Deterrence measures as response to potential threats to the host country: the case of the United Kingdom
par Serge Lattoh
London South Bank University - Master of Science 2007
For decades, immigration has become a recurrent subject in social and political
debates in Western Europe. Whereas human being's mobility throughout the
world is an historical fact that can be traced back ages ago. The term immigration
includes economical as well as political migrants. If the former due to «pull» factors
migrates to positively improve his conditions of existence, the latter leaves his
country because of «push» factors. Indeed in order to have a safe and peaceful life,
people are forced to flee from their own countries to escape conflicts, torture,
persecution and other degrading treatments. By leaving their countries for another one
to seek refuge, they become asylum seekers, who according to United Nations High
Commissioner for Refugees, is a person who has left their country of origin, has
applied for recognition as a refugee in another country, and is awaiting a decision on
their application(UNHCR,1996). In their flight, most asylum seekers' destinations are
countries where they think basic human rights such as the right of life, the prohibition
of torture, freedom of movement and expression etc... are scrupulously respected.
The different political crises and conflicts all over the world have generated thousands
of asylum seekers heading to the European continent especially to the European
Union members `states where they think their life will be safe. The choice of some
states of the Western Europe is not fortuitous. First, most of them have colonial ties,
Secondly, they are signatories of 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the
1951 Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees and finally they all have a well-
established refugee regime. Thus the end of World War II and the period post
decolonisation have seen many people flowing in Western Europe. That tendency has
been increasing since the 1980s up to now.
The phenomenon of asylum seekers referred to as aliens coming to Europe has
become a great concern and a real challenge for some European countries. The alien
is a subject of curiosity for the local population because of his skin, face and the
language he speaks. He is a mysterious person whose increasing number frightens the
local population. A trivial incident he is involved in becomes a serious matter, blown
up by newspapers and politicians to infuse fear then xenophobia and finally racism in
the native population.. Though the issue of asylum is seen by states as a kind of
immigration they nevertheless make a distinction between both of them. They have a
moral obligation to accept the former who has rights guaranteed by the UN 1951
Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees. While the latter has no right and can
be therefore denied entry. Assuredly the issue of immigration linked to the concept of
«race relations» has strongly influenced most European countries' policies.
To tackle the problem of massive arrival of asylum seekers in order to preserve
national stability, some countries have voted new legislations, elaborated new
strategies that are at variance with all the International treaties they signed and
ratified. One of the blatant examples is the administrative detention of asylum seekers.
Although that practice, many times denounced by some Human Rights organizations,
is contrary to the Article 31 of the 1951 Convention and the Article 14 of the
Universal Declaration of Human Rights, it is still carried on by most of Western
European countries even those reputed to have a refugee tradition such as the United
Kingdom. Is the presence of asylum seekers undesirable? Is xenophobia or racism the
new growing feeling in Europe? One could spend times wondering why people
seeking asylum are treated so. The rationale of the European countries' behaviour
towards asylum seekers differs from one country to another. Some refuse them for
racial considerations while others for economic ones. Among the panoply of measures
to discard asylum seekers, European countries use either containment which is to
prevent people from actually leaving their countries of origin and arriving at Western
states' borders or deterrence which is a mixture of restrictive and punitive measures
taken in the country of asylum (Hassan, 2000).
For decades many works have been written in sociology (Solomon 1989; Hayes and
Humphries 2004), politics and international laws dealing with asylum seekers but also
deterrence measures implemented against them (S.Cohen 2003; Hayter2004; Hassan
2000; Schuster 2003).
The topic: Deterrence Measures as Response to Potential Threats To The
Host Country: The case of the United Kingdom; deals with the practice of a
signatory state of the UN 1951 Convention to protect its society and the welfare
My work adds to the debates on the rationale of deterrence measures against asylum.
