The hidden face of immigration detention camps in Europe

Report of the campaign Open Access Now

Since the 1990s, detention has become one of the main tools to manage migrant populations in Europe and beyond. The only reason for such deprivation of liberty is the failure to comply with — generally unjust — rules on border crossing and/or stay. Detention is a permanent source of violation of migrants’ rights. Behind the stated aim of streamlining the management of migratory flows, the institutionalisation of migrant detention leads to the criminalisation of those considered undesirable, thereby fuelling racism and xenophobia [1].

In this context and within the framework of the campaign “Open Access Now”, this publication aims to shed light on the reality of migrant detention in the area of “freedom, security and justice” which the European Union (EU) claims to be and to provide a tool for citizens to look beyond the often false or incomplete representation given in the news and institutional statements.

The situation is analysed in the light of principles laid down in international and regional treaties on the protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms [2], but also the European directives governing the detention of migrants [3].

One of the main findings is a marked tendency to restrict (and sometimes to deny) human rights and fundamental freedoms of detained migrants.

Without approving the purpose or aim of the above-mentioned European directives, the study also identifies gaps between principles laid down in these instruments and the practices in migrant detention camps and, too often, the failure to respect the few provisions likely to be to the benefit of migrants.

For these reasons, we considered that it was important to publicise the findings and analyses produced by civil society organisations which have been campaigning against migrant detention for over ten years. These findings show that these processes to deprive migrants of their liberty not only result in increasing human and financial costs but are also ineffective in achieving their aims.

This publication is organised into five sections: who are the detainees (1. Who do we detain?), stated and real reasons for detention (2. Why detention?), places where deprivation of liberty takes places (3. Where to detain?), how does it take place (4. How to detain?), as well as the existing forms of democratic scrutiny (5. What democratic scrutiny over detention?).

For each section, we have attempted as far as possible to illustrate the reality of detention through photos, testimonies, maps as well as figures and key examples.

This publication aims at facilitating public access to information on the detention of migrants in Europe. This tool is also intended for the use of activists, researchers, journalists, teachers and anyone who wants to inform, raise awareness on and fight against the exclusion of migrants, as well as European Members of Parliament ready to engage in the promotion of progressive legal reforms in this field.