About detention


Immigration detention is the practice of incarcerating people for administrative immigration purposes. In the UK, people are detained indefinitely in prison-like conditions while their immigration or asylum claim is processed. It is unnecessary, expensive and inhumane.


people were indefinitely detained in 2018. The government claims people are held ‘as a last resort’.


are released back into the community, their detention having served no purpose


of people currently in detention (December 2018) have been held for over 28 days.


cost to the taxpayer to detain someone for a year. The detention system costs over £100m per year


compensation paid by the government for unlawful detentions since 2012


country in Europe with no time limit on immigration detention (the UK)

The impact of detention

Health problems

People in detention are routinely denied adequate healthcare and there is a crisis of self harm. More than one person a day self harms in UK detention centres.

Legal problems

Immigration detention is one of the most severe human rights breaches in the UK. People in detention are routinely denied access to justice.

Alternatives to detention

Community-based alternatives to detention are less harmful, more effective and significantly cheaper than the current system.

Detention centres


Harmondsworth is near Heathrow airport and is the largest detention centre in Europe, with capacity to detain over 600 people.


Colnbrook is adjacent to Harmondsworth and can hold around 400 people, including at a short term holding facility for families.