European Committee for the Prevention of Torture
and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment


Safeguards for irregular migrants
deprived of their liberty
Extract from the 19th General Report of the CPT,
published in 2009

Preliminary remarks
In the substantive section of its 7th General Report, published in 1997, the CPT described in
some detail its position in relation to safeguards and conditions for foreign nationals deprived of
their liberty under aliens legislation (“immigration detainees”), as well as its views concerning the
expulsion of such persons.1 In the intervening period, the CPT has carried out frequent visits to
dedicated immigration detention centres as well as to police stations and prison establishments, in
which immigration detainees continue to be held in a number of countries. These visits have, all too
often, reinforced the Committee’s opinion that immigration detainees are particularly vulnerable to
various forms of ill-treatment, whether at the moment of apprehension, during the period of custody
or while being deported.
Given the vulnerable nature of this group of persons, the CPT has, in the course of many of
its visits, focused its attention on the treatment of immigration detainees. Further, the Committee
has continued to develop its own standards, for example by the elaboration in the 13th General
Report of guidelines on the deportation of foreign nationals by air, including immigration detainees.2
In this 19th General Report, the CPT is setting out its views on the safeguards that should be
afforded to detained irregular migrants, with an additional special emphasis on children.3 “Detained
irregular migrants” is the term used to denote persons who have been deprived of their liberty under
aliens legislation either because they have entered a country illegally (or attempted to do so) or
because they have overstayed their legal permission to be in the country in question.
It should be noted that asylum seekers are not irregular migrants, although the persons
concerned may become so should their asylum application be rejected and their leave to stay in a
country rescinded. Whenever asylum seekers are deprived of their liberty pending the outcome of
their application, they should be afforded a wide range of safeguards in line with their status, going
beyond those applicable to irregular migrants which are set out in the following paragraphs.4

See paragraphs 24 to 36 of doc. CPT/Inf (97) 10.
See paragraphs 27 to 45 of doc. CPT/Inf (2003) 35.
This is not to suggest that children are the only vulnerable group. Elderly persons and unaccompanied women,
for instance, are also vulnerable.
For asylum seekers, certain international safeguards originate under the 1951 Geneva Convention relating to
the Status of Refugees and its 1967 Protocol. Further, European Union legislation, in particular Council Directive
2003/9/EC of 27 January 2003 laying down minimum standards for the reception of asylum seekers, has established a

Select target paragraph3