International Law and Migration Detention: Coding State Adherence to Norms

What are the key norms in the treatment of migrant detainees and how can academics and practitioners measure the construction and adherence to these norms?


The detention of migrants and asylum seekers is drawing the attention and resources of entities from all facets of contemporary society and resulting in the creation of new forms of collaboration between state and non-state actors. However, this type of detention has become the target of criticism from experts, who argue that those involved in the treatment of detainees fail to abide by established international norms. As much of the international community focuses on developing ways to ‘govern’ migration, the issue of the legality of migration detention remains largely overlooked.

What are the key norms on the treatment of detainees? And how can academics and practitioners measure adherence to these evolving norms? To address these questions, the Graduate Institute’s Program for the Study of Global Migration proposes a multi-phase initiative that combines legal analysis with social scientific data generating methods to develop a method for measuring the construction and state adherence to key norms.

Project Keywords

  • Migration
  • Detention


  • History
  • Law
  • Linguistics
  • Political science
  • Sociology

Relevant Countries

  • Canada
  • Egypt
  • France
  • Greece
  • Indonesia
  • Italy
  • Libyan Arab Jamahiriya
  • Malaysia
  • Mexico
  • Poland
  • South Africa
  • Spain
  • Turkey
  • Ukraine
  • United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland
  • United States of America


This project, started in 2010, has been completed.

Contact the project team

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Research team

Vincent Chetail
Graduate Institute Geneva

Michael Flynn
Graduate Institute Geneva

Mariette Grange
Principal Member
United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights

David Sylvan
Principal Member
Graduate Institute Geneva

Martin David Jones
Associated Member
York University

Donald Kerwin
Associated Member
Migration Policy Institute, Washington DC 

Thomas Linde
Associated Member
International Committee of the Red Cross

Grant Mitchell
Associated Member

Alica Nah
Associated Member
York University

Jane Rasmussen
Associated Member
Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees

Isabel Ricupero
Associated Member
United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights