London Detainee Support Group

Detained Lives

The Detained Lives campaign aims to end the indefinite detention of asylum seekers and other immigration detainees. A national campaign will raise awareness of the issue and call for a time limit on detention, in line with the rest of Europe.

history Campaign has now closed

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  • Human Rights/AdvocacyHuman Rights/Advocacy
  • Information/AdviceInformation/Advice
  • OtherOther


  • Older PeopleOlder People
  • Women & GirlsWomen & Girls
  • Young People (18-30)Young People (18-30)
  • OtherOther



Immigration detainees are the forgotten people of the UK. They experience some of the most serious breaches of their civil liberties, but hardly anyone is aware of their plight. Many are held for many times longer than the 42 days which was considered unacceptable for terrorist suspects. They can be detained indefinitely by the UK Border Agency, without any automatic review by the courts. The UK is one of the only countries in Europe that practices indefinite detention. It has refused to implement the European Union Returns Directive, which sets a time limit of 18 months on immigration detention. Many detainees have already experienced great trauma and deteriorate rapidly in detention. The Parliamentary Joint Committee on Human Rights observed in March 2007 that detainees “are likely to be highly vulnerable, with high rates of mental illness and distress, and sometimes with past experience of imprisonment, ill-treatment or torture”. The extreme isolation arising from long-term detention is itself a potential trigger of mental health problems. The latest government statistics show an increase of 73% in self-harm in detention. LDSG is currently supporting 90 detainees who have been held for more than a year, and 20 who have been held for more than two years. The Detained Lives project aims to end the routine use of indefinite detention through initiating a national debate on the civil liberties implications. We will help detainees’ voices to be heard through the national media, in order to challenge negative public perceptions and influence policy-makers. By raising awareness of issues of statelessness and the years or decades that many detainees have lived legally in the UK, we will challenge the idea that detainees are not members of society and do not merit consideration of their civil liberties. The project will ultimately aim to change policy to prevent unnecessary long-term detention, including through a time limit on detention. LDSG will publish in January 2009 the first major research report into the human impact of indefinite detention in the UK. The report will be based on interviews with 24 current detainees, each of whom has been held for at least one year. Detainees’ own words expressing the impact of detention on them and their families will be published in the report and on the campaign website ( The report will be launched through a public event at 6:30pm on 29th January 2009 at Amnesty International Human Rights Action Centre in east London. The costs of producing and printing the report will be £2500, conducting the research itself will cost £2000, and holding and promoting the launch event will cost £500.