As we cross the calendar midpoint of this very difficult year and start to think about taking a break, we are happy to share some of the activities, events, and publications of members of the Border Criminologies team. As a group, this has been a productive year in many respects, notwithstanding the context in which we have been operating. On the one hand, like everyone else, members of Border Criminologies have been intensely disrupted by the pandemic, balancing care for friends and family members and ourselves, as well as for our students. Applied research has, by and large, stalled. Borders have closed.
As this report will show, we have, as a group, taken advantage of the enforced online format of work and education. We have run a very active and successful series of events. With prompting from our managing editor, Andriani Fili, the core group has met more regularly, allowing us to continue the work we began last year when Border Criminologies reimagined and reorganized key aspects of the network. This has inspired the core teams we created (Blog, Events, Communication, Teaching collaboration, research collaboration, development and networks, community engagement and activism) and helped us widen our impact and engagement.
Under this new refreshed outlook, we have engaged with organisations working on the ground supporting people affected by border control around the world and we have focused more on southern perspectives on border controls. We have also developed new teaching resources, creating short video discussions of specific issues around border control and criminalization of migration. Nearly all our events have been recorded and put online as well.
Although aspects of the pandemic appear to be easing for those of us in the global north who have benefited from the vaccines, the uneven rollout of the vaccine looks set to delay the resolution of this global health crisis. As we have seen from the start, the impact has been unevenly felt across the world, and within the countries in which we live.
In terms of border control practices, the pandemic continues to shape state and non-state responses. As we saw in the Australian government’s ban on its returning citizens from India, the emergency has been used to unleash new coercive powers, which target familiar and novel populations. The mass closure of borders continues to put highly vulnerable people at risk, and to allow states to deny entry. At the same time, these same closed borders have slowed down some of the border control practices like deportation, raising fleeting visions of a world in which matters were otherwise.
Interior and border control practices have had a hand in intensifying the pandemic’s effects. While the UK government released much of the population in immigration removal centres in response to the public health emergency and suspended reporting requirements for asylum seekers, other countries, most notably the US, were slow to react. There, the virus rippled through detained populations unimpeded and entered local communities with devastating effects. While the generally younger population of immigrants and refugees denied entry at national borders escaped the high rates of COVID that had been forecasted, the economic impact of the pandemic hit these communities especially hard.
In the United States, a surge of immigration restrictions dominated the rhetoric and reality of the Trump Administration’s waning days, imposing economic and procedural barriers to entry from the global south and slickening the path to deportation. The Biden Administration has moved quickly on some fronts—rescinding the Muslim entry ban, affirming protection from deportation for undocumented youth, and proposing new immigration legislation that would not rely on trading the legalization of some for the criminalization of many. ICE officials have been instructed to use discretion in pursuing interior enforcement. In other ways, the new President has moved more slowly, leaving many of Trump’s entry bans in place, and continuing to detain families and children.
In the UK, the respite associated with the suspension of some border control strategies has only been temporary. Numbers in detention have started to increase, and institutions which were mothballed are reopening. The government continues to use Napier Barracks, for a small number of asylum seekers who have arrived in small boats from the camps in Northern France, despite a recent court ruling which found the conditions to be so poor they were unlawful, while also moving ahead with plans to open a new facility for women. A new immigration bill is passing through Parliament which will further criminalise irregular entry and widen state coercive power.
Such matters sadly suggest that lessons from the pandemic have not been learned. While the coming year will reveal the character of the Biden Administration’s immigration stance, in the UK and elsewhere governments seem intent on hardening border control measures. Even as those of us who have been vaccinated, can look forward to some easing of restrictions in parts of our lives, the pandemic has reminded us of the interconnected nature of the world in which we live. Border Criminologies’ role in uncovering the existence, architectures and impacts of border control flows from our recognition of this interconnectedness, and our desire to use our research, knowledge, and advocacy towards that end.
As we look forward to our usual summer hiatus, we would like to thank Jennifer Koh for all the work she has done this year as Assistant Director for teaching. Jennifer is taking up a new position at Pepperdine Law School and so is taking a step back from her work with Border Criminologies. We would also like to welcome Monish Bhatia, from Birkbeck University, who will be joining our core team as Associate Director for teaching. Some other changes are happening too, with members shifting to different roles. We hope to be firming up existing partnerships with the ANZSOC crimmigration group (headed by Leanne Weber) and with CINETS.
For now, however, everyone needs to rest. We wish everyone well and will see you all in the new academic year.
Mary and Juliet