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Immigration Detention Lancaster Conference

Date: 22 & 23 January 2015 Time: 9.30am

Venue: Lancaster University FASS Building


For the most up to date information see

The Business of Immigration Detention: Activisms, Resistances, Critical Interventions

Thursday 22 January at6pm Performance by ice&fire, followed by wine reception and buffet

Friday 23 January10- 5pm conference Lancaster University, Lancaster UK

In January 2015, the Centre for Mobilities Research at Lancaster University (CeMoRe), will host an ESRC sponsored conference "The Business of Immigration Detention: Activisms, Resistances, Critical Interventions" (which is the final event in part of a larger series of workshops titled 'Exploring Everyday Practice and Resistance in Immigration Detention'). Bringing together a range of leading academics, post-graduate researchers, practitioners, artists, activists and former detainees this seminar series will investigate the ways in which the UK experience of detention reflects and re-produces the contradictory logics inherent in contemporary global detention practices. The aim of this final event in the ESRC sponsored series, is to consider the challenges facing academics and activists in the area of immigration detention (and related practices).

The administrative detention and deportation of adults classified as 'illegal' escalated in the late 1990s with a policy shift from the detention of very small numbers of migrants in mainstream prisons to the development of specialist migrant detention facilities. For example, between 25,000 and 30,000 'illegal' migrants are held in detention per year in the UK. There are thirteen specialist privately-run immigration detention centres and several smaller holding facilities managed by UKBA at major airports and ports. The average daily overall cost of one bed per day in the immigration detention estate is £120, with a typical immigration removal center (IRC) costing almost £8.5 million per year to operate (see Silverman and Hajela, 2012). Successive UK governments have argued that this escalation in detention is 'an essential, everyday facet of immigration control' and 'regrettable but necessary' (see Silverman 2012). However, while arguments about the 'necessity' of detention are grounded in notions of deterrence, threat and security, the expansion of immigration detention, and the practices that determine who is taken into detention, are also driven by business interests. Detention is a business, and the profits to be made are key determinants of both transnational and state-level policy formation and everyday detention practices. Further, this global business is proliferating new markets for global securities companies which extend outside the detention estate into the provision of services, such as housing and welfare for migrant and increasingly 'citizen' populations (for example in running prison, police and schools services).

At this event we will ask what Frances Webber describes as 'the vexed question of when, if and how we should engage with statutory bodies and whether it is possible to do so without jeopardising the principles which led us to get involved in this work in the first place'? (Weber, 2012). Should activism and activist-scholarship aim to resist state practices of detention entirely, or work with private and state actors in order to change detention practices? What forms of critical intervention and resistance are useful or possible in this field?

To address these questions, we are inviting leading scholars, from the US and Canada, academics, artists and activists to address to share their research and experience, and to reflect, listen, learn and debate questions of resistance to immigration detention, from local, national and global perspectives.


Christine Bacon is Artistic Director of ice&fire, the only theatre company which places the human rights issues of the day at the core of their work. Before joining ice&fire, Christine completed an MSc in Forced Migration at the Refugee Studies Centre at Oxford University. Her thesis (subsequently published by the RSC as Working paper No.27) looked at how the privatisation of the detention estate in the UK had affected the evolution of the detention regime. At ice&fire, she oversees the coordination of Actors for Human Rights, a national actors network made up of over 700 professional actors that tours rehearsed readings of testimony-based plays such as Asylum Monologues (chronicling the experience of three individuals going through the UK's asylum process) across the UK, with an explicit agenda of inspiring audiences to take personal action. Directly inspired by this work, a German Actors for Human Rights is now in operation, with over 200 German actors and musicians involved, touring their own version of Asylum Monologues. Christine will speak about her work in relation to the themes of the conference.

Professor Alice Bloch is Professor of Sociology at the University of Manchester. Her research focuses on understanding the lived experiences of forced migrants with a focus on marginalisation and exclusion, rights and agency, engagement in transnational relations, social and community networks, economic strategies and labour market experiences. Recent publications include, Sans Papiers: The social and economic lives of undocumented migrants in the UK (Pluto Press with Nando Sigona and Roger Zetter). She has recently completed an ESRC funded study (2011-14), with Professor Sonia McKay from the Working Lives Research Institute, London Metropolitan University, 'Undocumented Migrants, Ethnic Enclaves and Networks: Opportunities, traps or class-based constructs'. Her current research is a collaboration with Professor Milena Chimienti, University of Applied Sciences and Arts Western Switzerland and Professor Catherine Withol De Wenden Sciences Po Paris, on a project funded by the Swiss Network for International Studies, 'Children of refugees in Europe: Aspirations, social and economic lives, identity and transnational linkages'.

