The International Detention Coalition (IDC) welcomes the report of the first ever parliamentary inquiry into immigration detention in the UK, which recommends a “wholesale change in culture” towards “community models of engagement and better case working and decision making” rather than enforcement and detention.


Report recommendations largely mirror those made by the Director of the IDC when he visited the hearings for the inquiry in November 2014, and the IDC’s submission, available here.


According to the report, published on 3 March, the current approach of “tinkering” will not solve the problems in the immigration detention estate, which occur “quite simply because we detain far too many people unnecessarily and for far too long”. The report calls the current system “expensive, ineffective and unjust”.


A key recommendation is that a 28 day time limit be introduced on immigration detention. The UK is the only country in the EU without a maximum limit on detention, leading to significant mental health costs for detainees, as well as considerable financial costs to the taxpayer in UK, the panel noted.  Furthermore, longer periods of detention are less likely to result in the individual being removed from the country, making detention “fruitless”.


“It’s very welcome that the inquiry has recognised the need to reshape the current reality: moving away from enforcement model and towards one of engagement”, said Grant Mitchell, Director of the IDC. “As the panel highlighted, there are numerous examples of community-based models that other countries use to manage migration without relying on detention. The key now will be to ensure these recommendations are implemented – the IDC stands ready to assist the UK Government in this regard,” he said.

 IDC Director, Grant Mitchell, presents at the Detention InquiryIDC Director, Grant Mitchell, presents at the UK Detention Inquiry

Following the suggestion of the IDC Director, parliamentarians conducted a site visit to Sweden, which provided insight into available effective alternatives to detention.  As such, the panel recommended that the UK develop “a much wider range of alternatives to detention affecting the entire process of the immigration system”. It called for the UK to learn from ATD in operation in other countries, which “not only achieve high compliance rates, but they are also considerably cheaper than our current system which, particularly in the case of asylum, could be characterised as low-level initial engagement and support, lengthy decision- making of variable quality, and expensive ineffective end-stage”.


The panel’s key recommendations include:


  • There should be a time limit of 28 days on the length of time anyone can be held in immigration detention.
  • Detention is currently used disproportionately frequently, resulting in too many instances of detention. The presumption in theory and practice should be in favour of community-based resolutions and against detention.
  • Decisions to detain should be very rare and detention should be for the shortest possible time and only to effect removal.
  • The Government should learn from international best practice and introduce a much wider range of alternatives to detention than are currently used in the UK.


In addition, the panel made a number of recommendations to prevent the detention of vulnerable persons including pregnant women, women who are victims of rape and sexual violence and victims of trafficking.


To ensure that its recommendations are implemented, the panel has called for the incoming Government after the General Election in May 2015 to form an independently chaired working group, containing officials of the home office and NGOs to “widen the thinking and approach”.


The parliamentary inquiry was formed in July 2014 by the All Party Parliamentary Group on Refugees and the All Party Parliamentary Group on Migration, following a number of “high profile incidents within Immigration Removal Centres and amid plans to increase the size of the detention estate” in the UK. The inquiry panel was made up of a cross-party group of members of the House of Commons and the House of Lords.

 More info:

  • Official website of the Parliamentary Inquiry:
  • Report of the Inquiry into the use of immigration detention in the UK (3 March 2015)
  • Seeking to implement alternatives: IDC submission to UK parliamentary inquiry here
  • Detention Forum Guide on the Inquiry here
  • Detention Forum collation of Detention Inquiry media coverage and responses here