Conditions in detention facilities


Country Report: Conditions in detention facilities Last updated: 22/05/23


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The Bill regarding return and detention of aliens was introduced in 2015 but is still being debated and will enter into force once it is accepted by the Senate.[1] In 2022, the file was still pending because an addition to the Bill had been presented to Parliament and because the Bill is already outdated so it needs a revision that still has not been presented.[2] The addition concerns specific measures for nuisance-causing aliens. The Bill stresses the difference between criminal detention and detention of aliens, which does not have a punitive character. It proposes an improvement in detention conditions for aliens who are placed in detention at the border and on the territory. For instance, aliens would be free to move within the centre for at least twelve hours per day.

Persons in detention have a right to health care, either provided by a doctor appointed by the centre or by a doctor of their own choosing. In March 2022, newspaper Trouw reported that due to a lack of qualified personnel and the right resources, the men detained in the Rotterdam immigration detention centre have been receiving poor medical care for years.[3] In one example a detainee needed to wait four months in order to see a doctor for a growing bump on his chin, because the nurse recorded his request as ‘no emergency’. In response, the Custodial Institutions Agency denied the lack of access to adequate care, neither physical nor mental.

There are no known problems of overcrowding. Due to a reserve both on the short term and on the long run, overcrowding is highly unlikely.

Detained asylum seekers and migrants are normally held in a cell with another detainee. Only upon medical recommendation, an individual can obtain a cell of their own. Detainees are allowed to leave their cells to stay in the living areas within the detention centre between 8 am and 10 pm, with the exception of two hours during which meals are to be consumed in the cell. During these hours, activities are offered. Detained asylum seekers are able to make phone calls, go outside in a small ‘playground’, go to the recreational area of the detention centre, receive visitors (four hours a week), access spiritual counselling, visit the library, watch movies, and do sports and other recreational activities. All units have access to the internet but detainees are not allowed to go on social media websites, e-mail or any other website with chat functions. Since the beginning of the pandemic, this timetable underwent significant changes. Detainees were sometimes only allowed to leave their rooms for 1 hour a day due to lack of staff in the facilities. Overall, they were not allowed to leave their living areas for more than 3,5-4 hours a day.[4] This regime ended at the beginning of April 2022.[5]

As opposed to criminal detainees, migrant detainees are not allowed to access work or education inside the detention centre.


A report from Amnesty International, Doctors from the World and Immigration Detention Hotline (Meldpunt Vreemdelingendetentie) shed light on the frequent use made of isolation cells in detention centres.[6] According to the report, detainees were put in isolation 1,176 times in 2019. In response to questions of a regional court, DJI said that in 2021, isolation measures have been carried out 504 times in total.[7] Isolation is an order measure for the safety of the personnel, other detainees or the detainee himself, but also a punishment. Detainees are put in a cell with nothing but a mattress, a stool, and an iron toilet wearing a ‘non-tearable dress’ for 23 hours a day, up to 14 days in a row (with possibility to prolong). The organizations give a few recommendations to reduce isolating detainees: isolation should not be used for punishment, nor as a collective measure, it should also be used less and for a shorter period. A following report from the Immigration Detention Hotline from 2021 shows that the isolation measure is still being used as punishment for minor violations, such as refusing to stay in a multi-person cell.[8] Isolation is also used as a ‘protective measure’ in cases of hunger strike, self-mutilation and based on potential risk of committing suicide.




[1] Bill regarding return and detention of aliens (2015-2016), 34309/2. Information on the current state of affairs can be found on the website of the Senate at:

[2] KST 35 501, nr. 29, 11 April 2022, available in Dutch at:

[3] Trouw, ‘Gezond erin, ziek eruit: de gebrekkige zorg in de vreemdelingendetentie’ (Healthy in, sick out: the lack of care in immigration detention), 14 March 2022, available in Dutch at:

[4] Meldpunt Vreemdelingendetentie, ‘Covid in migrant detention’, 1 December 2021, available in Dutch at:

[5] Newsflash Detention Hotline, ‘Hopelijk Geen 1 April Grap: Celdeuren in April weer Open’, 4 April 2022, available in Dutch at:

[6] Amnesty International, Doctors from the World, Meldpunt Vreemdelingendetentie (2020): Isolatie in Vreemdelingendetentie, available in Dutch:

[7] Regional Court Den Bosch, ECLI:NL:RBDHA:2022:5970, 22 June 2022.

[8] Meldpunt Vreemdelingendetentie (2021): Gebroken in vreemdelingendetentie, available in Dutch at:

Table of contents

  • Statistics
  • Overview of the legal framework
  • Overview of the main changes since the previous report update
  • Asylum Procedure
  • Reception Conditions
  • Detention of Asylum Seekers
  • Content of International Protection
  • ANNEX I – Transposition of the CEAS in national legislation