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This blog post was published under the 2015-2024 Conservative Administration

Factsheet: Detention

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This factsheet details the Home Office’s approach to immigration detention. It was updated on 5 November 2019.

Detention is an important part of the immigration system – but it must be fair, dignified and protect the most vulnerable.

Improvements have been made in recent years and a programme of reforms were introduced following Stephen Shaw’s second review. It included:

  • Increasing the number of Home Office staff in immigration removal centres (IRCs), so that they can work with detainees more closely.
  • Minimising the use of immigration detention and exploring alternatives to detention.
  • Strengthening decision-making and safeguards for the vulnerable.
  • Improving transparency.
  • Ensuring that everyone is treated with dignity in an estate fit for purpose.

There is now a higher ratio of staff to detainees in IRCs, and at the end of June 2019, there were 22% fewer individuals in detention than a year earlier. The estate is also almost 40% smaller than it was four years ago.

When someone has no right to remain in the UK they should return to their home country, and we offer practical support and advice to individuals who wish to leave voluntarily:

When an individual refuses to leave voluntarily, then we will seek to enforce their return.

When we do detain, in each case, we must have a realistic prospect of removal within a reasonable timescale. Those detained can apply to the courts at any time for bail from detention.

The physical conditions of all IRCs are closely monitored and our commercial suppliers undertake regular maintenance work when required.

Robust statutory oversight of our detention facilities is provided by HM Chief Inspector of Prisons and the Independent Monitoring Boards, to ensure that detainees are treated with proper standards of care and decency.

Decision making and appeals

There are a number of safeguards underpinning detention decisions:

  • A Detention Gatekeeper who reviews the suitability of individuals for detention.
  • Regular detention reviews.
  • Case Progression Panels to consider whether detention remains appropriate.
  • The Adults at Risk policy, strengthening, for vulnerable people, the existing presumption against detention for all individuals.

Once a person is in detention, regular reviews are undertaken to ensure that their detention remains lawful, appropriate and proportionate.

Case Progression Panels provide additional assurance and challenge on the progress of cases of individuals in detention, and review the continuing appropriateness of detention and adherence to detention policies, including the Adults at Risk policy.

Detention Engagement Teams are present in all IRCs. They engage with those detained to help with issues or queries regarding their immigration case.

Every 28 days, those detained receive a monthly report from their case owner to inform them of the progress and the steps being taken to affect their removal.

Foreign National Offenders (FNOs)

The first duty of any Government is to protect the public. Almost 50,000 FNOs have been removed since the start of the financial year 2010-11.

All FNOs in prison are considered for deportation. For non-EEA nationals with a sentence of over 12 months Parliament legislated in the UK Borders Act 2007 to place a duty on the Secretary of State to deport them.

In EEA cases, a deportation order can be made under the Immigration (European Economic Area) Regulations 2016 on grounds of public policy or public security where the person is a genuine, present and sufficiently serious threat to UK society.

Individuals in the community

People may be released from detention and given immigration bail for a range of reasons. They may make further applications (such as an asylum claim), lodge appeals or other legal proceedings, or there may be a material change in their circumstances and detention is no longer appropriate.

Individuals released from detention, but who are still subject to immigration control, are liable to be managed in the community through a range of bail conditions.

The number and type of immigration bail conditions imposed will vary depending on the circumstances of the individual case. FNOs may be subject to stricter conditions (e.g. an electronic monitoring tag), depending on the nature of their offence, the sentence received and any recommendations made by Her Majesty’s Prison and Probation Service.

Duty of care

The reforms introduced following Stephen Shaw’s second review, strengthen safeguarding measures in place for all men and women in detention, including those with vulnerabilities.

Under the Adults at Risk policy, vulnerable individuals should be detained only when the immigration factors outweigh the risk of harm to the individual in any given case.

The Home Office is reviewing the provisions of Rule 35 of the Detention Centre Rules 2001, which requires doctors working in IRCs to report where they have concerns about an individual’s detention. A Home Office team, separate from the case-owning team, then decides whether continuing a person’s detention remains appropriate.

Any person we encounter in the detention system who claims they are a victim of trafficking and slavery will, with their consent, be referred to the National Referral Mechanism. Their claim will then be considered by a trained specialist.

Immigration Enforcement continues to improve how it interacts with vulnerable adults and children, providing staff with the tools, training and support to identify and act upon indicators of vulnerability, including recognising victims of trafficking and modern slavery at the earliest opportunity.

Decisions on the appropriateness of an individual’s detention, or continued detention, are made on a case by case basis. If an individual is identified as a victim or potential victim of modern slavery, that will be taken into account in making such a decision.

Time limits

For detention to be lawful, there must be a realistic prospect of the individual’s removal within a reasonable timescale.

The vast majority of people detained under immigration powers spend only short periods in detention.

95% of those liable to removal are managed in the community.

In the last year 95% of those detained left detention within four months and 71% in less than 29 days.

Virtually all of those held for more than 6 months were Foreign National Offenders.

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