Latest detention statistics: year ending September 2021

Our analysis of the latest stats

Immigration statistics: year ending September 2021

The Home Office has released its latest statistics on immigration detention, for the year up to September 2021. At AVID, we like to do a bit of our own analysis of these figures, because they are one of the few data based tools we have that can help us identify any patterns and trends in terms of what is really happening in relation to detention.   

In the year ending September 2021, 21,365 people entered detention, up 24% on the previous year, when the impact of the pandemic was heightened. Following an all time low in the numbers detained in mid-2020, there is a definite sense now that detention is returning to pre pandemic levels. This increase is also a stark contrast to the general downward trajectory in the use of detention that we have seen in recent years. 1,410 people were in detention at the end of September 2021, which is more than double the previous year (698). The Home Office points out in its own analysis of the figures that ‘an increasing proportion of those entering detention have been recent clandestine arrivals detained for short periods for processing’ and that ‘the number detained for other reasons has fallen’.

Detention in prison

The number of people detained in prison under immigration powers also increased, by 49%, from 434 to 648 in the period. The proportion of those detained in prisons is now just under half of all people detained (46%), which is down from a high of 57% in March 2021, but is still a shocking percentage when you consider that immigration detention in prison brings many additional barriers to accessing justice and has been described as a ‘double punishment’. You can read more about immigration detention in prison here.

Lengths of detention

In the year up to September 2021, 72% of those leaving detention had been held for less than 7 days, up from 48% in the previous year. This is probably due to the Government detaining people arriving via small boats (channel crossings) in detention centres for ‘processing’ before they were able to claim asylum. We know that this has increased in recent months, with people being sent as far afield as Dungavel to be processed. This must be hugely traumatic for those who have already made difficult, frightening journeys.

Sadly, some people do continue to be held for very long periods. At the end of September 2021, one person had spent more than 3 years in detention in prison. 143 people had been held for over six months and 43 for over a year. Without a time limit on detention, none of these people know how long their detention will continue. We know from previous statistical analysis over many years that the longer someone is detained, the less likely it is that they will be removed.

Removal and returns

The number of people being removed from the UK when leaving detention has fallen to a low of 16% (3,379) in the year to September 2021. This is down from 30% the year before. While this is due in part to the number of people detained on arrival as outlined above, it also means that 84% (17,499) people were released from detention into their communities, their detention having served no purpose. This begs the question, why were they detained in the first place?

(figures analysed and rounded by AVID)



Photo by Volkan Olmez on Unsplash




Publication date: 
Monday, November 29, 2021