Point of entry holding facilities have often been found to be inadequate, in particular for
extended stays. More specifically, CPT delegations have on several occasions met persons held for
days under makeshift conditions in airport lounges. It is axiomatic that such persons should be
provided with suitable means for sleeping, granted access to their luggage and to suitably-equipped
sanitary and washing facilities, and allowed to exercise in the open air on a daily basis. Further,
access to food and, if necessary, medical care should be guaranteed.
In certain countries, CPT delegations have found immigration detainees held in police
stations for prolonged periods (for weeks and, in certain cases, months), subject to mediocre
material conditions of detention, deprived of any form of activity and on occasion obliged to share
cells with criminal suspects. Such a situation is indefensible.
The CPT recognises that, in the very nature of things, immigration detainees may have to
spend some time in an ordinary police detention facility. However, conditions in police stations will
frequently - if not invariably - be inadequate for prolonged periods of detention. Consequently, the
period of time spent by immigration detainees in such establishments should be kept to the absolute
On occasion, CPT delegations have found immigration detainees held in prisons. Even if
the actual conditions of detention for these persons in the establishments concerned are adequate which has not always been the case - the CPT considers such an approach to be fundamentally
flawed. A prison is by definition not a suitable place in which to detain someone who is neither
convicted nor suspected of a criminal offence.
Admittedly, in certain exceptional cases, it might be appropriate to hold an immigration
detainee in a prison, because of a known potential for violence. Further, an immigration detainee in
need of in-patient treatment might have to be accommodated temporarily in a prison health-care
facility, in the event of no other secure hospital facility being available. However, such detainees
should be held quite separately from prisoners, whether on remand or convicted.
In the view of the CPT, in those cases where it is deemed necessary to deprive persons of
their liberty for an extended period under aliens legislation, they should be accommodated in
centres specifically designed for that purpose, offering material conditions and a regime
appropriate to their legal situation and staffed by suitably-qualified personnel. The Committee is
pleased to note that such an approach is increasingly being followed in Parties to the Convention.
Obviously, such centres should provide accommodation which is adequately-furnished,
clean and in a good state of repair, and which offers sufficient living space for the numbers
involved. Further, care should be taken in the design and layout of the premises to avoid as far as
possible any impression of a carceral environment. As regards regime activities, they should include
outdoor exercise, access to a day room and to radio/television and newspapers/magazines, as well as
other appropriate means of recreation (e.g. board games, table tennis). The longer the period for
which persons are detained, the more developed should be the activities which are offered to them.
The staff of centres for immigration detainees have a particularly onerous task. Firstly, there
will inevitably be communication difficulties caused by language barriers. Secondly, many detained
persons will find the fact that they have been deprived of their liberty when they are not suspected
of any criminal offence difficult to accept. Thirdly, there is a risk of tension between detainees of
different nationalities or ethnic groups. Consequently, the CPT places a premium upon the
supervisory staff in such centres being carefully selected and receiving appropriate training. As well
as possessing well-developed qualities in the field of interpersonal communication, the staff
concerned should be familiarised with the different cultures of the detainees and at least some of