End Indefinite Detention

Information last updated on December 14, 2018

Indefinite detention causes immeasurable and unnecessary harm. It is a breach of human rights. It has to end.

It’s #Time4aTimeLimit.

The UK is an outlier for its use of indefinite detention. Migrants, including asylum seekers, EU nationals, and torture and trafficking survivors, are held without a time limit in the UK.

Despite promised reform, progress has been piecemeal and slow. The UK’s over-reliance on detention is not only ineffective and expensive, but also incredibly harmful.


Long term detention does not lead to higher deportation rates. In fact, the longer someone is detained, the more likely that they will be released from detention. When someone is detained for over 28 days their chances of being removed actually decrease.


The cost of running the detention estate in 2013/14 was £164.4m. Independent research by Matrix Evidence has found that £76 million per year is wasted on the long-term detention of migrants who are ultimately released. In addition, between 2012 and 2015 the Home Office paid out almost £14 million in compensation following claims for unlawful detention.


The physical and mental health problems caused by detention are well documented. Since 2000, at least 49 people have died in UK detention centres. Incidents of self harm are now recorded at more than one a day.

“For me, not having a time limit had a huge impact on my mental health. The stress and anxiety of indefinite detention is unimaginable. When I was released it was like coming out of a cave. I couldn’t sleep and couldn’t trust anybody. I still have to fight hard to not think back to that mental torture.”
– Souleymane, Freed Voices

“Indefinite detention is a mental torture. After a while your brain begins to melt. I saw people forget how to spell their names in there.”
– Kasonga, Freed Voices

Take Action

Write to your MP: Read this template letter which covers the main points you will need. You can find your MP’s contact information and write to them here. If possible, personalise the letter for more impact.

Meet your MP: Book an appointment with your MP at their surgery to ask them to support an end to indefinite detention.

Plan an event with Detention Action: Contact us to find out more.

Follow our #Time4aTimeLimit campaign on social media: Keep the debate alive and let people know about indefinite detention.

Are you in detention? / 0800 587 2096 / How we can help