Immigration detention is a complex issue that does not always get the attention that a scandal on this scale deserves. As a result, many people are unaware of how it operates and who is affected. We often get asked what immigration detention is, why it is so dangerous for LGBTQI+ people, and how people can help. This is the first of a two-part blog answering some of the most frequently asked questions we get on social media about our No Pride in Detention campaign. 


How many detention centres are there, and where are they?

There are currently seven immigration detention centres (officially known as immigration removal centres) in the UK:  

    • Brook House, Gatwick, London 
    • Colnbrook, Middlesex 
    • Derwentside, County Durham 
    • Dungavel House, South Lanarkshire, Scotland 
    • Harmondsworth, Middlesex 
    • Tinsley House, Gatwick, London 
    • Yarl’s Wood, Bedfordshire 

But in 2022, this government announced plans to reopen two more centres: in Campsfield, in Oxfordshire, and Haslar in Gosport, Hampshire. This will allow the government to hold up to an extra thousand people in the immigration detention estate.   

The government also operates a number of “short term holding facilities”. These are places to detain those who have just arrived in the UK for shorter periods of time while the Home Office assesses their case. 

A fence for a blog on immigration detention

Would it be discriminatory to only keep LGBTQI+ people out of detention? 

Like many other organisations and people in society, we think that detention is unjust and damaging to everyone. But evidence shows that LGBTQI+ people (alongside other groups like pregnant women and survivors of torture) are at even greater risk of harm when detained. 

We want to see an end to detention in the UK, but while it remains a part of the UK immigration system, we want anyone at additional risk of harm to be kept out of it. The government already has a list of characteristics or experiences that may indicate a person is at greater risk of harm if detained, and that list already includes trans and intersex people. We want the whole LGBTQI+ community to be included in recognition of the risks they face. 

There is evidence that LGBTQI+ people are particularly unsafe in detention and should not be detained. They experience bullying, harassment and abuse. This can be from members of staff or from other people who have been detained, who may hold the very same homophobic and transphobic attitudes that LGBTQI+ people seeking asylum are trying to flee. 

The situation is urgent. If this government’s new Refugee Ban Bill becomes law, there will be a drastic increase in the number of people detained, as a punishment for seeking asylum. To protect the wellbeing of LGBTQI+ people who are seeking safety in the UK, it is vital to end LGBTQI+ detention. 


What are the specific dangers that LGBTQI+ people face within detention? 

In immigration detention, LGBTQI+ people face high levels of harassment, abuse and violence from others who are detained, or even staff, who ought to be protecting them. Staff in detention centres are supposed to keep people who are detained safe, yet many lack knowledge of LGBTQI+ specific needs, and might even have discriminatory views of their own.  

In a recent pilot study, LGBTQI+ people in detention spoke about receiving verbal homophobic abuse from staff, and about staff failing to stop physical attacks from others in detention. Others who were interviewed did not report the LGBTQI-phobic abuse they had experienced as they did not feel they would be believed or supported by staff. 

Facing abuse in detention can retraumatise LGBTQI+ people. In our No Safe Refuge study, Gasha from Cameroon said; “I got flashbacks of everything I’ve been through in Africa. I’ve been free for two or three years and then here I am back in a cell”. 


If you don’t want immigration detention for LGBTQI+ people, what do you think about detention in general? Is there another or better way to deal with asylum claims, or people who might need to be removed? 

Immigration detention is inhumane and expensive, causing long-term damage to the lives of those detained and tearing families apart. Although detention should normally only be used when someone is about to be removed from the UK, in the year ending September 2022, of the people leaving detention, 83% were released back into the community. Supporting people to get help with their immigration status while living in the community can help them to resolve their cases without the human and economic cost that detention brings. 

At the moment, community-based case management approaches are being tested across Europe. The first project to report back in the UK found that providing vulnerable women who were seeking asylum with shared accommodation, intensive support and legal advice in the community:  

    • was significantly better for their health and wellbeing 
    • could cost half as much as keeping someone in detention, and 
    • did not decrease compliance with the immigration system 

Although this government has officially accepted the recommendations from the evaluation of this pilot, instead of following the evidence they are increasing the use of detention. 

With an expanding detention estate and new legislation that significantly extends the government’s powers to detain, we need to protect those most at risk more than ever. 

If you want to take action, you can ask your MP to oppose LGBTQI+ detention Or you can read the second part of the blog