The UK routinely deprives migrants of their liberty in the name of immigration control. The UK is also an outlier in Europe in having no time limit on immigration detention. Every day, over 3,000 migrants are held indefinitely in prison-like detention centres across the UK, out of the public gaze.

Immigration detention is used with impunity. It causes serious harm to migrants and their communities and its incalculable human and social cost has long been acutely felt by them. Yet for many years, immigration detention remained a marginal issue.

The Detention Forum came together to fundamentally change this. In 2012 we developed and agreed a joint strategy to reduce detention: we recognised the need for an overarching narrative to enable us to mobilise the diverse campaigns and voices and coordinate effective parliamentary, policy, campaign and communications activities around clear shared asks and messaging.

We identified three key asks:

  1. Ending indefinite detention with the introduction of a 28-day time limit;
  2. Ending the detention of vulnerable people;
  3. Automatic judicial oversight within 72 hours of detention.

We also committed to develop a solutions-based fourth ask:

  1. Development and implementation of community- based alternatives to detention that use quality case- management.

Since then, the Detention Forum has been at the heart of putting detention reform on the political agenda and turned detention into a key migration issue. While debates during the 2014 Immigration Act barely mentioned detention, it was one of the central issues in the passage of the 2016 Act, resulting in legislative changes. All except one of the major political parties have now made manifesto commitments to a time limit, and our asks are central to the calls for reform in parliament.

In 2014 and 2015, we supported the crucial All Party Parliamentary Groups detention inquiry and provided much of the evidence that ensured that the report gained cross-party buy-in, managed dissemination of the findings and used it to drive change. The Minister bowed to pressure and promised detention reform in 2016. Our collaboration mechanism has continued to involve new partners and enable rapid co- ordinated responses and interventions to shape detention debates and advocacy.

The Detention Forum has already transformed the narrative around detention. In this revised Theory of Change, agreed in summer 2017, we envisage a realistic opportunity for radical detention reform.

See our past briefing papers here.