Category Archives: News

MPs back calls to end indefinite immigration detention

In a significant move today, the House of Commons passed a motion calling for radical reform of the UK’s immigration detention system, including the introduction of a maximum time limit on how long people can be detained.

The motion was passed after a three hour debate on a report published earlier this year by the All Party Parliamentary Groups on Refugees and Migration. In the report, a cross-party group of parliamentarians argued that the Government has an overreliance on detention, which should only ever be used a last resort.

A key recommendation of the report was that a 28 day time limit on detention should be introduced and this recommendation was highlighted by many of the MPs who took part in the debate. MPs also spoke about the conditions people are held in, with Conservative MP David Burrowes saying that despite most people held in Immigration Removal Centres having never been convicted of any crime they have to endure “prison-like conditions for administrative reasons”.

The report was the result of an inquiry carried out by a cross-party panel of parliamentarians including a former Cabinet Minister, a former Chief Inspector of Prisons, and a former law lord.

Commenting after the debate, Labour MP for Sheffield Central Paul Blomfield, who was vice-chair of the inquiry, said:

“In a week where the focus has been on how we support vulnerable people abroad, it is important that we also consider how we treat those who are already on our shores. Today’s debate highlighted the damaging effect indefinite detention has on detainees. Community-based alternatives in other countries are not only more humane but have proved to be less expensive and more effective.”

“During today’s debate the message from MPs from all parties and from all over the country was clear – it’s time for a time limit. The Government should listen to the growing number of voices calling for reform and act now.”

House of Lords debates Detention Inquiry Report

On Thursday 26 March, the House of Lords debated the report of the inquiry into the use of immigration detention in the United Kingdom.

The debate was opened by Lord Lloyd of Berwick, who served on the inquiry panel. Lord Lloyd, who had secured the debate, was also making his valedictory speech, during which he said:

We are the only country in Europe which allows indefinite detention of this kind. In France, the maximum period is 45 days. In Spain, it is two months and in Italy it is three months, so we are way out of line with these countries. In the end, the group came to the view that we should have a maximum limit of 28 days. In coming to that view, we were much influenced by the corrosive effect which prolonged uncertainty has on the detainees themselves. There was much evidence to that effect, both from the detainees and the experts.

Baroness Ruth Lister, who also served on the inquiry panel, added that:

What became clear during the inquiry was the disconnect between official policy and what actually happens. The current Home Office guidance that detention should be used sparingly and for the shortest possible period is rendered ineffective by working practices and culture.

A third panel member, Baroness Sally Hamwee, noted the international evidence submitted during the inquiry:

The evidence is that compliance rates from community-based arrangements for looking after asylum seekers are very high, and of course that is a much less expensive way of going about the work. There are relatively few absconds. The case management model used in Sweden is based on early intervention and a welfare and rights framework. Individuals feel that they are given a fair hearing—and if they have to leave, they can make their own arrangements with dignity. This inquiry has said to me, among other things, that one of the things that is most lacking is dignity. A fair process means that the outcome is much more readily accepted, so it is effective in every sense.

In total, 15 Members of the House of Lords spoke during the debate, which can be watched online here. The full Hansard report of the debate is available by clicking here. During the debate, a number of Peers mentioned a letter from the Immigration Minister, James Brokenshire, that was sent to Sarah Teather, the Chair of the inquiry panel. This letter can be found on the correspondence page of this site.

Time For a Time Limit – Parliamentarians call for a 28 day maximum time limit on immigration detention to be introduced

A cross-party group of MPs and Peers has recommended that the next government should introduce a maximum time limit of 28 days on the length of time anyone can be detained in immigration detention. The call comes in a report published today following a joint inquiry into the use of immigration detention in the UK by the APPG on Refugees and the APPG on Migration.

The panel, which included a former Cabinet Minister, a former Chief Inspector of Prisons, and a former law lord, considered evidence over 8 months, and three panel members visited the Swedish Migration Board to discuss with officials and parliamentarians the role detention plays in the Swedish immigration system.

The inquiry panel conclude that the enforcement-focused culture of the Home Office means that official guidance, which states that detention should be used sparingly and for the shortest possible time, is not being followed, resulting in too many instances of unnecessary detention.

The panel recommend that the UK government should learn from best practice abroad where alternatives to detention are used, which not only allow individuals to live in the community, but which also allow the government to maintain immigration control at a much lower cost to the state.

The panel argues that depriving an individual of their liberty for the purposes of immigration detention should be an absolute last resort and only used to effect removal.

The UK is the only country in the European Union not to have an upper time limit on detention, and the panel conclude that the lack of a time limit has significant mental health costs for detainees, as well as considerable financial costs to the taxpayer.

