On the 24thth March 2021 British Home Secretary Priti Patel took the floor in the House of Commons and welcomed her “new plan for immigration” which, in her words, aimed to “address the challenge of illegal migration directly” (HC Deb 2021). She then went on to what she described as “the most significant overhaul of our asylum system in decades” (ibid.). Their plans met with widespread criticism and anger from activists, migrant organizations and opposition MPs. The plan specifically penalizes asylum seekers based on their route of entry and would extend the precarious status to asylum seekers who come via “irregular routes”, resulting in a two-tier asylum system. Many criticized the plan to violate the 1951 UN Convention and the 1967 Protocol, and in response, UNHCR issued a statement affirming that “anyone seeking asylum should be able to participate in their.” intended destination or another safe country “, stressing that the Convention does not,” oblige asylum seekers to apply in the first safe country they encounter “(Grierson & Marsh 2021).
While this is an alarming announcement, in many ways it is a continuation of the securitization and intensification of borders that has taken place over the past thirty years (de Noronha 2021; Jones 2016), with “everyday / everywhere borders” being defined by the political Lives of the UK are imbued with (Yuval-Davis et al. 2018). Under the “hostile environment” – a set of laws outlined by former Home Secretary Theresa May to “create a truly hostile environment for illegal immigrants” (Travis 2013) – the UK has increasing resources for enforcement Immigration regulations provided targeting “illegal immigrants” (de Noronha 2019). Internal borders have increased as immigration controls pervade every part of the United Kingdom’s (O’Neill) bureaucratic system et al. 2019) with doctors, nurses, employers and landlords forced to play the role of de facto Border Guard (Hiam et al. 2018). There are innumerable reasons to criticize the recent proposals and their legal basis, and much of the criticism has been directed at the Home Secretary’s disregard for the UN Convention and an appeal to recognize the rights of asylum seekers.
However, I fear that this formulation of resistance is used to confirm the distinction between legitimate and illegitimate migrants, rather than focusing on the border itself as the root cause of violence. Rather than attempting to discuss the content of the proposals, I would like to focus on the gendered narratives embedded in them and how they fit into broader discourses on migration and perception of “need”, “legitimacy” and vulnerability. In her address, the interior minister relies on the ghost of the male migrant, in contrast to the vulnerable woman. These underlying logics, which are based on constructions of threats and documented framework conditions, do not contribute to the well-being of migrant women, but rather construct a false dichotomy between those considered worthy of protection – the “legitimate” and the “illegitimate”. – – and serves not only to delegitimize migrants, but also to extend certified answers to all migrant committees. In the remainder of this paper, under the term “migrant” I refer to all persons, be they refugees, asylum seekers and undocumented migrants, as I claim that the bureaucratization of the term “refugee” is a path to oppression and exclusion (Zetter) 2019 , 27). This decision is not intended to negate the specificity of asylum seekers, but rather to highlight the arbitrary way in which “forced” and “voluntary” migration is distinguished and the problematic way the current asylum process works.
Heather Johnson (2011) records the feminization, racialization, and victimization of visual images of refugees, with the socially acceptable face of displacement turned into a depoliticized, bullied woman (1050). In this perspective, “legitimate” refugees are portrayed as vulnerable “women and children” (Enloe 1993) in the global south, who are then used to reinforce a binary narrative of “help over there instead of asylum here” (Johnson 2011, 1033) . . This (feminized) “almost madonnalike figure[s]”(Malkki 1995) radiate powerlessness and enable a subgroup of migrants to be classified as worthy of protection – in contrast to masculinized bodies and the perceived” threat “associated with them. The juxtaposition of migrants’ masculinity and devalued femininity depoliticizes the causes of displacement , obscures border violence and creates a hierarchy of migrants who are considered worthy of protection, as specifically mentioned in the Home Secretary’s statement referring to the proportionally high percentage of young men who have attempted to use the canal in small Boats to cross and asks, “Where are the women and children at risk that this system of protection should exist?” (HC Deb 2021) This allusion to the perennial paradigm “women and children” (Enloe 1993; Carpenter 2003) tries not only to position the proposals as a moral protective game, but also as an attempt to change the posi tation of migrants, but also contributes to a general disempowerment in narratives about the victimization of women and the reverse assertion that men with a migration background can never be seen as vulnerable. It is the presence of the border – and the lack of safe routes – that lead migrants to attempt precarious and unsafe travel. Hence, the border – both inside and outside – is the root of the precariousness and vulnerability of migrants. Vulnerability arises from the circumstances, insecurity and threats to which an individual is exposed (Turner 2016). Hence, in the border spectacle, all individuals can be made highly vulnerable, albeit in a distinctly gender-specific way.
