For many years, the European Union has been channeling funds to its Southern frontier to strengthen the border. In addition to paying for the construction of physical barriers and investing in local and transnational border police, the EU has earmarked considerable resources for immigration detention. It has also passed a series of agreements that have widened the definition of and reason for administrative confinement for immigration and asylum matters including ‘hotspots’ and the controversial 2016 agreement with Turkey to facilitate the return of third country nationals. Meanwhile more traditional detention facilities are being built.
While some member states like Spain and the UK, responded to the health crisis of Covid-19 by reducing the numbers of people detained, in Italy and Greece the trend has been quite the opposite. Recent legislation has actually increased the number of detention facilities and the number of people in them while expanding the system to include asylum seekers. These developments have occurred despite considerable and ongoing attempts by a range of civil society actors to resist and challenge them. They have also been implemented in the face of a number of legal rulings, NGO reports, and activism that have made quite clear that many of the facilities in both countries fail to meet basic standards of care and are defined by arbitrariness, violence, overcrowding and poor conditions.
What occurs in the expanding detention systems of these two countries remains largely hidden from public view. Even basic numbers are impossible to obtain. Only those who work in these sites are able to enter them freely, leaving the institutions outside meaningful scrutiny and public accountability. As a consequence, detained men, women and children find it hard to avail themselves of legal aid, or medical assistance, and, notwithstanding OpCat, monitoring of human rights in these places of confinement remains limited. Nevertheless, challenges against detention persist, from within their walls and outside. As borders and border-related violence seem to be growing and becoming entrenched, it is more important than ever to provide the space through which fundamental questions about the legitimacy of immigration detention can be asked, heard and answered.
By bringing together people working on detention matters and resisting against harmful detention practices, this three-day online conference seeks to contribute to the limited body of evidence about immigration detention in Greece and Italy and to inspire debate and action. In doing so, we will shed light on what happens inside detention centres in both countries.
The event includes seven themed panels on ‘research inside detention’, ‘legal challenges’, ‘hidden forms of detention’, ‘pushbacks and border violence’, ‘gender and detention’, ‘monitoring human rights inside detention’ and a roundtable on ‘anti-reporting and challenges to detention’. The panels will be designed in a conversational format and the timetable will leave ample room for flexibility or improvisation in response to questions raised to make sure that discussions and knowledge-exchange are facilitated. The panels are open to people who have experienced border control to share their experiences.
As decades of research, activism and legal challenges from both countries (Greece and Italy) demonstrate quite clearly that detention establishments are beyond reform. The only way to access justice, is to close them down. The final keynote, by Dr Vicky Canning will reflect on her years of work with abolitionist grassroots groups to end the harms of immigration detention and state violence.
You can register here.
See the full programme here.