The panel also:

  • recommend that there should be a presumption in favour of community-based resolutions, which focus on intensive engagement with individuals in community settings, rather than relying on enforcement and detention;
  • conclude that the Detained Fast Track does not allow asylum seekers to receive the support they need and is not conducive to high quality decision making;
  • are concerned that individuals being held under immigration powers are increasingly being held in conditions tantamount to high security prison settings;
  • recommend that women who are victims of rape and sexual violence should not be detained and that pregnant women should never be detained for immigration purposes;
  • were shocked by the personal testimony they heard of people suffering from mental health conditions who were detained for prolonged periods of time and conclude that current Home Office policy puts the health of detainees at serious risk;
  • recommend that screening processes are improved to ensure that victims of trafficking are not detained and that when GPs complete a Rule 35 report they make a clinical judgement over whether any injuries are consistent with the account of torture; and
  • are concerned that current arrangements for challenging continued detention are not working and that many individuals in detention are unable to access high quality legal advice.

Sarah Teather MP, Chair of the inquiry panel and Lib Dem MP for Brent Central, said:

“The UK is an outlier in not having a time limit on detention. During the inquiry, we heard about the huge uncertainty this causes people to live with, not knowing if tomorrow they will be released, removed from the country, or continue being in detention.

“As a panel, we have concluded that the current system is expensive, ineffective and unjust. We are calling the next Government to learn from the alternatives to detention that focus on engagement with individuals in their communities, rather than relying on enforcement and deprivation of liberty.”

Paul Blomfield MP, Vice-chair of the panel and Labour MP for Sheffield Central, said:

“Current Home Office policy is that detention should be used as a last resort and for the shortest possible time. From the evidence that we heard, Home Office standard practice falls well short of this policy.

“In our report, we recommend that far fewer people should be detained, that detention should always be a last resort, and that it should only ever be for a maximum of 28 days. Other countries manage to maintain immigration control without resorting to indefinite detention. So can we.”

David Burrowes MP, a member of the inquiry panel and Conservative MP for Enfield Southgate, said:

“This inquiry is an unusual one. Immigration is on the political agenda but rarely do we unite on a cross party basis and consider the issue of immigration detention.

“The lack of a time limit is resulting in people being locked up for months and, in some cases, several years purely for administrative reasons. While there is a need to properly control our borders, people who arrive by fair means or foul must also be treated with dignity and respect throughout the immigration process.”

“The current system is failing to sufficiently do this and our report calls for an urgent rethink. We should follow the example of other countries where rates of detention are much lower and removal rates much higher.”

Immigration Detention Inquiry to hold second oral evidence session

The Parliamentary Inquiry into the use of Immigration Detention in the UK, hosted by the APPG on Refugees and the APPG on Migration, will hold its second oral evidence session on Thursday 6 November 2014 at 10am in Committee Room 6, House of Commons.

The panel will hear evidence from:

At 10.00am:

  • Bamidele, ex-detainee
  • Penny, ex-detainee
  • Other ex-detainees TBC

At c.10.40am:

  • Dr John Chisholm, British Medical Association
  • Dr Naomi Hartree, Medical Justice
  • Dr Danny Allen

At c.11.20pm:

  • Justine Stefanelli, the Bingham Centre for the Rule of Law
  • Adeline Trude, Bail for Immigration Detainees
  • Kay Everett, Immigration Law Practioners’ Association
  • Bhatt Murphy

Panel Members:

  • Sarah Teather MP
  • Paul Blomfield MP
  • David Burrowes MP
  • Caroline Spelman MP
  • Jon Cruddas MP
  • Julian Huppert MP
  • Richard Fuller MP
  • Baroness Lister
  • Baroness Hamwee
  • Lord Ramsbotham
  • Lord Lloyd of Berwick

The above meeting is open to members of the public. It is advisable to allow about 20 minutes to pass through security checks. There is no system for the prior reservation of seats for the meeting. Members of the public enter via the Cromwell Green visitor entrance to Parliament.

For more information, please contact Jon Featonby on 020 7219 8147 or click here.

Updates on the inquiry can also be found via the APPG on Refugees twitter feed: @APPGRefugees.

Transcript of first oral evidence session

The transcript of the first oral evidence session, which took place on July 17 2014, is now available by clicking here: first evidence session_transcript.

The panel first heard evidence from Shami Chakrabarti (Director, Liberty) and Jerome Phelps (Director, Detention Action), who answered questions from the panel on, amongst others subjects, access to legal support and indefinite detention.

Detention Action’s written evidence to the inquiry can be read here: detention-action-detention-inquiry-evidence-0714.

The panel then spoke directly to three detainees currently held in Colnbrook Immigration Removal Centre by phone link. The detainees told the panel about their own experiences in detention.

