Home Office statistics reveal stalled reduction in use of immigration detention

August 22, 2019

Detention Action Press Release – for immediate release

Thursday 22 August 2019
Official Home Office statistics released today reveal that the UK is on course to detain around 24,000 people for the second year running,[1] despite the Government’s commitment to deliver a reduction in the number of people held in immigration detention.

The statistics also show that, while the stated purpose of immigration detention is to facilitate removal from the UK, around 60% of those entering detention are released back into the community rather than removed. The proportion of those removed from the UK after entering detention has declined dramatically from 64% in 2011 to just 41%,[2] leading to concerns over whether detention is being used as a last resort and in line with its stated purpose.

These latest figures come despite statements earlier this year that “[t]he Home Secretary has committed to deliver a reduction in the numbers of those detained and their length of stay before removal,“[3] and shortly after the Government’s recent rejection of cross-party calls for a 28-day time limit on immigration detention.[4]

The UK’s system of indefinite immigration detention has come under increased scrutiny, with recommendations for a time limit coming this year in highly critical reports by the Home Affairs Select Committee, Joint Committee on Human Rights and HM Inspector of Prisons.

In March of this year, the Home Affairs Select Committee “found serious problems with almost every element of the immigration detention system.”[5]

Proposals for the introduction of statutory safeguards such as a 28-day time limit have been set down in a widely supported cross-party amendment to the Immigration and Social Security Coordination (EU Withdrawal) Bill currently before Parliament. The Amendment is supported by over 80 MPs including a significant number of Conservatives, such as David Davis, Andrew Mitchell, Caroline Spelman, Crispin Blunt and Dominic Grieve. In addition, it has received the support of opposition frontbenches, and several Independent MPs.

The proposed reforms would set down in law, for the first time: a system for early and automatic judicial oversight of decisions to detain; a 28-day statutory time limit on detention; and safeguards against unjustified redetention.

Commenting, Acting Director of Detention Action James Wilson said: “The Government’s commitment to reducing the number of people held in immigration detention is welcome, but these latest figures show that efforts to do so without meaningful reform of the system are having little effect.

“This new Government must now engage seriously with proposals for reform coming from within the Conservative Party, as well as across Parliament and civil society. The proposed package of measures, a 28-day time limit, statutory criteria for detention and vital judicial oversight of decisions to detain, is sensible and workable, which is reflected in the wide support it has received”

Mishka of Freed Voices, a group of experts-by-experience who have experienced detention and are committed to speaking out, said: “It sounds like a bad joke for divided times, but I often ask people what they think would get David Davis, Caroline Lucas, Andrew Mitchell, Diane Abbott, Dominic Grieve and Harriet Harman all in agreement? The answer is reform of our system of indefinite immigration detention.

“Today’s statistics are a reminder that if the Government really wants to deliver on its commitment to reducing detention, it must start listening to the experts and implement widely supported fundamental changes like a time limit for all.” 

For media enquiries please contact Matthew Leidecker on 07720302825 or by email to matthew@detentionaction.org.uk.
[1] Projection for the remainder of 2019, based on total number of people entering detention in 2018, and the Mean average of quarterly statistics since the start of 2019.

Total entering detention 2018: 24,773
Total entering detention in Q1 of 2019 (January-March): 6,153
Total entering detention in Q2 of 2019 (April-June): 5,785
Detention Action’s projection for this year based on the Mean value of Q1 and Q2: 23,876

Full statistics available at: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/immigration-statistics-year-ending-june-2019/how-many-people-are-detained-or-returned

[2] Based on figures for people leaving detention in 2019:

Total people leaving detention in Q2 (April-June) of 2019: 5,878
Total people leaving detention due to being removed from the UK in Q2 2019: 2,249 (38%)
Total granted Secretary of State bail, Immigration Tribunal bail, and leave to enter/remain in Q2 2019: 3,550 (60%)
Full statistics available at: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/immigration-statistics-year-ending-june-2019/how-many-people-are-detained-or-returned

[5] House of Commons Home Affairs Committee Immigration Detention Report, March 2019 https://publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201719/cmselect/cmhaff/913/913.pdf
Are you in detention? / 0800 587 2096 / How we can help