the world's premier FREE website for learners + teachers of English


Meaning: a person imprisoned without charge or a trial

For example:

  • All detainees in our immigration centres get free food and nice tents to live in.

  • There were thousands of detainees in Australia's off-shore immigration camps, including hundreds of children.

Note: Most so-called "detainees" in non-democratic countries and military dictatorships are people who oppose or speak out against their government. But in democratic countries most "detainees" are asylum seekers escaping from war and persecution, undocumented immigrants escaping poverty, or people accused of planning violent political acts. It's often claimed by experts in international human rights law that all these detainees are imprisoned illegally if they haven't been charged with a crime and given a fair trial.

Quick Quiz:

"Detainee" is often used as a euphemism for

a. imprisoned criminal

b. imprisoned asylum seeker

c. imprisoned immigration official

This entry is in the following categories:

Contributor: Matt Errey