Over the past few months, immigration detention practices around the world have been changing rapidly as state and civil society actors respond to manage the multiple impacts of COVID-19. In some cases, these changes have been positive, leading to stronger protection of the rights of non-citizens. In others, they have led to the increased marginalisation of and discrimination against non-citizens.

In collaborating with the Humanitarian and Development Research Initiative to produce this joint edited collection, the International Detention Coalition sought to provide a platform for our members and partners to discuss their experiences, actions and perspectives as the pandemic unfolded across the globe. The contributions are rich and diverse, showing the impact that COVID-19 has had on refugee, undocumented migrant and stateless communities around the world.

The contributions also speak to rising levels of inequality. States with already weak healthcare systems before the pandemic struggle to manage rising caseloads. Civil society groups have had to cut back on their activities in the light of increased restrictions and health concerns; funding shortages have jeopardised the continuity and reach of their essential services. Migrants, stateless persons and refugees in overcrowded housing have been unable to practice physical distancing and, against rising xenophobia and racism, have been susceptible to scapegoating for the impact of COVID-19. In many contexts, the health and welfare of citizens has taken firm precedence over that of these groups.

COVID-19 does not discriminate, but laws, policies and practices concerning migration governance, immigration detention, and public healthcare shape the vulnerability of migrants, stateless persons and refugees to its spread and effects. The contributions in this joint edited collection highlight both positive and negative developments over the past year that need careful attention – and in some cases, urgent correction – for the health and wellbeing of all.. 

We extend our gratitude to the authors for their contributions, which have allowed the breadth of responses that are in this collection. We also thank HADRI, and in particular Dr. Melissa Phillips, who is also part of the IDC’s International Advisory Committee, for the opportunity to have collaborated on this important initiative.

Alice Nah Chairperson of the Committee, IDC  


COVID-19 Impacts on Immigration Detention: Global Responses – Available for DOWNLOAD TODAY