Our Campaigns

At Detention Action we have campaigned consistently and successfully against human rights abuses in the immigration, detention and deportation systems. We work to:

  • Change harmful policies
  • Stand up for the rights of people in immigration detention
  • Prevent unjust deportations
  • Bring landmark legal challenges to protect people’s rights

To achieve our goals, we work closely with Allies for Justice and Families for Justice; experts by experience campaigning for the rights of individuals and their families affected by indefinite detention and unjust deportation.

We are facing a government that is increasingly hostile towards refugees, people seeking asylum and people who have migrated to the UK. They plan to expand immigration detention to new levels and even plans to subject children to the cruelty of indefinite detention.


From late 2021, we publicly opposed proposals to remove people seeking asylum “offshore” to a third country. With our supporters, we warned MPs and peers of the grave dangers posed by such policies. Working with other experts, we opposed the inclusion of such powers in the government’s new immigration legislation.
However, in April 2022, the Home Secretary announced an agreement with the authoritarian regime of Rwanda to remove people seeking asylum to that country.
Along with two other organisations and a number of people targeted by the policy , we brought a landmark legal challenge against the agreement. We argued that, among other injustices, the UK-Rwanda deal would forcibly remove people to a country where their rights and safety would be at risk.
In November 2023, the Supreme Court ruled that the UK-Rwanda removals agreement is unlawful, as it would subject people seeking asylum to a significant risk of being returned to persecution in the countries they had fled. This decision was made based on the appalling human rights record of the Rwandan regime and the many fundamental flaws in its asylum system.

Beginning in 2020, we played a crucial role in preventing the cruel and unnecessary deportation of dozens of people who were being forced onto removal flights by Home Secretary Priti Patel. Our public actions and legal interventions helped to prevent the removal of Windrush generation descendants, survivors of trafficking and victims of Modern Slavery.

At the end of 2020, over 90 high profile individuals signed our public letter to airlines operating charter deportation flights to Jamaica. Signatories included the author Bernardine Evaristo, model Naomi Campbell, historian David Olusoga and actors Naomie Harris and Thandie Newton, as well as lawyers, broadcasters and NGO chiefs. Leading Windrush campaigners including Michael Braithwaite and Elwaldo Romeo also added their names.

In June 2022, through Casework and campaigning we helped to prevent 18 people from being unlawfully removed to Jamaica, including some who would have been torn away from their children and families in the UK.

Unlike most countries in Europe, the UK government currently has no time limit on how long a person can be kept in immigration detention. Detaining people indefinitely – with no time limit on their detention – is a severe injustice.

Detaining people with no idea of when they will be released has been shown to cause severe and long-term damage to their mental health. Around 80% of the population in immigration detention are estimated to suffer from depression and the risk of depression increases with the length of a person’s detention.

Detention Action is committed to ending indefinite detention in the UK. Over the past several years, our call for a time limit has gained significant support, being backed by:

We will continue to campaign for an end to this draconian practice. It’s time for a time limit on detention.

In May 2020, as the country faced the fear and uncertainty of the COVID-19 pandemic, Detention Action led campaigning and brought a groundbreaking legal challenge that saw almost 1,000 people released from immigration detention.

Following our calls to protect people in detention from COVID-19 by releasing them into safe, alternative accommodation, immigration detention numbers dropped to their lowest level in a decade.

Thousands of people signed our emergency petition, exposing what was happening in detention centres and showing the government how the British public oppose their inhumane policies.

Until the success of our legal challenge in 2015, many people arriving in the UK to claim asylum were detained immediately. Under the Detained Fast Track or ‘DFT’, their asylum claims were processed while they were locked up in high security immigration detention centres.

This was a problem because the decision to fast-track an asylum case was made when very little was known about the person’s situation. As a result, vulnerable people with complex cases, including victims of torture, trafficking, gender-based violence and homophobic persecution, were regularly detained.

Wrongly entering the DFT had devastating effects on a vulnerable person’s chances of successfully claiming asylum. For many years, the Home Office refused 99% of asylum claims which they placed on the DFT.

Between 2013 and 2015, Detention Action brought a series of challenges to the legality of the DFT in the courts. We won. The Court of Appeal found that the judicial rules setting the tight timescales for people seeking asylum to make appeals were unlawful and that the strict time limits in and of themselves were ‘structurally unfair’.

In January 2017, the High Court found that people seeking asylum on the DFT had been denied justice in detention for ten years. The ruling was further recognition that the DFT allowed thousands of people to be deported without ever having a lawful hearing of their case.

They told us not to worry; that we would be safer inside the centre, but the residents were terrified and one group threatened to strike.

A few days later people were being let go; 15 or 16 people a day.

Jolene, a woman detained during COVID-19

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