The evocation of masculinity in migrants is often associated with the number of “economic” migrants. This conceptualization assumes that “insincere” or “false” asylum seekers are “drawn”’ to certain countries through economic opportunism (Mayblin 2019). In her address, the Minister of the Interior noted that “the presence of economic migrants introducing these illegal routes limits our ability to provide adequate support to others who really need protection,” and referred to “a system that is open to economic migrants” (HC Deb 2021) In view of the reductive and racially motivated gender-specific frameworks that British politicians often use with regard to the global south, the evocation of the “economic migrant” is often equated with young men – despite the disproportionate share of care work done by migrant women.
As Conservative MP Sir Edward Leigh said in response to the Home Secretary’s statement, “Our current asylum system is a complete joke. Every young man living in misery in a failed state knows that if he manages to reach our coast the chances of being deported are virtually zero. “(ibid.) In addition to concealing the intense violence on the British border and the aggressive pursuit of deportation within the “hostile environment”, this rhetoric is reminiscent of the “wrong” asylum seekers’ story – the young man who tries his luck in the hope of economic reward without a no . “real need for protection. Or in the words of the Interior Minister, a person who” plays the system “(ibid.) This confirms a binary number of (il) legitimate causes of displacement, not considering economic survival as one. In this sense, the lack of poverty or climate change as a protection criterion according to the UN Refugee Convention points to the massive inadequacy of the current asylum architecture. The interior minister’s statement ignores the complexity of displacement, in which “people can and must switch between and between categories both in their countries of origin and on their journey through space and time” (Crawley & Skleparis 2018, 59). It also overlooks the deep intertwining of forced migration with the political economy, which denies the obscurity of a demarcation between voluntary and involuntary migration. The MP’s observation also obscures the deep connection between Britain’s colonial (and neo-colonial) legacy and interventionism in building so-called “failed states” and the deep racism of neoliberal capitalism.
Deception of old age is another recurring motif mentioned throughout the debate. Conservative MP Jonathan Gullis refers to “Stories of adult adults who come to the UK but apply for asylum as children … a very serious protection risk for our young people” (HC Deb 2021). The Home Secretary replied, “We have seen too many cases of adults posing as children. That is unscrupulous behavior “(ibid.Age determination is often linked to the perception of gender-specific “threat” and masculinity. If a young asylum seeker does not have documents to prove his or her age, the Ministry of the Interior can carry out an initial “assessment” based on appearance and behavior (Coram 2017; Refugee Council 2019). These determinations can be influenced by perceived masculinity – facial hair, tone of voice, mannerisms. Incorrect age determination affects the support, hinders access to training and the processing of an application. Rather than considering the narrow scope of childhood and the difficulty and subjectivity of age assessment – especially given the diverse cultural meanings and dimensions of age around the world and the traumatic journeys individuals have faced – the debate revolves around the perception of Threat. “The protection of“ our young people ”(HC Deb 2021) runs counter to the protection of migrants and not as an imperative to extend protection to all.
The figure of the “threatening” racialized man is not new, it is deeply rooted in neo-colonial explanatory narratives, the moralized “white men who save brown women from brown men” (Spivak 1988). For example, Khalid (2017) has analyzed the “gender orientalist logic” embedded in substantive narratives that legitimize the Iraqi invasion, referring to Iraqi men as the “barbaric other” from whom Iraqi women had to be rescued. These orientalist discourses – a distinction between “civilization” and “barbarism”; The “West” is synonymous with progressivism, the “Orient” is considered archaic and prone to despotism (Ali 2018; Said 1977). In particular, he can attach himself to male bodies and recur in the hostile depictions of migrants’ masculinity in British discourse.
In agreement with Tudor (2018) I argue that “the connection between racism and migration cannot be reflected responsibly without taking into account the colonial past and post-colonial heritage of Europe” (1066). This post-colonial accounting is completely absent in the government discourse on migration. There is no problematicing the causes of displacement, the reasons people make dangerous journeys, or the UK’s direct anchoring with global structural oppression. The only way to stop the violence perpetrated at the border is through a collective policy that recognizes the afterlife of colonialism and revolves around “questions of responsibility, guilt, reparation, repentance” (Danewid 2017, 1684) instead of To hierarchize migrants based on constructed categories of “merit”. In this sense, activists and scholars have an explicit responsibility to speak expansively about borders and to avoid a narrow “categorical fetishism” (Crawley & Skleparis 2018) that hierarchies migrants based on perceptions of vulnerability and a binary between those who support protection can be seen as legitimate. The deconstruction of demonizing depictions of migrants’ masculinity must be central to any form of resistance to violent border regimes, as these frameworks harm all migrants equally.
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