An interactive story of the use of immigration detention in the UK

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The UK is the only EU country with no time limit on the administrative detention of adults

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What is Detention Timeline?

Detention Timeline is a project to build and share an interactive history of the use of immigration detention in the UK. Understanding detention too often means chasing around a lot of places to find information. It can be hard to know where to look, and difficult to get the bigger picture.

The Detention Timeline brings together in one place key facts, events, statistics, and research, alongside the work done by those who represent and support people in detention, or challenge the way detention powers are used in the UK.

We want the Detention Timeline to be both useful and thought-provoking for anyone writing about, researching, or reporting on immigration detention, as well as those engaged in campaigning, visiting, advocacy, and policy and legal work.

Detention Timeline is an ongoing project. Past events and facts not included at launch, and contemporary events, will be added over time, and there will be revisions. Please get in touch with your suggestions and comments.

How to use Detention Timeline

Simply drag or scroll the timeline to the left or right. On a touchscreen device you can use your finger, otherwise use your mouse or laptop touchpad to grab and hold the screen. As you float over a story on the timeline it will enlarge slightly. To see further information about a particular story click the button to display a popup panel with links to original sources.

At the bottom of the timeline you will see a black strip, featuring coloured dots and a time scale. The dots each represent an event on the timeline. Click on the dots in your chosen date range to animate the timeline to that point in time. You can also grab and slide the grey rectangle to move along the timeline forwards or backwards in time.

The timeline has 6 story categories: Facts & figures; Legislation & policy; Advocacy, campaigns, & visiting; Detention in the news; Scrutiny, inspection & enquiries; Legal challenges to detention; and Arts & theatre.

If you want to view the timeline in way that shows only one or two categories of story, for example 'Detention in the news' and 'Scrutiny, inspection & enquiries', click on the small at the bottom right of the timeline, then select 'categories' and select only those categories of story you want to view. Close the window. You'll need to go back to 'categories' and select 'view all' if you want to go back to see all the timeline content.

Many of the timeline entries are tagged by theme, issue or place. This allows you to search timeline stories by tag.

The tags include: Age disputed children, alternatives to detention, bail, Brook House IRC, Campsfield IRC, children in detention, Colnbrook IRC, compensation & unlawful detention, deaths in detention, deportation, Detained Fast Track, Dover IRC, Dungavel IRC, escorting and removal, foreign national offenders, Harmondsworth IRC, healthcare, Heathrow IRC, hunger strike, IRC management contractors, legal aid, legal advice, Lindholme IRC, long term detention, mental health, Morton Hall IRC, Northern Ireland, Oakington IRC, paid work in detention, pregnant women, protests and disturbances, Scotland, sexual abuse of detainees, Short Term Holding Facilities, The Cedars, The Verne IRC, time limit, Tinsley House IRC, torture, travel documents, women in detention, Yarl’s Wood IRC, detention in prison, families and detention, visitors.

You can make a general search for timeline entries containing a specific word. Click on the small at the bottom right of the timeline, then select ‘search’.

You can also search by story tag. When you are inside a timeline entry which contains tags at the top of the story (for example, ‘women in detention’ or ‘Campsfield IRC’) you can find all other timeline entries with the same tag by clicking on the tag you want.

The search features will not give you a Google-style list, but will rather highlight relevant stories along the timeline and you will need to scroll along the timeline to see them.

Open the story and simply click on the button at the bottom of the story. This will take you to the original source document, or the most relevant document if we relied on several to write the story. Other sources with links, and any other interesting links, may also be found in the body of the story. Links open in a new window.

You can change the way you view entries on the timeline. Click on the small at the bottom right of the timeline, then select ‘view type’ for different options. The Detention Timeline has been designed for optimal viewing using the standard view.

In their own words

"There are people who are coming in new here, for a couple of days, and it’s fine. One week, two weeks, three weeks then you see that people start to go down. Then he says, “I’ve been here one month, two months, four months, ten months, and I don’t know why I’m here. I don’t know why they don’t deport me, I don’t know why they keep me here”. And I don’t know what you can say to that. Nothing."

Quote from a detention centre visitor and the detainee they were visiting in Brook House IRC, interviewed for 'A Prison in the Mind': the mental health implications of detention in Brook House Immigration Removal Centre' (2012) by Gatwick Detainees Welfare Group.

GDWG is a registered charity that provides emotional and practical support to asylum seekers and other immigration detainees held at Tinsley House and Brook House Immigration Removal Centres, and to families held at the Cedars Pre-Departure Accommodation, near Gatwick Airport.

About us

Detention Timeline launched in December 2015.

The editor of Detention Timeline is Dr Adeline Trude. Adeline spent a number of years as research and policy manager for Bail for Immigration Detainees, a charity that provides legal advice to immigration detainees across the UK detention estate and in prisons. She has a particular interest in mental health and immigration detention, the use of prisons as a place of immigration detention, and access to legal advice, legal aid and the courts. Adeline's own anthropological research was carried out among undocumented migrants who lived on the Broadwater Farm estate in Tottenham, London and in Ghana.

Contact us

We want to hear from you.
Please get in touch if you want to tell us about something that could be included on the timeline, if you think something needs to be corrected, or with any comments on the timeline.

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