Kidnapped, Trafficked, Detained? The Implications of Non-state Actor Involvement in Immigration Detention

by Michael Flynn

Executive Summary

Global migration challenges are reinforcing long-standing trends that involve shifting immigration control measures beyond national borders and incorporating new actors into detention systems. Proposals to shape migration management policies — including discussions on developing a Global Compact for Migration — recognize the need to involve a range of actors to implement humane and effective strategies. However, when observed through the lens of immigration detention, some policy trends raise challenging questions, particularly those that lead to increasing roles for non-state actors in migration control. This article critically assesses a range of new actors who have become involved in the deprivation of liberty of migrants and asylum seekers, describes the various forces that appear to be driving their engagement, and makes a series of recommendations concerning the role of non-state actors and detention in global efforts to manage international migration. These recommendations include:

  • ending the use the detention in international migration management schemes;
  • limiting the involvement of private companies in immigration control measures;
  • insisting that the International Organization for Migration (IOM) actively endorse the centrality of human rights in the Global Compact for Migration and amend its constitution so that it makes a clear commitment to international human rights standards; and
  • encouraging nongovernmental organizations to carefully assess the services they provide when operating in detention situations to ensure that their work contributes to harm reduction.


ISSN 2330-2488 (Online), 2331-5024 (Print)  © 2017 by the Center for Migration Studies of New York

Journal on Migration and Human Security: a publication of The Center for Migration Studies of New York
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