More and more refugees and asylum seekers are detained around the world, often in conditions below international standards, and denied their basic rights, including access to asylum. Thus, there is an urgent need for increased involvement by advocates to monitor conditions of detention, to provide effective and quality legal representation and to promote access to asylum by those seeking international protection.
NGOs and individuals can play a number of vital roles in places of detention. These include providing formal or informal services such as social support, welfare assistance, health care and legal advice. Groups can also monitor places of detention and advocate at the local, national, regional and international levels on a range of issues, including those relating to the treatment of detainees, procedural safeguards forming the basis of detention, and material conditions of detention. The challenges facing groups and individuals working in places of detention are many, including restrictions on access for legal aid providers, UNHCR and even the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), risk of reprisals, and ethical considerations relating to confidentiality and privacy issues.
Below are a number of relevant links and legal resources for those working with refugees and asylum-seekers at risk of detention. For more information on the issue of the detention of refugees and asylum seekers, see the Special Issues section.
Guidelines and manuals
- Legal and Monitoring Tools:
Tool: Detention monitoring check-list
Report: Immigration Detention at the UN level
- International Detention Monitor - Monthly news journal, available from the International Detention Coalition Website.
- Detention Watch Network, Visiting Immigrants in U.S. Detention Facilities (2009).
- Association of Visitors to Immigration Detainees (AVID), Immigration Detention: A Handbook for Visitors (2006).
- Amnesty International, Irregular Migrants and Asylum-Seekers: Alternatives to Immigration Detention (2009) - Also available in French, Arabic or Spanish.
- Amnesty International, Migration-Related Detention: A research guide on human rights standards relevant to the detention of migrants, asylum-seekers and refugees (2007) - Also available in French or Spanish.
- Anna Marie Gallagher, Helen Ireland and Naboth Muchopa, Handbook for visitors and social workers in Detention Centres (JRS Europe 2006).
- Association for the Prevention of Torture, Monitoring Places of Detention – A Practical Guide (2004) - Also available in Arabic, Armenian, Bahasa Indonesia, English, French, Korean, Nepali, Portuguese, Romanian, Spanish and Thai.
- Nottingham University, Toolkit for Human Rights Advocates and Practitioners - Monitoring of asylum-seekers, refugees and other migrants in detention: International, regional and national human rights mechanisms (2008)
- UNHCR Selected Documents Relating to Detention (2009)
- UNHCR Operational Protection in Camps and Settlements (2006)
- Ophelia Field with the assistance of Alice Edwards, Alternatives to Detention of Asylum Seekers and Refugees (POLAS 2006)
- Procedural Standards for Refugee Standard Determination under UNHCR’s Mandate (2005)
- UNHCR Guidelines on the Applicable Criteria and Standards relating to the Detention of Asylum-Seekers and Alternatives to Detention (2012)