Access Info Europe and The Global Detention Project Begin 33-Country Right to Information Investigation

Geneva/Madrid – 14 March 2013 – Access Info Europe and the Global Detention Project have today submitted 66 information requests to 33 governments as part of an initiative aimed at improving transparency of immigration detention practices. The organisations have requested statistics regarding the numbers and types of detainees, as well as details about where people are detained for immigration-related reasons.

Immigration detention is the deprivation of liberty of non-citizens for reason related to their residency status. It typically involves locking up asylum seekers and irregular immigrants until they can be deported or have their claims adjudicated. Migrants are frequently held on administrative – as opposed to criminal – grounds. Many national legal systems do not have clear rules for administrative detention and, as a result, detainees often face legal uncertainties, including lack of access to the outside world, limited possibilities of challenging detention through the courts, and absence of limitations on the duration of detention.

“Immigration detention has become a key tool used by states to control migration,” commented Michael Flynn, founder of the Global Detention Project, which is based at the Graduate Institute’s Programme for the Study of Migration in Geneva. “Thus, it is critically important for civil society to be aware of where immigrants and asylum seekers are being detained and the conditions of their detention. However, governments often make it very difficult to get accurate and up-to-date information about detention.”

The 33 countries in the information-gathering initiative include all 27 European Union states as well as Canada, Iceland, Norway, Russia, Switzerland, and the United States. All of these countries detain migrants as part of their immigration policies.

Each country will receive two requests. The first request seeks information about immigration detention “infrastructure” – the names, locations and types of centres in which detainees are kept, as well as the number of migrants detained in each centre and how many of those are seeking asylum. The second seeks information on the numbers of accompanied and unaccompanied minors kept in detention for reasons related to immigration.

Objectives of this action include obtaining verifiable information from immigration destination countries so as to provide evidence for victims and human rights advocates, to inform public debate and policy, and to facilitate comparative study of detention regimes.

“We have launched this initiative because we believe that transparency is more, not less, important when dealing with politically sensitive issues that involve the abuse of human rights,” stated Lydia Medland, Research and Campaigns Coordinator of Access Info Europe. “Immigration-related detention is of particular concern as it is resulting in widespread abuse of rights across Europe.”

The initiative forms part of Access Info’s Access for Rights project under which it uses the right to information to push forward transparency on human rights issues. With the exception of Cyprus, Luxemburg, and Spain, all of the countries in the detention monitoring project have access to information laws and therefore have a legal obligation to respond to the requests. Apart from the detention data to be harvested from this project, we also expect to develop evidence indicating the degree of openness different states exhibit with respect to their detention practices.

For more information, please, contact:

Lydia Medland – Research and Campaigns Coordinator, Access Info Europe
Phone: +34 91 365 65 58 |

Michael Flynn – Coordinator & Lead Researcher, Global Detention Project
Phone: +41 (0) 22 908 4556 |