Calls for UK Government To Place Time Limit on Immigration Detention

Michael Thorpe
15th February 2018

In the past four years, the government has spent over half a billion pounds on immigration detention. This has sparked harsh criticism as the UK is the only country in the EU without a statutory time limit on immigration detention.

Of the money spent, £523.5 million was spent on detaining individuals for immigration reasons. A further £16.2 million was spent on awarding damages to individuals who were unlawfully detained. The figures were released following a written request from the Liberal Democrats. The revelation has led to calls for a 28 day limit on immigration detention.

What is immigration detention?

It is the practice of holding individuals who are subject to immigration controls, either before they are granted access to the UK, or before they are deported. It is controversial because it is an administrative practice rather than a legal one. This means that the decision is made by an immigration officer rather than a judge. Of all those who were held in detention centres in 2017, 28% were held for between 29 days and 4 months. 1,943 were held for more than four months and 172 were held for over a year. The issue with

Why is immigration detention controversial?

The practice has been blamed for having an adverse effect on the mental health of those detained. There have been reports of individuals having mental breakdowns as a result of being held in overcrowded facilities for an indefinite amount of time. The practice is particularly problematic in cases of trafficking victims or asylum seekers. In the last year, six people have died in detention centres.

What can be done?

Politicians, lawyers and campaigners are calling for a strict limit on the amount of time individuals can be detained. The government has been criticised for its “chaotic decisions” which have led to people being unlawfully detained. This is evident in the £16.2 million paid in damages to the victims of unlawful detention. There is now cross-party support for putting an end to indefinite detention.

Tory MP Tony Mitchell, who is preparing to vote against indefinite detention said: “Just as Parliament quite rightly rejected the suggestion that we might hold people without charge for 90 days, so we need to consider seriously the human rights of those we detain in this way and how long a civil society should tolerate that detention.

A Home Office spokesperson said: “Detention and removal are essential parts of effective immigration controls, especially in support for the removal of those with no lawful basis to stay in the UK. Most people detained under the Immigration Act powers spend only very short periods in detention and factors that can lead to prolonged detention include a history of absconding, non-compliance with immigration processes and a prolific offending history.”