Death in Immigration Detention 2000‐2015

52 Pages Posted: 17 Feb 2017

Date Written: 2016


Death in Immigration Detention examines the death of 35 people detained under immigration powers, between 2000 and 2015 in the UK. Investigations into deaths in detention provide a window into otherwise closed institutions, revealing similar systemic failings year after year across institutions, and highlighting the ultimate impact of a system that fails to properly protect vulnerable detainees. In about half of the investigations into deaths in detention, the Prison and Probation Ombudsman directly criticised healthcare provision. Breakdowns in communication, inappropriate use of restraints and inadequate emergency preparedness were common criticisms. In 2 cases, neglect was found to have contributed to death and in a number of others, had better care been available, the death might well have been avoided. 90% of those who died were under the age of 50. Thirteen (36%) of these deaths were self‐inflicted, reflecting the high rates of mental despair among immigration detainees in a system which has been shown to be detrimental to mental health, is difficult to understand and experienced as unjust.

Death is part of life but each death in detention is an avoidable tragedy. Those held in immigration detention are not held as part of a criminal sentence but for administrative convenience. No one should have to die whilst detained indefinitely, isolated from their community and fearing deportation to a country they have fled in fear. Since 2015 four more deaths have occurred in detention bringing the total of deaths of immigration detainees, or those recently released from detention, to 39 since 2000.

Keywords: death, healthcare failures, systemic failures, immigration detention, UK, immigration removal centers, mental health, prisons, foreign national offenders

Suggested Citation

Harris, Kris, Death in Immigration Detention 2000‐2015 (2016). Medical Justice, Forthcoming; Criminal Justice, Borders and Citizenship Research Paper No. 2918785. Available at SSRN:

Kris Harris (Contact Author)

Medical Justice NGO ( email )

United Kingdom

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