Solitary confinement increasingly used in Dutch deportation centers

The use of solitary confinement on foreign nationals in Dutch detention centers increased significantly over the past yeas, despite the government’s intentions to make less use of this severe measure. In 2016, solitary confinement was used an average of 59 times per month. Last year it was 110 times per month, an increase of 86 percent, according to a study by Amnesty International, Dokters van de Wereld, and the hotline for deportation centers.

The number of people in these detention centers increased by 30 percent in this same period – so not enough to explain the increased use of solitary confinement in and of itself, according to Amnesty International. Many asylum seekers and other undocumented migrants have trauma in their past, and detention and uncertainty about the future can increase that psychological pressure, Amnesty International said. “Solitary confinement is an extreme form of incarceration and reinforces the impact that detention itself already has on people. Scientific research shows that isolation has harmful effects on the health of many people.”

Amnesty International researcher Annemarie Busser told NOS that the increase in solitary confinement is very worrying, especially when you remember that people are not sentenced to a deportation detention center because they committed a crime. “People are not there because they have to serve a sentence or because they have behaved badly in society. They are only there awaiting their deportation,” she said. You have to think about how you treat these people. How do you keep them available for departure and do you really need a regime that is very similar to that in ordinary prisons?”

Solitary confinement in these detention centers is either used as a punishment or as a precaution. According to Busser, this measure is most often used as a means of punishment. In about a quarter of cases, the person was isolated because they refused to stay in a multi-person cell. Another common reason to put someone in solitary confinement is if they are a suicide risk. That is also not a good idea, Busser said. “Isolation never makes people better. It definitely does not improve their behavior. It makes them sick.”