Press Release: Indefinite immigration detention – leading NGOs call on leadership candidates to support a time limit

June 13, 2019

Detention Action Press Release – for immediate release

Thursday 13 June 2019

UK’s policy of indefinite immigration detention ‘contrary to the Rule of Law’ – leading human rights, migrant and LGBTQI+ groups call on Conservative leadership candidates to support reform.

20 leading human rights, migrant and LGBTQI+ groups are calling on Conservative Party leadership contenders to commit to supporting the introduction of a 28 day time limit on immigration detention.

In a joint letter to each of the candidates[1], the groups said that indefinite immigration detention represents “one of the most egregious injustices in the UK today”, and called on candidates to pledge their support for the growing cross-party consensus in favour of a statutory time limit.

Signatories to the letter include Detention Action, the3million, Refugee Council, Liberty, National Aids Trust, UK Lesbian & Gay Immigration Group, Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants and Women for Refugee Women (full list below).

The letter asks candidates to put their names to the Cross Party Time Limit on Immigration Detention Amendment tabled to the Immigration & Social Security (EU Withdrawal) Bill currently before Parliament[2].

The Bill is waiting to be scheduled for Report Stage in the House of Commons but it has been rumoured that it has been stalled because the Government fears it may lose a vote on the time limit amendment.

More than 80 MPs have already added their names to the amendment, including a significant number of Conservatives, such as Andrew Mitchell, Caroline Spelman, Crispin Blunt, David Davis, Dominic Grieve, Henry Smith, Maria Caulfield, Pauline Latham and Steve Double. In addition, the amendment has received the support of the Labour, SNP, DUP, Liberal Democrat, Plaid Cymru, Change UK, and Green frontbenches and several Independent MPs.

The widely-supported amendment would introduce, for the first time, external scrutiny over decisions to detain through automatic bail hearings after 96 hours and a 28 day time limit for all. The package would establish careful and workable checks and balances on the use of immigration detention, allowing the Home Office to use its detention powers in line with its stated policy while ensuring that detention is used sparingly and for the shortest period possible.

The calls follow the release of three damaging reports on immigration detention so far this year, from the Home Affairs Select Committee, the JointCommittee on Human Rights, and HM Inspector of Prisons, all of which called for the introduction of a time limit. The Home Affairs Select Committee “found serious problems with almost every element of the immigration detention system.”[3]

In addition, just last month, a study published by Liberty found that a time limit on immigration detention could save the taxpayer £35million per year.[4]

Commenting, Bella Sankey, Director of Detention Action, said: “Anyone wanting to become the next Prime Minister must show the country that they will bring fresh thinking and reject failed policies of the past. Our system of indefinite immigration detention is rotten by any measure. It is punitive, hopelessly ineffective and needlessly expensive, as report after report has shown. Leadership candidates who want to demonstrate support for human rights and the Rule of Law should listen to experts and MPs from across Parliament and within the Conservative Party, and pledge support for these sensible reforms.”


For media enquiries please contact Matthew Leidecker on 07950387130 or by email to


[1] Example letter to Boris Johnson, with full list of signatories, available here
Full list of signatories:
Bella Sankey (Director) – Detention Action
Nicolas Hatton (CEO) – the3million
Mia Hasenson-Gross (Executive Director) – René Cassin
Matthew Hodson (Executive Director) – NAM
Ruth Jacobson (Chair) – The Verne Visitors Group)
Nina Rathbone Pullen (Partner) – Wilsons Solicitors LLP
Deborah Gold (Chief Executive) –National Aids Trust
Siobhán Lanigan (Chief Executive) – The Food Chain
Leila Zadeh (Executive Director) – UK Lesbian & Gay Immigration Group
Dr Fred Ashmore (Detention Representative) – Quaker Asylum and Refugee Network
Anna Pincus (Director) – Gatwick Detainees Welfare Group
David Herd (Coordinator) – Refugee Tales
John Skipworth (Chair) – Liberal Democrats for Seekers of Sanctuary)
Satbir Singh (Chief Executive) – Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants
Martha Spurrier (Director) – Liberty
Natasha Walter (Director) – Women for Refugee Women
Rami Ghali (Chief Executive Officer) – Brigstowe
Maurice Wren (Chief Executive) – Refugee Council
Marta Welander (Executive Director) – Refugee Rights Europe
Freed Voices
Are you in detention? / 0800 587 2096 / How we can help