Becoming an Immigrant: Local authority care, criminal justice and the detention of young arrivers in the UK

Research output: Contribution to conferenceOther Conference Contributionpeer-review


Immigration detention and deportability in the UK context have been explored from a range of disciplinary perspectives. While bodies of literature are emerging that focus on foreign national prisoners (Griffiths 2017; Turnbull and Hasselberg 2017) and former unaccompanied minors (Wilding and Dembour 2015; Chase 2016) in the immigration system, these studies have not adequately drawn connections between people from diverse migratory backgrounds who arrive in the UK as children without citizenship, or ‘young arrivers’. This has left elements of the relationship between border controls, the care and the criminal justice systems underexplored, as well the existential impact of becoming deportable for people who have grown up in Britain. This paper begins to address this gap by examining the stories of young arrivers held in Immigration Removal Centres.

Drawing on qualitative data collected as part of a collaborative research project with Gatwick Detainees Welfare Group (Godshaw 2017), including interviews with men in detention and practitioners who work with them, this paper shows that young arrivers share common routes to detention and experience specific forms of harm while detained. I argue that young arrivers are effectively set up for deportability by the state through the care and criminal justice systems that simultaneously include and exclude them from British society. Furthermore, detention is experienced as catastrophic shock which causes people who grew up feeling British to recast their identities and become immigrants. In sum, this paper shows how some young arrivers are funneled towards deportability through state institutions that fail them, and views detention as a dramatic rupture in their biographies.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusIn preparation - 2018
EventBorders, Racisms and Harms: A Symposium - Birkbeck, University of London, London, United Kingdom
Duration: 2 May 20183 May 2018


ConferenceBorders, Racisms and Harms
Country/TerritoryUnited Kingdom

Structured keywords

  • Migration Mobilities Bristol


  • Immigration Detention
  • Young Arrivers
  • Looked after children
  • criminal justice system
  • Harm


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