Jesuit Refugee Service UK report: Immigration detention fosters culture of trauma and death

Jesuit Refugee Service UK has said the indefinite and arbitrary process of immigration detention is fostering a culture of death, suicide and self-harm, that is causing long-term damage to people’s physical and mental health. In a new report, ‘Detained and Dehumanised: The impact of immigration detention’, JRS say detention has a deep and lasting impact on the individual’s sense of self and humanity and on the way people interact with the world.

The traumatic effects of detention stretch far beyond the period of incarceration, to be re-lived indefinitely over the years to come. Torture survivors experience detention as torture. The accounts of 27 forcibly displaced people supported by JRS UK speak of detention as a kind of dying where suicidal ideation is commonplace.

Sarah Teather, Director of JRS UK, said:“At JRS UK, we regularly encounter vulnerable individuals who are subjected to the indignity of detention through an arbitrary process, and who are caught in a complex web of dehumanising policies. Far from being a last resort, the use of these punitive and devastating powers has become so automatic that it has been normalised. Immigration detention is a harmful process that destroys families, communities and lives. The time for government to end this cruel and inhumane practice is long over-due.”

Key findings of the report include:

• The culture of death and trauma that pervades the experience of being detained is one in which self harm is commonplace and many of those interviewed witnessed suicide attempts, while others themselves felt suicidal.

• The UK is currently the only country in Europe to use indefinite immigration detention, without a time limit on how long someone can be detained.

• Detention is harmful to physical and mental health and causes long-term trauma.

• The process of detention itself is arbitrary, and lacks accountability, with no meaningful notice and no explanation.

The report is published just ahead of the return to the Parliament of the Immigration and Social Security (EU withdrawal) Bill for its Report Stage on Tuesday 30th June. David Davis MP has tabled amendments to the Bill which would put a 28-day time limit on immigration detention, with judicial oversight of detention after 96 hours.

You can read the full report here:

For interviews and further details, please contact Joanna Biernat, Editorial Communications Assistant, at or mobile: 07395 416045.