United Kingdom

Country Report: General Last updated: 30/05/23


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When asylum seekers are detained, they are detained in immigration removal centres (IRC), usually under the same legal regime and in the same premises as other people subject to immigration detention. 70% of immigration detainees in 2022 were asylum seekers. The centres consist of 8 IRC and 2 short-term holding facilities (STHF). The published statistics now include immigration detainees held in prisons; there were 3,311 immigration detainees held in prison at some point during 2022, but it is not known how many of these claimed asylum either prior to being detained or whilst in detention.

Detention during the asylum decision-making process is not usual. Most asylum seekers whose claim has not yet been decided are at liberty on a status known as immigration bail. The main exception is in accelerated procedures. In on-suspensive appeal cases, although the individual is not always detained, detention is more common than in the regular procedure.

If the person is already in immigration detention when they claim asylum, whether they are then released will be determined by whether criteria for detention continue to exist after the asylum claim has been made. These are the criteria set out in the section on Grounds for Detention. Making an asylum claim does not of itself secure release. Alternatively, if in the judgment of the Home Office official who screens the asylum application, the claim is capable of being decided quickly, the applicant may be transferred into fast track detention. This means remaining in immigration detention, but may mean a transfer to a different centre.

Asylum seekers may also be detained after their claim has been refused, in preparation for removal. Most of the content of this section therefore refers to asylum seekers who are detained in preparation for removal, after final refusal of their claim.

The number of people who had sought asylum at some time and have been detained (“asylum detainees”) in recent years is as shown in the table below. Many detainees were released during the period of the Covid-19 restrictions on travel, as the law allows for detention when removal will be possible in a specific time period.

“Asylum detainees” in the United Kingdom: 2017-2022
Detentions throughout the year Detained at the end of the year
2017 12,921 1,508
2018 13,168 1,085
2019 14,465 994
2020 9,806 438
2021 20,166 622
2022 14,227 Not available

Source: Home Office, Immigration statistics, Detention summary tables Det_01. Note that this does not necessarily mean detention of asylum seekers during the course of the procedure.


Guidance was published in 2017 relating to asylum claims made from detention.[1] It is aimed at those considering asylum claims from people detained at the point of making their claim, as well as considering the detention of people during their claim. It does not replace or replicate other guidance on consideration of asylum claims; it is complementary to other guidance.




[1] Home Office, Asylum claims in detention, September 2017, available at:

Table of contents

  • Statistics
  • Overview of the legal framework
  • Overview of the main changes since the previous report update
  • Asylum Procedure
  • Reception Conditions
  • Detention of Asylum Seekers
  • Content of International Protection