The UK hosts one of the largest immigration detention systems in Europe. Almost 30,000 immigrants are detained each year. This number reached a high of 32,400 in 2015 but has been dropping slowly since.

The estate contains thirteen immigration removal centers, designed to hold more than 3000 detainees. In the centers, people awaiting deportation are allowed to work in various capacities for minimal compensation.

The Average Detention is Two Months

On average, immigrant detainees are held for two months. The total population of detainees numbers approximately 3500 at any given time. These figures include only people held at Immigration Removal Centers, Short Term Holding Facilities, and Holding Rooms located near ports of entry. Others may be detained for questioning in police facilities or components of prisons.

Who is Being Detained?

More than 85% of detainees are male. The most common category of detention in the system is people seeking asylum. More than 46% of all detainees have sought asylum at some point during the detention process. This number includes immigrants who have filed after being detained for other reasons.

Foreign National Offenders, or FNOs, account for a large percentage of deportations. Since 2008 deportation of FNOs has been prioritized in the system, resulting in more than 4000 removals annually from 2009 to present. The UK Borders Act 2007 mandates all foreign nationals sentenced to a term exceeding twelve months will be automatically deported. FNOs average almost three months of detention prior to deportation.

Almost 2000 children were detained annually until 2009. In the past eight years, this number has dropped steeply. Currently, only 200 children are detained each year. Under current guidelines, families with children are rarely detained prior to deportation.

Although the UK Immigration Detention Estate closely resembles a prison system, detainees are held administratively, not criminally. The stated purpose of the detention is to establish identity or facilitate immigration claims for resolution or removal.