End UK’s inhumane and costly indefinite immigration detention policy

28th Jun 2019
End UK’s inhumane and costly indefinite immigration detention policy

Cross-party support from MPs including Harriet Harman and Andrew Mitchell (Photo: Amnesty International UK / Marie-Ann Ventoura)

Elham Asaad Buaras

A coalition of top human and civil rights groups demanded the UK ends its indefinite immigration detention policy of suspected illegal immigrants.

Amnesty International UK, Liberty, Women for Refugee Women and Freed Voices handed the Home Secretary a 100,000 petition calling for an immediate end of the practice on May 8.

The UK has one of the largest immigration detention systems in Europe and is the only country in the region without a statutory time limit on the length of detention. Campaigners are calling for a 28-day detention limit.

A Liberty commissioned report by economic data consultants Cambridge Econometrics has found the time limit on immigration detention could save the public purse up to £35 million a year.

In a joint statement, the groups called for an end to the “unacceptable and inhumane practice of indefinitely detaining people in immigration removal centres and radically reduce the number of people it locks up.”

The campaign has garnered cross-party support from Members of Parliament including Harriet Harman and Andrew Mitchell.

“Detention is another form of torture. You think you’ve escaped it in your home country but then you get here and you go to more” – Adele, former Yarl’s Wood detainee

The four campaign groups handed the petition to the Home Office, coordinated by Liberty, Amnesty International UK and the Asylum Justice Project.

Sam Grant, Policy and Campaigns Manager, Liberty, said: “The voices calling for an end to indefinite immigration detention grow stronger every day, both inside and outside of Parliament. Yet the Government is still locking up tens of thousands of people without telling them how long they will be held or when they will be released.”

“People’s lives are being wasted, communities damaged and families separated in the name of this costly, failing system. We need urgent action, a move to more effective and humane alternatives and a time limit on detention at the earliest opportunity.”

Steve Valdez-Symonds, Amnesty’s Refugee and Migrant Rights Programme Director, said:
“The UK’s immigration detention system is in urgent need of fundamental change, and it’s high time for Parliament to step in and legislate.”

Adding, “Indefinite detention causes inexcusable levels of suffering and it is a matter of profound shame that the UK’s immigration system has and continues to subject so many people to it. Indefinite detention must end.”

Natasha Walter, Director of Women for Refugee Women, says: “There have been enough promises and reviews from the Home Office. It is now time for the government to ensure that women who have already been through human rights abuses are not exposed to further trauma by being detained. It is time to end the detention of vulnerable women at Yarl’s Wood and move away from detention altogether.”

24,748 people were put into immigration detention last year, that’s according to Freed Voices, a group of ‘experts-by-experience’ with over 20 years to detention.

There are eight long-term detention centres in the UK. Some people are also held in indefinite immigration detention in prisons.

A Home Office spokesperson said the introduction of a 28-day time limit, “rests mainly on slogans rather than evidence. This is why the home secretary commissioned an internal review of how time limits work in other countries and how they relate to any other protections within the detention systems in these countries.”

“No one is detained indefinitely. Most people detained under immigration powers spend only short periods in detention. In 2018, 92 per cent of those detained were removed or released from detention within four months, and 69 per cent in less than 29 days.”


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