UN Committee back British Parliamentarians’ call for a time limit

Detention Action welcome the news that parliamentarians have called on the Government to take action following a recommendation of a UN Committee that a time limit on the length of time an individual can be held in immigration detention should be introduced. This echoes the call made by a cross-party group of parliamentarians earlier this year, who recommended that no one should be detained in immigration detention for longer than 28 days.


The recommendation was issued by the UN Human Rights Committee, a body of 18 international experts who monitor the implementation of the international covenant on civil and political rights, which was making its first review of Britain since 2008. In their report, the Committee said it “is concerned that no fixed time limit on the duration of detention in Immigration Removal Centres has been established and that individuals may be detained for prolonged periods. “

Earlier this year, a cross-party group of Parliamentarians published a report into immigration detention, in which they concluded that the enforcement-focused culture of the Home Office means that official guidance, which states that detention should be used sparingly and for the shortest possible time, is not being followed, resulting in too many instances of unnecessary detention.

As well as calling for a 28 day time limit, they recommended that the UK government should learn from best practice abroad where alternatives to detention are used, which not only allow individuals to live in the community, but which also allow the government to maintain immigration control at a much lower cost to the state.

Three of the Parliamentarians who published the report, Conservatives David Burrowes and Richard Fuller and Labour MP Paul Blomfield, have secured a debate on the report in the House of Commons that will take place on 10 September.

Currently, the UK is the only EU country not to have an upper time limit on the length of time someone can be held in immigration detention.

Commenting on the UN recommendation, David Burrowes, Conservative MP for Enfield Southgate, said:

“It is very welcome that this UN Committee has backed our call for the Government to introduce a time limit on immigration detention. It was clear from our inquiry that the lack of a time limit has very serious mental health consequences for people who can find themselves locked up for months on end, if not years.

“While there is a need to properly control our borders, all those who enter our country should be treated with fairness and dignity. The UK Government should learn from other countries who detained far fewer people while having higher removal rates.”

Paul Blomfield, Labour MP for Sheffield Central, added:

“The UK is alone among EU states in detaining people indefinitely for immigration purposes. While Home Office policy states that detention should always be for the shortest possible time, in reality this is clearly not the case.

“The current system is expensive, ineffective and unjust. I urge the Government to respond positively to the UN Committee and our inquiry report.”