Did you know that immigrants from a range of countries all over the world make up just below 15 percent of the UK’s population? That’s about 9.4 million people. Of those, around 30,000 are put into immigration detention every year. And this doesn’t just happen to people who are in the UK illegally, but also to people who are here perfectly legally. That’s why it’s important for those people and their families to understand their legal rights.

What is immigration detention?

Most immigration detention centres are quite traumatic, and not very pleasant places to be. This is just one reason why it is important for you to understand what your rights as an immigrant are, and how to exercise them if you need to.

Immigration detention is a UK government policy stating that anyone who doesn’t possess leave to remain in the UK or whose leave has expired, must be detained in a secure facility. You might be surprised to learn that at present, there isn’t a time limit on how long adults in this position can be held in detention. Depending on the circumstances, if you have no right to remain in the UK, the government can legally detain you indefinitely. The only people this doesn’t apply to is pregnant women, who can only be detained for up to 72 hours in most cases.

Also, by law in place from 2011, no child should ever be detained. However, last year nearly 50 children were illegally held in centres. If you know that a child is being held illegally, you must contact an immigration solicitor immediately.

What can you be detained for and when can it happen?

Having no right to remain in the UK means that technically, you can be put into a detention centre at any time. There are also a range of reasons for which you might be detained under immigration laws, however some are much more common than others. According to Manchester immigration advisers, the below are the most common times and reasons people in the UK get put into immigration detention:

  • Upon first entry to the UK
  • When reporting to the Home Office in their regular appointment
  • After attempting to claim asylum, being refused and having exhausted all appeal rights
  • If the person has no immigration status or applications pending and has been picked up by an immigration enforcement agent
  • If the Home Office has decided to reject your asylum claim because you have already been given humanitarian protection by another country

People can also be picked up at home, during immigration raids on businesses, and stop-and-searches in public spaces like bus and train stations. It’s not very comforting to think that, and this could change but at present it’s legal, so knowing your rights is really beneficial. Last year, 56 percent of those people detained under immigration laws were allowed to resume their position in society with no further action being taken, so although being put into detention isn’t at all pleasant, it also doesn’t always mean a person is going to be deported.

Detainees’ rights

Knowing your legal rights whilst in immigration detention is really important, and exercising these rights can help to make you feel less powerless and lonely. Unless a detainee has committed a crime, they have the below rights:

  • Access to legal advice
  • Access to any medication they usually take
  • Access to religious support no matter what religion they practice
  • To have visits from friends and family, as long as they follow the correct protocol
  • Access to appropriate medical care and the right to complain if they feel that this is not happening
  • To apply for bail if they’ve been in the UK for more than eight days
  • To obtain a ‘financial condition supporter’ in order to help strengthen their bail application
  • To view their bail hearing if it is granted (usually watched via a video link)

Exercising their rights

If the person in detention is able to hire an immigration lawyer, they should do this as quickly as possible. It’s a good idea for anyone who might be at risk of being put in detention to do this anyway, so if they do get detained they are already prepared.

Keeping a physical copy of their solicitor’s contact details as well as their doctor’s details is a good idea, so if their mobile phone gets taken away from them as they enter the detention centre they still have support who they can contact. Family or friends can hold these kinds of details for you and contact the relevant people on your behalf should you not be able to.

Visitor and healthcare rights

Being detained can be very isolating, but visits from family, friends and support groups can be really helpful. Visitors will be required to follow strict protocol, such as giving enough pre-warning for a visit, co-operating with staff and following centre rules.

Immigration detention doctors are required by law to report cases of ill health to the Home Office, but unfortunately this is frequently not done or not done properly. If you think this is the case for a family member or friend, you should contact a solicitor urgently. If you need immigration advice, AWH Solicitors in Manchester can offer help and support for anyone in England or Wales.