Tough Guide to the world's immigration detention centres

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Tough Guide to the world’s immigration detention centres

Are you the running away from injustice and abuse of human rights? New Internationalist has made this guide with the newest information on where you might stay – maybe for ever. We have given then stars: basic ‘minus one star’ to the terrible ‘minus five star’.


United States


A wide range of accommodation is available for Tough Guide readers. In early 2013 Congress agreed to build 33,400 spaces in detention centres – the most in the world. But the US also offers the best experience – solitary confinement. Some detention centres stop giving food to control people – they can ‘earn regular food’. STARS: minus four



Sweden has 235 bed spaces. Someone described it as a ‘prison with extras’. This is IKEA chic – they have 24-hour internet and bowls of fruit. But maybe you will get Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. And the Committee for the Prevention of Torture said it was worried about not enough psychiatric care in a 2009 report. Better not to go there. STARS: minus one



Ukraine offers racism, corruption and violence. They have 400 bed spaces and up to 12 months’ detention. The riot police controlled a hunger strike in Lutsk detention centre in 2012, by saying: ‘We will kill you if you don’t come to lunch.’ Not a good idea to travel here. STARS: minus four



It is ironic that Britain, the country of habeas corpus also keeps foreigners in detention indefinitely. There are 4,500 bed spaces and 13 different places. You will have beautiful views of Oxford, Portsmouth and the hills of Sussex when your police van takes you from one prison to another. You need a sense of humour. STARS: minus three



We do not know the total number of bed-spaces. They even keep migrants at police stations. Recently, a Greek court recently set free some migrants who had escaped migrants because they said their stay in a Greek detention centre was the same as torture. It might help you meet local people if you know how to say Yahsu!(Hi) STARS: minus four



They are building more detention centres with money from the EU. If you are arrested at the River Evros on the Greek/Turkish border they will automatically put you in a detention centre – either in Greece or Turkey; maybe your trip will end completely if you boat has a hole in it, or if the Greek police push you back. If you are in Istanbul for a short time, you will stay at Kumpaki, with a lovely view of the beautiful old centre. Don’t talk about ‘Gezi Park’ to the guards. STARS: minus two



As you travel along the West Coast of Africa, you will come to the Spanish detention centre Nouadhibou – people call it ‘Guantanamito’. It is for people who try to cross north into Spain or the Canaries. The worst thing is the ‘collective expulsions’ (lots of people sent together) back to Mali and Senegal. STARS: minus three



Are you travelling with children? No problem. Children are put in detention centres with adults. A (very) young Tough Guide researcher said, ‘we had one toilet for 37 people’. Do not try to escape; if they get you again, they will beat you badly. The law allows them to keep you in detention for 10 years. STARS: minus five



There is informal detention by regional militia – with little food and no healthcare. This makes the Libyan experience more interesting, even for people who have been in detention centres in other countries. In late 2013, UNHCR reported that the Department for Combating Illegal Migration was releasing asylum seekers who were put in detention centres illegally. Quick, go there! STARS: minus five



If you’re lucky, you will arrive in a beautiful local boat from Indonesia – and they will put you in detention. From October 2013, 8,521 people were put in detention in this way. They try to keep everyone away from Australia, so you probably won’t see Sydney. If they take you to Papua New Guinea’s Manus Island, you will have very little space, and a lot of heat and humiliation. STARS: minus four

Words: Timothy Baster and Isabelle Merminod

Illustration: Kathryn Corlett

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