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Immigration detention in the UK: an overview

Home Office officials have the power to detain asylum seekers, as well as unauthorised migrants who do not enter the asylum system, for administrative purposes.

Immigration detention is generally used

• To establish a person’s identity or basis of claim;
• to effect a person’s removal from the UK; or
• where there is reason to believe that the person will fail to comply with any conditions attached to a grant of temporary admission/release.

Home Office policy states that detention should be used sparingly, and for the shortest period necessary. However, there is no maximum time limit for the use of
immigration detention in the UK (unlike in other EU states). Nor is there automatic judicial oversight of decisions to detain.

There are strong calls on the Government to introduce a maximum time limit, and to enhance existing mechanisms for independent oversight of decisions to detain.
The Home Office is currently reviewing its use of immigration detention. In particular, it is considering the size of the detention estate, and how long people can spend in detention. So far, however, it has not indicated any intention to legislate to introduce a maximum time limit for immigration detention.