The State of Detention

DF State of DetentionDetention can be seen in many ways: through official statistics, legal judgments, monitoring reports, visits to detention centres, or through being detained yourself. This report brings together and reflects on many of these partial perspectives on detention, in order to understand the key problems of the detention system.

We believe that a picture emerges of the state of detention today. It is a picture of a system in crisis. This is a crisis of over-extension.

Detention has expanded too fast, with insufficient checks and scrutiny. Political priorities to detain and deport have overridden practical considerations of effectiveness, as well as basic concern for the people detained. In the words of the Chief Inspector of Prisons, following the death in handcuffs of an elderly man with dementia, “a sense of humanity has been lost.”

The UK detains more migrants than any European country except Greece. It is alone in detaining them indefinitely, without time limit, for periods of years. Many migrants in detention are unreturnable and ultimately are released – their detention serves no purpose, yet costs them years of their lives. In a time of austerity, the cost to the taxpayer is also unjustifiable.

The UK is alone in Europe in routinely detaining migrants in prisons, a practice that is unlawful in the rest of the EU. It is alone in detaining large numbers of asylum seekers, simply for administrative convenience in processing their cases. Detention Action’s legal challenge to the Detained Fast Track has led the High Court to declare that it was operating unlawfully.

Migrants in detention face return to some of the most dangerous places on the planet. The UK is at the forefront of attempts to return asylum-seekers to countries like Somalia and Sri Lanka, despite evidence of violence and persecution.

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