Most people in this country see themselves as compassionate and fair. People are appalled to see cruelty to others, including to migrants.

Yet our immigration enforcement system treats people brutally: families are woken in the middle of the night by immigration raids, parents are taken away in front of their children. Others receive as little as 24 hours notice of removal from the UK. Immigration detainees are emotionally and physically abused and bullied, and told their lives are worthless.

Aside from its unacceptable human impact, research shows that such brutality is ineffective, costly and reduces levels of compliance with migration controls.

We need to urgently reform and de-escalate the way we approach immigration enforcement so that abuse and intimidation of migrants ceases. Enforcement should be conducted with humanity and dignity.

"I thought if I said anything they might put me on a plane and deport me straight away while I was having the miscarriage, so I kept quiet. I was very frightened of my traffickers but I was even more frightened of the Home Office."

A woman who had a miscarriage while she was unlawfully detained, quoted in the Guardian

Our recommendations

  • End detention for immigration purposes except in truly exceptional circumstances in which no alternative is possible
  • Any such detention should be limited to 28 days
  • Detention should only be allowed to last beyond 72 hours with the approval of the courts
  • Fund civil society organisations to pilot community-based alternatives to detention
  • Abolish the use of secretive charter flights so that removals cannot take place away from public and judicial scrutiny
  • End profiling in immigration enforcement in order to ensure that certain nationalities and ethnicities are not targeted in a discriminatory manner
  • Cease immigration raids on workplaces, community centres and other public spaces and stop obliging employers and civil society organisations to facilitate such raids

Previous section: Opening routes to status   Next section: Ending the Hostile Environment