Bringing together researchers, practitioners and policy makers working with migrants, refugees and asylum seekers in Scotland
Readers of this blog will be aware of recent high profile Home Office immigration campaigns, including the ‘Go Home’ van, and of some of the impacts that this has had, with demonstrations at UKBA’s Brand Street offices in Glasgow making the front pages of Scottish newspapers. A research team, working in conjunction with GRAMNET, now has the opportunity to carry out detailed academic research on the impacts of such campaigns on migrants, non-migrants and public debate. Our research project ‘‘Go Home’: Mapping the unfolding controversy of Home Office Immigration Campaigns’ has won a grant from the Economic and Social Research Council. The grant, for £200,000 over 18 months, is one of the first successful applications to the Economic and Social Research Council new Urgency Grants Mechanism to support social science research projects responding quickly to urgent or unforeseen events.
The project will be led by Hannah Jones, University of Warwick, and will be carried out by researchers from universities across the UK (including myself, University of Glasgow) and with research partners GRAMNET, Migrant Voice, Runnymede Trust and Scottish Refugee Council . We will also collaborate with community groups in Barking & Dagenham, Bradford, Birmingham, Cardiff, Ealing & Hounslow, and Glasgow.
The UK Home Office first launched this series of high-profile interventions in July 2013, directing public attention to an increasing ‘hard line’ from the government on ‘illegal immigration’, including: an advertising campaign in London boroughs calling on migrants with insecure legal status to ‘go home’; high-profile immigration checks and raids in public spaces; and pictures of arrests circulated through the Home Office Twitter account using the hashtag #immigrationoffenders. In addition, here in Glasgow (and also in Hounslow, London), a related poster campaign was piloted at UKBA’s Brand Street offices. Posters reading ‘Is life here hard, why not go home?’ were displayed prominently and were accompanied by stickers reading ‘ask about going home’. An immediate research response to these initiatives, which involved many of the same researchers and others, was reported here in The Voice.
The summer’s wave of interventions is only part of wider structural change to the immigration service and policies restricting non-EU citizens’ entry to the UK, and their rights once present. However, they have drawn public attention and have provoked counter-campaigns in an acute and visible way. While the ‘Go Home’ van pilot has subsequently been scrapped, questions about its impacts remain unanswered. The Home Office’s own internal assessment was concerned only with the numbers of people responding to the campaign. We will map the campaign’s wider impacts on migrants, on local communities and on public debate.
Using a combination of online, textual and visual analysis (analysing sources from policy documents to Twitter), large-scale surveys, interviews and participant observation, this project will study the operation, impacts and implications of these initiatives, and the responses to them. The project will engage directly with policy makers, local activists and public debates, through a series of public events and online dissemination through social media and a project blog.
The project provides a real opportunity to map how campaigns like ‘Go Home’ have an impact across the UK, on public and political debate and on people’s lives. I am looking forward to talking to people and organisations in Glasgow about their experiences and opinions.
Investigators on the project are: Dr Hannah Jones, University of Warwick; Professor Gargi Bhattacharyya, University of East London; Dr William Davies, University of Warwick; Dr Sukhwant Dhaliwal, University of Bedfordshire; Dr Kirsten Forkert, Birmingham City University; Dr Yasmin Gunaratnam, Goldsmiths; Dr Emma Jackson, University of Glasgow; Dr Roiyah Saltus, University of South Wales.