Many parliamentarians across Europe have a right to visit detention centres for irregular migrants and asylum seekers as part of their mandate as national parliamentarians. Yet a survey conducted by the Parliamentary Assembly has shown that this right is not always known to parliamentarians or used to its full capacity.
The Committee on Migration, refugees and displaced persons therefore decided to develop a guide to raise awareness of this right and encourage and assist parliamentarians in carrying out visits to detention centres:
Interview with Jean-Pierre Restellini, member of the Council of Europe's Anti-torture Committee, and Mark Thomson, Secretary-General of the Association for the Prevention of Torture, on the occasion of the launch of the guide for parliamentarians on visiting immigration detention centres.
The Guide for parliamentarians in 'The Council of Europe Journal'
"Parliamentarians need to see with their eyes, listen with their ears, speak with their mouths and even smell with their noses the conditions of detention of migrants and asylum seekers in their own country.
It is an essential role of parliamentarians to keep an eye on all forms of public administration, and it is particularly important to ensure transparency and accountability in the closed and often secretive world of detention of irregular migrants and asylum seekers, where human rights issues are often at the forefront.
In Europe, parliamentarians have the right to visit places of detention in their own country. In some countries, such as in France, they can turn up unannounced and have access to all the places of detention.
The aim of this guide is to encourage you, as parliamentarians, to visit places of detention and at the same time provide you with the tools necessary to prepare, carry out and follow up on a visit."
Mr Jean-Claude MIGNON
Former President of the Parliamentary Assembly