In 2012, the then Home Secretary, Theresa May, coined the term ‘the Hostile Environment’, as a political strategy designed to make the UK unliveable for ‘irregular migrants’. Because it was a catchphrase without particular laws or policies linked with it at the time, gained widespread recognition and expanded into negative everyday practices across institutions. The Immigration Acts of 2014 and 2016 enshrined the intentions of the ‘Hostile Environment’ into the responsibilities of numerous institutions and individuals, making employers, landlords and others responsible for immigration checks, extending national borders into everyday life. The power of this political strategy is partly that it built on something unsubstantial and imprecise, but emotionally engaging for those who could view it helping to arrest the erosion of their living circumstances. The depoliticising of the Hostile Environment allows political strategies to remain unchallenged in many areas of life. This webinar seeks to extend the conversation on the links between apparently disparate events and policies in terms of how they serve to depoliticise the hostile environment and fragment political struggles.


Halima Begum | Britain’s tussles with racism: Where next?

Halima is the CEO of the Runnymede Trust, the UK’s leading race equality think tank working to build a Britain in which all citizens and communities feel valued, enjoy equal opportunities, lead fulfilling lives, and share a common sense of belonging. Halima also has extensive experience in international development: during a 20-year career with the UK government, under both Labour and Conservative Administrations, she was First Secretary in a variety of overseas postings covering education, human rights, inclusive growth, public health and post-conflict recovery. She subsequently served as a Director of the British Council in Asia, helping to lead the UK’s higher education efforts including in China, before being appointed Vice President of the LEGO Foundation.

Hannah Jones | Violent Ignorance: Confronting racism and migration control Hannah Jones writes, researches and teaches about racism, migration control, belonging and public sociology. She is an Associate Professor of Sociology at the University of Warwick. Her latest book, Violent Ignorance: confronting racism and migration control, was published by Zed in 2021. On Twitter she is @uncomfy.

Frances Webber | Normalising inadmissibility: The New Plan for Immigration and the death of asylum Frances Webber practised as a barrister specialising in immigration and asylum until her retirement in 2008. She lectured part-time at Warwick and Birkbeck, is the author of Borderline Justice: the fight for refugee and migrant rights (Pluto, 2012) and writes regularly for IRR News and Race & Class. She is vice-chair of the Institute of Race Relations.

Chair and Coordinators: Ann Phoenix is professor of psychosocial studies at Thomas Coram Research Unit, Department of Social Sciences, UCL Institute of Education. Giorgia Doná is co-director of the Centre for Migration, Refugees and Belonging at the University of East London. Michaela Benson is professor of Public Sociology at Lancaster University. Ben Gidley is a Senior Lecturer in Psychosocial Studies at Birkbeck and research associate of the Birkbeck Institute for the Study of Antisemitism.