The third set of witnesses to give evidence were three former detainees: Alice, Maimuna and Souleymane. They told the panel about their experiences trying to access medical support, and about how their detention had effected their mental health.

Lastly, the panel heard from Dr Cornelius Katona and Dr Katy Robjant, both from the Royal College of Psychiatry and the Helen Bamber Foundation. Dr Katona and Dr Robjant discussed their own work with clients who had experience immigration detention, as well as the international evidence relating to the impact of detention on mental health outcomes.

An article on the mental health implications of detaining asylum seekers, co-authored by Dr Katona and Dr Robjant, is available here: Robjant Hassan and Katona 2009.

The panel would like to encourage all interested parties to submit written evidence to the inquiry. The deadline for submitting written evidence is 1 October 2014. 


Detention inquiry invites written evidence


The inquiry invites written evidence from a broad range of stakeholders, including government representatives and civil servants, local authorities, charities, researchers, and voluntary organisations working with detainees and individual detainees, former detainees and families of detainees themselves. We understand that many of the organisations working with detainees are small and may be unable to provide comprehensive evidence on all points. We would welcome your views on the basis of the expertise that you have.  If you work directly with a small organisation and want help with facilitating a session gathering evidence from detainees, we may be able to put you in touch with someone who can help with that.  Evidence from people who have had direct personal experience of immigration detention is particularly welcomed.  You will find suggested questions outlined below.

We recommend that submissions of evidence follow the guidelines below.

For those with direct experience of immigration detention, please include as much information as you can about:

  • The conditions in immigration detention, including your ability to access services such as legal advice, healthcare, pastoral support;
  • Whether there were appropriate mechanisms to deal with any mental, physical or emotional issues  you may have experienced prior to or during your time in detention;
  • Any longer-term impacts of detention on you, your family and/or your wider community;
  • Any other information about detention that you would like to share.

For all other respondents, please address some/all of the following questions, supporting your answers with examples and evidence where possible:

  • What are your views on the current conditions within UK immigration detention centres, including detainees’ access to advice and services?  Please highlight any areas where you think that improvements could be made.
  • How far does the current detention system support the needs of vulnerable detainees, including pregnant women, detainees with a disability and young adults?
  • What are the impacts of immigration detention on individuals, family and social networks, and wider communities?
  • There is currently no time limit on immigration detention – in your view what are the impacts (if any) of this?
  • Are the current arrangements for authorizing detention appropriate?
  • What are the wider consequences of the current immigration detention system, including any financial and/or social implications?
  • How effective are the current UK alternatives to detention (e.g. bail, reporting requirements)? Are viable alternatives to immigration detention in operation in other countries?

The deadline for the submission of written evidence is 1st October 2014. As a guideline, submissions should be:

  1. In word format with limited use of colour
  2. No more than 3000 words
  3. Include numbered paragraphs
  4. Include information about your organisation


Please send electronic evidence to


You can send a hard copy of your evidence to: Detention Inquiry, Office of Sarah Teather MP, House of Commons, Westminster, SW1A 0AA


The panel will hold oral evidence sessions during July and October 2014. Location tbc. Please contact Jonathan Featonby on 0207 219 8147 or if you wish to be considered.

Parliamentarians to hold inquiry into immigration detention

A cross-party panel of parliamentarians will hold an inquiry into the use of immigration detention, it was announced today. The inquiry, which will be chaired by Liberal Democrat MP Sarah Teather, will examine the use of detention in the UK immigration and asylum systems, with a particular focus on the conditions within detention centres, the impact on individual detainees and their families, the wider financial and social consequences, how detention is used in other countries, and the future role of detention within the immigration system.

The inquiry, which will be jointly run by the APPG on Refugees and the APPG on Migration, will hold several oral evidence sessions in parliament. The panel invites written evidence from interested groups and individuals, including those who have experience of being detained for immigration purposes.

The members of the panel are:

  • Sarah Teather MP
  • Paul Blomfield MP
  • David Burrowes MP
  • Caroline Spelman MP
  • Jon Cruddas MP
  • Julian Huppert MP
  • Richard Fuller MP
  • Baroness Lister
  • Baroness Hamwee
  • Lord Ramsbotham
  • Lord Lloyd of Berwick

Commenting on the launch of the inquiry, panel chair Sarah Teather said:

“I am very pleased that we are launching this inquiry today. In the light of several high profile incidents within detention centres, including sexual abuse and deaths, there is a clear need for parliamentary scrutiny of how and why we detain people for immigration purposes.”

Chair of the APPG on Migration, Paul Blomfield MP, added:

“This is an important issue and this inquiry is very timely. I hope that we will receive evidence from a wide range of individuals and groups, including those who have been detained themselves.”