SSAHE (Social Scientists Against the Hostile Environment) invites you to the webinar:

Brexit, citizens’ rights and the hostile environment: Uneven stakes, unheard voices and unresolved issues beyond the headlines

The webinar will take place by zoom on March 15, 2021 at 5-6.30pm


This webinar opens up the conversation about Brexit and citizens’ rights to draw attention to the uneven stakes, unheard voices and unresolved issues laid bare by Britain’s exit from the European Union. In this way, it moves beyond the headlines and the loud voices of the citizens’ rights campaigns to demonstrate how the negotiations for citizens’ rights, how the solutions implemented, failed to consider some of those most deeply impacted by Brexit. In this way, the webinar reveals how the negotiations and implementation of citizens’ rights are implicated in the Hostile Environment, furthering the racialised, classed, ableist and gendered exclusions at its heart.

In the lead up to the June 2016 Referendum—dubbed the Brexit Referendum—the contradiction at the heart of early 21st century Britain’s politics of belonging was brought into sharp relief. From the campaign, through the referendum and beyond, the contradiction at the heart of public consensus around migration and citizenship was aggravated and unsettled. The playbook for the Leave campaign exploited existing tensions between the liberal approach to migration and mobility signalled by Freedom of Movement within the European Union and the United Kingdom’s increasingly restrictive and exclusionary citizenship and migration regime.

Five years on, Britain has left the European Union. In the intervening years, questions of migration and citizenship have remained centrestage in the UK. Phase one of the negotiations between the UK and EU focussed on citizens’ rights, the future rights of those British citizens who had taken up the conditional promise of Freedom of Movement to live and work in another member state, and EU citizens living in the UK. The negotiations were fraught and drawn out, and the terms reached are still not quite comparable to those at the heart of Freedom of Movement. In the UK, the EU Settled Status Scheme (EUSS) was rolled out to register all those eligible under the terms of the Withdrawal Agreement, with a deadline of 30 June 2021.

The relatively privileged legal terms on which most EU citizens were able to live in the UK prior to Brexit, paired with assumptions that Free Movement was unconditional and gave limitless access to welfare, has led to limited awareness of the extent to which, even before Brexit, experiences of living in the UK and of its border regime were uneven playing out along known lines of inequality within this population. For example, deportations and detention of EU citizens had been on the rise, particularly among homeless and Roma populations. Brexit, the negotiations and the implementation of the Withdrawal Agreement has articulated with existing inequities and vulnerabilities among those whose residence in the UK relied on the EU law. And yet, there is limited understanding and awareness of this.

This webinar foregrounds some of the unheard voices relating to Brexit and citizens’ rights, including Zambrano families and children, Roma communities and EEA citizens with mental health issues. and considers how COVID intervenes within these.

The organising group for this webinar includes Michaela Benson, Giorgia Dona, Don Flynn, Marie Godin and Nando Sigona.


Claudia Bernard (Goldsmiths) and Iyiola Solanke (University of Leeds) – The Impact of the Hostile Environment on Child Citizens during the COVID pandemic

Mihai Bica (Roma Support Group, Settled) – EU Settled Status Scheme, the Hostile Environment and the Roma

Brian Dikoff (Migrants Organise) – The EU Settled Status Scheme and EEA citizens living with mental health issues

Speaker Bios

Professor Claudia Bernard is Professor of Social Work and Co-Head of the Department of Social, Therapeutic and Community Studies at Goldsmiths, University of London. She has a background in social work and her research interests  lie in the areas of social work with children and families, gender-based violence, critical race theory, equalities and social justice. She has written widely on these topics, including a book entitled Constructing Lived Experiences: Representations of Black Mothers in Child Sexual Abuse Discourses (2ndEdition, Routledge, 2017), and an edited collection entitled Safeguarding Black Children: Good Practice in Child Protection (Jessica Kingsley Publishers, 2016). She is currently writing a book entitled Intersectionality for Social Workers: Theory and Practice for a Diverse Society, to be published by Routledge.  

Mihai Calin Bica is Roma Brexit Campaigning and Policy project at the Roma Support Group (RSG). The RSG is a community led, London based charity, set up in 1998 to help Eastern European Roma settle in the UK. Mihai Bica has a professional background working around human rights of those from the Roma communities in Romania and not only. Mihai works at RSG since 2016 and is currently doing policy and campaigning work leading the work on Brexit and the EU Settlement Scheme. (For more information:  

Brian Dikoff is a legal organiser at Migrants Organise, the award winning, grass roots platform where migrants, refugees connect, build common ground, organise for dignity and justice for all. Brian coordinates and does case work for their Migrants Mental Capacity Advocacy project and is leading the legal challenge on behalf of EU citizens with mental capacity issues and the lack of provision for them in the EU settlement scheme. 

Professor Iyiola Solanke holds the Chair of European Union Law and Social Justice within the University of Leeds Law School. She is a former Visiting Professor at the Harvard University School of Public Health and Fernand Braudel Fellow at the European University Institute. She is the author of ‘EU Law’ (Pearson 2015), ‘Making Anti-Racial Discrimination Law’ (Routledge 2011) and ‘Discrimination as Stigma – A Theory of Anti-Discrimination Law’ (Hart 2017) as well as many articles in peer reviewed journals. Iyiola is an Academic Bencher of the Inner Temple and founder of the Black Female Professors Forum, which promotes the visibility and progress of Black women in academia. She recently chaired the Inquiry into the History of Eugenics at UCL and is currently PI on a £2.5 million UKRI funded project looking at the impact of two viruses – COVID 19 and discrimination – on practices of wellbeing and resilience in BAME families and communities in the UK. 

Chair Bios

Dr Michaela Benson is a Reader in Sociology at Goldsmiths, University of London. Her current research, Britain and its overseas citizens: from decolonisation to Brexitis funded by the British Academy’s Mid-Career Fellowship. She is also Co-I for a new ESRC-funded project Rebordering Britain and Britons after Brexit (2021-23), a collaboration with Professor Nando Sigona (University of Birmingham) that explores how Britain’s shifting position in the world in consequence of Brexit impacts on migration and mobility to and from the UK. These projects build on her career-long interest in British citizens living overseas, notably through her leadership of the research project (2017-19), BrExpats: Freedom of Movement, Citizenship and Brexit in the lives of Britons living in the EU-27 and her book The British in Rural France (Manchester University Press, 2011).

Dr Marie Godin is a British Academy Postdoctoral Fellow for the project Refugees, social protection and digital technologies in times of the “refugee crisis”. She is known for her previous research focussed on the Congolese diaspora and research with Professor Nando Sigona and Dr laurence Lessard Phillips on the EU families and Eurochildren project, an empirically-rich and in-depth account of how EU families in the UK experienced and responded.