Skip to main content

Immigration detention in the UK: an overview

Briefing Paper Number 7294, 29 August 2018

Authors: Terry McGuinness and Melanie Gower

The Government has wide powers to detain people for reasons of immigration control. Those who are subject to immigration controls may be held whilst they wait for permission to enter the UK or before they are deported or removed from the country. Immigration detention is an administrative process and is not to be confused with any criminal justice procedure. Powers to detain are exercised by Home Office officials, rather than judges.

Home Office policy states detention may be used in the following circumstances:

• The person is likely to abscond if given temporary admission or release;

• There is insufficient reliable information to decide whether to grant temporary admission or release;

• The person’s removal from the UK is imminent;

• Detention is needed whilst alternative arrangements are made for the person's care; and

• Release is not considered conducive to the public good.