A Bolivian refugee who is gay and lives with HIV is in Prague, Czech Republic in 2021.
© UNHCR/Michal Novotný

UNHCR has a longstanding interest in the situation of detained asylum seekers and the legality of detention of this population under international law. UNHCR takes the position that, consistent with international refugee and human rights law and standards, detention of asylum seekers should be avoided and considered only as a measure of last resort. Because seeking asylum is not a crime, an individual’s status as an asylum seeker is not alone a valid basis for detention. Instead, detention is an exceptional measure that can be justified only by a legitimate purpose and when its necessity, reasonableness, and proportionality are based on an individualized assessment for each person. Any decision to restrict an asylum seeker’s liberty must respect the right to seek asylum.

UNHCR offers the following summary of its position on the detention of asylum seekers in the context of U.S. law, policy, and practice on this issue:

Key UNHCR Resources

For further discussion of key principles, standards, and guidance regarding detention of asylum seekers generally, see:

For further discussion of key principles, standards, and guidance regarding detention of children and families seeking protection, see: