End 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.
Train departure bpards showing indefinite delays for the release of people in immigration detention
"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.

This is happening in our name – and we can stop it.

There’s a growing chorus of voices from every walk of life and all political beliefs calling for a 28-day time limit on immigration detention.

And in 2018 we can make it happen.

The Government will soon publish a draft law establishing our post-Brexit immigration system.

This is our chance to put a time limit into UK law – a crucial first step towards ending the suffering and uncertainty.

Please sign our petition and tell the Home Secretary to put a time limit on immigration detention in her upcoming legislation.

Donate today to end indefinite detention

  • £20 could help us meet with policy makers to persuade them to support a 28-day limit on immigration detention
  • £50 could help send speakers to events to bring greater understanding and public attention to the issue of immigration detention
  • £100 could help run legal clinics for people in detention, helping them understand their rights and make complaints about their treatment
  • £1,000 could help launch a national advertising campaign to shine a light on the brutality of the Home Office’s practices

Donate now.

What is immigration detention?

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
"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.

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

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 Immigration detention FAQs.

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

Consensus for change

Yarl's Wood Immigration Removal Centre building behind hire wire fences
Yarl's Wood Immigration Detention Centre, Bedfordshire
"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.

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

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.

Please sign our petition today.