Does Immigration Enforcement Matter (DIEM)? November 2013 - July 2017


This research project aims to explore and explain why, in the UK, despite increasingly strict immigration policies and enhanced law enforcement (e.g. entry screening, ID and work permits checks, workplace and other raids, and employer sanctions), irregular migration continues at significant levels, and at least until 2008, even increased. This study looks specifically at in-country immigration law enforcement and its effects and limits, an aspect that has so far received very little academic attention. It complements another project based at COMPAS that studies border controls.

The overarching theme of this project is to study the impact of increasingly tight legislation and robust enforcement measures on irregular migration and on irregular immigrants. In particular, it aims to:

(1) investigate immigration law enforcement agencies and practices;
(2) analyse the political, legal, practical and ethical limits of law enforcement;
(3) investigate the interaction between irregular immigrants’ strategies, employer practices and enforcement measures;
(4) find how irregular migrants navigate and survive internal immigration controls;
(5) identify the impact of enforcement on irregular migrants’ access to fundamental rights;
(6) show how all this is perceived by the affected immigrant communities; and finally,
(7) highlight the effects and effectiveness of such enforcement.


Principal Investigator

Franck Düvell


Myriam Cherti
Iryna Lapshyna


Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC)






This is a qualitative, multi-dimensional, multi-sited (London, another city and a rural area), multi-actor (four immigrant groups, employers, NGOs, statutory agencies and politicians) and mixed-methods (interviews, observations, policy analysis) study. The first stage of the project will involve gathering of secondary data and conducting a policy analysis (legal and administrative documents and administrative data, press releases and media reports). Second, we will conduct empirical research (observations, in-depth and semi-focused interviews) with six sets of actors.

  • Home Office, Immigration Enforcement Directorate, and Police (senior and frontline staff, central and local level; agreements will be sought to observe intelligence and enforcement practices).
  • Public services, e.g. Department for Work and Pension, Education, NHS, central and local level.
  • Leading representatives of the main political parties dealing with immigration.
  • Voluntary sector organisations (migrant and refugee community and support NGOs, immigration solicitors).
  • Irregular immigrants from four different migrant communities in three locations.
  • Employers and recruitment agencies, both ethnic and white British businesses.

Findings will be compared with studies conducted in 1998 and 2002, thus providing a unique serial research design to facilitate the analysis of how immigration enforcement has evolved over time, while highlighting its impact and limitations.


Franck Düvell will attend the International Metropolis Conference in Den Haag, 18-22 September. This year’s conference is devoted to ‘Migration and Global Justice’.

Franck will address the panel debate 6.8 ‘Why migration policies fail‘ organised by Jan Rath. He will highlight the findings of his ESRC-funded DIEM project on immigration enforcement. Notably, he will show to what extent and why the ‘hostile environment’ approach in the UK is based on false assumptions, thus does not have the intended effect but instead generates some unintended side-effects.