Home News The Demonisation of Migrant Masculinities in British Politics

The Demonisation of Migrant Masculinities in British Politics


On the 24th March 2021 the UK House Secretary, Priti Patel, took to the ground of the Home of Commons and hailed her ‘New Plan for Immigration,’ designed in her phrases to sort out, ‘the problem of unlawful migration head-on’ (HC Deb 2021). She then preceded to stipulate what she referred to as, ‘probably the most vital overhaul of our asylum system in a long time’ (ibid.). Her plans have been met with widespread criticism and anger from activists, migrant organisations and opposition MPs. The plan explicitly punishes asylum seekers based mostly on their route of entry and would prolong precarious standing to asylum seekers who come through ‘irregular routes’ leading to a two-tier asylum system. Many have criticised the plan for going towards the 1951 UN Conference and 1967 protocol and in response, UNHCR launched a press release reaffirming that, ‘anybody in search of asylum ought to be capable to declare of their meant vacation spot or one other secure nation’ and emphasising that the conference doesn’t, ‘oblige asylum seekers to use within the first secure nation they encounter’ (Grierson & Marsh 2021).

Though an alarming announcement, in some ways it’s a continuation of the securitisation and intensification of bordering which has occurred throughout the final thirty years (de Noronha 2021; Jones 2016) whereby, ‘on a regular basis/in all places borders’ have suffused via UK political life (Yuval-Davis et al. 2018). Beneath the ‘Hostile Atmosphere’ – a raft of laws described by the previous House Secretary, Theresa Could, as designed to, ‘create a extremely hostile surroundings for unlawful immigrants’ (Travis 2013) – the UK has more and more allotted assets to immigration enforcement and the focusing on of ‘unlawful immigrants’ (de Noronha 2019). Inside borders have proliferated as immigration checks suffused each a part of the UK bureaucratic system (O’Neill et al. 2019) with docs, nurses, employers and landlords pressured to play the function of de facto border guards (Hiam et al. 2018). There are myriad causes to critique the most recent proposals, their foundation in legality for a begin, and far of the criticism has been framed across the House Secretary’s disregard for the UN Conference and an avocation for the popularity of the rights of asylum seekers.

But I worry that this framing of resistance serves to reify a distinction between respectable/illegitimate migrants somewhat than specializing in the border itself as the basis explanation for violence.  Slightly than making an attempt to debate the content material of the proposals, I wish to focus upon the gendered narratives embedded inside them and the way these are located inside broader discourses on migration and perceptions of ‘want,’ ‘legitimacy’ and vulnerability. In her handle, the House Secretary attracts upon the spectre of the migrant male in distinction to the vulnerabilised girl. These underlying logics, rooted in constructions of threats and securitised framings, do nothing to additional the wellbeing of migrant girls however somewhat assemble a false dichotomy between these deemed worthy of safety – the ‘respectable’ versus ‘illegitimate’and serves to delegitimise not solely migrant males, however somewhat prolong securitised responses onto all migrant our bodies. All through the remainder of this paper, I take advantage of the time period ‘migrant’ to confer with all people be that refugees, asylum seekers and undocumented migrants, as I contend that the bureaucratisation of the ‘refugee’ designation is an avenue for oppression and exclusion (Zetter 2019, 27). This resolution is just not meant to elide the specificity of these in search of asylum however to focus on the arbitrary methods during which distinctions are drawn between ‘pressured’ and ‘voluntary’ migration and the problematic methods during which the present asylum course of operates. 

Heather Johnson (2011) charts the feminisation, racialisation and victimisation of refugee visible imagery, whereby the socially acceptable face of displacement grew to become a depoliticised, victimised feminine (1050). On this lens, ‘respectable’ refugees are depicted as vulnerablised ‘womenandchildren’ (Enloe 1993) within the World South which is then used to reaffirm a binary narrative of, ‘support over there, somewhat than asylum right here’ (Johnson 2011, 1033). These (feminised) ‘nearly madonnalike determine[s]’ (Malkki 1995) exude powerlessness, permitting a sub-group of migrants to be deemed worthy of safety– set in distinction to masculinised our bodies and the perceived ‘menace’ entailed. The juxtaposition of migrant masculinities towards devalorised femininities depoliticises the causes of displacement, obscures the violence enacted by the border and units up a hierarchy of migrants deemed worthy of safety. That is explicitly evoked within the House Secretary’s assertion the place she refers back to the proportionally excessive share of younger males who’ve tried to cross the channel in small boats and asks, ‘the place are the susceptible girls and youngsters that this technique ought to exist to guard?’ (HC Deb 2021). Not solely does this evocation of the perennial ‘womenandchildren’ paradigm (Enloe 1993; Carpenter 2003) attempt to place the proposals as a morality play of safety somewhat than an try to additional precaritise the place of migrants, nevertheless it additionally contributes to a universally disempowering narrative of feminine victimisation and the converse assertion that migrant males can by no means be envisioned as susceptible. It’s the presence of the border – and the dearth of secure routes obtainable – which causes migrants to try precarious and insecure journeys. Subsequently, the border – each inside and past – is on the root of migrant precarity and vulnerability. Vulnerability stems from the circumstances, insecurity and the threats a person face (Turner 2016), subsequently all people may be rendered extremely susceptible on the spectacle of the border, albeit in distinctively gendered methods.

