Those in detention include ;

  • People claiming asylum
  • People who have overstayed their visa
  • Ex foreign national prisoners
  • People who are undocumented

Some in detention will be newly arrived in the UK, others will have lived lawfully here for many years, some since early childhood. These categories are fluid and can overlap, for example a person may claim asylum from prison. Around 50% of the people detained will have claimed asylum at some point.

Home Office policy says that detention must be used sparingly and for the shortest possible period. But in reality, many thousands are held each year, and some for very lengthy periods, causing serious mental distress.

Place of immigration detention ;

Immigration Removal Centres (IRCs) where people are held indefinitely
The IRCs are Colnbrook (Heathrow), Harmondsworth (Heathrow), Tinsley House (Gatwick), Brook House (Gatwick), Yarl’s Wood (Bedford), Dungavel (Scotland), and Derwentside (County Durham) which is the only IRC that only holds women.

Residential short term holding facilities (STHFs) where people can be held for up to seven days
There are STHF at Manchester Airport and Larne, Belfast. Part of Colnbrook, Yarl’s Wood and Dungavel are used as STHFs

Non-residential STHFs where people can be held for up to 24 hours
These facilities are holding rooms in ports or airports

The number of people detained in prisons under immigration powers increased by 85% from 359 before the pandemic at the end of December 2019 to 665 at the end of December 2021.

Immigration detention of families with children
There is ‘pre departure accommodation’ holding families with children within Tinsley House IRC at Gatwick.

24,497 people entered immigration detention in 2021
65% more people were detained than the previous year when there was a large fall following the COVID-19 outbreak. The number of people entering detention is now similar to pre-pandemic levels but the profile of the people detained and their length of detention is different. Since the pandemic, an increasing proportion of those entering detention have been recent arrivals.

Iranians were the most common nationality entering detention in the latest year, accounting for 19% of the total.

Many of those detained are traumatised, having survived war, detention without charge or trial, torture, or rape in their own country. Many endure perilous journeys only to be unexpectedly detained in the UK, where they may relive past traumas of imprisonment. Some have lived in the UK for decades, and have spouses, children and grandchildren here from whom they will be separated by detention and deportation.

The damaging effects of immigration detention

  • Self-harm and hunger-strikes are daily occurrences
  • Inquests have found that neglect has contributed to deaths
  • Instances of hospital appointments being cancelled, sometimes repeatedly
  • One man was held in isolation for a virtually continuous period of 22 months
  • Some people are transferred to secure psychiatric units and later taken back to detention
  • IRC staff sacked following sexually inappropriate behaviour towards female detainees
  • Injuries during deportation attempts include fractured bones, a punctured lung, a dislocated knee
  • High Court judges have found “inhuman and degrading treatment” of people in detention eight times
  • Torture scars and medical conditions are often not properly documented and considered in detained peoples’ cases
  • A man, the father of 5 UK-born children, was unlawfully killed on a British Airways plane during deportation