Operation Deportation: Asylum and the Denial of Human Autonomy in Britain, Denmark and Sweden

Victoria Canning1
1University of Bristol, Bristol, United Kingdom

More than ever, the European immigration detention estate has become a central modus operandi for the deterrence, control and deportation of the immigrant ‘other’. Heavy criticism has been weighed on the conditions under which people are forced to live, many based in ‘former’ prisons and some – such as Britain – confined without a time limit.

Drawing from a two year ESRC project in Britain, Denmark and Sweden, this paper extends the focus of immigration detention into the everyday lives of people living outside of formal immigration detention, but who experience penal controls which mirror the prison regime on a lesser scale. Based on oral histories with women seeking asylum, interviews with over 70 practitioners, refugee advocates and border control agents/detention custody staff, and ethnographic and activist participation, this paper draws out the lived realities of policy and practice which contain people seeking asylum beyond imprisonment.

‘Asylcenters’ (termed ‘camps’ by those residing within them) and ‘open’ deportation centres in Denmark will be discussed, alongside the limitations of social participation through poverty and spatial exclusion in Britain and Sweden. Overall, this paper argues that whilst physical controls are lessened outside of formal detention, spatial and temporal controls pervade everyday life in seeking asylum, deliberately eroding autonomy and human dignity.


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