Immigration detention in Britain is primarily a final point before deportation or administrative removal. Although some of the population who are detained arrived directly from the airport, most have lived in the UK for a number of years. Their detention and deportation thus raise important questions about the (means and nature of the) constitution of the British community and, particularly for long-term residents, about affective questions of belonging, home, and identity. Who are these people and where is their ‘home’? Where do they belong and why? How do the intertwined practices of detention and expulsion shape and reshape people’s identities?

This project explores how the system of immigration detention and deportation marks out the British homeland, and how those subject to it respond. It consists of two parts. First, research undertaken in four immigration removal centres in the UK examines detainee accounts of their home in Britain, while also exploring the lived experiences of detention. Second, follow-up research with detainees who have been released in the UK or deported or administratively removed considers the impacts of detention and expulsion on their identities and senses of home and belonging. Central to this project is understanding how intersections of gender and race are constitutive of detention and deportation, as well as the lived experiences of these practices.

As countries pursue policies of detention and deportation with ever increasing enthusiasm, it is important to gather more empirical evidence about the outcomes, both in practical and conceptual terms. From a criminological perspective, given that deportation in the UK is now mandatory for all non-EU citizens sentenced to more than one year in prison (subject to international human rights protections), the impact of deportation has considerable bearing on the legitimacy and goals of the country’s criminal justice system and immigration law.


  • M Bosworth and Turnbull, 'Immigration Detention, Punishment, and the Criminalization of Migration' in S Pickering, J Ham (ed), The Routledge Handbook on Crime and International Migration (Routledge 2015)
    Since the turn of the century, the issue of immigration detention has garnered increased attention among scholars in a variety of disciplines, including anthropology, geography, psychology, medicine, law, and sociology. Yet, until recently, immigration detention has rarely been the subject of criminological scrutiny. As the use of detention for immigration purposes continues to rise among countries of the western world, questions as to the purpose, justification, and legitimacy of the detention of foreign nationals are especially salient to the field of criminology. The racialised and gendered nature of immigration detention points to the interconnections between migration, criminal justice, and entrenched legacies of colonialism and imperialism in contemporary border control efforts and responses to population movements under conditions of globalisation. Much of the academic discussion has centred on immigration detention as an instance of expanding state power and the use of criminal justice mechanisms (such as penal institutions and the criminal law) to manage and regulate migrant mobilities – particularly so-called ‘unwanted’ and ‘uninvited’ migration from poor nations of the global south. The widening reach of penal power in the service of immigration policy and border control, and the concomitant rise of immigration detention as a means to contain and control criminalised non-citizen populations, offers the opportunity to further postcolonial feminist intellectual engagement in the field of criminology. This chapter will set out the historical development, typologies, experiences, and impacts of immigration detention, concentrating on Australia, the United Kingdom, the European Union, Canada, and the United States. While drawing attention to the historical roots of immigration detention, the analytical focus will largely be on the expanding policies and practices in western countries since the late 1990s and early 21st century. The aim of this chapter is to show the relevance of immigration detention to the field of criminology, including the ways in which this form of incarceration is similar to and different from ‘traditional’ penal logics and institutions. In doing so, it will highlight how immigration detention is reflective of the broadening reach of penal power and of race, gender, and postcolonial relations in a globalising world.
  • Turnbull, ''Stuck in the Middle': Waiting and Uncertainty in Immigration Detention' (2016) 25 Time & Society 61
    DOI: 10.1177/0961463X15604518
    A defining feature of immigration detention in the United Kingdom is its indeterminacy; that is, there are no statutory constraints on the length of time an individual can be detained. As such, detention is uncertain and unpredictable; it may last a few hours or a few days, or weeks, months, and even years. Consequently, the lived experience of detention is one of waiting: waiting to know both when and how detention will end (i.e. release to the community or expulsion from the country). The denial of liberty and the conditions of confinement present additional challenges for detainees, as they must contend with significant limits to their agency as they await the decisions of a variety of other actors. Waiting has been conceptualised as an exercise of power, one that manipulates others’ time. Although it is a common human experience, for immigration detainees, the lived experience of waiting in the uncertain and unpredictable context of detention is especially challenging. Passing time in immigration detention raises important questions about affect, identity, agency, and resistance within this unique quasi-penal space. This paper draws on ethnographic fieldwork, including 89 semi-structured interviews with detainees, carried out in four immigration removal centres in the UK to explore the lived experiences of waiting. The analysis demonstrates the relevancy of time and agency in immigration detention.
  • M Bosworth and Turnbull, 'Immigration Detention and the Expansion of Penal Power in the United Kingdom' in K Reiter, A Koenig (ed), Extreme Punishment: Comparative Studies in Detention, Incarceration and Solitary Confinement (Palgrave Macmillan 2015)
    This chapter draws on testimonies of staff and immigrant detainees to identify the punitive conditions of administrative detention in the United Kingdom. The narratives highlight the distressing nature of confinement, raising profound questions about the legitimacy of this response to immigration-related matters. This chapter discusses the implications of immigration detention for our understanding of extreme punishment, including the ways in which this form of confinement and its effects are both similar to and different from ‘traditional’ penal practices. In doing so, it highlights how immigration detention reflects the broadening reach of penal power in the service of border control as well as enduring effects of race, gender, and postcolonial relations in a globalising world.

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