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UEL academics highlight new border controls

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New 'border controls' moving into daily lives

Two University of East London (UEL) academics have highlighted how ‘border control’ has moved from the margins into the mainstream of daily life for many people in the UK.

Routine interactions with, for example, employers and doctors can now include an extra layer of  what amounts to immigration and residency checks, acting as a deterrent for many people who want to access services and increasing a sense of persecution, they say.

In their new book ‘Bordering’, Dr Georgie Wemyss, senior lecturer in social sciences and Professor Nira Yuval-Davis of the Centre for Migration, Refugees and Belonging, both from UEL, and co-author Kathryn Cassidy illustrate how this change is creating a ‘hostile environment’. 

Backed by the prospect of sanctions, the government requires employers, landlords, private sector workers, NHS and other public services to carry out checks on a person’s immigration status before offering jobs, housing, healthcare or other support. This embeds immigration and border controls deeply into the daily lives of ordinary members of the public as well as the public sector workers who have to ask the difficult questions. 

Campaigns such as ‘Docs Not Cops’ and #patientsnotpassports have been launched in response to doctors and health workers being required to spend time on immigration and residency checks instead of focusing on medical treatment and health care. Campaigners argue that a ‘hostile environment’ is a challenge to the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights which states that access to health care is a human right. 

Dr Georgie Wemyss said, “’Bordering’ highlights how ordinary people in the course of their jobs as health workers, employers or landlords have to carry out the roles of unpaid, untrained border guards in checking people’s immigration status leading to discrimination and inequality. 

“These new processes are creating uncertainties which means that an increasing number of immigrants are finding themselves living in grey zones, excluded from protection and left vulnerable to persistent checks and investigations. 

“Some of them are on low incomes, unfamiliar with the language and culture, unaware of their entitlements and fearful of the Home Office so they are deterred from seeking treatment and support. This places them and their families at further risk.”

The recent book launch of ‘Bordering’ highlighted how this new culture of immigration checks impacts on society, politics and the economy. Dr Jess Potter, from Docs Not Cops spoke about the frustrations experienced by the medical profession. Mohammed Omar, a University of East London student who had lived in the Calais Refugee Camp and contributed to ‘Jungle: Stories of the Calais Refugee Camp’, relayed how this new concept of intrusive bordering was affecting his life. 

“Bordering” is available to buy in the UK and has just been published in the USA. 

Photo credit: Saskia Wemyss