Economic impacts of immigration detention reform

The case for placing a time limit on immigration detention rightly focuses on respect for people’s basic human rights and the rule of law. But in support of these calls, there is also a significant financial argument to be made.

Liberty’s new report – in conjunction with Cambridge Econometrics – makes the economic case for a strict 28-day time limit for the first time, presenting the potential costs and savings of immigration detention reform in the UK.


The detailed study reveals that a 28-day time limit for everyone in immigration detention could more than halve the Home Office’s yearly detention outlay. Even with alternative provision in place, the Government would make considerable savings.

1. In 2017/18, Home Office detention expenditure was £108m.

2. Under a 28-day immigration detention time limit, there are potential long-term cost savings of £55-65m each year.

3. On the available evidence, plausible alternatives cost less than detention, with a likely cost range of £6-30m.

A more humane detention system comprising a 28-day time limit supported by alternative provision could yield long-term net savings of £25-35m or more each year.

Download the report