Does Immigration Enforcement Matter (DIEM)? Irregular Immigrants and Control Policies in the UK

Published 18 October 2018 / By Franck Duvell, Myriam Cherti, Irina Lapshyna

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Illegal immigration, irregular migrants and the processes used by governments and other official bodies to deport, prosecute or otherwise undertake enforcement activities against people on the basis of immigration status form one of the most contentious and vexed element of global migration debate.

This report presents findings from an ESRC-funded project examining irregular migration and immigration enforcement in the UK. The study focuses specifically on in-country immigration law enforcement and its effects, impacts and limits, a phenomenon that has so far received very little academic attention.

It looks at the impact of increasingly tight legislation and robust enforcement measures on irregular migration and on irregular immigrants; in particular, it investigates:

The organisational structure, culture and practices of immigration law enforcement agencies;

  • The political, legal, practical and ethical limits of law enforcement;
  • The interaction between irregular immigrants’ strategies, employer practices and enforcement measures;
  • How irregular migrants navigate internal immigration controls;
  • The impact of enforcement on irregular migrants’ access to fundamental rights;
  • How this suite of processes, actions and impacts are perceived and shape policies.

The investigation considers three sometimes overlapping groups – immigration enforcement (29 individuals interviewed)– which are examined at both a managerial and delivery level; stakeholder groups such as public service providers (16 individuals) and employers (18 individuals), who are also charged with the enforcement of migration laws, as well as voluntary sector organisations (21 individuals); and the target groups for enforcement action – notably the irregular migrants themselves (175 individuals).

Visit the DIEM project page.


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