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Crime, punishment and harm: Asylum seeker narratives of the immigration and criminal justice system

  • Dr. Monish Bhatia
Friday 7 April 2017
Kamerlingh Onnes Building
Steenschuur 25
2311 ES Leiden
B 017

There is an increasing merger of immigration and criminal laws, a phenomenon that is documented by the “crimmigration” scholars. The breach of immigration enforcements, which was previously a civil offence and dealt under administrative courts, has now moved into the criminal justice domain. As a result, acts such as, possessing/using fake nationality documents (passport, ID card, work permit or other entry clearance documents), deception during asylum interview, working ‘illegally’ or resisting removal (to name a few), are prosecuted under the criminal law. At the same time, immigration and asylum laws have been toughened-up, and there are series of restrictions placed on asylum seeker entry and welfare provisions: right to housing, work, education, health etc. The British government has actively used destitution as a policy lever to encourage returns back to the home countries. Not able to return, those who are refused asylum often find themselves in a bureaucratic limbo with a shifting status and no rights whatsoever. Due to marginalisation, exclusion and lack of room to maneuver, some individuals get trapped in the cycle of crimes (for e.g. drugs and related offences), or commit acts that are now classified as ‘crimes’ (as mentioned above).

In this paper, I will bring asylum seekers narratives to the forefront, and discuss their experiences of living in an empty bureaucratic space, committing crime(s), imprisonment and punishment, and life after. The aim of the paper is to highlight the racist nature of the immigration and criminal justice systems, and harms inflicted by the British state, and at the same time give voice to those seeking asylum and highlight their resistance and struggles.

Dr Monish Bhatia is a Lecturer in Criminology at the Abertay University (Scotland). He was awarded Doctorate from the University of Huddersfield and his thesis was titled: Resisting ‘Bare-Life’: Impact of Policies and Procedures on Asylum Seekers and ‘Illegal’ Migrants in the UK. Monish was later granted a prestigious Carnegie Trust funding in 2014, to carry out a research on destitution policy and harms inflicted on asylum seekers. Soon after that, Monish started another University-supported project on resistance to and aftermath of deportation and narratives of asylum seekers. He is currently working on a manuscript proposal and publishing research findings in academic journals and books. Monish also has an international volume on Media, Crime and Racism (co-edited along with Scott Poynting and Waqas Tufail), due for submission in July 2017.

Twitter: @DrMonishBhatia

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