Deporting Black Britons provides an ethnographic account of deportation from the UK to Jamaica. It traces the painful stories of four men who were deported after receiving criminal convictions in the UK. For each of the men, all of whom had moved to the UK as children, deportation was lived as exile – from parents, partners, children and friends – and the book offers portraits of survival and hardship in both the UK and Jamaica. Based on over four years of research, Deporting Black Britons describes the human consequences of deportation, while situating deportation stories within the broader context of policy, ideology, law and violence. It examines the relationship between racism, criminalisation and immigration control in contemporary Britain, suggesting new ways of thinking about race, borders and citizenship in these anti-immigrant times. Ultimately, the book argues that these stories of exile and banishment should orient us in the struggle against violent immigration controls, in the UK and elsewhere.
The introductory chapter opens with a stark image of what deported ‘Black Britons’ are returned to when they arrive back in Jamaica. It then situates the deportation stories in the book in wider historical context, tracing how the turn to deportation emerged in the UK and other countries of the global North. The chapter then provides a recent history of the figure of the ‘foreign criminal’ in British political discourse, before tracking the journey from Empire Windrush to the deportation of ‘Black Britons’ today. Next, after introducing the theoretical framework and explaining the book’s core focus on the connection between racism and immigration control, the chapter turns to questions of methodology, offering a vivid account of how the research was conducted, and discussing some of the ethical and political questions that emerged in the process.
Chapter 2 explores Jason’s story, a man who moved to the UK when he was 15 years old, and then spent nearly 15 years homeless on the streets of London before being deported to Jamaica. Jason was unable to regularise his status, and he could not access benefits because he had ‘no recourse to public funds’, and thus his story reminds us that deportation begins long before anyone gets on a plane. As the chapter shows, ‘illegal immigrants’ like Jason are invoked to justify austerity, but they also face the most extreme consequences of ‘neoliberal statecraft’ (i.e. abandonment and coercion). The chapter describes Jason’s experiences of illegality, destitution and racist violence, arguing that race, class and immigration status were mutually constitutive in his life.
Chapter 3 describes Ricardo’s life growing up in the West Midlands. Ricardo was subject to intense police harassment, and the chapter argues firstly that racist policing makes some non-citizens more vulnerable to deportation power than others. Importantly, however, deportation not only reflects racism in wider society, it is also part of shifting how racism gets articulated thereafter. In other words, immigration controls produce as well as reflect racism. Painfully, Ricardo’s older brother was also deported a few years before him and killed in Montego Bay two years after his return. Ricardo is doing well in Jamaica, all things considered – he has work, housing and is starting a new family – while his brother, Delon, did not get the chance.
Chapter 4 builds on Chris’s own intelligent reflections on criminalisation and deportation. Chris said that he had to ‘be what society is’, and the chapter suggests that he did not ‘fail to integrate’, but was perhaps too well integrated into a violently unequal, racist and sexist society. The chapter explores Chris’s contradictions and complexities, and highlights the ways in which he developed relationships across lines of ethnic and national difference in quite unremarkable ways. The concept of conviviality is enlisted as an alternative to culturalist explanations for crime. Ultimately, the chapter explains Chris’s criminality in terms of material rather than cultural deprivation. The final section of the chapter discusses Chris’s attempts to appeal his deportation on the basis of ‘family life’. However, the Home Office effectively constructed Chris as irresponsible and undeserving on the basis of normative judgements surrounding race, class, gender and ‘the family’.
The final ethnographic portrait, Chapter 5, describes Denico’s painful separation from his partner Kendal and her children. Denico and Kendal’s own accounts are contrasted with Home Office correspondence and policy, which demonstrate the violence wrought by restrictive definitions of ‘family life’. The chapter then introduces two other deported people, Darel and Michelle, as a way of extending this discussion of deportation and ‘the family’. The chapter shows that although men are the primary targets of deportation, the consequences of their removal are borne by women, often in profoundly gendered ways (i.e. in relation to employment, childcare, housing and welfare). Overall, the chapter argues that deportation is a key site at which we can observe the state’s regulation of gender, sexuality and family.
Witnessing deportation and hierarchies of (non-)citizenship
Luke de Noronha
Chapter 6 examines how the friends and family of Jason, Ricardo, Chris and Denico made sense of deportation, how it affected them, and what their accounts reveal about immigration control, racism and citizenship in contemporary Britain. Their experiences, including witnessing deportation, reveal some of the hierarchies of both citizenship and non-citizenship in multi-status Britain. This chapter therefore attempts to think in new ways about racism, immigration control and citizenship from the perspective of differently situated family and friends. Ultimately, the chapter argues that racism in multi-status Britain is precisely about the production of hierarchies of (non-)citizenship. This offers a method for analysing what immigration controls do and how they are lived in societies structured by racism.
Chapter 7 first describes the hardships deported people face in Jamaica, which were only hinted at in previous chapters. It focuses on poverty, violence, insecurity, ill-health and unemployment. These post-deportation experiences are situated in historical and global context. The chapter traces contemporary Jamaican economic and social relations through slavery and colonialism, before offering a broad theorisation of citizenship in global perspective. Ultimately, the chapter argues that citizenship is a global regime for the management of unequal populations, fixing people in space and in law. This fixing in space and law reaffirms global inequalities formed through colonialism, and in this way citizenship reproduces colonial-racial hierarchies in the present. Put another way, citizenship might appear to be a neutral and eminently sensible system for dividing up the global population, but it does so along grooves and map lines formed through colonialism. As a result, citizenship works as a system of colonial forgetting and racial disavowal.
Meanings of development and the ordering of (im)mobility
Luke de Noronha
The chapter first describes how deportation is actually arranged between the UK and Jamaican governments, before discussing the Open Arms Drop in Centre and the National Organization of Deported Migrants (NODM), two local NGOs whose work supporting deported migrants is made possible by UK aid funds. Both Open Arms and NODM were funded through Official Development Assistance, as part of the Reintegration and Rehabilitation Programme. This means that to situate deportation in wider political context, we need to think about contemporary meanings of development. The chapter shows that contemporary UK development policy is centrally preoccupied with security, bordering and trade, all of which concern the management of mobilities. Immigration controls should therefore be considered in relation to the wider government of mobility, which can advance our understanding of the connection between race, citizenship and mobility discussed in the previous chapter. In short, race and racism are constituted by relations of mobility, and this insight allows us to better describe racism in our times.