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Arbitrary detention of women and children for immigration-related purposes

Written by Joanna Apap,
Graphics by Christian Dietrich,

© detshana / Fotolia

An unprecedented mass movement of asylum-seekers and migrants of all ages started in 2014, and has continued throughout 2015 and into 2016. Fleeing armed conflicts, mass killings, persecution and pervasive sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV), these persons seek protection under the 1951 Refugee Convention, its subsequent Protocol and other international instruments. In times of such instability, women and girls are particularly at risk of gender-based violence, including sexual violence. Between January and November 2015, Europe witnessed more than 950 000 asylum-seeker and migrant arrivals via the Mediterranean Sea. With record numbers of asylum-seekers worldwide, the head of the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR), Filippo Grandi, has urged greater efforts to find solutions. The UNHCR has pointed out that in recent years, detention facilities are increasingly being used to host migrants and asylum-seekers, including by countries with good human rights records. If used, detention must be lawful and clearly shown to be necessary, reasonable and proportional. Detention conditions must uphold human dignity and international standards.

The journeys that migrants and asylum-seekers take can be dangerous, and they often face high levels of violence, extortion and exploitation, including multiple forms of SGBV – such as human trafficking, psychological manipulation, physical violence or rape. Women and girls are particularly at risk of SGBV during the journey. Situations of vulnerability such as the impact of the journey and experiences of migrants prior to their confinement, which are often physically and psychologically trying, and during which they could have been exposed to diverse forms of abuse and violence need to be addressed. In addition, the effect of confinement in detention centres, particularly if prolonged, needs to be addressed. All these factors require a coordinated and effective protection response.

Read the complete briefing on ‘Arbitrary detention of women and children for immigration-related purposes‘ in PDF.

Migration routes towards Europe, main countries of origin and detention centres
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