February 2011 Newsletter

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    Global Detention Project

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February 2011
Israel Detention Profile

In recent years, Israel has experienced a wave of immigration comprised largely of asylum seekers from Eritrea and Sudan. This influx has fueled alarmist discourse in the country regarding purported socio-economic problems and threats to the Jewish character of the state. The rightwing Likud-led government has responded with a number of increasingly restrictive measures, including: the creation of a specialized immigration force called the Oz Unit, which is tasked with deporting all of the country’s more than 200,000 irregular residents; plans to build a wall along Israel’s border with Egypt because, according to Prime Minister Netanyahu, the country “cannot let tens of thousands of illegal workers infiltrate into Israel through the southern border and inundate our country with illegal aliens”; a proposal to build a massive new detention facility to confine up to 10,000 so-called infiltrators (unauthorized non-citizens) in order to “significantly reduce the economic incentive for them to arrive in Israel”; and the introduction in the  Knesset of a new “infiltration” law whose draconian measures regarding detention and deportation of asylum seekers led a coalition of Israeli human rights groups to describe it as “one of the most dangerous bills ever presented.”

Tunisia Detention Profile

In the aftermath of the historic popular uprising that ousted the government of former President Ben Ali in January 2011, Tunisia saw several thousand citizens undertake a mass exodus to the Italian island of Lampedusa, spurring the Italian government to declare a state of emergency on the island. Italy’s response, which included proposing to send police to Tunisia to help stem the flow of migrants, underscored the long-standing ties between the two countries on migratory matters. In 1998, Italy and Tunisia finalized an agreement on the readmission of Tunisians and third-country nationals that also included Italian funding for the creation of detention centres (centri di permanenza) in Tunisia. According to some reports, since then, the country’s detention estate has grown to include more than a dozen immigration detention facilities, although the locations of most of these facilities have remained a secret. Since the ouster of Ben Ali, the interim government has undertaken some notable reforms, including ending a 20-year ban on visits by human rights groups to that country’s prisons.

Global Detention Project Working Paper No. 4

Immigration detention is characterized by a tension between the prerogatives of sovereignty and the rights of non-citizens. While states have broad discretion over who is allowed to enter and reside within their borders, their decision to detain and deport is constrained by a number of widely accepted norms and principles. One of these is the principle of proportionality, which provides that any decision to deprive a person of his or her liberty must be proportionate to specific ends established in law. This Global Detention Project working paper employs the proportionality principle as a lens through which to assess the operations of detention centres, as well as overall detention regimes. In particular, the paper focuses on the intimate association between immigration detention and criminal incarceration and the institutional framework of detention estates, both of which raise a number questions about whether detention practices are proportionate to the administrative aims of immigration policy.

Call for Papers
Refugee Survey Quarterly is a peer-reviewed, academic journal that focuses on the challenges of forced migration from multidisciplinary and policy-oriented perspectives. Published four times a year by Oxford University Press, the RSQ publishes one thematic special issue each year as well as three general issues that are open to a range of subjects and viewpoints. Submitted articles can be from a broad range of disciplines, including international relations, politics, law, history, geography, sociology, anthropology, economics, development studies, and migration studies. More information for authors can be found here:

New Detention Advocacy Group

Christina Fialho, an intern at the Global Detention Project during Summer 2010, recently cofounded Detention Dialogues, a graduate student-led organization affiliated with the Detention Watch Network in the United States. The group is a volunteer-based organization that undertakes visits to immigration detention centres in California. For more about the group, see:



New Report from the International Detention Coalition

The Issue of Immigration Detention at the UN Level
January 2011