SSAHE (Social Scientists Against the Hostile Environment) invites you to its webinar, which now will take place on Monday 17 April 2023, 5-6.30pm.

The webinar is free but please register as soon as possible via Eventbrite to secure your place:

In early 2023, an investigation by the UK Observer newspaper raised concerns that several ‘unaccompanied’ refugee children are going missing from the hotels in which they have been placed by the Home Office. In response to questions, Robert Jenrick, Minister of State for Immigration, has told Parliament that 440 of the more than 4,600 ‘unaccompanied minors’ who have been accommodated in hotels since July 2021, have gone missing. While almost half of them have been found, 200 are still missing, 13 of whom were aged under 16 when they disappeared. A whistleblower revealed that children seeking asylum were threatened and subjected to racist abuse by staff at a Home Office-run hotel, driving them onto the streets where some have been picked up by criminals.

These revelations helped to make the UK public conscious that children are subject to hostile immigration policies that can leave them exposed to trafficking, severe hardship and danger. It has long been known, however, that the hostile environment has dire consequences for ‘undocumented’ children. As long ago as 2011 the Council of Europe published a report on ‘Undocumented migrant children in an irregular situation: A real cause for concern’. The evidence available shows that ‘undocumented’ children are often unable to access education, healthcare and welfare support. They have great difficulty in obtaining documents to regularise their immigration status, partly because they (and their parents where relevant) are legally debarred from access to public funds. They are, therefore, destitute and have no access to legal aid or means to pay application fees. Many are subject to age verification tests or even DNA tests to check their relationships to their parent(s). This treatment is likely to have negative impacts on their mental health.

While there has been a gradual accretion of work on children and the hostile environment, it is still the case that relatively little attention is paid to children’s experiences of the hostile environment, whether they migrate with family members or on their own. A number of pressing questions arise from this. For example: What protection is given to those arriving without family members by those appointed by the state to take care of them? What are the implications of the privatisation of such care? What is the experience of those living who arrive with their parent(s)? How do those experiences fit with legislation about children’s rights? How can the more welcoming approach to children and parents escaping the war in Ukraine inform best practices for other child migrants?

In this webinar, we will host three excellent speakers who are particularly well placed to address these issues from research policy and practice perspectives.



Postponing destitution and deportation through enclosure

In England, unaccompanied child migrants who seek asylum are the responsibility of the local state who acts as their ‘corporate parent’. While these young people are ostensibly supported by children’s services in keeping with responsibilities under the Children’s Act 1989, unaccompanied children are disproportionately placed in unregulated accommodation in the private sector in comparison to ‘local’ children. Drawing on the Children Caring on the Move research project, I suggest that this part of the care system can be understood as a double move of enclosure. First, I argue that claims about the unpredictability of arrivals of unaccompanied children are used as a rational for the marketisation of children’s services, part of an enclosure of what was previously public. Second, I point to the enclosure, and commodification, of unaccompanied children themselves. I show how they not only become a source of profit in this enclosed sector, but the limited forms of support provided in outsourced and unregulated provision make it more difficult for many to regularise their status, simply postponing enforced destitution or deportation.

Speaker: Rachel Rosen is an Associate Professor at UCL’s Social Research Institute. Her research focuses on children and families with precarious migration status in the UK’s neoliberal border regime. Her co-edited collection in Spanish and English, Crisis for Whom? Critical global perspectives on childhood, care, and migration /¿Crisis para quien? Perspectivas criticas internacionales sobre la infancia, el cuidado y la migración, was released in January and is free to download.


Becoming adult on the move: transitions to adulthood of unaccompanied migrant minors in a hostile environment

Migration regimes often fail to protect the ‘best interests’ of unaccompanied migrant children, particularly for those in transition to adulthood. Why is this the case? Drawing from the findings of the ESRC-funded Becoming Adult project, the paper addresses the misalignment between young people’s wellbeing and social hopes and aspirations and the immigration and social care policies governing their lives. It considers the impact of neoliberal governance of the protection of unaccompanied migrant children and how ‘aging out’ of children protection brings well-founded fear of immigration enforcement and removal pushing some to disengage from local authorities.

Speaker: Nando Sigona is Professor of International Migration and Forced Displacement and Director of the Institute for Research into Superdiversity at the University of Birmingham, UK. Nando is a founding editor of the peer reviewed journal Migration Studies (Oxford University Press) and lead editor for Global Migration and Social Change book series by Bristol University Press.

His research interests include: the migration and citizenship nexus; undocumented migration; naturalisation, denaturalisation and statelessness; Romani politics and anti-Gypsyism; asylum and EU; Brexit and intra-European mobility; and child and youth migration.

His work has appeared in a range of international academic journals, including SociologySocial AnthropologyAntipode, Journal of Ethnic and Migration StudiesIdentitiesCitizenship Studies, International Migration Review and Ethnic and Racial Studies. He is author or editor of books and journal special issues including The Oxford Handbook of Superdiversity (with Meisnner and Vertovec, 2022), Undocumented Migration (with Gonzales, Franco and Papoutsi, 2019), Unravelling Europe’s ‘migration crisis’ (with Crawley, Duvell, Jones, and McMahon, 2017), Within and beyond citizenship (with Roberto G. Gonzales, 2017), The Oxford Handbook on Refugee and Forced Migration Studies (with Fiddian Qasmiyeh, Loescher and Long, 2014), and Sans Papiers. The social and economic lives of undocumented migrants (with Bloch and Zetter, 2014).

New edited book (with Elaine Chase and Dawn Chatty): Becoming adult on the move: Migration Journeys, Encounters and Life Transitions is out with Palgrave in April 2023.


Defend Digital me and Against Borders for Children (Schools ABC)

This talk will draw on the campaigning experience of Defend Digital me and Against Borders for Children (Schools ABC) to present a background to the issues of data collection in schools and their usage by the Home Office. It will then discuss the Schools ABC coalition formation and the campaign against the collection of nationality and country-of-birth data in England. This is an anti-racism and anti-hostile environment success story. However, there are ongoing issues the organisation continues to campaign against. The talk will, therefore, end by focusing on the Home Office continued use of other data from the National Pupil Database against migrant families, more new data expansions, the law today, and emerging threats.

Speaker: Jen Persson is Director of the not-for-profit organisation, Defend Digital Me, which campaigns for children’s privacy and broader digital rights in UK education and the wider public sector. Defend Digital Me was a founding member of the Against Borders for Children (Schools ABC) coalition and worked on the campaign to oppose the expansion of the school census to collect children’s nationality and country of birth data between 2016-20.

Defend Digital Me’s recent research and publications include Privacy and Protection: a children’s rights approach to encryption (2023) produced in collaboration with Child Rights International Network (CRIN), The State of Biometrics (2022) a mapping of the application and growing uses of biometric data in schools, and The Words We Use in Data Policy (2021) a report on language and young people in UK data policy. These build on The State of Data 2020 report, in which Defend Digital Me presented five years of research that mapped the data landscape in, across and leaving the state education sector in England. All are available at

Twitter @TheABB / @defenddigitalme |


Eleonore Kofman, Professor of Gender, Migration and Citizenship, Middlesex University, and Ann Phoenix, Professor of Psychosocial Studies, UCL Institute of Education Social Research Institute.