Violence in Immigration Detention: A Comparative Account

In this seminar the speakers will explore issues of violence and how we document them drawing on ethnographic research inside immigration detention facilities in three countries, Britain, Greece and Mexico. It is the second event of Border Criminologies’ Detention and Deportation thematic group.

Bureaucracy, Violence and Border Control in Britain, by Mary Bosworth, Professor of Criminology, University of Oxford

In this paper, I will draw on material from a long-term, mixed-methods research project in the UK on ‘immigration detainee escorting’, to explore the peculiarly British form of administrative violence in this part of border control. Coercive practices are heavily regulated, monitored, and recorded. Together, the private company and their public sector ‘client’ — the Home Office – have created a detailed, bureaucratic system that both neutralises and financialises violence in ways that perpetuate this politically contested set of practices.

Documenting violence inside immigration detention centres in Greece, by Andriani Fili , Wellcome Trust Postdoctoral Research Fellow, Centre for Criminology, University of Oxford

For many years questions about the violent dimension of the Greek detention regime were hardly raised. Official statistics on use of force simply do not exist and concerns about violence are routinely dismissed as hyperbole or coming either from migrants who want to secure their release or from anarchist circles who are anti-state and pro-immigrant. Compounding matters, the academy and civil society have been slow to prioritise such matters. In this paper, I present evidence from a recently published database that documents human rights violations inside immigration detention facilities drawing on more than a decade of research, first-hand testimonies, images and videos. The database is a collective effort between Border Criminologies, Border Violence Monitoring Network and Mobile Info Team. I will juxtapose this evidence with the institutional silence over detention practices and their detrimental effects on the lives of thousands of people and question whether we can challenge violence when there is denial by the authorities to even acknowledge its existence.

Understanding institutional violence from the inside: power and precariousness of immigration agents, Alethia Fernández de la Reguera, Visiting scholar, School of Law University of Warwick

The institutional violence that prevails in immigration detention centres in Mexico can be subtle or direct, from denying access to a phone call, the right to request asylum or psychological torture. These forms of violence result from the exceptionality, discretionality and indifference characterising the functioning of total institutions (Goffman, 2001). However, precarious working environments in contexts of risk and constant “migration crises” (Menjivar et. Al, 2019) exacerbate institutional violence. In this paper, I analyse the impact of working conditions, power relations and the continuous burnout to which agents of the National Migration Institute in Mexico are exposed as central aspects in the processes of different forms of institutional violence against migrants in detention.