Becoming an Immigrant? Border Harms and “British” Men with Previous Convictions in British Immigration Removal Centers

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In the context of heightened debate around increasingly hostile immigration policies, the detention and deportation of people with long-standing connections to the United Kingdom (UK) have, within the last few years, received public attention. Such individuals—people who were born in or came to the UK as children—make up a significant proportion of the “foreign criminal” population in detention. This article examines how those individuals with long-standing links, who also have criminal convictions, are often “erased” by the British state. Drawing on qualitative fieldwork with men currently and formerly held in immigration removal centers, I argue that institutional failings in immigration and local authority care “guide” some who grow up in the UK toward (and into) the criminal justice system. Shunning responsibility for these failings, the British state enacts a further punishment through immigration detention and attempted deportation. Despite acts that resist and problematize foreignness, detained “Brits” experience specific harms that change the way they feel about identity and belonging in Britain. These processes highlight the ways that national identity and immigration status intersect with class, gender and race to produce traumatic experiences of cultural denationalization.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)225–241
JournalCritical Criminology: An International Journal
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 8 Aug 2020

Bibliographical note

The acceptance date for this record is provisional and based upon the month of publication for the article.

Structured keywords

  • SPAIS Centre for the Study of Ethnicity and Citizenship
  • SPAIS Gender Research Centre
  • Migration Mobilities Bristol


  • Immigration Detention
  • masculinities
  • Race and racialisation
  • Class
  • British identity
  • Criminal Justice
  • Looked after children
  • Mental health
  • Crimmigration
  • Young Arrivers
  • border control


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