Distanciation as a technology of control in the UK hostile environment

Jessica L. Potter*, Isabel Meier

*Corresponding author for this work

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This article considers how distanciation, understood as the active production of different forms of distance as a method of control, is used to manage people racialised and criminalised as migrants within the UK's hostile environment. Analysing different policies introduced under the hostile environment agenda, as well as the more recent New Plan for Immigration, we argue distanciation is a key tactic that shapes these policies and their implementation as well as offers us insight into changing forms of governing migration. Drawing on the analysis of a wide range of policy documents, the paper attends to different forms of distanciation used as a method of control within the UK's wider hostile environment and then presents the results of a case-study of how distanciation is mobilised within the English National Health Service, under the Migrant and Visitor Cost Recovery Programme in particular, which was introduced in 2014 to ensure the NHS receives ‘a fair contribution’ from people racialised as migrants. Addressing different forms of distanciation such as – spatial, legal and emotional – we argue that the lens of distance can offer insights into how detachment – increasing distance between different agents in immigration law and border enforcement is an intentional design to control empathy, solidarity and resistance. Tracing ways these forms of distanciation are designed into legislative and administrative measures helps us better understand how hostile environment policies work as well as locating agencies and possibilities of resistance within different spaces, agents and subjects of bordering.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)263-284
Number of pages22
JournalCritical Social Policy
Issue number2
Early online date18 Mar 2024
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 18 Mar 2024

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