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Immigration detention – holding the Home Office to account

The recent reports of widespread abuse at the G4S-run immigration removal centre (‘IRC’) Brook House and the death of a Polish man following a suicide attempt at Harmondsworth IRC have shocked many. The Home Office has draconian powers to detain people using immigration laws, exercised by government officials and not judges. Being detained does not mean in and of itself that you have done anything wrong, as detention can be used in a broad range of 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.

Detention is supposed to be used sparingly and for the shortest period necessary, but 27,819 people entered detention in the year ending June 2017. As at the end of June 2017, 2,994 people were in detention, 4% more than the number recorded at the end of June 2016.

We are the only country in the EU that does not have a time limit on immigration detention. Of the people leaving detention in the year end June 2017, over a third had been detained for more than 28 days and 7% had been detained for more than a year. Leaving detained people in limbo with no end in sight in this way can affect their mental health. What makes this even more concerning is that the biggest group are that of asylum seekers, people who have sought refuge in the UK because they are at risk of persecution in the home country. Although vulnerable people, like victims of torture or those whose health would be affected by continued detention, are supposed to be kept out of detention, the safeguards often don’t work in practice. There have been calls to abolish the detention of pregnant women and children.

Individuals can be arrested at any time, whether on entry to the UK, while applications are being dealt with, or pending removal/deportation. This may be by early morning raid, and immigration officials have the power to search people and use force and handcuffs (subject to safeguards). Detainees are uprooted from their lives and can be held in a police station before transfer to an IRC. This is understandably very traumatising and distressing for many people, and can lead to mental health problems such as depression, anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder.

We are experienced in representing individuals who have been unlawfully detained under immigration powers and in bringing claims against the Home Office on their behalf. We help clients to achieve a settlement recognising the harm they have suffered, or if necessary, to fight their case in court. If you or a loved one have been detained and you think that the Home Office might have acted unlawfully in arresting you or in continuing your detention, please get in touch. We may also be able to advise you if you have suffered abuse at the hands of Home Office or immigration detention staff, whether lawfully detained or not.


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