Deterrence as Politics and Policy

Event date
26 May 2023
Event time
16:15 - 17:30
Oxford week
TT 5
Centre for Criminology Seminar Room

Emily Ryo - Professor of Law and Sociology, University of Southern California

Victoria Taylor - DPhil Candidate in Criminology, University of Oxford

Tiphaine Le Corre - DPhil Candidate in Politics, University of Oxford 



Deterrence as Politics and Policy

The concept of deterrence -  defined loosely as the notion that criminal penalties do not serve just to punish offenders, but also to deter other people from committing similar offenses - has a long and controversial legacy within criminological thought (Beccaria, 1963 [1764], Becker, 1968, Paternoster, 2010).  Over the past thirty years, liberal democracies in the global north have deployed an array of punitive migration and border control policies designed to prevent unwanted migration under the rubric of deterrence. Despite a wide body of evidence demonstrating that these policies are ineffective and lethal, deterrence remains a deeply influential concept in migration governance (De León, 2015, Pickering and Lambert, 2002, Kent et al, 2019). This seminar draws together research from a variety of international contexts to make sense of the longevity of deterrence as a model for migration politics and policy. 

Emily Ryo - Deterrence and U.S. Immigration Policy

Every day, thousands of immigrants in the United States are held in immigration detention under conditions that are no different than those facing the criminally incarcerated. Thousands of other immigrants are deported to their countries of origin without the opportunity to be heard before an immigration judge. US policymakers hope that these punitive enforcement policies will deter individuals from attempting to enter the United States without authorization. Yet this study of individuals in El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, and Mexico finds no evidence that such policies change their intentions to migrate to the United States. In addition, these policies may foster beliefs that the US immigration system lacks procedural and outcome fairness.

Emily Ryo is a professor of law and sociology at the USC Gould School of Law. She received a JD from Harvard Law School and a PhD in Sociology from Stanford University, where she was a National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellow. She served as a law clerk to the Honorable M. Margaret McKeown of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals and practiced law at the international law firm of Cleary, Gottlieb, Steen, and Hamilton. Her research focuses on immigration enforcement, immigration detention, and access to justice for immigrants. She is a mix-methods researcher whose work has been supported by the Russell Sage Foundation, the Carnegie Corporation of New York, and the National Science Foundation, among others. She has published widely in both leading sociology and law journals, including the American Sociological Review, Law and Society Review, Law and Social Inquiry, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Stanford Law Review, and UCLA Law Review.


Victoria Taylor - Deterrence on trial: mid-fieldwork reflections on the criminalisation of people seeking asylum in the UK

(Abstract TBC)

Vicky Taylor (she/her) is a DPhil candidate at the Centre for Criminology. Her DPhil research looks at the criminalisation of people seeking asylum in the UK 2018-2023. This project is supervised by Professor Mary Bosworth and supported by the Economic and Social Research Council, and Balliol College's Dervorguilla Scholarship. She is an Associate Director for the Border Criminologies network. Vicky holds a BA in Geography from the University of Cambridge (Double First), and an MSc in Refugee and Forced Migration Studies from the University of Oxford (Distinction). Prior to starting her DPhil, she worked as a Senior Researcher in the UK Civil Service (Fast Stream) across the policy areas of asylum, irregular migration and resettlement. She also previously directed the charity Screen Share UK, which challenges the digital exclusion of people seeking asylum in the UK.


Tiphaine Le Corre

British policymakers are once more proposing to enhance punitive measures against asylum seekers and to restrict their rights as a means to deter prospective asylum seekers from undertaking migratory journeys to the UK. But are restrictive immigration policies effective at reducing irregular and asylum-seeking immigration to the UK? Employing a process-tracing approach, I investigate whether migrants are aware of British asylum policies before reaching British territory and whether such information drives their decision to migrate to the UK in the first place. I rely on 27 semi-structured interviews conducted in Northern France. Two key sets of actors were interviewed: actors who had the potential to act as information-providers about the UK’s asylum regime (aid workers in informal settlements) and information-receivers (migrants in transit). First, I find that aid workers are largely unable to act as information-providers. While many share a normative belief in migrants’ right to informed decision-making, four obstacles prevent this belief from translating into an effective strategy of information-sharing. Aid workers – most of whom are short-term volunteers with no professional training - face motivation conflicts, resource limitations, environmental constraints, and communication barriers which preclude them from effectively informing migrants about the British asylum regime. Second, and most importantly, I find that most migrants are largely uninformed about the specificities of the British asylum regime prior to their arrival in the UK. These findings suggests that specific asylum policies - whether restrictive or permissive - do not drive migratory decision-making. This does not imply that migratory decision-making is irrational. Rather, migrants’ choice of the UK as their preferred destination country is informed by the presence of family and friends already settled in the UK, their ability to utilise such networks to find work in the underground economy, and their prior knowledge of the English language. In other words, I argue that prospective asylum-seekers decide to migrate to the UK for reasons that policymakers have little control over and cannot easily manipulate.

Tiphaine Le Corre is a PhD student in Politics at the University of Oxford working on immigration deterrence policies in the United Kingdom. Before starting her PhD, she completed a Bachelor's degree in Political Science and Philosophy (McGill University) and an MPhil in Politics: European Politics and Society (University of Oxford). After coordinating a grassroots organisation supporting displaced women living in informal settlements in Calais and Grande-Synthe, she started conducting research on British immigration deterrence policies. Alongside her DPhil, she is also a Research Review Writer at the Nuffield Politics Research Centre.