Immigration detention: Consensus for change

Yarl's Wood Immigration Removal Centre building behind hire wire fences


The chorus of voices calling for the Government to end indefinite immigration detention is diverse and growing. Sign our petition to add yours.

“The fundamental rights to liberty and security of person, as well as freedom of movement, apply to asylum-seekers, refugees and stateless people alike. And yet the UK detains strikingly high numbers of asylum-seekers and is one of only a handful of countries without a time limit on immigration detention.

“We urge the government to correct this anomaly by introducing a time limit and significantly reducing its reliance on detention.” – UNHCR, 2017

“The most prominent themes to emerge from the interviews with detainees were physical and mental health problems, lack of contact with families, and the stress of long-term detention in the context of difficulties faced in accessing good quality legal services.” – Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Prisons and the Chief Inspector of Borders and Immigration, 2012

“Some periods of detention were prolonged. At the time of the inspection, 15 detainees had been held for between six months and a year and one had recently been held in detention for more than three years. Recommendation: There should be a strict time limit on the length of detention.” – Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Prisons, 2017

“This lack of basic respect for privacy is unacceptable, made even more traumatic given the prior experiences of many women prior to detention… It is time that we accepted that current practice is not working.” – All-Party Parliamentary Groups on Refugees and Migration, 2015

“The whole process led to helplessness and was dehumanising… Detention in and of itself undermines welfare and contributes to vulnerability.” – Stephen Shaw, former Prisons and Probation Ombudsman for England and Wales and Government-appointed reviewer, 2015

“With a lot of the officers, you do see them become desensitised. It just becomes the norm. People can’t cope and hand in their notice, but others become immune to the pain and suffering they see. Some turn to the other side and take part in the abuse.”– Callum Tulley, former detainee custody officer at Brook House immigration removal centre, 2017

“Ultimately, we believe that the use of detention should be phased out and replaced with alternate, more humane means of monitoring individuals facing removal from the UK.” – British Medical Association, 2017

“For the vast majority of detainees, detention is indefinite. And that lack of an end date is causing serious harm, not only to those detained but also to their loved ones… The Government must end the routine use of indefinite detention and introduce a time limit as soon as possible.” – Amnesty International, 2017

“Detaining people without trial or judicial oversight, without even the suspicion of an offence having been committed, and to do so indefinitely is so profoundly unjust that it beggars belief.” – Andrew Mitchell, Conservative MP, 2017

“We will end indefinite detentions”  Labour manifesto, 2017


“The Liberal Democrats will end indefinite immigration detention by introducing a 28-day limit.” – Liberal Democrat manifesto, 2017

“SNP MPs will continue to press the UK government to limit immigration detention to 28 days. No other European country has indefinite detention. We continue to oppose the detention of children and vulnerable people, including pregnant women and people with mental illnesses. We will continue to call for the UK government to pursue alternatives to detention.” – Scottish National Party manifesto, 2017

“In the long term, we would work towards the closure of Yarl’s Wood and the abolition of immigration detention centres, allowing their claims to be dealt with in the community.” – Green Party manifesto, 2017

“Almost every informed commentator accepts that fundamental to the reforms required is the introduction of a statutory 28-day time-limit on detention. The UK is the only European country not to have a time limit. The UK has an otherwise well-deserved international reputation for upholding the rule of law. By not addressing problems with immigration detention, we put that reputation at risk.” – Andrew Langdon QC, Chair of the Bar Council, 2017

“NPM members agreed that the NPM should call for a time limit on immigration detention.” – National Preventive Mechanism (21 statutory bodies, including Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary, the Children’s Commissioner and the Care Quality Commission), 2016

And what the Government says…

“We do not have indefinite detention in this country. In our policies is always a presumption of liberty. Individuals are detained for no longer than is necessary.” – Brandon Lewis, Immigration Minister, 2017