Movement of people1

232 million international migrants

10-15% of migration is ‘unauthorised’2

Migration pathways1

An emerging trend shows growing North-to-South migration in 2012. 600,000 US Americans moved to Mexico and 300,000 to South Africa, while 300,000 Germans moved to Turkey.1

Freedom curtailed

The last 25 years have seen an aggressive expansion of immigration detention.

Growth in detention capacity worldwide. 3, 4, 10

Australia took 3% of the world’s refugees in 2012. Detained 32,600 people, on average for 4.5 months in 2012-13.6

Canada took 4% of the world’s refugees in 2012. Detained 8,838 people for an average of 25 days 2010-11.5

Britain took 6% of the world’s refugees in 2012. Detained 29,700 people in 2012-13. Not uncommon for detention to span 2-6 months.8

4 years and 11 months the longest period of unlawful immigra­tion detention in Britain, for an Algerian national named Sino.9


Alternatives to custodial detention are both more humane and much cheaper.

$5 million was spent every day on detention in the US, 2013-14.

Daily costs/person in the US:
$17 - alternatives to detention
$159 - detention

Women and children

In the US, women were held on average 18% longer than men in the first 6 months of 2013.4

93 pregnant women detained in Yarlswood detention centre in Britain, in 2011.12

185 sexual abuse complaints files by female detainees in the US since 2007.13

5 years is the time children can be detained for in Thailand.15

9,000 un­accompanied migrant children held in custody in the US annually.14

1,800 children detained in Australia during June and July 2013.7

42 incidents of actual and 74 incidents of threatened self-harm by children detained in Australia 2011-12.16


Anxiety, depression and post-traumatic stress disorder are common impacts of detention. Severity of distress increases with time in detention:16

70% of detained asylum seekers in the US reported poorer mental health after being detained.17

20 deaths in British detention centres since 1989. 50% suicide, 50% illness.18

850 hunger strikes recorded in Australian detention centres in 20 months (October 2009 to May 2011).16

  1. World Migration Report, International Organization of Migration, 2013.
  2. ‘Towards a Fair Deal for Workers in the Global Economy’. Report IV, International Labour Conference (ILO), 2004.
  3. Ed. MigreEurop, Atlas of Migration in Europe, New Internationalist, 2013
  4. Forced Migration Review. Issue 44, September 2013.
  6. Department of Immigration and Citizenship Annual Report 2012–13.
  7. Immigration Detention and Community Statistics Summary October 2013.
  8. The Migration Observatory Briefing. Immigration Detention in the UK, November 2013.
  9. Detention Action, Universal Periodic Review Stakeholder submission, 2011.
  10. Samson and Mitchell, ‘Global trends in immigration detention and alternatives to detention’, Journal on Migration and Human Security, 2013.
  11. The Math of Immigration Detention, National Immigration Forum, 2013.
  12. Expecting Change, 2013, Medical Justice.
  15. IRIN news, ‘Too many migrant children locked up,’ 21 March 2012.
  16. ‘Self harm in immigration detention January to December 2012’.
  17. ‘Mental Health of Detained Asylum Seekers’, Lancet. 2003 Nov 22;362(9397):1721-3.
  18. Institute for Race Relations, UK.