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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
Hannah Jones, Yasmin Gunaratnam, Gargi Bhattacharyya, William Davies, Sukhwant Dhaliwal, Emma Jackson, and Roiyah Saltus

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?
Hannah Jones, Yasmin Gunaratnam, Gargi Bhattacharyya, William Davies, Sukhwant Dhaliwal, Emma Jackson, and Roiyah Saltus

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)
Hannah Jones, Yasmin Gunaratnam, Gargi Bhattacharyya, William Davies, Sukhwant Dhaliwal, Emma Jackson, and Roiyah Saltus

. 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?

Given the significant similarities and differences between the welfare states of Northern Europe and their reactions to the perceived 'refugee crisis' of 2015, the book focuses primarily on the three main cases of Denmark, Sweden and Germany. Placed in a wider Northern European context – and illustrated by those chapters that also discuss refugee experiences in Norway and the UK – the Danish, Swedish and German cases are the largest case studies of this edited volume. Thus, the book contributes to debates on the governance of non-citizens and the meaning of displacement, mobility and seeking asylum by providing interdisciplinary analyses of a largely overlooked region of the world, with two specific aims. First, we scrutinize the construction of the 2015 crisis as a response to the large influx of refugees, paying particular attention to the disciplinary discourses and bureaucratic structures that are associated with it. Second, we investigate refugees’ encounters with these bureaucratic structures and consider how these encounters shape hopes for building a new life after displacement. This allows us to show that the mobility of specific segments of the world’s population continues to be seen as a threat and a risk that has to be governed and controlled. Focusing on the Northern European context, our volume interrogates emerging policies and discourses as well as the lived experiences of bureaucratization from the perspective of individuals who find themselves the very objects of bureaucracies.

Open Access (free)
Postcolonial governance and the policing of family
Author: Joe Turner

Bordering intimacy is a study of how borders and dominant forms of intimacy, such as family, are central to the governance of postcolonial states such as Britain. The book explores the connected history between contemporary border regimes and the policing of family with the role of borders under European and British empires. Building upon postcolonial, decolonial and black feminist theory, the investigation centres on how colonial bordering is remade in contemporary Britain through appeals to protect, sustain and make family life. Not only was family central to the making of colonial racism but claims to family continue to remake, shore up but also hide the organisation of racialised violence in liberal states. Drawing on historical investigations, the book investigates the continuity of colonial rule in numerous areas of contemporary government – family visa regimes, the policing of sham marriages, counterterror strategies, deprivation of citizenship, policing tactics, integration policy. In doing this, the book re-theorises how we think of the connection between liberal government, race, family, borders and empire. In using Britain as a case, this opens up further insights into the international/global circulations of liberal empire and its relationship to violence.

Hannah Jones, Yasmin Gunaratnam, Gargi Bhattacharyya, William Davies, Sukhwant Dhaliwal, Emma Jackson, and Roiyah Saltus

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
Hannah Jones, Yasmin Gunaratnam, Gargi Bhattacharyya, William Davies, Sukhwant Dhaliwal, Emma Jackson, and Roiyah Saltus

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)
Hannah Jones, Yasmin Gunaratnam, Gargi Bhattacharyya, William Davies, Sukhwant Dhaliwal, Emma Jackson, and Roiyah Saltus

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
Hannah Jones, Yasmin Gunaratnam, Gargi Bhattacharyya, William Davies, Sukhwant Dhaliwal, Emma Jackson, and Roiyah Saltus

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?