Detention in Prison

Immigration Detention in Prisons

As well as a large number of detention facilities, the UK also detains people under immigration powers in prisons. They are non-British nationals who have served their sentence, but remain held in prison under Immigration powers, awaiting deportation.

Being detained in prison is even more difficult than in a detention centre as there is far less information, external supports may be few and far between, and there is no access to the internet or a mobile phone to research your case or phone a solicitor. We regularly hear from people detained in prison who don’t have a solicitor or have any information on how to find one, and who feel ‘in limbo’ with no one to ask for help. Unfortunately some of the longest cases of detention involve foreign nationals held post sentence.

While the exact numbers of immigration people detained in prisons each month are not published, it is currently usually around  450 - 600. More prison detention statistics available here.


Extra blogs to read: 

Unfortunately there is very little targeted support for people detained under immigration powers in prisons. Some AVID visitors groups visit in prisons (visit here for details) and we are always looking to engage with interested volunteers in new communities who may be able to help.

  • Bail for Immigration Detainees has a dedicated prisons legal team and regularly produce materials to help those detained in prison.

  • Clink's Directories contains information about over 800 organisations and projects working with people with experience of the criminal justice system and their families. Enter a place name, organisation, or use the search filters provided to find the service you need.

  • Prison Reform Trust has produced this leaflet which helps explain what immigration detainees are entitled to and what rights they have.

  • Hibiscus can provide help to foreign national female prisoners

  • Prisoners Advice Service provides independent legal advice to prisoners and this does include foreign nationals. 

“I have been detained for 5 months and nobody has even thought of me or visited me”         



Where are they?

There are no regular statistics produced on detention in prison, unlike in detention facilities. Occasionally we can find out some information through Freedom of Information requests or Parliamentary Questions. We are regularly contacted by people asking for help from prisons, unfortunately there are few visitors groups in mainstream prisons. If you are interested in helping to set one up, do get in touch.

"Here in prison it’s hard to communicate and make phone calls when I tried to call the embassy no answer or response to make my deportation easier to the Home Office. I have no family ties in the UK or even a solicitor to help my case. I need help and advice”

- Person detained post-sentence in prison.