immigration detention

New Publication: Monitoring Immigration Detention

A brand new publication, HMIP Detention Monitoring Methodology: A Briefing Paper, offers some very useful and illuminating insights into how the vital task of independent monitoring of immigration detention is being approached in England and Wales.

Immigration detentionThe University of Oxford’s Faculty of Law has published this new briefing paper as part of its Border Criminologies series. The Oxford University-based project brings together academics, practitioners, and those who have experienced border control from around the world to better understand the effects of border control and to explore alternatives to immigration detention.

The author of the briefing paper, Dr Hindpal Singh Bhui, is the Inspection Team Leader at Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Prisons (HMIP) in England and Wales. He has deftly put pen to paper to offer his institution’s view on how various immigration detention settings might be monitored by independent detention monitors, including by NPMs under the OPCAT. In the context of England and Wales such settings include immigration removal centres, family detention and residential short-term holding facilities, and removal flights.

In the United Kingdom HMIP also takes a lead role in relation to the OPCAT. In doing so, this highly respected monitoring body coordinates the overall activities of the country’s NPM and also undertakes core monitoring of a range of other detention settings in England and Wales, including police stations, youth detention facilities, prisons and court cells.

In this short briefing paper Dr Bhui concludes:

While detention monitoring may be carried out by a variety of state and non- state institutions, under the terms of OPCAT, national NPMs bear the principal responsibility. HMIP is part of the UK NPM and a long established professional detention monitoring body. It has accumulated technical knowledge and considerable political support. It also has sufficient funding to allow it to carry out its duties. Despite this, it still faces considerable challenges; for example, in ensuring that its methodology is responsive and relevant to current detention practices, and in encouraging establishments to implement its recommendations … NPMs operate in very different social, political and economic contexts and must find the best way to navigate their individual challenges. This briefing paper is therefore not offered as a blue-print, but as an example of the current approach of one detention monitoring body.

As highlighted previously on the Canada OPCAT Project website, at present oversight of immigration detention settings is exercised by the Canadian Red Cross through an agreement with the Federal Government. Unlike in the UK, no arms-length government body like HMIP currently exercises oversight over immigration detention in Canada. How the Canadian Government intends to plug this glaring OPCAT coverage gap remains unknown at present.

Nonetheless, Canadian readers (as well as our many foreign visitors to the website) are encouraged to read the University of Oxford’s highly welcome briefing paper.


Read this brand new publication, HMIP Detention Monitoring Methodology: A Briefing Paper.

Read more about HMIP and its monitoring methodology known as Expectations.

Get up to speed with the University of Oxford’s Faculty of Law project, Border Criminologies.

Find other detention monitoring tools and guides under Other Resources.

Posted by mp in Independent detention monitors, Monitoring tools, NPMs, OPCAT, Places of detention

Making Immigration Detention Less Harmful

The Geneva-based Global Detention Project has issued a cutting-edge report on how to make immigration detention less harmful. The report titled Harm Reduction in Immigration Detention outlines key measures which states can implement to lessen the harmful impact of immigration detention on detainees.

The Global Detention Project report systematically compares conditions and operations at detention centres in five European countries to identify practices that may be used to develop harm reducing strategies in detention. The report, which was commissioned by the Norwegian Red Cross, is part of its initiative to promote reform of Norway’s detention practices. In doing so, it addresses the following key questions:

  • In what ways has the Norwegian system met or exceeded internationally recognized standards?
  • In what ways has it fallen short, especially when compared to detention practices of peer countries?
  • And what are the key reform priorities going forward that may help reduce the harmful impact of detention?

Immigration DetentionThe document highlights several key areas for promoting reforms across the facilities studied, including: placing immigration detainees in the custody of social welfare institutions rather than public security agencies; reforming operating rules on everything from food preparation to electronic communications; and shedding detention centres of carceral elements.

The Global Detention Project publication may also have direct relevance to the Canadian context. As is generally known, Canada’s dedicated immigration holding regime is relatively small, comprising just three facilities. However, the country’s provincial prison estates are also used for the dispersal and detention of immigration detainees.

According to the Canada Border Services Agency, in the fiscal year 2017-2018 some 8,355 persons were detained for a total of nearly 120,000 detention days in Canada. Of this number, 6,609 persons were held in one of the country’s three Immigration Holding Centres, while the remainder were detained in provincial and other facilities. At present oversight of immigration detention in Canada is exercised by the Canadian Red Cross through an agreement with the Federal Government.

Unlike in other detention spheres, in practice no arms-length government body currently exercises oversight over immigration detention in Canada. The absence of any such body with a preventive mandate will be a significant monitoring gap to fill if and when Canada ratifies the OPCAT.

Nonetheless, for the moment the Global Detention Project report merits a close look and may contain some very important lessons for the Canadian context.

Readers may also wish to take note of the ICRC’s key guidance from 2016 on the use of immigration detention by states. This policy document stresses various key point, including that detention should be an exceptional measure and alternatives to detention should always be considered first. The full policy document can be downloaded in English and French.

Posted by mp in Monitoring tools, OPCAT, Places of detention