Updates, commentary, training and advice on immigration and asylum law

Gender and immigration: assumptions, presumptions and imbalance


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Really interesting, thought provoking piece by Melanie Griffiths on gender and immigration: Gendering the Irregular. To give you a flavour:

The immigration system―from the policy level to its everyday operationalisation―is a gendered one. Through the example given, we can see how it goes into the heart of people’s private lives to shape identities and relationships. In this case, the immigration restrictions placed on irregular migrants challenges the gendered expectations of Hope and Alex, and influences how both perform their gender identities.

The gendered implications of the immigration system, however, don’t only exist within the intimate realm of people’s home and love lives. Home Office and judicial decision-makers, politicians, the media, and the general public all have gendered expectations about non-citizens, expectations that produce an immigration system that works through heavily gendered (and racialised) bureaucratic categories. Such categories create and discipline various ‘types’ of migrant, and also influence the treatment of individuals and their cases. Recognition of Hope’s emotional ties is coloured by his being deemed an ‘illegal immigrant’ and ‘foreign criminal,’ two of the most strongly moralised, racialised, and gendered contemporary immigration labels.

My only complaint is that the piece is too short and that I’d like to read more. Really interesting issues arise in cases in which the authenticity of a relationship is challenged by the State, for example. In an ongoing case of mine, civil servants and a First-tier judge found that a relationship was not genuine when it is abundantly clear that it is genuine. The migrant in that case is male and I have my suspicions about the unconscious desire to “protect” native females from foreign male interlopers. That behaviour is considered socially and legally transgressive. In contrast, it is considered a social phenomenon that is merely “old fashioned” that women might for reasons other than romantic love attach themselves to more wealthy, older or otherwise secure men.

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Colin Yeo

Immigration and asylum barrister, blogger, writer and consultant at Garden Court Chambers in London and founder of the Free Movement immigration law website.