Indefinite immigration detention – where do the parties stand?

With elections imminent, we take a look at where the UK’s main political parties stand on indefinite immigration detention.

These are divided times, but when you get David Davis (Con), Gavin Robinson (DUP), Dominic Grieve (Con), Diane Abbott (Lab), Harriet Harman (Lab), Anna Soubry (Change UK), Vince Cable (Lib Dem), Caroline Lucas (Green), and many more, all agreeing on something, it must be important.

David Davis called the locking up of migrants in indefinite detention a ‘national shame’. But it’s about more than words – nearly 80 MPs have signed a detailed proposed law that would end this practice. Under this law there would be a strict 28-day time limit on detention.

Here’s where the parties stand:


In February, nine Conservative MPs, including five former cabinet ministers, wrote to the Home Secretary with a simple demand: “Stop holding migrants for more than 28 days in detention centres.

Key Conservative MPs have signed the proposed time limit law and spoken out. More continue to sign, most recently Crispin Blunt, Pauline Latham and Steve Double. But many are still undecided. Caroline Spelman, Dominic Grieve and Andrew Mitchell are among the key supporters of a time limit.


Labour included an end to indefinite detention in its 2017 manifesto.

The proposed time limit law is supported by Labour’s frontbench, and many Labour MPs have spoken out.

“Unaccountable, arbitrary, indefinite detention is a human rights abuse. It’s a cruel anomaly in our system”
Harriet Harman MP (Lab)


The DUP entered into a confidence-and-supply arrangement with the government after the last election and is critical to the functioning of Theresa May’s government.

The DUP frontbench has signed the proposed time limit law, and key MPs have spoken out, including Gavin Robinson.

Liberal Democrat

The Lib Dem 2017 manifesto included an end to indefinite detention and the frontbench has signed the proposed time limit law. Key MPs have also spoken out in support.

“This is unacceptable, unjust and un-British. At the very least, let us set a 28-day deadline on how long someone can be detained.”
Tim Farron MP

Scottish National Party

The SNP committed to pressing for a 28-day time limit in its manifesto, and its frontbench has signed the proposed time limit law. Key MPs have also spoken out. Alison Thewliss, MP for Glasgow Central, is the Chair of the newly-formed All Party Parliamentary Group on Immigration Detention.

“It is an affront to democracy and the rule of law. It is a human rights disgrace and the Bill should be used to scrap it altogether.”
Stuart C. McDonald MP

Green Party

The Green manifesto calls for a 28-day time limit on immigration detention and the Green frontbench has signed the proposed time limit law. Caroline Lucas has spoken out against indefinite detention.

“When I finally got into Yarl’s Wood, what came over to me from my conversations with the women I met is the mental torture, the arbitrariness, of not knowing why they had been taken.”
Caroline Lucas MP

Plaid Cymru

The Plaid frontbench has signed the proposed time limit law, and key MPs have spoken out.

In 2018, the Plaid led Gwynedd Council became the first Welsh County Council to pass a motion calling on the government to put an end to the indefinite detention.

Change UK

Change UK (formerly The Independent Group) MPs have signed the proposed time limit law, including Heidi Allen, Anna Soubry and Joan Ryan.

The Brexit Party

The breakaway party founded by former Ukip leader Nigel Farage has yet to declare its position on indefinite detention, but polls indicate it is set to win the most seats in the European Parliament elections.

What’s clear is that putting an end to indefinite immigration detention has broad appeal among the political parties, and the potential saving of £35m to the taxpayer will be of interest to any politician.