UPDATE: immigration detention, COVID-19 and where we stand now

“If no one catches Coronavirus, it will be a miracle”

We’ve had some amazing successes recently, and you may have seen Detention Action in the news (some recent links to stories below) – here’s an update on what’s been happening.

The UK’s system of indefinite immigration detention is inhumane and an extreme human rights abuse. During the COVID crisis, people in detention have been faced with a grave threat to life, but we have been here to fight for them – and we’re winning.

In just over a month, more than 700 people have been released from immigration detention. Figures we obtained from our legal challenge against the Government show that there are now just 368 people held in detention centres. This includes just 13 women at Yarl’s Wood.

These are amazing achievements for our campaign – detention is down to its lowest level in at least 10 years. 

This has been the result of legal action and public pressure from all of us. Thousands have signed the emergency COVID petition, exposing what’s happening in our detention centres, and showing the government just how many oppose their brutal and inhumane policies.

But there’s still plenty of work to do.


Urgent Protect people in immigration detention from COVID-19.

COVID-19 poses a grave threat to life in immigration detention centres, where hundreds are warehoused in unsanitary conditions and many have serious health conditions. Sign the petition to force the Government to act before it’s too late

Add my name

We know that many of those still in detention are highly vulnerable. Our records show over 40 cases of trafficking, torture, or other vulnerability in our client group alone. Many also have risky conditions like asthma or diabetes.

We’re hearing really worrying reports from our clients, including:

  • Many still are in detention centres crowded onto single wings, making it impossible to social distance.
  • More people are being brought into detention centres despite the known risks and not even being quarantined.
  • There is STILL a lack of access to essentials like soap, sanitiser and cleaning products.

For those left in detention, the distress is more intense than ever, and our clients are fearing for their lives. 

We also know that the Home Office is going ahead with unjust deportations, despite the huge risk to everyone involved. One woman told us she had been cramped onto a small private plane with 80 staff and deportees. Safe social distancing was impossible. She said that one guard even commented that if no one caught Coronavirus it would be a miracle.

People still in detention need us now more than ever, and we won’t stop fighting until every single one of them is safe from harm.

In this crisis, no one should be left behind. Thank you, and stay safe.

In the media

It is impossible to socially distance in immigration detention centres – everyone inside them must be freed

Home Office accused of pressuring judiciary over immigration decisions

Coronavirus: Asylum seekers and detainees unable to get tests despite confirmed cases in living facilities