Global Detention Project
The Global Detention Project (GDP) is an inter-disciplinary research endeavour that investigates the role detention plays in states’ responses to global migration, with a special focus on the practices and physical infrastructures of detention. The project, which was initiated in October 2006 with funding from the Geneva International Academic Network, is now a part of the Graduate Institute’s Global Migration Centre.
Migration-related detention is the policy of detaining—typically on administrative (as opposed to criminal) grounds—asylum seekers and irregular immigrants until they can be deported, their identity established, or their claims adjudicated. Because many national legal systems do not have clear rules for administrative detention, migration detainees often face legal uncertainties, including lack of access to the outside world, limited possibilities of challenging detention through the courts, and/or absence of limitations on the duration of detention.
To assess the growth and evolution of detention institutions, project researchers are creating a comprehensive database of detention sites that categorises detention facilities along several dimensions, including security level, bureaucratic chain of command, facility type (is a given site an exposed camp, a dedicated migrant detention facility, or a common prison), spatial segregation (are there separate cells for criminals and administrative detainees, for women and men), and size. To date, project researchers have coded the detention infrastructures of nearly 70 countries and entered more than a thousand detention sites in the database.
Project researchers have also begun assessing the legal frameworks of this practice, in both international and domestic law. Researchers have initiated an overall assessment of international law as it pertains to migration-related detention with a view to producing a descriptive guide on relevant international and regional instruments. The project has also begun profiling the domestic legal frameworks of a select group of countries as part of a longer-term effort to asses the impact of legal guarantees on detention practices and the degree to which national laws conform with international commitments.
Ultimately, the GDP’s goals are threefold: 1) to provide researchers, advocates, and journalists with a measurable and regularly updated baseline for analysing the growth and evolution of detention practices and policies; 2) to encourage scholarship in this often under-studied aspect of the immigration phenomenon; and 3) to facilitate accountability in the treatment of detainees.
To help achieve these goals, the GDP team has created a website that will be used to disseminate its findings and provide searchable access to the database, including an interactive map to pinpoint detention sites and links to relevant reports, among other features. It is available at www.globaldetentionproject.org
Former Interns and Researchers