Duration of detention

United Kingdom

Country Report: Duration of detention Last updated: 14/03/22


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The Home Office is responsible for ordering detention of asylum seekers. It is difficult to give meaningful data on the average length of detention of asylum seekers (outside the Detained Fast Track, for which see the section on Accelerated Procedure). There is no maximum period set in law, with the exception of detention of pregnant women and children which cannot exceed 72 hours, or 7 days with Ministerial approval. While data on length of immigration detention is now available for the last six years, the figures do not distinguish between asylum seekers and other immigration detainees. Periods of immigration detention including asylum seekers and other foreign nationals vary enormously from a few days to several years.

During 2021, 19,882 left immigration detention. Of these:

Persons released from detention by duration of stay: 2017-2021
Duration of stay in detention 2017 2018 2019 2020 2021
Less than 29 days 18,368 17,655 18,042 11,968 21,008
From 29 days to 2 months 4,675 3,480 3,623 1,770 1,421
From 2 to 4 months 3,304 2,400 1,871 1,023 1,058
From 4 months to 12 months     848 641 785
From 1 to 2 years 194 186 122 100 76
At least 2 years 31 14 6 8 10

Source: Home Office, Immigration Statistics, Detention.

However, there is no cross-referencing of the number of asylum detainees in 2020 and length of detention of those who had sought asylum. The longest periods of detention are usually of people awaiting deportation after having served a criminal sentence.

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