The number of people detained under Immigration Act powers for longer than six months has increased by 10 per cent in the past year, statistics have revealed.
A total of 317 people were detained in immigration removal centres, short term holding facilities or pre departure accommodation for more than six months in the first quarter of 2017 — a 10 per cent increase on the same quarter in 2016, when there were 287.
In the first quarter of 2017, 236 people were detained for between six months and a year, 69 between a year and 34 months and 12 between two and three years.
Campaigners have said that the figures show the urgent need for reform of a "bloated detention system", and accused the Government of failing to act on "scathing" findings of a government review into the system last year.
In January 2016, a government-commissioned review into the UK’s immigration detention system called on ministers to reduce “boldly and without delay” the number of people detained each year.
The report, by former prisons and probation ombudsman Stephen Shaw, stated that there is no correlation between the number of people detained and the number of people lawfully deported, and highlighted medical research showing that immigration detention itself can seriously damage the mental health of detainees.
The then Immigration Minister James Brokenshire pledged following the publication of the review that the Government would make a number of reforms and broader changes in legislation, and that he expected these to lead to a reduction in the number of those detained and the duration of detention before removal.
However, while in the year after the review was launched the numbers of long-term detentions decreased by 47 per cent — falling from 488 and 261 between March and December 2015 — they have been steadily rising since.
In light of the statistics, Jerome Phelps, director of Detention Action, urged that the figures showed the urgent need for reform of a “bloated” detention system that he said is “massively wasteful of migrants' lives and taxpayers' money.”
Speaking to The Independent, Mr Phelps said: “These statistics are further evidence of the urgent need to reform the bloated detention system. Despite the scathing criticisms of the Parliamentary Inquiry and the Government's own review, more people are being detained, for longer periods.
“Last year, the Government promised to reform the use of detention, reducing the numbers detained and the duration of detention, yet in practice the numbers of people who are going through this unnecessary trauma are actually increasing. It is not delivering on this promise.
“Long-term detention is massively wasteful of migrants' lives and taxpayers' money, as in 2016 only 29 per cent of migrants leaving detention after a year were actually deported.”
Eiri Ohtani, director of the Detention Forum, meanwhile said: “The human costs of the promised but undelivered detention reform is thousands of men and women continue to be locked up in prison-like conditions not knowing when they will be released while their mental health deteriorate.
“That UK has no time limit on administrative immigration detention is exceptional: a vast majority of the countries around the world have a legal detention time limit.”
One former detainee, named only as Sam, who was locked in an immigration centre for seven months and is now part of the Freed Voices group, told The Independent they were the “hardest months of [his] life".
“Every day in detention is unknown. It breaks you. The cocktail of fear and uncertainty…it makes your mind melt. We need the changes to the current system that the government promised last year. We need an end to indefinite detention," Sam added.
Another former detainee, Mishka, who was detained four months, said: “The Home Office say they don’t have a policy of indefinite detention but these statistics are just more proof they do not practice what they preach.
"You get a life-sentence when you enter detention. No one knows when they’ll get out. They are mental-torture chambers."
UK news in pictures
UK news in pictures
1/18 23 June 2017
British Prime Minister Theresa May addresses a news conference at the EU summit in Brussels, Belgium, June 23, 2017
2/18 22 June 2017
Cosplay fans (L-R) George Massingham, Abbey Forbes and Karolina Goralik travel by tube dressed in Harry Potter themed costumes, after a visit to one the literary franchise's movie filming locations at Leadenhall Market in London, Britain
3/18 22 June 2017
Racegoers cheer on their horse on Ladies Day at the Royal Ascot horse racing meet, in Ascot, west of London
4/18 21 June 2017
A reveller walks among the tipi tents at the Glastonbury Festival of Music and Performing Arts on Worthy Farm near the village of Pilton in Somerset, South West England
5/18 20 June 2017
A police officer lays some flowers passed over by a member of the public, close to Finsbury Park Mosque in north London, after one man died and eight people were taken to hospital and a person arrested after a rental van struck pedestrian
The Borough Market bell is seen in Borough Market in central London following its re-opening after the June 3 terror attack
Two women embrace in Borough Market, which officially re-opens today following the recent attack, in central London
Mayor of London Sadiq Khan attends the re-opening of Borough market in central London following the June 3 terror attack
People walk through Borough Market in central London following its re-opening after the June 3 terror attack
News Corp CEO Rupert Murdoch, with one of his daughters, visit Borough Market, which officially re-opened today following the recent attack
A woman reacts in front of a wall of messages in Borough Market, which officially re-opened today following the recent attack, in central London
Vivenne Westwood walks the runway at the Vivenne Westwood show during the London Fashion Week Men's June 2017 collections
Millwall fan and London Bridge hero Roy Larner on 'Good Morning Britain'
Richard Arnold, Roy Larner, Piers Morgan and Susanna Reid on 'Good Morning Britain'
15/18 11 June 2017
England players celebrate after defeating Venezuela 1-0 to win the final of the FIFA U-20 World Cup Korea 2017 at Suwon World Cup Stadium in Suwon, South Korea
16/18 11 June 2017
England players celebrate with the trophy after the final match of the FIFA U-20 World Cup 2017 between Venezuela and England at Suwon World Cup Stadium in Suwon, South Korea
17/18 11 June 2017
Great Britain's Alistair Brownlee celebrates winning the Elite Men Columbia Threadneedle World Triathlon Leeds
Danny Lawson/PA Wire
18/18 11 June 2017
Two men drink beer outside the Southwark Tavern which reopened for business today next to an entrance to Borough Market which remains closed in London
Both the Labour Party and the Liberal Democrats have pledged to end indefinite detention in their general election manifestos. The Conservative Party meanwhile makes no reference to migration detention.
Responding to the new statistics, Liberal Democrat leader Tim Farron told The Independent: “Immigration for administrative purposes, when no crime has been committed, fundamentally goes against the democratic foundations of our society.
“Seeing this been used for even longer should be utterly aberrant to anyone who believes in justice. The UK are alone in Western Europe in detaining people for immigration purposes indefinitely — this practice must end.”
The Conservative Party has been contacted for comment.Reuse content