Comparing Immigration Detention in Britain and France: A Matter of Time?

In: European Journal of Migration and Law
Mary Bosworth * Corresponding author, e-mail:
Centre for Criminology, Faculty of Law, University of Oxford Manor Road Building, Manor Road, Oxford OX1 3UQ UK Department of Criminology, Faculty of Arts, School of Social Sciences, Monash University Melbourne, vic 3800 Australia

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Marion Vannier Centre for Criminology, Faculty of Law, University of Oxford Manor Road Building, Manor Road, Oxford OX1 3UQ UK

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In this article, we explore the human rights implications of immigration detention in Britain and France by focusing on duration. In so doing, we show how practices in both systems fail to meet basic human rights protections, raising urgent questions about the legitimacy and justification of these sites of confinement. Whereas in the uk problems arise from the absence of a statutory upper time limit to detention, in France it is the brevity for which foreign nationals may be held that raises humanitarian concerns. In the uk, the uncertain duration of detention makes it difficult for detainees to obtain or retain legal advice. Those who are held for long periods of time struggle to maintain their right to family life, while most find the lack of clarity about the period of their confinement hard to endure. In France, where most detainees are released or deported within a matter of days, it is often difficult to access due process and legal protections in time. This brief period of confinement before expulsion contrasts with its enduring effect on their family ties and future. Drawing on policy documents, law, and the limited body of empirical material available on these carceral sites, we map the similarities and differences between them in order to identify the limits as well as some prospects of human rights in immigration detention.

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