It first gives us the opportunity to see through a discourse analysis that politicians'
statements are the frame of its implementation, secondly that the concept of race
relations which states that many different races in a given country lead to violence
influences British immigration policy, and finally that both containment and
deterrence measures in the United Kingdom are protective means used against the
growing number of asylum seekers who constitute potential economical and societal
I would like to mention that though the topic of the work is the case of the United
Kingdom, I am not pretentious to cover the whole United Kingdom but I would
rather focus on England. However I will refer to the United Kingdom
or Great Britain as it is in the international treaties, official documents or in any
quoted article I took from books.
My work will start by the origin of immigration to England where we will see
the reasons why people choose to come to this country and the role played by
governments. Secondly, I will present the impact of asylum seekers' presence in
England. This part will give us an insight of the economic burden and the societal
threat. In the last part of the work talking about the state 'response, we will have the
opportunity to see the measures adopted by the host country to deal with the potential
The focus of this work is on the rationale underpinning the use of deterrence measures
towards asylum seekers in this country which is one of the first signatories of 1951
United Nations Convention Relating to the Status of refugees. I am convinced that
those measures are not spontaneous but rather the result of series of events that took
place in this country. That is why I have based my work on a combination of
qualitative and quantitative methods. They helped me first, to see the history of
immigration in this country, understand what were people's reasons for fleeing their
countries to come here and the role of the host country. Secondly, to analyse the
statements and reactions of the leaders, politicians and population of the host country.
Thirdly, to have an insight of the effects of deterrence measures on asylum seekers.
Fourthly, to see the statistics related to the presence of asylum seekers in the 70s, 90s
and 2003/04 and also the number of detainees in 2004.Finally, the level of support
provided by the National Asylum Support Service (NASS).
The understanding of the rationale of deterrence measures starts by the analysis of
different Acts since 1905 to 2002.
Knowing that English society is in a perpetual change rather than static, population's
behaviour and language follow the current environment as politics follows economy
and the social environment. Therefore politicians' Acts stem from somewhere and
have objectives. That is why any limitation of my work to only quantitative or
qualitative method will mislead us in the understanding of the implementation of
deterrence measures. For numbers cannot reveal and tell the inner feeling of the host
population, likewise language without numbers does not show the size of a situation.
Though I have chosen a combined method, I acknowledge that it was not easy to
gather information and documents. The poor quantity of former asylum seekers I
found through a church network is due to people reluctance and apprehension to
testify even talk about their past and reveal their status. I also encountered
difficulties to gather first hand statistics from local councils and notorious refugee
organisations. Under the confidentiality label, I have been asked to browse their
web sites because they don't give interviews to students. While others nicely will give
me a telephone number they will never answer.
Since the 1980s there has been a growing academic literature concerning immigration
in the United Kingdom. The movement of people crossing international boundaries
and settling in this country for a short time or forever has been examined in its
different aspects and natures.
Contrary to the idea of Globalisation which is free mobility of capital, goods and
technology across countries, the movement of human being, owner of those items, is
subject to restrictions by states structural barriers. But what makes people travel to the
United Kingdom, sometimes at the expense of their lives? The Neo-Classical
economists argue that migrants are workers leaving low-wage to higher-wage areas.
For them the movement of people to Europe is motivated by a desire of better pay.
This perception of migration is also shared by the Historical-Structuralist approach
inspired by the Marxist political economy. It states that migration is to provide cheap
labour for capital. Those two theories of migration with a disconcerting simpleness
push aside any other reason to only reduce migration to the quest of money, financial
well-being. Whereas there is something greater than money, something which is the
raison d'etre of human being; that thing is life itself. The narrow perception and
theory of the Neo-Classical economists and the Historical-Structuralist approach are
fortunately not shared by all.
Castles and Miller (1998) claim that migration is a combination of push and pull
factors. People are attracted by opportunities existing in other countries and migrate
therefore to improve their conditions of life, while others are forced to leave to
preserve their life. Though the theory of push and pull factors seems whole because it
takes into account both the improvement and preservation of life, it does not explain
the magnitude of future migration, the conditions of travel nor the reaction of host
countries. It also fails to see another type of migrants whose reason to move is nothing
more than follow-the-leader.
