Doc. 10948
2 June 2006

Detention of asylum seekers and irregular migrants in Europe

Motion for a recommendation
presented by Mrs Mendonça and others

This motion has not been discussed in the Assembly and commits only the members who have signed it


1.       The detention of asylum seekers and irregular migrants is widely practiced in Europe.

2.       Conditions of detention of migrants and asylum seekers can be particularly harsh with the problem of overcrowding, as recently witnessed on the Island of Lapedusa in Italy, or dangerous, as evidenced by the death of 11 irregular migrants following a fire at a detention centre at Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport. The conditions of detention of asylum seekers and irregular migrants are not always transparent and access is often not granted to humanitarian or watchdog organisations. In Britain the Race Relations Institute has registered 34 suicides of asylum seekers in detention centres in the UK since 2000. In Greece, Amnesty International has recently denounced the conditions in which irregular migrants were held prior to their expulsion. These are just some recent problematic examples linked to the detention of asylum seekers and migrants in Europe.

3.       The legal basis for detention, or the duration of detention of migrants and asylum seekers is not always clear and practices vary considerably from country to country and may even differ within a country, depending on whether someone is detained at the border or within the country.

4.       The European Convention on Human Rights provides for the right to liberty and security of person but allows, under Article 5 paragraph 1(f) of the Convention, “the lawful arrest or detention of a person to prevent his effecting an unauthorised entry into the country or of a person against whom action is being taken with a view to deportation or extradition”.

5.       There is no comprehensive definition of detention at international law or its application to migrants and asylum seekers. The case-law under the European Convention on Human Rights, the standards developed by the European Committee for the Prevention of Torture and those outlined by the Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights however all provide guidance on the human rights standards to be applied in relation to detention of asylum seekers and irregular migrants and provide indications of practices to be adopted.

6.       There is a need to further clarify these developing human rights standards to be applied when detaining asylum seekers and irregular migrants.

7.       As a minimum the following standards should apply:

8.       The Parliamentary Assembly recommends that the Committee of Ministers:

Signed 1:

MENDONÇA, Ana Catarina, Portugal, SOC
BOUSAKLA, Mimount, Belgium, SOC
CORTAJARENA, Elvira, Spain, SOC
FEDOROV, Valery, Russian Federation, EDG
GADZINOWSKI, Piotr, Poland, SOC
HAGBERG, Michael, Sweden, SOC
IWIŃSKI, Tadeusz, Poland, SOC
LE GUEN, Jean-Marie, France, SOC
MOONEY, Paschal, Ireland, ALDE
VERA JARDIM, José, Portugal, SOC


1     SOC: Socialist Group
       EPP/CD: Group of the European People’s Party
      ALDE: Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe
      EDG: European Democratic Group
      UEL: Group of the Unified European Left
      NR: not registered in a group