Immigration Detention: The Migration of a Policy and Its Human Impact
Edited by Amy Nethery and Stephanie J. Silverman
London: Routledge, 2015, 182 pp.
This collection comprises sixteen short country surveys, which together provide a detailed panorama of immigration detention across the contemporary world. An important novelty is the inclusion of chapters on countries in Asia, as well as South Africa and Israel, rather than just the more familiar scholarship on detention from European and North American systems. The book therefore provides insights into how the detention paradigm has multiplied beyond its traditional heartlands. Each chapter represents an expert author's view of the key issues arising in his or her country. The format is thus non-standard, as often happens with collections involving a wide range of authors. The scholars' disciplines and their methods also range across law, anthropology, politics, and refugee studies. Most of the country reviews touch upon the law, history, statistics, and some of the political context of detention. It is not, however, possible to use the volume to systematically compare across countries, because the chapters are not structured in this way. This limitation is both frustrating and intriguing, because the contributors give greater emphasis to aspects that might be ignored entirely if the editors had asked them to conform to a "template" style of chapter. Certainly the editors' introduction does not seek to argue that there is a common thread throughout the volume, save for an emphasis on detention of asylum-seekers rather than other categories of migrant.
The tone of writing is generally critical of the growth of immigration detention and finds little support for governmental justifications for the practice. Each author finds flaws in his or her own system, but it is plain from reading across the volume that the legal safeguards, duration, and conditions of detention vary enormously, from a relatively "benign" system like that of France (maximum forty-five days' detention) set against "hostile" systems like Australia's (no legal limit on detention, with many years not uncommon). Conditions in some Asian countries emerge as being particularly bad, with Malaysian, Indonesian, and Australian facilities (including those controlled on Papua New Guinea) appearing very harsh, dangerous, and destructive to immigrants' health and welfare.
Common themes include the way that detention facilities and...