Different reasons to migrate implies different kind of migrants. The differentiation
between them lies in the motivation of departure. International law and human rights
organisations call migrants who leave their countries for well-founded fear of being
persecuted as refugees whereas the other group is economic migrants. The UNHCR
Handbook on procedures and criteria for determining refugee status (1996) makes it
clear that a migrant is a person who, for reasons other than those contained in the
definition, voluntarily leaves his country in order t take up residence elsewhere. He
may be moved by the desire for change and adventure, or by family or other reasons
of a personal nature. If he is moved exclusively by economic considerations, he is an
economic migrant and not a refugee. Bloch (2002) argues that the key difference
between refugees and other migrants is that refugees do not want to leave their
country of origin, they are pushed rather than pulled. They are therefore involuntary
migrants. Between the two kinds of migrants, Harvey (2000) states that because of
international treaties, the host country has an ethical obligation to allow in, assist and
protect refugees which is not the same treatment for economic migrants. It is not easy
for the receiving country to draw a line between the two groups because the
anticipatory refugee leaves and migrates before the situation prevents an organised
departure. This type of refugees, though they leave under push factors are mistaken
for voluntary economic migrants(Kunz, 1973).
As people's flight has become easier because of sophisticated means of
transportation, great numbers of asylum seekers landed in the United Kingdom. The
choice of this country is based on colonial links. Sassen (1998) claims that
the choice of destination is colonisation, political influence, trade investment and
cultural ties. Those criteria are no longer relevant nowadays because asylum seekers
go everywhere regardless of colonial ties or language. The consequence of asylum
seekers influx is the changing of policies towards them, from haven to protectionism.
It is said that nation requires defined territorial boundaries which are made
impermeable to unwanted migration. Because any country poor or rich that opens its
borders will see many people and neighbouring states taking advantage of its
permeability. Economic factors are important in relation to immigration. His
statement implies that refugees affect the economy therefore state has the right to
protect its social goods. In the same vein is the position of Communitarian theory
which argues that state is the highest authority as such it has the obligation to protect
and favour its citizens first. Walzer (1983) claims that the theory of justice must allow
the territorial state to specify the rights of its inhabitants and recognize the collective
right of admission and refusal. The choice of state for protectionism over
humanitarian is directed by the economy. This assertion leads to one question: Is the
United Kingdom closing its borders to refugees because of its national interest? The
use of deterrence measures outside and inside the country by governments is to
protect the society and the welfare system. Cohen (1988) argues that the 1905 Aliens
Act was purposely voted to deny entry to Jews who did not have assets to maintain
themselves and could therefore be a burden to the host country. His work is a
compilation of mistreatments ranging from detention to deportation endured by
asylum seekers and refugees in this country. It helps to understand the perception
people have of refugees, their reactions and strategies set up to deter them. It is true
that it is a pamphlet against governments' abuse but it would have gained vast interest
in suggesting solutions to the improvement of refugees' conditions rather than
encouraging acts of defiance against the laws of the host country.
Politics and economic are closely linked. The protection of the welfare is at the core
of the immigration policy. For instance in the visa granted to students, it is written `no
recourse to public fund'. The message is clear, we allow you to enter into our country
but not to our finance. To avoid using people's money to take care of asylum seekers,
it is in the interest of the state not to let them enter. Even those who managed
to enter are no more entitled to social benefits. Hayes and Humphries (eds) (2004)
argue that refugees are called `bogus refugees'or economic migrants by authorities to
justify the restriction and then the removal of benefits. Their work highlights the
refugees crisis in this country. Crisis not in terms of physical or social violence but in
terms of embarrassment at the head of state to how to refuse refugees without losing
the label of liberal democratic state or the reputation of haven for refugees? How to
protect the welfare system and not to be seen as a human rights violator by the
international community? Between national interest and humanitarian compassion,
there is a choice the state has made regardless the plight of the refugees. Through
legislation, the state finds the way to restrict, deter and impoverish asylum seekers.