The evocation of migrant masculinities usually is available in tandem with the determine of the ‘financial’ migrant. On this conceptualisation ‘disingenuous’ or ‘bogus’ asylum seekers are believed to be ‘pulledto sure nations by financial opportunism (Mayblin 2019). In her handle, the House Secretary states, ‘the presence of financial migrants, which these unlawful routes introduce, restrict our means to correctly assist others in real want of safety’ and refers to, ‘a system that’s open to gaming by financial migrants’ (HC Deb 2021). Given the reductive and racialised gender framings usually utilised by UK politicians in reference to the World South, the evocation of the ‘financial migrant’ is commonly equated with younger males – regardless of the disproportionate quantity of care labour carried out by migrant girls.

As evidenced by the Conservative MP, Sir Edward Leigh, in his response to the House Secretary’s assertion, ‘our current asylum system is an entire joke. Each younger man dwelling in distress in a failed state is aware of that if he manages to achieve our shores, the probabilities of his being deported are nearly zero’ (ibid.) Apart from obscuring the extreme violence of the UK border and the aggressive pursuit of deportation inside the ‘Hostile Atmosphere,’ this rhetoric evokes the ‘bogus’ asylum seeker narrative – the younger man making an attempt his luck on the hope of financial reward with no ‘real’ want for defense. Or within the phrases of the House Secretary, somebody who’s, ‘gaming the system’ (ibid.) This reifies a binary of (il)respectable causes of displacement with financial survival not being thought of one – on this be aware, the absence of poverty or local weather change as criterion for defense underneath the UN Refugee Conference signifies the large inadequacy of the present asylum structure. The House Secretary’s assertion ignores the complexity of displacement whereby, ‘individuals can and do shift between and throughout classes each of their nations of origin and as they journey via house and time’ (Crawley & Skleparis 2018, 59). It additionally overlooks the deep imbrication of pressured migration with political economic system which belies the murkiness of any demarcation between voluntary/involuntary migration. The MP’s commentary additionally obscures the deep connection between the UK’s colonial (and neocolonial) legacies of empire and interventionism within the building of so-called ‘failed states’ and the deep racism of neoliberal capitalism.

Age deception is one other recurring motif talked about all through the controversy. Conservative MP, Jonathan Gullis refers to, ‘tales of totally grown adults coming to the UK however claiming asylum as youngsters…a really critical safeguarding threat for our younger individuals’ (HC Deb 2021). The House Secretary responded, ‘we now have seen too many instances of adults posing as youngsters. That’s unscrupulous behaviour’ (ibid.) Age dedication is commonly intertwined with perceptions of gendered ‘menace’ and masculinity. If a younger asylum seeker doesn’t have documentation to show their age, the House Workplace can conduct an preliminary ‘evaluation’ based mostly upon look and manner (Coram 2017; Refugee Council 2019). These determinations may be influenced by perceived masculinity – facial hair, tone of voice, mannerisms. A false age dedication impacts the assist given, hinders training entry and the way an utility is processed. Slightly than contemplating the slender scope during which childhood is conceived and the issue and subjectivity of evaluating age – significantly given the completely different culturally meanings and measurements given to age throughout the globe and the traumatic journeys people have confronted – the controversy is framed round perceptions of ‘menace.’ The safety of ‘our younger individuals’ (HC Deb 2021) is ready as antithetical to the safety of migrants, somewhat than adopting an crucial to increase safety to all.

The determine of the ‘threatening’ racialised man is just not new, it’s deeply imbricated inside neo/colonial justificatory narratives, the moralised ‘white males saving brown girls from brown males’ (Spivak 1988).  For instance, Khalid (2017) has analysed the ‘gendered orientalist logics,’ embedded inside justificatory narratives legitimising the Iraqi invasion, portray Iraqi males because the ‘barbaric Different’ from which Iraqi girls wanted saving. These orientalist discourses – cleaving a distinction between ‘civilisation’ and ‘barbarity’; the ‘West’ equated to progressivism, the ‘Orient’ deemed archaic and vulnerable to despotism (Ali 2018; Stated 1977) – can explicit connect themselves to male our bodies and may be seen reoccurring within the hostile representations of migrant masculinities in UK discourse.

Consistent with Tudor (2018), I contend that the, ‘nexus of racism and migration can’t be mirrored on responsibly with out making an allowance for Europe’s colonial previous and postcolonial legacy’ (1066). This post-colonial reckoning is completely absent inside the authorities’s discourse on migration; there isn’t any problematisation of the causes of displacement, the explanations individuals embark on perilous journeys or the UK’s direct imbrication with international structural oppression. The one technique to cease the violence enacted on the border is thru a collective politics which acknowledges the afterlife of coloniality and which is framed round, ‘questions of duty, guilt, restitution, repentance’ (Danewid 2017, 1684) somewhat than hierarchising migrants based mostly upon constructed classes of ‘deservingness.’ On this vein, activists and students have an specific duty to speak about borders expansively and eschew slender ‘categorical fetishism’ (Crawley & Skleparis 2018) which hierarchies migrants relying on perceptions of vulnerability and reifies a binary between these deemed respectable for defense. The deconstruction of demonising depictions of migrant masculinities must be central to any type of resistance towards violent border regimes as these framings hurt all migrants alike.


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