Spain’s Response to Covid-19; A Paradigm Shift in Argentina – May 2020 Newsletter


Immigration Detention in Spain: A Rapid Response to Covid-19 

On 6 May 2020, Spain reported that for the first time in its history, its immigration detention facilities, “Foreign Internment Centres,” were empty. These centres had long been the target of activists, local politicians, and human rights bodies, who argued that they were unnecessary and abusive. The Covid-19 crisis, which shut down deportation flights, provided a final push. But enormous questions remain, including what is to happen to these facilities if the crisis eventually passes, how former detainees are being cared for, and what is being done to protect the thousands of people stranded in Spain’s Moroccan enclaves, where nominally “open” reception centres were placed under lockdown. Read the full report.

Immigration Detention in Argentina: A Paradigm Shift?

 Argentina, like its South American neighbours, has traditionally de-emphasised detention and deportation in its immigration policies. However, in 2015 its posture changed dramatically after a conservative government took office, which pushed through several restrictive policy reforms and announced the opening of the country’s first specialised immigration detention centre. A new administration that took office in 2019 has criticised some of these reforms, suggesting a change of course. Although the country began implementing measures in March 2020 to safeguard staff and inmates in the country’s prisons against Covid-19, it is unclear whether any specific measures have been taken with respect to those detained for immigration reasons. Read the full report.

Can Covid-19 End Immigration Detention?

While some governments quickly realised the challenges Covid-19 poses in prisons and adopted measures to protect incarcerated populations, many countries have paid scant attention to those held in immigration detention facilities. In an article for Border Criminologies, the GDP discusses how the pandemic has helped reveal an awkward truth about migration-related detention: That detainees in immigration custody often do not enjoy the same rights as people who are prosecuted for committing crimes. However, with Spain and other countries taking far-reaching steps to empty their detention centres in the face of the pandemic, could we be witnessing a critical turning point in the development of this practice? Read the full article.


Covid-19 Multilingual Survey  

As part of our efforts to monitor how states are responding to the Covid-19 pandemic in their detention and deportation procedures, the GDP has set up a brief online survey addressing key questions. If you have information that you would like to share, you can access our survey here. It takes just a few minutes to complete, and is currently available in EnglishFrenchSpanishRussian, and Chinese (Arabic coming soon).

UN Human Rights Treaty Bodies During the Covid-19 Pandemic

As a result of Covid-19, in-person sessions of the UN human rights sessions have been postponed until at least June. However, with some authorities employing the pandemic as a reason to step back from certain key rights commitments, it is vital that treaty bodies undertake many of their mandated activities. The GDP joined more than 30 other NGOs in issuing a joint letter to the chairpersons of UN human rights treaty bodies and High Commissioner Michelle Bachelet highlighting the urgent need for treaty bodies to remotely monitor States’ compliance with their treaty obligations during the crisis. “Together, we believe important work can continue and encourage the UNTBs to undertake their mandated activities remotely where feasible.” Read the joint NGO letter.