Oppose Indefinite Detention

The UK is the only country in Europe that locks people up with no limit on how long they can be held. It’s about time we stopped this brutal practice.
Immigration detention centre fence and barbed wire with blue sky beyond
"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."

Every year the Home Office locks up nearly 30,000 people, including asylum seekers, children, elderly people, pregnant women and survivors of torture, trafficking and rape.

They have no idea when they will be freed. No judge authorises their incarceration. The Home Office alone makes the call.

Some people are held for years in chaotic detention centres where neglect and abuse are rife.

Indefinite detention separates families and devastates people’s mental health. Self-harm and suicide attempts are common.

Immigration detention should be used only as an absolute last resort. But in the UK it’s the brutal everyday reality for thousands and thousands of people.


The Government’s new Immigration Bill has finally provided the opportunity to secure a 28-day time limit on immigration detention.

There’s a growing chorus of voices from every walk of life and all political beliefs calling for an end to indefinite detention. And more than 70,000 people have signed the petition for a 28-day time limit for everyone.

Now it’s time to get it over the line. 

Email your MP today, calling on them to take a crucial step towards a fairer immigration system and back amendments to the Bill securing a 28-day time limit on indefinite detention.


Email your MP today


Tell your MP to vote to end indefinite detention and the hostile environment

Two women in an immigration detention centre hold a sign out of their window that says "HELP"
Two women detained at Yarl's Wood Immigration Removal Centre in Bedfordshire

Other ways to take action – if you have...

Ten minutes – send an 'I wait with...' postcard to your MP

#ItsAboutTime to end indefinite detention and MPs must make this a priority.

Send your MP an ‘I wait with…’ postcard calling on them to add their name to the Immigration Detention 28-day Time Limit Pledge.

Personalise your postcard with some of the following messages:

End uncertainty. At any given time, more than 200 people in detention have been held for over a year. There is no justification for this.

Stop the suffering. At least one person a day is self-harming in UK detention centres. And people with mental health issues and survivors of rape, exploitation, and abuse experience increased trauma.

Intervene in cases. Urge MPs to assist their constituents who are being detained indefinitely.

Meet international standards. A UN report singled out the UK for failing to put a time limit on detention.

Send postcard

One day – plan an event

Organise an event in your community, local school, workplace, advocacy group or even just among family and friends to raise awareness of the devastating effects of indefinite immigration detention and to call for a 28-day time limit.

Download the Liberty End Indefinite Detention Campaign Pack or request one in the post. When you request a printed copy, we’ll also send you an End Indefinite Detention poster and #ItsAboutTime badge.

Get the End Indefinite Detention Campaign Pack

What is immigration detention?

"My experience in detention broke the trust I had in the Government, and the country I have lived in for the last twenty years."
Kasonga, held in Harmondsworth and Colnbrook Immigration Removal Centres

The UK’s regime of routine immigration detention is one of the largest in Europe – and, because there’s no time limit, it’s the most draconian.

Detention centres fail to meet even basic standards of safety and respect, with instances of fatal use of restraint, denial of medical treatment, filthy and overcrowded conditions and allegations of sexual abuse.

Reports suggest 10 people died in detention in 2017 alone. Most took their own lives.

Research by the British Medical Association, Amnesty International, Women for Refugee Women and many others has laid bare the serious mental and physical harm indefinite detention causes – not just to people in detention, but to their children and loved ones.

The human cost of immigration detention is huge – but it also fails to deliver the gains politicians want. Every year, the Government wastes around £76 million of taxpayers’ money on the long-term detention of people who it ultimately releases.

Other countries use a range of effective alternatives to detention which have led to low rates of detention and high rates of voluntary return.

Read the stories of people who have been through the UK’s detention regime.

Read Immigration detention FAQs.

Read 'Without Detention - Opportunities for alternatives' (Detention Action report)

Consensus for change

"This practice, usually described as internment, is normally only encountered during wartime to manage a threat posed by enemy aliens to national security."
Reverend Nathan Ward, former duty director at Brook House Immigration Removal Centre

The chorus of voices calling for this to end is diverse and growing.

The UK’s routine use of immigration detention has been condemned by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, Her Majesty’s Inspector of Prisons, the Independent Chief Inspector of Borders and Immigration, a cross-party parliamentary inquiry and the Government’s own expert reviewer, Stephen Shaw.

Serious human rights violations are commonplace in UK immigration centres. Since 2010, courts have ruled six times that people’s treatment in those centres breached their rights under Article 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights – the right not to suffer torture or inhuman and degrading treatment.

By failing to put a time limit on immigration detention, the Government is ignoring cross-party MPs, experts and human rights groups.

Ignoring the public isn’t so easy.

It’s about time we ended the suffering.

Find out more about voices calling for an end to immigration detention