Detention Centres

Information last updated on May 4, 2022

The network of immigration detention centres around the country, often known as the ‘detention estate’, is made up of Immigration Removal Centres (IRCs) and Short Term Holding Facilities (STHFs).

People can be held at residential STHFs for up to seven days before being removed from the UK, released, or moved to an IRC. People detained at IRCs are held indefinitely. People can also be held under immigration powers in prisons.

More than half are eventually released back into the community in the UK, their detention having served no purpose.

Detention Action supports people being held in Colnbrook and Harmondsworth IRCs near Heathrow airport and people held under immigration powers in prisons.




People often have deportation proceedings brought against them following prison sentences. Many of these people are then kept in prison indefinitely under immigration powers following the end of their sentences.

People held in prison are being held under the same powers as people in IRCs, but they tend to have stricter conditions. For example, they are not allowed phones, visiting is harder, they do not have legal surgeries, and lack access to vulnerability screenings (R35) that apply in IRCs.

Detention Action provides emotional and practical support for people held in under immigration powers in prisons.

Other IRCs

For information on visiting and support groups for detention centres around the country, see AVID’s website.

Are you in detention? / 0800 587 2096 / How we can help