Immigration – UK Government assessment

Progress assessment


There has been a sustained or severe regression in the enjoyment of human rights, or a significant reduction in human rights standards or protections in law or policy

The UK Government’s ‘hostile environment’ policies marked a significant reduction in human rights protections in the UK, and inflicted lasting damage on those affected by them, receiving widespread criticism. Recent changes to reduce the use of immigration detention are welcome, but the UK Government continues to detain a significant number of people and there is still no limit on how long someone can be detained. The coronavirus pandemic has highlighted concerns about conditions in immigration removal centres, prompting important new measures, although it is not yet clear whether these will be retained as restrictions ease.

  •  A total of 24,443 people were detained for immigration purposes in 2019, a similar number to the previous year – before this there had been a downward trend since 2015. Only 37% of those detained were returned to their country of origin or another foreign country, suggesting detention is not consistently used only where there is a realistic prospect of removal.
  • In 2020 the UK Government rejected amendments to the Immigration and Social Security Co-ordination (EU Withdrawal) Bill introducing a statutory time limit on detention. More than a quarter of those who left detention in 2019 had been held for longer than 28 days, including 128 people who had been held for a year or more.
  • The UK Government’s so-called ‘hostile environment’ policy agenda – a series of policies intended to make it progressively harder for irregular migrants to live, work and access services in the UK – has come under widespread criticism for its detrimental impact on human rights, and it is now referred to as the ‘compliant environment’.
  • An ongoing legal challenge against the UK Government’s ‘right to rent’ scheme is being appealed to the Supreme Court. It is argued that the policy, which requires all landlords to check the immigration status of any potential tenant, is discriminatory.
  • The Windrush Lessons Learned Review revealed numerous cases of poor treatment of individuals who were lawfully in the UK, including people who lost their jobs and homes, and some who faced detention and deportation – overall it found ‘ignorance and institutional thoughtlessness’ on the issue of race.
  • The Commission has undertaken a review of how and whether the UK Government complied with the Public Sector Equality Duty (PSED) in relation to understanding the impact of its policies on Black members of the Windrush generation and their descendants.
  • Our research indicates that NHS healthcare charging in England, and data sharing for the purposes of immigration enforcement, deters migrants from accessing healthcare, and we have raised similar concerns around data sharing deterring domestic abuse survivors with insecure immigration status from seeking protection and support.
  • Independent reviews have highlighted the ongoing detention of people who are disabled, pregnant, transgender, or who have survived torture, trafficking or modern slavery.
  • While the number of children detained has decreased in recent years, 41 children entered detention in the year ending June 2020, counter to the UK Government’s stated policy.
  • There are concerns that the Home Office’s age assessment policy risks separated and unaccompanied migrant children being unlawfully detained alongside adults.
  • The pandemic has highlighted concerns about the over-use of immigration detention and ‘prison-like’ conditions, as well as long-standing issues around access to healthcare. Despite reductions in the number of people held during the pandemic, nearly 40% of those who remained were identified as ‘adults at risk’. Deportations have continued in this period, contrary to UN advice.

Read more about the UK Government’s actions on immigration.

The assessment was made based on the evidence available up to 15/09/2020