NEWSLETTER: Stricter Control of Administrative Detention in South Africa; The Impact of COVID-19 on Migrants


Immigration Detention in South Africa: Stricter Control of Administrative Detention, Increasing Criminal Enforcement of Migration

Long an important destination for migrants and refugees from across Africa and Asia, South Africa has increasingly viewed cross border movements through the lens of national security and criminality. The country’s Border Management Act, adopted in 2020, reflects this embrace of a securitisation agenda, say observers, who worry that the country’s policies will encourage an expansion of migration detention – both domestically and in nearby countries. Civil society actors say that in recent years there has been a noticeable improvement in the Department of Homeland Affairs’ efforts to adhere to some detention standards, which has been spurred in part by important legal cases circumscribing the government’s detention powers. However, tightening judicial control appears to be spurring increasing use of criminal procedures to enforce migration laws. Read the full report.

Submission to the UN Special Rapporteur on the Human Rights of Migrants: The Impact of COVID-19

In a submission to the Special Rapporteur on the human rights of migrants in response to his call for input on the impact of COVID-19, the GDP identifies several key trends in states’ treatment of immigration detainees. While recognising that some states took important steps to protect migrant detainees by ensuring their release, the GDP highlights the fact that many refused to adopt such measures, and even stepped-up apprehensions—often under the guise of “protecting public health.” Other key trends highlighted in the submission include:

  • The reluctance of some countries to establish firewalls between health and immigration authorities, resulting in many non-nationals fearing arrest and detention should they seek COVID-19 testing, treatment, and vaccination.
  • The conversion of shelters and reception facilities into de facto detention centres, where forced confinement extended beyond that imposed on general populations and where conditions left non-nationals unable to socially distance.
  • The importance of “alternatives to detention” measures (ATDs) as a COVID response in countries with no time limits in their immigration detention regimes, but the potentially harmful role ATDs could have in countries with strict detention time limits.

Read the full submission.

Submission to the UN Committee against Torture: Guatemala

The GDP has submitted information to the UN Committee against Torture concerning immigration detention in Guatemala. As well as highlighting criticisms from human rights advocates regarding the conditions at the detention centre in Guatemala City, the GDP draws the committee’s attention to concerns surrounding the country’s treatment of newly arrived deportees during the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as violent scenes at its borders. Read the full submission.


Detention for Vaccinations? The Latest from Malaysia

Since the onset of the pandemic, Malaysian authorities have argued that crack-downs on undocumented migrants and other non-nationals are necessary to stop the spread of COVID-19. During the country’s latest nationwide lockdown, Home Ministry officials have carried out wide-scale raids leading to the arrest of hundreds of undocumented migrants, with authorities claiming that the raids were necessary to ensure that foreigners are vaccinated. Said the Home Minister: “If they are not detained, will they go out to get vaccinated? That is why they are detained.” This policy appears to directly contradict earlier comments made by Malaysia’s Co-ordinating Minister for Immunisation, in which he reassured non-nationals that they would not face retribution should they come forward for vaccinationRead more here.
See also: our latest COVID-19 immigration detention monitoring updates on BeninLithuaniaSpain, and Denmark.


Global Detention Project Annual Report 2020

As we look back at 2020, the terrible impact of COVID-19 on the lives of migrants, asylum seekers, refugees, and other vulnerable non-citizens dominates our view. Yet, while the pandemic spurred critical changes in our work, our Annual Report reveals how we nevertheless managed to make important advancements in our objectives. Read the full report.

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” offers a unique comparative assessment of the evolution of immigration detention systems in European Union member states since the onset of the “refugee crisis.” More information is available here.