Launching the Covid-19 Global Immigration Detention Platform – March/April 2020 Newsletter


As the coronavirus pandemic changes the lives of societies around the world, countries are being forced to alter their detention and deportation decisions. Many countries have already begun releasing detainees because of their inability to deport them. Others have been forced to close detention centres because of the spread of Covid-19 to detainees and prison staff. But critical questions remain about the fates of those who have been released and the wellbeing of detainees in countries that are refusing to release them. These developments point to larger, fundamental questions about the viability and logic of immigration detention as a response to the world’s myriad humanitarian, environmental, and health-related challenges.

Since the Covid-19 crisis began, the GDP has been closely tracking the impact of the pandemic on immigration detainees and the measures that have been taken in response to the pandemic. We have launched this dedicated Covid-19 global tracking platform and mailing list to share regular updates on how governments are responding to the pandemic in their treatment of detainees and to report on the efforts of independent monitoring bodies and human rights practitioners to support these people. To read our latest updates, visit our new platformand subscribe to the GDP’s Covid-19 mailing list HERE.

Please note, we will regularly update the information on this platform as well as add details about additional countries. We will also be adding new data filters and mapping tools to the platform to provide more clarity and awareness of evolving circumstances on the ground. Please contact us with any updated or missing information, at

Visit the Covid-19 Global Immigration Detention Platform


Immigration Detention in Tunisia: Shrouded in Secrecy

 Foreigners in Tunisia, particularly those from sub-Saharan Africa, face endemic racism, little or no possibility of seeking asylum because the country has yet to adopt a refugee protection regime, and pushbacks into Libya and Algeria. There is little transparency with respect to detention conditions of migrants and refugees or their treatment in border regions. Although the country had begun implementing measures in March 2020 to safeguard staff and inmates at the country’s prisons in response to the Covid-19 crisis, no such measures appear to have been taken with respect to people detained for immigration reasons. Read the full report.

Immigration Detention in Belgium: Covid-19 Puts the Breaks on an Expanding Detention System

 Belgium has adopted increasingly hardening immigration and asylum policies, including expanding its detention system and backtracking on previous commitments not to detain families with children. But the Covid-19 crisis has spurred the country to temporarily reduce its immigration detention capacity by half even as the Immigration Office has simultaneously halted the registration of new asylum seekers. Read the full report.

Global Detention Project Annual Report 2019

The year 2019 marked the final year of the GDP’s first Strategic Plan. In our new Annual Report, we discuss in detail how our strategy has shaped our activities and led us to become more engaged with activists, practitioners, policy-makers, scholars, and—critically—detainees and their families. Looking back, it seems a remarkable journey, one that began in university classrooms but eventually led to the establishment of a prominent non-profit organisation promoting the human rights of people who are locked behind bars merely because they are undocumented or seek safe haven outside their countries. Read the full report.


Prison for Profit: Escaping Accountability for the Treatment of Detainees

On 7 March, GDP Director Michael Flynn joined Abdul Aziz Muhamat (2019 Martin Ennals Prize Winner), Ilse Van Velzen (filmmaker), Ruth Hopkins (investigative journalist), Agnès Callamard (UN Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions and Director of “Freedom of Expression”), and journalist Luc Hermann to discuss the privatisation of prisons and administrative detention in Switzerland and beyond, as part of the International Film Festival and Forum on Human Rights 2020. Discussing the growing outsourcing of detention to private companies, the panel considered what is left of detainees’ rights when prison becomes an object of profit.  The event was live-streamed, and is available to watch on YouTube.

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

Authored by the GDP’s Izabella Majcher, Michael Flynn, and Mariette Grange, Immigration Detention in the European Union: In the Shadow of the “Crisis” (Springer) 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. The book is now available to buy online. 

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

In 2018, the Trump administration’s “zero-tolerance” border policy saw all individuals who were apprehended crossing the border without proper authorisation criminally prosecuted, and the separation of countless migrant children from their parents. In an article for Symbolic Interaction, GDP advisor Matthew Flynn and Eric O Silva (both of Georgia Southern University) examine the aligning activities of both those advocating for separation, and those challenging the policy, through a qualitative content analysis of 1,500 YouTube comments made in response to CNN and ProPublica news coverage. Their findings show that, enabled by social media, aligning activity in stigma contests can produce a liminal stigma, where identities suffer the ideational aspects of stigma but not necessarily the loss of social status. Read the full article.