Long-term immigration detention criticised by HMIP – Detention Action’s response

Long-term immigration detention criticised by HMIP

Today’s joint report of HM Inspectorate of Prisons and the Independent Chief Inspector of Borders and Immigration finds serious problems in the long-term detention of migrants.

According to the law and the policy of the UK Border Agency, detention can only be used as a last resort, but the Inspectorates raised concerns that this is not always the case.  The Inspectorates conclude that “Detention of ex-prisoners appeared to have become the norm rather than as a rigorously governed last resort.”

The charity Detention Action which works with people in detention has evidence that nearly two thirds of people who are released after a year of being held in detention which wastes £75 million each year.

Jerome Phelps, Director of Detention Action, said “The UK is alone in Europe in detaining migrants for long periods without time limit.  This gives unacceptable scope for bad decision-making to lead to indefinite detention.  Today’s report is further evidence of a failing system. People in detention for long periods of time tell us it’s like mental torture because they do not know when they will be free. And there is evidence that physical and mental health deteriorates rapidly. There is an urgent need for a time limit on immigration detention in the UK.”

Nigel Caleb, Director of the charity Detention Advice Service, which provides independent immigration advice to foreign national prisoners and immigration detainees, said “We welcome the report’s scrutiny of a system that is, quite simply, not working. As the Inspectorates have highlighted, former prisoners are being detained for long periods after the completion of their sentence, even where those sentences are short. A time limit on immigration detention is clearly needed.”

Souleyman who was detained for over 3 years said “Indefinite detention is wrong.  Government wants people to give up and go home. And there’s nothing you can do. We are powerless and it is hard to survive in detention for a long time. It’s wasting money every day. It’s expensive.  Officers are doing their jobs, they are not enemies but the government is wasting money.  And then if you are locked up for so long you can take your case to the high court for unlawful detention. Then the government loses more money through compensation. This is millions of pounds that can be put somewhere else, like for the youth or to train people or rehabilitation.”


For more information please call Kate Blagojevic at Detention Action on 020 7226 3114

For further information regarding the £75 million cost to the tax payer, please see the report which can be found here

The joint report from the Inspectorates also found that detained migrants with mental health conditions “were not dealt with in the light of their individual circumstances or in accordance with UKBA’s stated policy.”  More than half of the migrants interviewed in detention had mental health problems, including post-traumatic stress disorder and suicidal tendencies.  A torture victim had been detained without clear indication of the exceptional circumstances that made detention necessary.