The UK has been at the forefront of the growth of immigration detention, across Europe and the world. Detention has come to be seen as central to a response to irregular migration based on enforcement, coercion and deterrence. The UK now has one of the largest detention estates in Europe and is the only State to use detention without time limit.
Yet there appears to be a growing realisation that the focus on detention and enforcement is expensive and often ineffective, causing incalculable harm to migrants and their families whilst often failing to achieve migration governance objectives. Detention alienates individuals and communities, making them see immigration and asylum systems as hostile and unjust. Yet migration governance requires a certain level of trust and cooperation; it cannot be effective if it does not have some level of consent of communities affected.