This project is a 3-year research project at the Faculty of Law within the Chinese University of Hong Kong to evaluate the immigration detention system in Hong Kong in relation to vulnerable migrants.

About the project

The project began in July 2020 and ran through August 2023. This will be the first detailed study of immigration detention in Hong Kong, and will add significantly to comparative analysis of immigration detention in East Asia.

We examine the functioning and effects of immigration detention law, policy and practice, with a focus on survivors of torture, victims of human trafficking, and low-income migrant workers.

Based upon our findings, we develop actionable, evidence-based guidelines for improving the system.

This project is funded by the Research Impact Fund of the Hong Kong Research Grants Council, which operates under the University Grants Committee (UGC).

Project Objectives


Map, analyze, evaluate

the functioning of the immigration detention system, and trace its effects on vulnerable detainees and their families in Hong Kong. 



immigration detention policy in Hong Kong to those in other jurisdictions, to identify best practices and innovation, as well as pitfalls to be avoided.  



concrete, evidence-based reforms to immigration detention in Hong Kong and develop operational guidelines to implement beneficial systemic change. 

Why is it important to study immigration detention?

Detention has been expanding globally

The use of immigration detention has expanded significantly in many parts of the world over the past twenty years. Experience in the United States, Europe, Australia, and Asia indicates that many detention systems suffer from procedural unfairness and poor access to legal advice.

Rights violations and lack of accountability

Comparative research shows that immigration detainees often endure harsh living conditions, and violations of their rights to healthcare, education, work, and due process. Separation from family, long waits for decisions, custodial neglect, and past trauma and violence all take a toll on mental health.


We use qualitative, socio-legal methods to conduct our inquiry by:

  • analysing official data obtained through applications under the Code on Access to Information
  • conducting semi-structured interviews with government personnel, civil society organisations, detainees, detainees’ families, and other individuals belonging to vulnerable migrant groups
  • investigating thematic and individual case studies and
  • visiting detention centres, and
  • conducting extensive multidisciplinary secondary research on immigration detention.

Project Outputs

Towards a Better System
We will conduct workshops disseminating our findings to government officials, civil society organizations in Hong Kong and other parts of Asia, individuals who belong to vulnerable migrant groups, as well as lawyers.

Advocacy and Education
We will also publicize our findings through research briefs, scholarly articles and the media, and integrate them into future advocacy and educational activities. Learn more here.

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