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Deterrence measures as response to potential threats to the host country: the case of the United Kingdom

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par Serge Lattoh
London South Bank University - Master of Science 2007

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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

abnormal situation.

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.


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








White Russians






Germans, Czechs, Austrians











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.

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