or lists of detention centres?



1) Does the Global Detention Project (GDP) research “secret” detention sites that are part of the “war on terror”?

No. The GDP researches immigration control policies and practices, focusing mainly on immigration-related detention.


2) What is “immigration-related detention”?

The GDP defines immigration-related detention (or “immigration detention”) as the deprivation of liberty of non-citizens for reasons related to their immigration status. Although this form of detention can be based on criminal charges, in most countries migrant detention is an administrative (or “civil”) procedure that is undertaken to verify the identity of individuals, process asylum claims, and/or ensure that a deportation order is carried out. Officials in some countries have argued that migrant detention also functions as a deterrent for would-be migrants and asylum seekers. It is important to note that one of the key concerns vis-a-vis this form of detention is precisely its administrative nature. Domestic legal systems are often not as detailed regarding these detention situations, which can result in detainees facing legal uncertainty, including lack of access to the outside world (including to legal counsel), inadequate or no possibilities of challenging detention through the courts, and lack of limitations on the duration of detention.


3) Do different countries employ different names for immigration detention centres?

There are a wide variety of names and definitions used by countries to describe their immigration detention facilities. Mexico, for instance, calls them “estaciones migratorias” (migratory stations); Turkey formerly called them “guesthouses”; Japan uses the phrase “detention houses”; France has “centres de rétencion administrative.” How a facility is named can also depend on who operates it. For example, the United States terms government-owned detention facilities “service processing centres,” while privately-operated sites are called “contract detention centres.” In addition, the official name of a detention site can depend on its particular function–such as whether it is used to detain only asylum seekers, or whether the site confines only those awaiting imminent deportation. Because of the diverse nomenclature, as well as the varying purposes of the centres, the Global Detention Project has developed a unique typology to accurately categorize detention sites. For more information, see the GDP report, “An Introduction to Data Construction on Immigration-related Detention.”


4) Many countries, like France, have holding centres (or “zones d’attente”) in airports and border crossings. Why aren’t these included in the project’s maps or lists?

In fact, the project does identify and investigate transit zone detention sites. However, the project does not seek to identify every transit zone or zone d’attente across the globe because it would be overwhelmed in marginal data as nearly every border crossing, seaport, and international airport is liable to have an area where authorities can briefly hold someone when he/she does not have proper identification or is awaiting deportation. The project’s core concern is to accurately identify sites of detention that are consistently used to hold people for long durations (more than 48 hours). While there have been some high profile legal cases involving excessively long-term detention periods in European transit zones,¹ such detention sites in Europe tend to be used on a very short-term basis—less than 12 hours. When the project has evidence that a particular transit zone is consistently used for longer detention periods, then we investigate that site. Such is the case with the transit zone at Kenya’s Jomo Kenyatta International Airport, which is frequently used by that country’s immigration authority to confine arriving passengers for days or weeks until they can be deported.

¹ See, for example, Gebremedhin [Gabermadhien] v. France. 2007. The European Court of Human Rights. Judgement of 26 April 2007. Application no. 25389/05.