The legislation is so pitiless that in February 2003, the High Court condemned the
2002 Act as inhuman.
Though their work does not give account of the genesis of refugees in this country,
neither statistics of asylum seekers influx in this country nor propose solution to the
dilemma of the state, it has the merit to speak out what is murmured that asylum
seekers are left aside in a prosperous country. Similarly Bloch (2002) argues that
various Acts are passed to restrict access not only to the country but also to the
welfare benefits. Asylum seekers are prevented from gaining access to this country
through various legislations Acts and those who are already there face mistreatments.
Her work sheds light on the origin of immigration in this country and the response to
increasing numbers of asylum seekers. It is a useful work I will regularly refer to in
my findings. It helps in the understanding of the use of refugees for economic
purposes by governments. The attitude of governments is closed to wickedness and
hypocrisy. They take advantage of the plight of refugees to fill the void in the labour
market. Hypocrisy is openly celebrated by governments when they hide under
humanitarian act the real driving force of granting refugee status.
The usefulness of the work lies among many others in the retrospective view of the
origin of immigration, the display of the pieces of legislation and deterrence aspects
incorporated in them. However it does not go deeply to reveal the consequences of
those laws on asylum seekers. A brief mention of asylum seekers detention without
her own view might suggest that it is a trivial and normal thing which she agrees.
Lastly, it presents a nice picture of the settlement of minority groups at Newham in
London. Would it not have been objective to also take another locality outside
London to compare and show if the settlement policy is a successful operation in this
Hayter (2004) goes in the same way to argue that governments believe in deterrence
measures to bring down the number of asylum seekers. They put a special accent on
immigration controls to achieve that goal. Detention is at the core of the arsenal to
discourage would-be asylum seekers. It is used at any stage of the process. The
reasons why asylum seekers are detained are first the possession of false documents.
It is undeniable true that someone fleeing under `push factors' perpetrated by his
state' agents does not have the necessary time to carry all his documents while others
do not have one. For instance, in a country ruled by a dictator, opponents' passports
are confiscated to prevent them from leaving the country. In such situation, they can
only leave the country either disguised or with false documents.
Detain asylum seekers because of false documents raises the question whether their
lives are less important than the documents they carry with them? How can travelling
abroad with their own documents bring any change to the situation that causes them to
flee? The second reason to detain is when immigration officers think that the
individual may abscond. In other words, the asylum seeker will disappear in the
nature without waiting for the result of his claim. It is a naïve view. In entering in this
country people have two options, either legally or illegally that is to say with or
without record of their presence. By lodging their claims, asylum seekers show their
desire to abide by the law of the host country and not live illegally. Therefore see
someone making an asylum application and think that very person will abscond
without waiting for the result, is a wicked thought only immigration officers can have.
The other tool of deterrence measures is impoverishment. The removal of social
benefits coupled with the prohibition to work lead asylum seekers to a situation of
destitution. The government is, through NASS, ready to take care of them if only if
they prove to be penniless. All this participates in the strategy to deter asylum seekers.
Face to arbitrary and wicked character of immigration controls, Hayter suggests
stopping immigration controls because no one is illegal.
Her work which is an invaluable contribution in the understanding of the plight of
asylum seekers in the United Kingdom, has been a precious source of information
to my work. It gives deep description of the effect of immigration policy on asylum
seekers. Nevertheless, it fails to appreciate the positive side of immigration controls.
It is not enough to claim asylum to be allowed in the country nor is it an open sesame.
For under the mantle of asylum seekers or refugees are hidden criminals who are
wanted by tribunal. The case of a former Rwandese military officer who planned the
massacre of Tutsi, then ran to Europe, claimed asylum and was granted the refugee
The plight of asylum seekers has also been the concern of Schuster (2003) who
asserts that the purpose of the legislation in this country is to deter potential asylum
seekers. The rationale of that position is based on the perception that asylum seekers
are a threat to the welfare system, to British identity and to the Liberal state.
Legislation is then used as legal weapon to restrict access to the country and also to
certain social goods such as the welfare provisions. But how to restrict the granting of
asylum and remain a liberal state? The government finds the solution in criminalising
asylum seekers. An intelligent and subtle campaign is organised through media to
shape and orientate the international and national opinion that asylum seekers are not
genuine but bogus or economic migrants who come to improve their well-being. They
rather flee hunger not persecution. This accusation leads then to the categorisation of
asylum seekers into two groups: the genuine and the bogus or economic migrants. It is
well spread that economic migrants are far numerous than genuine asylum seekers.
