Immigration detention

We specialise in helping those who are held unlawfully, or whose rights are abused in custody.

What is immigration detention?

Immigration detention is the practice of holding people who are subject to immigration control in custody, while they wait for permission to enter or before they are deported or removed from the country. It is an administrative process, not a criminal procedure. This means that migrants and undocumented people are detained at the decision of an immigration official, not a court or a judge. Unlike most other European countries, there is no time limit on immigration detention in the UK.

UK Immigration Detention policy

Immigration detention in the United Kingdom is the policy of the United Kingdom government in holding individuals suspected of visa violations, illegal entry or unauthorised arrival, and those subject to deportation and removal in detention until a decision is made by immigration authorities to grant a visa and release them into the community, or to repatriate them to their country of departure.

Overview of Immigration Detention matters

Home Office policy says that immigration detention must be used sparingly and for the shortest possible period. In our experience, immigration detention is the norm rather than the exception: many thousands are held each year, and some for very lengthy periods, causing serious mental distress.

Who is detained?

Numbers of people are held under Immigration Act powers every year, for a range of reasons. Some are asylums seekers who have had their claim refused. Others are asylum seekers who have a claim in the process and are being held while that decision is made (under what is known as the Detained Fast Track). Some will have overstayed or breached the terms of their visas or will be foreign nationals who have completed a prison sentence and are to be deported. Some will newly arrive in the UK; others will have lived lawfully here for many years. These categories are fluid and can overlap, for example, a foreign national may claim asylum from prison.  The single most common category of immigration detainee is the asylum seeker. Around 50% will have claimed asylum at some point.

Immigration Detention statistics

  • Around 30,000 people are held under Immigration Act powers every year.
  • In 2017, 27,331 people entered immigration detention.
  • In 2017, 42 children entered detention, despite the government’s claim to have abolished child detention in 2011.
  • At the end of 2017, there were 2,545 people in detention. The top five nationalities were Indian, Pakistani, Bangladeshi, Nigerian and Polish.

Whatever the circumstances, being held in prison-like conditions without a time limit causes anxiety and distress. Many detainees already have traumatic backgrounds, and the psychological impact of being held is absolutely damaging.

Our work includes:

  • Advice on the legality of immigration detention for individuals across the range of immigration status including Foreign National Prisoners, failed asylum seekers, citizens of EU member states, those on work permits or other forms of temporary leave.
  • Claims for damages for unlawful immigration detention in respect of an entire period of detention or for those detained unlawfully at the end of a prison sentence or lawful period of detention.
  • Public law challenges the legality of immigration detention.
  • Claims for damages and public law challenges to conditions of immigration detention including the Human Rights Act 1998 claims engaging Article 3 European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) for inhuman or degrading treatment.
  • Claims for damages or public law challenges in respect to the immigration detention of vulnerable groups, including torture victims, children, elderly or pregnant persons, those with serious medical conditions or disabilities.
  • Claims for assault on removal or in immigration detention.
  • Advice and representation after deaths in immigration custody.

Our clients have brought claims against the UK government, privately run immigration detention centres and private escort and removal companies.

For more information, please contact us on 01206500181 or send us an email-