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Governing irregular immigration through detention: discourses and practices from an interdisciplinary approach

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - Governmigration (Governing irregular immigration through detention: discourses and practices from an interdisciplinary approach)

Reporting period: 2018-12-01 to 2020-11-30

The use of immigration detention has gained importance around the world as a measure to manage irregular migration. In the EU, the Return Directive refers to immigration detention only when other sufficient and less coercive measures cannot be applied and in order to prepare the return and/or carry out the removal order. Surprisingly, in spite of this regulation, in Europe only around 50% of people in detention are finally deported. The rest are released into the community, normally remaining undocumented, and being subject to formal or informal mechanisms of control and supervision as well as enduring a very precarious (or inexistent) access to social, economic and health rights and services. Moreover, immigration detention is considered a non-punitive measure. However, research and reports worldwide have shown extremely hard confinement conditions and frequent violations of human rights, including asylum rights, inside the growing diversity of detention centres that currently exist. Along with this, scholars in the field have argued for a broader understanding of punitiveness that include coercive measures of border control and detention of migrants and asylum seekers. In spite of this evidence, instead of reducing the scope and the capacity of immigration detention systems, western governments have started to materially and geographically expand their detentions systems by formally and informally incorporating new tools and practices in order to contain, control and reduce irregular migration before the moment of detention and after release in the community.

Against this backdrop, the project analyses the mutating and expansive nature of immigration detention systems around the globe by considering two case studies: Spain and Canada. The very different cultural, economic and migration trajectories of both countries offer a great space for comparison. The long history of immigration policies in Canada and the main tools and practices undertaken to tackle irregular migration differ widely from the Spanish case. Spain did not receive significant international migration flows until the early 1990s, but its entrance in the European Union, among other aspects, entailed a significant change in public policies and practices. Both case studies will illuminate the understanding of immigration detention regimes in different contexts and in multiple perspectives.

Through the use of documentary review and qualitative methodologies, the main goal of this project is to better understand how irregular migration is governed in different jurisdictions through immigration detention systems. The specific objectives of Governmigration are twofold:

- Exploring the evolution of the main components of the immigration detention systems in both Canada and Spain in order to understand the mutations and new mechanisms that result in the expansion of these systems. In this realm, the project will map the different actors and institutions (public and private) involved as well as the main innovations implemented, such as new types of infrastructures of detention in the case of Spain and new measures, i.e. alternatives to detention in the case of Canada.

- Analysing the impact of immigration detention after release, particularly focused on the strategies implemented to formally and informally control and supervise irregular migrants in the community and the responses of undocumented migrants to this. In this regard, the project will explore the impact of these measures in the daily life of immigrants and asylum seekers from an intersectional approach, and it will also assess how these measures affect their possibilities of integration into the community.
The first two years of the project have been focused on gaining a profound knowledge of the main transformations of immigration detention systems in both Canada and Spain. For this purpose, an extensive review of statistics, public policies, policy documents, reports and scientific literature has been carried out. This has been supplemented, in the case of Canada, by a deep involvement in the field through the connection with a wide network of experts, scholars, public institutions, lawyers, advocates, NGOs, activists and ex-detainees. Finally, the participation and organization of workshops, the attendance to conferences, public talks and seminars and the involvement in the work of civil society organizations have contributed to the comprehensive exploration of this case study.
Furthermore, in order to better understand the post-detention period in the case of Canada, particularly considering the novel programme of alternatives to detention and other innovations, an extensive fieldwork has been conducted. The fieldwork has been based on the use of qualitative methodologies to collect testimonies, experiences and expert knowledge of those involved in this programme, such as public authorities, community based organizations, NGOs and civil society organizations supporting migrants and asylum claimants, advocates, lawyers and those subjected to alternatives to detention.
The results achieved so far have been shared with the academic community and the society as a whole through public talks and seminars in academic and civil society environments and the presentation of results in international conferences. Finally, the project has begun to create a network of international researchers in the field in order to collaborate and discuss new advances in this area.
The project is contributing to expand the understanding of immigration detention systems by including the mechanisms and tools used in the pre-detention and post-detention period, such as alternatives to detention. Additionally, the research so far has helped to enrich the scholarship by exploring the specificities of immigration detention systems in countries with different historical and socio-political backgrounds. Through that, the project is offering a wider view of the way in which irregular migration is governed in different societies through the use of different components of their immigration detention regimes. Finally, the project is contributing to critically explore the impact of new measures, such as alternatives to detention, or other mechanisms of control and supervision, in the daily life of those subjected to them, but also in the governance of irregular migration more broadly. The project will show the complexities and paradoxes of the practices implemented to detain, control and supervise irregular migrants and will offer new insights for a better understanding of the impact of immigration detention regimes on migrants and asylum seekers as well as on the society as a whole. The final impact of the project is to offer a significant contribution to the debate on current mechanisms of border control and regimes of mobility and to assist in seeking fair and human rights-based mechanisms to respond to international mobility.
International Workshop Detention practices, criminalization of migrants and border control in Canada