Unfortunately no statistics is attached to the allegations to prove them right. The
manipulation goes on and allows the government not to abide by its moral
obligation towards asylum seekers.
It is clear that granting asylum or refugee status today does no more respond to any
humanitarian act or political propaganda but is conditioned by public order and
mainly the economical situation of the country.
This work gives us an indication of the origin and development of asylum, focuses on
the use and abuse of political asylum by both asylum seekers and states. It emphasizes
that though British governments will grant asylum to very few people to assert its
liberalness, immigration controls are a priority in their agenda. Face to asylum crisis,
containment and temporary protection are proposed as solutions. However, Schuster's
work presents a bias inclination. It fails to give us the evidence of abuses perpetrated
by asylum seekers to only record debates by Members of Parliament and those in the
government. It is therefore a one side point of view because the accused are not given
the opportunity to present their case. In addition no data is shown to prove that asylum
seekers are a threat to the economy. Finally, the understanding of deterrence is
contracted to restriction by legislation without reference to detention which is a
current practice in this country. Is it an omission or an implicit support? Hassan
(2000) goes further to state that deterrence policy described as a mixture of restrictive
and punitive measures, is conceived to reduce the number of asylum seekers,
discourage their permanent settlement then save the government money, and finally
reassure the native population that the government has the solution regarding the
problem of refugees. The implementation of deterrence policy happened in the past.
Confronted to an influx of immigrants of different skin colours and the emergence of
xenophobia, the country passed laws to make entry difficult for them. Among the
tools of deterrence, detention is the most used against unwanted immigrants. They are
detained without set times to be released which creates anxiety in response to an
Hassan's work is useful to know the real motivation of the government for
implementing deterrence policy against asylum seekers. One can only agree with it
since it is the manifestation of truth.
For a very long time England has been a country of emigration toward other countries
such as the USA and Australia. But after the two World wars the tendency changed.
The level of people entering the country increased for political, economic and
traditional reasons. We will start by the political one.
A) POLITICAL REASON
In the 19th Century, England was a haven for other European political dissidents.
Famous writers and thinkers such as Victor Hugo, Karl Marx and Albert Einstein
found refuge in this country. But at that time to be a refugee was not given to
anybody as Marrus put it: «the world of political exiles was that of the relatively
well-to-do, at least of the once well-to-do» (Marrus cited in Marfleet, 2006, p110).
It is clear that it was possible for only rich people to flee their countries and live
abroad. The ideological division of the world between Capitalism versus Socialism,
Democracy against Communism played an important role in the immigration in
England. After the First World War, the emergence of anti-Semitism and Fascism
throughout Europe saw the arrival of 30000Jews (Robinson, 1993, p28), 160000
Belgians (Bloch 2002, p27) and 15000 White Russians fleeing the Bolsheviks in
power (Bloch 2002,p27). Those people targeted for their race or Political opinion
found refuge in England. After the World War II saw a new wave coming from
Eastern Europe. Indeed from 1947 to 1949, 2000 Czechs, 84000 from various
Eastern European countries and 20000 Hungarians in 1956(Robinson, 1993, p28).
Here is an idea of refugees coming into this country in the table below.
Main Refugee groups arriving in the UK, 1870 - 1945 table1
Source: Bloch, 2002, p26
Accepting people fleeing dictatorship countries is a propaganda method used to
promote capitalism the corollary of democracy. As we can see on table 1, the groups
of refugees in the span of time 1870-1945 come from countries under either Fascism,
Communism or Nazism regime.
Another reason under the political wing that favoured immigration in England is
the colonial legacy. England like many other European countries went for assets for
its industries . The pursuit of wealth to compete with other countries led it to have
colonies in the remaining part of the world. After the decolonisation era, those former
colonies called new Commonwealth made their way to England.