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The politics of immigration controversies

In July 2013, the UK government arranged for a van to drive through parts of London carrying the message ‘In the UK illegally? GO HOME or face arrest.’ The vans were short-lived, but they were part of an ongoing trend in government-sponsored communication designed to demonstrate control and toughness around immigration. This book explores the effects of such performances of toughness: on policy, on public debate, on pro-migrant and anti-racist activism, and on the everyday lives of people in Britain. This book both presents research findings, and provides insights into the practice of conducting research on such a charged and sensitive topic.

Blending original research, theoretical analysis, and methodological reflections, the book addresses questions such as:

  • Who gets to decide who ‘belongs’?
  • How do anti-migrant sentiments relate to changing forms of racism?
  • Are new divisions, and new solidarities, emerging in the light of current immigration politics?


Written in a clear and engaging style, the book sets an agenda for a model of collaborative research between researchers, activists, and people on the ground.

Open Access (free)
‘Ordinary’ people and immigration politics

hostile environment for certain migrants in ways that we have explored throughout the book. Within this hostile environment there remains recognition that immigration touches all of our lives, as world populations are increasingly on the move, and where this movement is full of historical and geo-social layerings and legacies of transit and encounter. Politicians’ calls to ‘ordinary people’ who are affected by immigration control are often

in Go home?

immigration control in a more impressive light than the one that transpired. ‘Performance politics’, as discussed in the previous chapter, requires the state to put on convincing public displays that the ‘audience’ finds compelling. The performance of the border as a space of fear and potential violence has to infiltrate the public sphere, in this case with the help of the local media. While the performance politics of raids work to spread fear, this

in Go home?
Open Access (free)

. Getting indefinite leave to remain status meant that I was free from immigration control and gave me a sense of freedom. I felt free to protest against the injustices of the immigration system. I am ashamed that I waited until I felt ‘safe’; many others in far more insecure situations speak out at great risk to themselves. But, like many others, I had kept my head down for years, anxiously monitoring Home Office pronouncements on immigration, trying to figure out

in Go home?

above provide very different perspectives on the performative politics of immigration control, demonstrating some of the contradictory reactions to the increasing visibility of the ‘toughness’ of UK immigration enforcement. In the first narrative, a woman describes the visceral fear that gripped her on seeing a large, public show of force by border officials at a domestic railway station in South London. Rita had a valid visa and therefore in

in Go home?
Open Access (free)
Emotions and research

point in research where it is possible to reanimate data with some of its emotions and sensuality. As our project developed, we began to experiment with methods of conveying the emotional and embodied aspects of experiences of immigration control by using film and dramatisations of fieldwork scenes (practices that are discussed in the growing literature on ‘performative social science’, see FQS, 2008 ). Although all

in Go home?
Open Access (free)

elsewhere. In his mind's eye, England was a place where he might be able to continue his education or even get a good job; there was the BBC, and the best newspapers! That a single image of a government immigration policing campaign can bring up such thoughts and feelings begins to suggest something of the emotional, existential and political textures of contemporary immigration control – the ‘submitting to the will of heaven’ – of

in Go home?
Open Access (free)
Collaborations

emotional response, and so we wanted our survey to test the kinds of responses such performances might elicit. Our focus was to identify public attitudes to immigration control when faced with the realities of the techniques used as part of that control. A common practice in UK academic research aiming for large-scale polling data is to commission this work from external companies that have the infrastructure to produce such data quickly. This is a

in Go home?

‘bad migrants’ seek to portray themselves as valuable citizens deserving of respect and protection. They do this by pointing to other individuals who behave badly, and who thereby constitute the ‘real’ problem identifying ways in which people targeted by immigration control, and anti-racist and migrants’ rights campaigners, have opened up debates about solidarity, belonging and deservingness in alternative and sometimes

in Go home?
Locating the monsters in the machine: an investigation of faith

, diversity becomes then a happy sign, a sign that racism has been overcome (Ahmed, 2007: 164). Thus, in both political and public discourse, especially in the UK, it is increasingly claimed that it is no longer racist to talk about immigration control and that people can now have a sensible debate about immigration, where the notion of sensible involves making use of statistical evidence. Pointing out the limits to openness and transparency, Anderson argues that ‘the claim to racelessness is not paralleled by a claim that immigration policies are not designed to keep out

in Science and the politics of openness