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What do they tell us?

Numbers entering Detention

In keeping with our previous analysis of the government statistics from the first quarter of this year, the numbers in detention have continued to rise despite the opportunity, during the pandemic, to move away from the use of immigration detention and towards investment in community alternatives.

In the year ending June 2022, 24,004 people entered immigration detention in the UK. At the end of the same period, there were 2,038 people in detention, close to three times more than at the end of June 2020 (698) and 24% more than pre-pandemic levels at the end of December 2019 (1,637).

Of the 2,038 people in detention, 544 people were detained in prisons under immigration powers.

Nine children were recorded in detention in 2022. However, as recent media reports of Manston short-term holding facility have brought to light, the reality is much higher.

Length of detention

Of those who left detention in the year ending June 2022, 67% were detained for seven days or less. 75 people were detained for more than a year and one person has been detained for four years. Long-term detention, in the majority of cases, is in prisons.

At present, due to low staffing levels, people who are in prison are held in their cells for 23 hours of the day. This includes people who are held under immigration powers.

23 hours a day in a cell for four years, after having served a sentence and not knowing when you will be released can only be described as torture. This video of Omar, made in collaboration with BID, sheds a light on the implications of this inhumane policy on people who experience it.


In the year ending March 2022, there were 3,231 enforced returns. The vast majority of enforced returns were people who faced deportation after having served a criminal sentence and 51% were EU nationals. In the year ending March 2022, there were 8,485 voluntary returns.


Between 2017 – 2021 (the statistics have not yet been published for 2022 at the time of writing) there have been 11 deaths in detention.

What does this tell us

Whilst the rise in detention at first looks like a return to “business as usual”, there is a marked difference in the way that detention is being used. Since the pandemic, an increasing proportion of those entering detention have been people who have arrived after crossing the channel and detained to confirm their identity and register their asylum claim. As such, detention is becoming a routine feature of the UK asylum system. The statistics tell us that 85% of people who left detention in the year ending June 2022 were granted bail, the majority due to an asylum claim being made. In contrast, prior to the pandemic detention was predominantly used for people targeted for return who were previously residing in UK communities.

What remains comparable is the fact that detention is a not a functioning part of either of these systems: in June 2021, 77% of people, were returned to the community their detention having served no purpose.

Detention is ineffectual in facilitating return and is incongruous as part of a system to register the claims of people who are seeking asylum and fleeing persecution. We can also see this when we note there are less people from Ukraine (9) who have been detained this year than numbers from before the war (34 people from Ukraine entered detention in 2021).

When safe routes are provided for people who need to claim asylum, detention is obsolete.

Whichever way you look at it, detention has no place in our immigration system. It is a political decision made at the expense of people’s lives.

Data source: https://www.gov.uk/government/statistics/immigration-statistics-year-ending-june-2022/how-many-people-are-detained-or-returned

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