Immigration detention

The UK is the only country in Europe that locks people up in immigration detention centres without release dates. Indefinite detention devastates mental health and ruins lives. There must be a strict 28-day time limit.


Every year tens of thousands of people are torn away from their families and friends and locked up in immigration detention centres with no idea when they will be freed.

They include people who are pregnant or elderly, as well as survivors of torture, sexual violence and trafficking.

No judge authorises their imprisonment – the Home Office makes the call – and no one who is detained is given a release date.


Indefinite detention is unjust, unnecessary and causes huge physical and mental harm.

Imprisoning people without release dates is out of step with the criminal law, which has time limits for holding even the most serious criminal suspects without charge – and everyone sent to prison in the UK after being convicted of a crime knows when they can expect to be released.

All the medical evidence shows that mental health deteriorates after just one month in detention, but many people in immigration detention centres are held for months on end, some for years. In 2019 there were two suicide attempts every day.

And after all this suffering, more than half of the people leaving detention are released back into the community, not removed from the country.

Ending this practice isn’t only the right thing to do – it would save money too. The current system costs taxpayers more than £100 million every year. Introducing a 28-day time limit would reduce this yearly total by £30-£60 million.

Indefinite detention is a pointless waste of life and money.


Liberty is calling for a strict 28-day time limit on detention.

Faith leaders want a time limit. MPs from every major party want a time limit. And 100,000 people signed our petition calling for a time limit.

If other countries can introduce one, so can we.

But a time limit is just the first step towards ending detention altogether, and pilot schemes dealing with people in the community instead of detention centres have already proven a success.

A more human immigration system is possible.

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