For a number of years, a core group of researchers at Border Criminologies, led by Mary Bosworth, have been conducting research on immigration detention. Research began in 2009, with an ethnographic project on everyday life inside British immigration removal centres, that was published in 2014 as Inside Immigration Detention. In 2010, Mary created the Measure of the Quality of Life in Detention (MQLD) Survey, which has been adopted for use also in Portugal and Italy, and has informed UK policy. This work continues with the assistance of Alice Gerlach from Oxford Brookes University. 

In 2013, Mary established the Immigration Detention Archive, for a range of material culture produced by and about detention. It currently houses several thousand pages of bureaucratic documents and 30 letters, 3000 photographs, 400 drawings and over 70 other art works and materials gathered during fieldwork and art workshops. The 10-minute film by Khadija von Zinnenburg Carroll ‘Artists in Residence’ gives an introduction to the material in the archive. An art book with Khadija and graphic designer Christoph Balzar is out later this year, with Sternberg Press.

In addition to this UK-based work, Mary has worked, together with Dr Hindpal Bhui, inspection team leader at HM Inspectorate of Prisons (HMIP) (who has helped develop human rights monitoring in  different parts of the world) and Andriani Fili on two ESRC IAA knowledge exchange projects to investigate the conditions in immigration detention and the nature of human-rights based detention monitoring. In the first project, with assistance also from Ines Hasselberg and Dominic Aitken, the research group focused on the structure and history of the National Preventive Mechanisms, in four countries affected by large scale migration, Turkey, Greece, Italy and Hungary. As part of the second phase of these projects, which sought to work with policymakers and practitioners in Greece and Turkey to understand the processes and challenges of monitoring human rights, how to overcome them and what resources are needed for effective monitoring practices, they organised a series of knowledge exchange and capacity building visits.

In March 2019, a larger research group, including Dr Francesca Esposito, began a new two-year project, funded by the OSF began, on the role of civil society organisations in supporting detainees, in Italy and Greece. Designed to assist civil society organisations who are trying to safeguard human rights, this project will provide much-needed narratives to challenge the growing xenophobia that is corroding political discourse and practice. The project will help ensure that what happens in detention is not hidden from scrutiny, that detainees' experiences are heard, and that human rights defenders are given information and support. For the first time, it aims to visualise what goes on in detention centres in both countries and increase public access to knowledge about immigration and the treatment of immigrants in detention settings, through an interactive web based map.