John Grayson is an independent researcher and adult educator. He was Senior Tutor for research at the Northern College for residential adult education until 2006 and taught Housing Studies at Sheffield Hallam University. He lives in Barnsley and is an activist and campaigner with SYMAAG (South Yorkshire Migration and Asylum Action Group, see John has published widely on anti-racist issues for the Institute for Race Relations news service; and on immigration issues, especially on privatisation and asylum housing. He has been involved with the transnational 'Stop G4S' activist network.

Dr Alex Hall is a lecturer in Politics at the University of York. Her research focuses on the international securitisation of mobility and contemporary border politics in the west, drawing on interdisciplinary work from international relations, anthropology and critical security and border studies. She has conducted research into the everyday production and experience of security within immigration detention, and the rise of 'smart' e-border targeting systems in the UK and Europe. Alex is currently conducting research on the role of discretion within smart border targeting programmes, as a way of understanding the contemporary working of sovereign power at the border and the international governance of mobility.

Dr Jenna Loyd is an Assistant Professor in Public Health Policy at the University of Wisconsin in Milwaukee, as well as a prison and detention abolitionist activist. She is the author of Health Rights Are Civil Rights: Peace and Justice Activism in Los Angeles, 1963-1978(2014) and co-editor of Beyond Walls and Cages: Prisons, Borders, and Global Crisis(2013).Beyond Walls and Cages takes an explicitly abolitionist and transnational political approach to issues of detention and forced imprisonment. Inspired by Jenna's activist-scholarship, we are seeking to emulate the philosophy of Beyond Walls and Cages at this conference, with scholars, activists, artists, and the formally imprisoned speaking together form a range of disciplines, experiences and perspectives—from local struggles against immigration detention and strikes and protests against the privatisation of policing and prison-services, to trans-national networks which seek to expose and undo the increasing hold of global securities companies within the fabric of the state.

Alison Mountz is professor of Geography and Canada Research Chair in Global Migration, Balsillie School of International Affairs, Wilfrid Laurier University, Canada. Professor Mountz's work explores the tension between the decisions, displacements, and desires that drive human migration and the policies and practices designed to manage migration. She is author of Seeking Asylum: Human Smuggling and Bureaucracy at the Border (2011) and leads the 'Island Detention Project'

Pa Modou Bojang (Prince) is the Director of Kibaaro Radio, a journalist, writer and refugee. Prince is also a former immigration detainee and a founding member of Migrant Artists Mutual Aid, a Liverpool based activist organisation comprised of migrant and 'citizen' artists, poets, writers and performers.See:

Eiri Ohtani is the Co-ordinator of the Detention Forum in the UK and an independent consultant in the voluntary sector. She has worked with migrants and asylum-seekers for over a decade. A graduate of LSE, she also holds postgraduate degrees from SOAS and Birkbeck, University of London.

The Detention Forum is a network of over 30 NGOs who are working on immigration detention issues. We are working together to build a momentum to question the legitimacy of immigration detention which has become such a normal part of the British immigration system. We are now a membership-based network, a collective of organisations who want to work together to challenge immigration detention. One of the aims of our work is to engage more politicians about this issue. We now host regular Parliamentary Network Meetings on immigration detention twice a year, have written joint letters to influence and individually lobbied local MPs to be more vocal about detention issues.

Dr Maja Sager is a COFAS Marie Curie Postdoctoral Fellow at the Department of Gender Studies, Lund University and, between 2012 and 2015, a visiting researcher at the Department of Sociology, Lancaster University, UK. Her PhD 'Everyday Clandestinity: Experiences on the Margins of Citizenship and Migration Policies' (2011) is based upon an ethnographic study with irregular migrants and migration rights activists and discusses how national belonging, citizenship and social organising are practiced and represented in the Swedish welfare state. Maja is currently undertaking her postdoctoral research with migrant activist groups in the UK, Sweden and Denmark.

WAST (Women Asylum Seekers Together),


Gillian Whitlock is a Professor at the University of Queensland, and her scholarly work focuses on life writing and postcolonialism, with an emphasis on contemporary writing. She is currently an ARC Professorial Fellow in the School. The ARC Fellowship (2010-2014) focuses on the archives of asylum seeker letters held in the Fryer Library at the University of Queensland. An interdisciplinary research team is now focusing on these archives and in June-July 2011 a special exhibition at the University of Queensland Art Museum, called 'Living Archives' and featuring the work of Professor Ross Gibson, will be on display in association with the research project. Gillian will be speaking at the conference about her work on maritime voyages filmed and narrated by asylum-seekers from within the boats, trucks and planes that transport them.

Event website:


Who can attend: Anyone


Further information

Associated staff: Imogen Tyler

Organising departments and research centres: Centre for Crime, Law and Justice, Centre for Mobilities Research (CeMoRe), Crime and Criminal Justice, International Human Rights Obligations Network (IntHRON), Law, Migrancy Research Group, Politics and International Relations, Sociology

Keyword: Immigration law


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